There is a season…

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

As the whole audience at the Gwyn Hall stood to applaud Tony Christie you could sense a feeling of bitter sweetness fill the room.  We had just enjoyed 2 hours of hits and stories from a legend whose career had started in the miner’s clubs of Yorkshire and had taken him to the top of the charts in 5 different decades.

Tony Christie – Farewell Tour Gwyn Hall 2024

For me songs like ‘Avenues and Alleyways’ brought back memories of childhood.  It had been the theme music to ‘The Protectors’ a TV show starring Robert Vaughan who was also The Man from Uncle. This concert was probably the first time I had really heard, and understood, the words to ‘I Did what I Did for Maria’.  This was a song I had sung with the school band in Brynhyfryd, but which contained a dark secret.  I finally understood the reason why he did what he did…for poor Maria.

Although Tony Christie might have had most of his success in the 1970’s he has still recorded new music.  Some of the finest songs he sang in Neath were from an album from 2008 called ‘Made in Sheffield’.  The album, recorded in a town he called home for many years, featured songs and musicians from that Steel town including songs by Human League and Jarvis Cocker.  These ‘new kids on the block’ wanted to pay homage to someone they admired and looked up to. Every new song stood shoulder to shoulder with any of his classic hits from a different era.

The night ended with all of us all on our feet, singing ‘Sha la la la la la la la’ to ‘Is this the Way to Amarillo’.  The song was first a hit for Tony in 1971 but had been revived with a re-issue for Comic Relief in 2005. 

We left the Gwyn Hall smiling and humming some of the tunes we had just heard but we all knew, including Tony, that this was the last time he would be bringing his show to town.  At the age of 81, and having recently been diagnosed with Dementia, Tony has decided that this tour will be his last and we were all grateful to share this night with him.

May is always a bittersweet time in the world of football.  This week I helped present the end of season awards for Swansea City.  Regardless of the season we have had, these are special nights where we look back at the highlights, the goals, the magic moments and honour our heroes and heroines who represent us on the pitch. 

There are so many categories; best goal, players player, fans player of the season.  As the young men and women walk to the stage to collect their award (and bottle of AU Vodka) you can see what it means to them and the supporters in the room who cheer to the rafters.

But as well as looking back you also know everyone will be looking forward too.  Many of the players in the room on Wednesday will soon be moving on.  As I chatted to Super Carl Rushworth, the goalkeeper on loan from Bournemouth who has grown from being a boy at the start of the season to a man by this May, I was sure I wasn’t the only one who wanted to know if he had any plans for July.  To be honest he was as secure in his answer as he is with his hands.  He said he had loved his time in Swansea, he would love to come back…

That’s football the season starts and ends, and players and coaches move on.

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

The awards night itself came with extra sadness as we remembered 2 footballers who had been such great servants of Swansea City.

A week or so ago we had been shocked to hear of the passing of Leighton James.  Leighton is what people used to call ‘a character’.  I once heard him tell a story that he was playing against Tommy Smith, the legendary Liverpool hard man who would later go on to become a team mate of Leighton’s at Swansea City.

It’s said that not only would Leighton drift past opposition players he would often tell them beforehand what he was going to do just to add insult to injury. Having made a bit of a fool of Tommy Smith, Tommy said to Leighton that if he did that again he would ‘break his legs’. (metaphorically speaking I’m sure!)

Standing next to Leighton at the time of this verbal assault was the referee.  Leighton asked the ref if he had heard the threat.  The ref said he had.  Leighton then asked what he was going to do about it.  ‘Nothing’ said the official,’ but if I was you I’d go play on the other wing’.

In those Golden, Toshack days there were so many highlights but maybe none more so than the goal Leighton scored against Preston 43 years ago this week.  That goal featured everything that marked Leighton out as being special.  A fantastic first touch to control the pass from Robbie James.  The drop of the shoulder to beat the defender and a then a perfectly measured shot into the top right hand corner of the goal. Leighton James magic.

Shopping in Mumbles Terry and Joyce Medwin.

Sadly, on the day of the awards we heard the sad news of the passing of Terry Medwin.  Terry was part of the backroom team that Toshack assembled to help him take Swansea City from the Fourth to the First Division and he couldn’t have chosen a better man. His father was a prison warden, so Terry really did grow up in the shadow of the old Vetch Field.

After captaining a Swansea Schoolboy side that included John Charles, Terry signed for the Swans before moving to Tottenham Hotspur for the kings ransom of £25,000 in May 1956.  He was part of that Golden Welsh generation of footballers who made it through to the Quarter Finals of the 1958 World Cup where they were beaten by a solitary goal scored by the 17 year old Pele.

Together with that other Swansea boy Cliff Jones, Terry became part of that famous Spurs Double winning side of the 1960’s.

Esme Allchurch on Ivor Allchurch including Terry Medwin’s World Cup Goal.

It was many years later that I got to meet, and then regularly chat to Terry and his lovely wife Joyce when we bumped into each other shopping in Mumbles. I remember one of the first occasions I stopped to chat to Terry about football my boys were quite young but already football crazy.  I can still remember their faces as I explained that the lovely old gent I had been speaking to had won the FA cup, he had scored a goal in a World Cup Finals and that he had played against Pele. 

 I shall miss our ‘Mumbles’ chats, but I will remember Terry, and Leighton and Tony and be grateful for all of the joy they have given us over the years.

I’ll leave you with another quotation,

Don’t be sad it’s over. Be grateful it happened.

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