November 2002 is when Alan Tate’s love affair with Swansea City began. One of Brian Flynn’s first signings to try and dig us out of the relegation battle we were in made his debut in a 0-2 defeat at Scunthorpe.
It quickly became clear though that we had a player far more assured at centre half than anyone currently at the club although that wasn’t exactly hard. He became a fans favourite pretty quickly and a key member of the side that would eventually retain Football League status with a 4-2 win over Hull on the final day of the season.
In truth his love affair with the club could have ended there as it could have several times down the years but after that initial spell in south Wales his mind was firmly made up that he wanted a permanent switch to the club. Another brief loan spell followed before he got his wish in early 2004.
Sadly for him Flynn was sacked not long after and his replacement Kenny Jackett didn’t always see eye to eye with Tate and he would find himself out of the side for long periods over the next 18 months. Many may have decided to move elsewhere for regular football but not Tate. He fought his way into the side again, this time at right back and would go onto become player of the year in 2005/6. He also saw his fans favourite status safe forever after holding up that fl ag in the Millennium Stadium after our Football League trophy success.
Another change of manager saw him out of the side again soon after as his former team-mate Roberto Martinez signed Angel Rangel meaning Tate would have to wait for his opportunity to reclaim a regular starting berth.
Again he could have moved on but there was no chance of that. Tate was a fighter and only wanted to play for Swansea City and that fighting spirit saw him become a regular at left back after the club suffered a number of freak injuries in that position during 2008/9.
That season also saw one of his most famous moments – Dorus De Vries had to go off injured in a home game with QPR and with no keeper on the bench we were in trouble. Who would don the gloves? There was only one man and he played between the sticks for one hour and remarkably kept a clean sheet. It seemed as if he had a quest to play in every outfield position. Left back would be his main position for remainder of his time at the club though.
Another player of the year award followed in 2009/10 and he was a key member of the side that would win promotion to the Premier League via the Play-Off s a year later. Tate would captain the side in our Premier League game at Manchester City but not long after came the infamous golf buggy incident that pretty much ended his career at the club. By that time though he’d won three promotions a Football League trophy and two FAW cups as well as a place in the hearts of the Jack Army.
So why do we love this man from the North East? Tate always gave the impression he was one of us. How many others would hold that flag up in the Millennium Stadium? If you look back at some of the big goals we’ve scored down the years which player is usually first to celebrate and is doing so like a maniac? It’s usually Alan Tate.
Most players when they’ve been at the club will give you some of the most boring and standard answers imaginable. It’s why I’ve stayed clear of interviewing current players in this fanzine – they won’t say anything interesting. Tate was the exception, he once described a game with Cardiff as being fairly simple; “They don’t like me, I don’t like them.” Most players would either play it down or trot out the usual clichés. Tate just came out and said exactly what he thought and didn’t care if people weren’t happy.
His blunt attitude was out in force just before Garry Monk was fired when he said: “If you’re going to sack him then sack him, either way I’m sure he’d rather know than it being dragged on like this.” Again all he was saying was exactly how the fans felt about the situation.
As much as we’ve had a few legends in recent years I’m not sure anyone quite got the Jack Army like Alan Tate has. So many players kiss their club badge these days but few mean it, he was an exception, you knew he meant it. I always remember him doing it in front of the Grandstand at Ninian Park in 2009 when it was probably better to just walk off. No chance of that though, when you think like a fan the urge to wind up Cardiff fans proved irresistible.
He may not have been our best player but he made the most of his career and his place in Swansea City folklore is firmly secure. His testimonial is long overdue and richly deserved and it speaks volumes that so many of his former team-mates and managers are turning out for the occasion especially when some of them have other commitments around that time. It will be a great night and will finally give us the opportunity to pay tribute to a true Swansea City legend.
Thanks for everything Tatey, we look forward to your contribution with the academy in the years to come.