Swans for ever in Kevin's debt
ONE was a Spanish semi-pro, another languished in League Two, while the third represented his side's reserves — all had what Kevin Reeves was looking for.
Swansea City's former recruitment chief sees current club Wigan visit the Liberty tomorrow and three of the players he scouted are likely to line up for the home side.
Reeves had a hand in signing Angel Rangel, Ashley Williams and Nathan Dyer while he worked alongside Roberto Martinez at the Liberty.
All of those players have proved instrumental in Swansea's success story, so when Martinez joined the Latics his chief talent spotter moved too.
Race & Stay with Stradey Park Hotel and Ffos Las RacecourseView details
Inc. transport to and from the races, entrance to Ffos Las, free programme, pint/glass of wine & carvery roll, overnight stay in the hotel inc. breakfast in the morning. For just £112.99 fro 2 adults
Terms: Subject to T&C. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer. Subject to availability, ask at time of booking. Based on two people sharing a double/twin room.
Contact: 01554 700277
Valid until: Monday, March 31 2014
Rangel was first to arrive in SA1 back in the summer of 2007 as Martinez prepared for a fresh assault on League One.
But the attack-minded defender might never have sampled South Wales had it not been for a chance encounter.
Reeves was in Spain to check out Jorge Molina, a Benidorm striker who has since signed for La Liga outfit Real Betis.
While in Catalonia, the former Manchester City forward decided to take in another local game and stumbled across a certain Terrassa right-back playing in the Spanish lower leagues.
"I was actually out there to look at someone else, but we ended up signing a different player from a different match," remembered Reeves.
"When I go to scout a player I often like to watch another game in the same area. I've found some of my best players like that because you go there with no preconceptions.
"Angel caught the eye straightaway and I can't remember if I even saw him again, he was pretty much signed on that one performance."
Rangel formed part of a side that took the third tier by storm five seasons ago.
Swansea were clear at the top of the table by March when Ashley Williams was signed, initially on loan before completing a permanent switch that summer.
The Wolverhampton-born centre-back had come through West Brom's youth system, only to be discarded.
He began rebuilding his career at non-league Hednesford and then moved to Stockport where Reeves saw a player with huge potential.
"I watched Ashley a number of times," he recalls.
"The first time was when he played against Carlisle and he was outstanding.
"I live in that area and Ashley was a player people were talking about but weren't sure of.
"He had pace, but people often didn't see that because he read the game so well.
"People asked whether he could step up, but Ash always had quality.
"He's proved that over the last few years."
Swansea duly earned promotion to the Championship at the end of Williams's first campaign with the club.
And Martinez was keen to continue that progress the following season.
The likes of Jordi Gomez, Gorka Pintado and Mark Gower joined over the summer, but the Spaniard wanted to add more pace to his side.
Reeves was dispatched to search for speed and returned recommending a young Southampton winger.
"I remember watching Nathan (Dyer) play for their reserves — he wasn't even in the first team," said the ex-England international.
"I was standing right down by the pitch watching him and I could see that his character was fantastic.
"He was always chasing back and clearly had talent.
"At the time Roberto wanted players with counter-attacking ability and he fitted the bill perfectly."
There was just one nagging doubt in the back of Reeves's mind.
Nine months earlier Dyer had been convicted of theft after he and Bradley Wright-Phillips took mobile phones, money and other items from a nightclub in Southsea.
"I rang a few people about that and they all said he was a nice boy who got caught up in the wrong situation," said Reeves.
"You have to do your research, but you're always taking a little bit of a chance."
After all, character is important.
Successful teams must have the right attitude as well as ability.
"Without a shadow of a doubt having a good character is one of the most important things," Reeves explains.
"And I always think you can tell a lot about someone's personality on the football pitch.
"That's how I assess it and it was very important we brought the right personalities to Swansea."
Reeves had the same attitude when he was on the Swansea coaching staff.
Before returning to the club as scouting supremo, the 54-year-old assisted Brian Flynn as Swansea scrapped to avoid relegation from the Football League.
Back then they needed players with the stomach for a fight and turned to one Roberto Martinez to lead the charge.
"He was our captain when me and Brian were in the dugout," said Reeves.
"First and foremost he has a great personality and he has the same ideas about football as me.
"Roberto grew up watching Barcelona under Johan Cruyff and that's his philosophy.
"He's very strong minded and a top-drawer manager.
"At some point in his career he will manage one of the very top clubs, I am sure of that."
For the time being, Martinez holds the Wigan reins and leads them into battle against Swansea tomorrow.
Michael Laudrup's side are looking to end a five-game winless run, while the Latics have not tasted victory since beating Southampton back in August.
"I think it will be very close between two teams that want to play," said Reeves.
"There won't be much in it. We have performed okay so far this season, but we feel we have more in us. I think the squad is as strong as it's been since we've been here.
"Swansea have also done well although it probably hasn't gone to plan in the last two or three games."
Despite that wobble, Reeves is convinced Swansea, like Wigan, will survive this season.
There are obvious similarities to draw between two clubs that have both climbed from obscurity to reach the top flight.
But Reeves insists Swansea are unique.
"What you have to remember about Wigan is that 35 years ago they were a non-league club," he added.
"The last eight years have been the pinnacle of Wigan's existence so it's fantastic to be there at this time.
"Swansea have history, they have had other periods where they were competing with the best.
"I really enjoyed my time there, I always got on really well with Huw (Jenkins) and the supporters.
"I have a real soft spot for the club and the people and I really hope they can have another great season."
Swansea should also be fond of a man who has played no small part in their success story.