Swansea City: Returning Tate back at the peak of his powers
SWANSEA City defied the odds to thrive in the Premier League last season — but Alan Tate still had a mountain to climb.
While his team-mates enjoyed the plaudits following high-profile wins over Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool, Tate was packed in plaster or busy working on his rehabilitation.
The versatile defender was ruled out for most of last term after breaking his leg in a bizarre golf buggy accident 13 months ago.
And even when he returned to match action in March, the 30-year-old admits to not feeling fully fit.
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So Tate took to the foothills of Greece this summer in an effort to ensure he returned for a second crack at the top flight in peak condition.
"What happened was a freak accident and when I got myself back in training it still took me a while to get anywhere near match fitness. I probably wasn't match fit, but now I am," said the Swansea stalwart.
"I went away in the off-season and trained all the way through and it's helped me.
"I went to the gym every day when I was in Swansea and when I was on holiday in Greece I alternated between going to the gym and going running up in the mountains.
"It was obviously hard work running up in the hills but you only get out what you put in I suppose.
"It's all you can do. I had a lot of time off during the season and I said to myself to give myself the best chance of playing as many games as possible this season I would have to get myself back fully fit.
"If I start on Saturday then it will all be worth it."
Chico Flores begins a three-match ban today, while Kyle Bartley and Garry Monk are injured.
That means Tate is set to be named alongside Ashley Williams at the heart of Swansea's defence at Aston Villa as he makes his first Premier League start since the opening day of last season.
Tate has been deployed in both full-back positions, as a midfielder and even spent a stint in goal during an eventful ten-season spell in South Wales.
The last time he began a game at centre-back was against Nottingham Forest in a Championship play-off semi-final in May 2011.
Restored to his preferred position, Tate will have to contend with a dangerous Villa frontline that should include fit-again England forward Gabby Agbonlahor.
"You have to look forward to the challenge, there is no point being overawed by it, you have to go out there and try your best and hopefully that's good enough," said Tate.
"That's all I've ever done, I've never gone out and said, 'I'm going to batter the centre forward', it doesn't work like that, you have to just try your best.
"Villa are a young team so they are a dangerous team, they will go out in every game with no fear.
"Those boys must be good youngsters to play for them and they've got some experience with Darren Bent and Agbonlahor. Stephen Ireland is also a good player.
"If it does click they are going to be a good team but we just have to hope it doesn't click against us.
"We'll be going there to win the game and not worry about the start they have had."
Under new boss Paul Lambert, Villa have taken just one point so far having lost to West Ham and Everton, before drawing with Newcastle.
Swansea will be looking to continue their unbeaten start to the campaign, but have been forced into a defensive reshuffle after a series of injuries.
As well as Bartley and Monk, Neil Taylor's season-ending ankle break means Ben Davies will start at left-back despite the arrival of former FC Twente defender Dwight Tiendalli this week.
The 19-year-old centre of excellent product impressed after replacing Taylor 15 minutes into a 2-2 draw with Sunderland a fortnight ago.
Now he is set for a first top-flight start and Tate reckons the Neath product is ready to seize that opportunity.
"Ben's not one of these flash young lads who wants to be seen as a footballer before he's a footballer," said Tate.
"He doesn't come into training with a Louis Vuitton washbag or a Gucci belt, he's a down-to-earth boy who deserves the rewards he's getting now.
"He knows he's got a long way to go and has done nothing really yet.
"He will know you don't get a career until you make 100 appearances, he's got to build it.
"But he's a nice lad and has got a good chance of being a very good player."
It has been a whirlwind few weeks for Davies, who made his first senior appearance in the closing stages of last month's 3-0 win over West Ham and was called into the Wales squad following Taylor's withdrawal.
However, a personal milestone was marred slightly as Chris Coleman's side suffered their heaviest defeat for 16 years when they were thrashed 6-1 in Serbia last Tuesday.
Davies did not feature in Novi Sad, but club colleague Williams did.
Despite that midweek humiliation, Tate is confident the former Stockport player will not be affected when Swansea run out at Villa Park.
"Obviously he was disappointed because of what happened with Wales, he loves playing for Wales but he's had time to think about it on the plane back and what he wants to do now is just get back with the lads," added Tate.
"The last thing he wants is people asking him what happened, he just wants to be back among the lads who, to be honest, don't care how Wales got on.
"I personally don't care how England get on, if they win they win if they don't they don't.
"For us, Ash's interest is Swansea."
So is Tate's, needless to say.
In nearly a decade with Swansea the former Manchester United youngster has become a fans' favourite because of his commitment to the cause.
Tate has climbed three divisions since being signed by Brian Flynn all those years ago.
And he scaled Greek peaks just to get back in the first team.