Tributes flood in for man who made Toshack a boss
JOHN Toshack today led the tributes to Malcolm Struel by hailing Swansea City's former chairman as the man who made him a manager.
Struel, who passed away yesterday, was Swansea's chairman for 11 years from 1972.
It was a dramatic period in the club's history, with Struel helping Swansea stave off the threat of relegation from the Football League when they faced re-election in 1975.
Then came Swansea's first golden period, when Toshack's team climbed from the old Division Four all the way to the summit of the top flight.
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Toshack was still a player at Liverpool when Swansea's board of directors, led by Struel, took the bold decision to make him their player-manager in 1978.
It proved to be an extraordinarily shrewd call, as Toshack went on mastermind a remarkable rise from basement-division obscurity to the top table of English football.
For Struel, regarded by many as Swansea's greatest ever boss, it was the start of a very fine managerial career which has featured spells in charge of Real Madrid, Real Sociedad, Besiktas and Wales among others.
And Toshack said: "I am eternally grateful to Malcolm for giving me my chance in football management.
"It was 34 years ago when I left Liverpool to go down to Swansea.
"I remember Malcolm coming up to Anfield to talk to me about the job.
"It was one of the most important things that happened to me in football — there was leaving Cardiff for Liverpool and then leaving Liverpool for Swansea.
"If it wasn't for him, it's possible that I would never have got into management at all.
"Swansea were my first club. They gave me my opportunity in management and it was thanks in a large part to Malcolm that I achieved everything I did.
"I really can't say enough about him.
"He had a big influence on the success Swansea had, there's no doubt about that.
"He kept faith with Harry Griffiths, and I will be eternally grateful to the two of them for the help they gave me.
"I will never forget the assistance I had from them."
A local solicitor, Struel had become involved with Swansea in the 1960s and joined the board of directors in 1969.
Along with Vetch Field legend Griffiths, he helped compose the letter sent to all the other professional clubs in the country when Swansea were up for re-election.
The letter — described at the time as heartfelt plea — did the trick, as Swansea received the most votes from their fellow clubs and survived.
Within three years, Toshack's Swansea had been promoted to Division Three and their spectacular climb had begun.
"The first game I was in charge of was against Rochdale," Toshack added.
"They were bottom of the Football League and they beat us, and a lot of people said to me 'Tosh, are you sure you know what you are doing?'.
"But I said no, we will be okay.
"We didn't have it easy. The latter days, the years we had in the top division, were a reward to Malcolm for all the work he had put in to keep the club afloat.
"There were some dark days at the Vetch — I remember travelling back from Rochdale and stopping for sandwiches on the motorway at 1am.
"They were difficult days which were a long, long way from what you see now.
"I am sure a lot of people will have a lot of kind things to say about Malcolm, and it's a very, very sad time for Swansea City."
Toshack's sentiments were echoed by Leighton James, one of the club's star players during Struel's remarkable Vetch tenure.
"It's a sad day for all Swansea City fans — it leaves a big hole at the club," he said.
"He was a genial, kind man. He loved the club and he loved the success he helped bring to Swansea. He really enjoyed the good times.
"Malcolm is a big part of Swansea's history, and that must never be forgotten. History is what makes a club.
"I knew Malcolm very well. We had great success when he was chairman.
"He was a major factor in the club's success, along with Tosh.
"Malcolm played a very significant role in what was the club's most successful period, along with the current side.
"Chairmen were not so high profile at the time and he just got on with his job.
"He was very much a hands-on chairman and we were very successful during that period."
Swansea legend Alan Curtis was also on the playing staff when Struel was leading the way in the boardroom.
He said: "Malcolm, or Mr Chairman as he always was to me, was really passionate about the Swans right through until later life.
"And you have got to admire his vision in bringing Tosh to the club.
"It was a controversial decision because he was replacing Harry Griffiths, who was a legend of the club and we were going well at the time.
"But he felt it was right to bring Tosh in and it worked out spectacularly.
"He was really passionate about Swansea and he was prepared to make brave decisions if he felt it was right."
Local businessman Robert Jones joined the Swansea board after being invited to do so by Struel in 1975.
"I am saddened to hear this news. I am deeply sorry for his wife Sylvia their daughters Karen and Tracy and would like to send my condolences to them," Jones said.
"Malcolm was an excellent chairman and a fine ambassador for Swansea City who will be remembered for the huge contribution he made in his time at the club.
"He was chairman during a very successful period where Swansea City made history by travelling from the Fourth Division to the First in four seasons.
"And he also did everything he could to help the club when there were more turbulent times."
Swansea's current chairman Huw Jenkins has paid tribute to one of his most illustrious predecessors.
He said: "Malcolm is regarded as a fine figurehead who led this club through a memorable time in the history of Swansea City.
"He will always be remembered as the man who convinced John Toshack to come to the Vetch, and in turn helped this club embark on a truly unforgettable journey to the top flight.
"As chairman, I realise the hard work, time and commitment Malcolm put into this club in order to steer it in the right direction.
"I'm sure every Swansea City fan will never forget what he did at this club.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."