First-team Swansea role has Alan Curtis enjoying life like a fan
ALAN Curtis was part of the famous Swansea City side who nearly won the league in 1982 — but two years later he came even closer to the title.
The tale of how John Toshack's team almost capped their rise through the divisions by clinching the championship is one well known in these parts.
Swansea led the league on several occasions three decades ago before a late collapse saw them slip to sixth.
A story perhaps not so familiar to football fans in South Wales is how Curtis had another tilt at the title soon after.
He left Swansea not long after their relegation from the First Division, which came just a year after they nearly finished top of the pile. Curtis joined a Southampton side who were also on the rise under Lawrie McMenemy.
In 1981 the Saints recorded what was then their best ever league finish when they ended the season sixth in Division One.
And they had aspirations to climb higher.
Three years later a team containing the likes of Peter Shilton, Steve Moran and Danny Wallace pushed Liverpool all the way.
They ended up an agonising three points adrift of the Reds as Curtis again missed out on a championship winner's medal.
But the record books can be deceptive.
"Although we were only three points away, it was not a serious contest," remembers Curtis.
"Liverpool were always going to win it, we just had a fantastic run at the end.
"Liverpool were so far ahead they were always in control, we just made up some late ground. It was the total opposite to what happened with Swansea when we fell away.
"That season with Swansea always rankles with me more because then we had a real chance of winning it.
"A year later we were in real financial trouble. We had to get players away, Jeremy (Charles) went to Queens Park Rangers and Robbie (James) went as well.
"We just had to balance the books."
Southampton also reached an FA Cup semi-final in 1984, which they lost 1-0 to Everton, but Curtis didn't feature.
"That was on the Saturday and I was injured, but I played against Everton in the league on the Tuesday when we beat them 3-0," remembers the 58-year-old.
"If I'd had an extra couple of days I would have been fit enough to play.
"Joining Southampton wasn't really my choice because I wanted to stay with Swansea, but I enjoyed my time there.
"They were a club very similar to Swansea. The Dell reminded me of the Vetch and it was great to play with the likes of Peter Shilton."
Curtis left Southampton in 1986 and returned to Swansea three years later after a spell at Cardiff.
That was the Rhondda-born player's third stint with the club where he had begun his professional career as a teenager.
He finally hung up his boots in 1990, but has been involved behind the scenes at Swansea pretty much ever since.
From youth-team chief to matchday host and reserve-team manager, the former forward has held many titles.
These days he's often simply referred to as Legend.
Following Brendan Rodgers's departure to Liverpool, Curtis found himself in another new role.
Under Michael Laudrup he is first-team coach and in the dugout with a more hands-on matchday brief.
"It's been fantastic, I've absolutely loved it," Curtis adds.
"From a selfish point of view, I hadn't been back to Anfield for years and I'd never been to the Etihad.
"I haven't been back to Southampton since I left and I've never been to St Mary's.
"I'm like a fan. I'm really looking forward to every Saturday coming around."
Southampton haven't been enjoying their weekends too much lately.
The Saints have only won one Premier League game so far this season and head into tomorrow's clash rock bottom of the table.
They have conceded 28 goals in ten games — the most in the top flight — and boss Nigel Adkins is under pressure following the latest reverse at West Brom on Monday.
Promoted last May, they are desperate for a win, while Swansea are keen to maintain the seven-point cushion between themselves and the bottom three.
"Looking at their fixtures, they've certainly played some of the top teams," says Curtis.
"We managed to take one point against Chelsea, but it's nice just to get games against the big sides out of the way.
"I think their league position is a little bit false because of the teams they have played against.
"They've got QPR after us and Norwich later in the month, so they'll look to focus on these games."
Swansea head to the South Coast on the front foot after a hat-trick of impressive performances against some of the country's biggest hitters.
Last weekend's draw with Chelsea came after Liverpool were knocked out of the Capital One Cup at Anfield, while Swansea were narrowly edged out by champions Manchester City before that.
Belief may be building within the squad, but Laudrup is keen to make sure Swansea do not take their eye off the ball in Hampshire.
Concentration levels must be at the same level as they were for last week's game, the Dane has been stressing all week.
"If you're talking about confidence, it's sky high with us at the moment and we're capable of getting a result," adds Curtis.
"There has been so much publicity surrounding us over the last few games, but Saturday's match is far more important.
"We know where we are. We know we're looking at the mid to bottom half of the table.
"This is almost like a local derby — we can't afford to lose to teams beneath us.
"We need to get to 40 points as quickly as possible, then we can relax."