Top flight holds no fear for Swansea's Tate

LONDON - Having played in a match in which defeat would have sent Swansea City into oblivion, Alan Tate has no problem with keeping the Premier League newcomers' ominous opening fixture away to Manchester City in perspective.

Tate was a rock in defence as they became the first Welsh club to reach the Premier League via a nail-biting play-off victory over Reading at Wembley in May, the climax of a remarkable eight years in the history of a proud club that not so long ago was sold for a solitary pound.

Even their kit sponsor, a firm of online bookmakers, have the Swans down as relegation favourites and the opening few weeks could reveal much about the club's readiness for top-flight football for the first time since 1983.

After City on Monday their next two trips are to Arsenal and Chelsea while their opening home fixture at the Liberty Stadium they share with rugby club Ospreys is at home to Wigan Athletic who have former manager Roberto Martinez at the helm.

The 28-year-old Tate, however, is relishing the prospect of his first taste of top-flight football and testing himself against the likes of world-class strikers Sergio Aguero, Robin van Persie and Fernando Torres.

After all, he says everything pales into insignificance compared to the 4-2 victory over Hull City eight years ago that prevented Swansea tumbling out of the Football League.

"No doubt, the Hull game was the most vital game in the club's history, without that win nothing else exists," former Manchester United trainee Tate told Reuters at Swansea's training ground just off the M4 motorway in the Welsh hills.

"Everything was on the line that day. If we had lost there would have been no promotions, no playoff final. It's impossible to over-state the consequences of losing that day to Hull. We would never have come back from that.

"That's why for me I can enjoy going to City on Monday. For the last eight years we have gone out to win every game we play and that will be exactly the same at City."

The Hull victory marked a turning-point for the club as a new era dawned under the astute chairmanship of Huw Jenkins who had bought the club a year earlier from Australian Tony Petty.

A plan was hatched to restore the club to its former glory and it has been an upward curve ever since, with three promotions, a move away from the endearing but crumbling old Vetch Field stadium in 2005 and a brand of football that has the purists purring.

Tate and midfielder Leon Britton are the sole survivors of that Swansea side in 2003, with Britton returning for a second spell with the Swans in January 2011 following a brief stint at Sheffield United.

Club skipper Garry Monk has also shared the journey, having joined from Southampton the season after.


He believes Swansea can go one better than Blackpool last season and survive playing "easy on the eye" football, whoever the opposition are.

"Yeah, it's a nice easy opener isn't it?" Monk told Reuters looking ahead to Monday's clash at City. "They've spent millions on world-class players but there is no sense of trepidation.

"It's a bit of a step into the unknown but if we go into playing scared football we'll be in a bit of trouble. We have to go and express ourselves and impose ourselves on top teams.

"I've said all along that if we're anywhere near our best we'll give everybody a game. We have to remember what got us there in the first place. Blackpool were unlucky to go down last year but I think we play better football than them."

Whatever happens, Monk is confident the squad will stick to the footballing beliefs installed by Martinez and now given a little more steel by coach Brendan Rodgers.

"A lot of teams have gone up and changed what got them there in the first place," he said. "We know we will have to be more tactically aware but what has got us where we are is our philosophy of playing attacking football.

"We are carrying the hopes of a nation and we want to represent Wales properly. We may not have superstar names and mayhbe some will write us off but we'll surprise a few people because we have a core of people at the club who know what the shirt is all about.

"If we change it will we come up short. If we don't stick to our beliefs there is no point starting the season."


Rodgers has strengthened his side by signing winger Wayne Routledge from Newcastle United and strikers Leroy Lita and Danny Graham. Dutch goalkeeper Michel Vorm was also snapped up.

However, there is no chance chairman Jenkins will gamble the club's future away spending crazy money and risk a collapse similar to the one the club experienced after their two-season stay in the old first division ended in 1983.

"The chairman has done a massive job from the dark days of nearly going out of the league to the pinnacle of the game," central defender Monk said.

"We want to consolidate and try and progress. But we will not gamble. We've done it the right way and the chairman will now blow the last 10 years on one season."

The sense of pride sweeping through the Welsh valleys is tangible after a history as choppy as the waters that wash some of Britain's most scenic coastline around the Mumbles headland.

When former Liverpool player John Toshack took over as manager in 1978 he masterminded a rapid rise from the fourth tier to the top of the old first division in four years with names such as Bob Latchford and Alan Curtis becoming Swans heroes. Those heady days proved shortlived, though.

Relegation in 1983 was the start of a slippery slope that sent the club back to where it had come from in the space of four years and nearly out of business.

Now, however, the white Swansea shirts are again worn with pride around a town steeped in rugby history.

"Before it was just Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal shirts on the kids round here," Tate said.

"Now they have a Premier League club to support and the buzz is amazing. I think we're all in for quite a ride."