People flocked to the Tosh exhibition on High Street and for good reason! It must be said (and this is rare) that the council have done a superb job at improving High Street. Genuinely really pleasing to see how the street and area has developed.
The exhibition brought people from all ages and from near and far. I caught up with Pete Jones who was behind it all to remind us of the Swans journey under Tosh and the different ways that he wants to get that message to people.
How did Tosh get the job?
There were a few names in the hat, including Colin Addison who obviously went on to manage us much later. Many of the other candidates were tried and tested – Eddie McCreadie who had recently lost the Chelsea job was one – but Tosh was the wild card. He was 28, still playing at the top level and completely untried as a manager. It was unthinkable that he would join Swansea. Malcolm Struel, who had heard on the radio there was an event that night at the Dragon Hotel for Gola sportswear which Tosh would be attending, approached him and asked “would you like to become player/manager of Swansea City”. Tosh had been propositioned by his native Cardiff to come on-board as assistant manager but was disappointed by their lack of ambition. He listened to Malcolm’s audacious bid, recognised his vision, and the following morning was at Malcolm’s home dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.
He watched the Swans for the first time away against Rochdale with his best mate Emlyn Hughes; Rochdale were 92nd in the football league and the Swans lost 2-1. Emlyn said “Tosh, you are leaving the champions of Europe to go to a club who have just lost to the bottom side in the football league – are you serious?”. And the rest is history.
For a lot of our younger readers, trying to make a comparison with today’s football. Would you say it would be like Wayne Rooney joining Rochdale as Player/manager right now?
Yeah I would – that’s a good analogy. Tosh could have gone on playing at the top level, he had better offers – from Leicester City for example – he was coming towards the end of his career but he was still able to play top flight football. So yeah, it would be like Wayne Rooney signing for Accrington Stanley tomorrow then taking them to the Premier League within three years!
He was player manager and he played a big role on the pitch as well as off it?
What enticed him to Swansea was he knew we had three players with enormous potential: Alan Curtis, Robbie James and Jeremy Charles. He knew there was a good core of Welsh talent there and if he could add a bit of steel from himself and also some quality experienced players from his contacts then it would be a winning blend of youth and experience. You can’t play down the importance of him as a player though, because he was so good at that level – especially in the lower two leagues – he was too strong for opposition players.
What stand-out games can you remember?
The first would be his debut for us against Watford which drew a crowd of 15,000; that was over three times the average back then. Tosh scored that night and set down a benchmark. We went up from the fourth division against Halifax six weeks after that. The next stand out game would be against Chesterfield where we won promotion from the third division, which was the first time in 14 years that we’d got out of the bottom two tiers. Tosh came off from the bench with ten minutes to spare to head the winner – that was real fairytale stuff. The stand out game from the second division was the promotion-clincher at Preston which everyone knows about and was well documented in the exhibition. Then during that first season in the top flight where there were too many to mention.
Can you remember what the expectations were each time we won promotion? if you think if the recent rise which we have done to the Premier League and I thought we’d struggle in League 1 initially and then definitely in the Championship, was there similar thoughts then?
I remember when we got to the championship under Martinez thinking ‘“lets just stay here for five years and enjoy the change of scene’’ but when Tosh got us there we consolidated for one season and then went up. Nobody could believe it; we had big gates of 25,000 on a good day but we were very much still a tin-pot back-street club. But at the time people thought that we could achieve anything – Tosh was a winner and brought a winning mentality – and we really did.
Did Tosh do much wrong with the fall of the club?
With six games to go in the first division we were top. People forget this. They know we had a good season and finished sixth but people don’t remember just how close we came to actually winning the title. I’m not sure if it would have changed what came after in terms of the collapse of the club, it would have just made for a bigger story – akin to Leicester’s recent improbable success. I don’t know what happened really; we had injury problems certainly. We had overstretched ourselves as a club financially with players like Ray Kennedy on £600 a week which was unsustainable; there was a massive disparity with what was coming into the coffers and what was going out. Naivety from the boards point of view at the time perhaps but also massive misfortune with the timing. The Thatcher government and the recession hit the area hard. People simply couldn’t afford to turn up – I know my Dad couldn’t afford to take me much – so for every full house we had against Leeds and Liverpool the Vetch was half-full for the visits of teams like Notts County and Brighton. Ultimately we had to sell the big names and bring in youngsters who weren’t ready for that level. I wouldn’t say the blame for our demise lay at Tosh’s door at all, it was a case of too much too soon and we were victims of circumstance.
Its funny you say that about the board overstretching themselves because many current fans want us to stretch ourselves more now
You could argue that it is a very good approach after what we went through back then. I think the game now is totally unrecognisable to what it was then. It is much more corporate. If the club then had the same caution that Huw Jenkins is showing now maybe we would have stayed there but it was all too much too soon, out of their depth so you could say that the current board have learned from that and are doing a good job as we’ve obviously been at the top for 7 years now; the proof is in the pudding.
So onto the exhibition, I love the word ‘exhibition’ I love writing it; it’s the ‘h’ in it, it is beautiful! Anyway, How did it go?
Fantastic – we had lots of shirts from the era, memorabilia, front page covers etc… The local press were fantastic with their coverage. I was very fortunate that Tosh came along on the opening night, we had other local heroes like Sir Gareth Edwards and Swans legends like Curt, Nigel Stevenson, David Giles and Wyndham Evans. We had a really great opening night and had ten days open to the public after that. I had two elderly couples in one day drying their eyes looking back at everything and reminiscing together – that was an absolute joy to see. Granddad’s telling young lads about it, people my age in their 40s yarning about seeing Tosh’s Super Swans so yeah it went down a storm and was busy everyday. I was really sad taking it down to be honest.
Next year in March will be 40 years to the month since Tosh took over – St Davids day 1978. There are many anniversaries with it all, the Preston game, Leeds and so on but for me the big anniversary is when he arrived and it all started – which is three or four months away.
And again, trying to link this with the current rise of Swansea City for the younger readers, an equivalent of this could be in the year 2051 we’ll be looking back at the Brendan Rogers play-off final?
You’d probably fly in on your jet-pack to Swansea high street to a cyber gallery and float around looking at Garry Monk and sepia-tinted pictures of Alan Tate while asking your robot assistant to dry your eyes. It is hard to imagine isn’t it? But no-one thought in 1978 they’d be looking back at it forty years later as we are.
I loved the exhibition and I was slightly early getting there and there were people queuing outside, it was really popular and busy wasn’t it?
Swans fans came over from Ireland, one chap came over from Spain (and I don’t mean Tosh). People came from all over and it was great to see Terry Medwin there too as he has been suffering with poor health. It was wonderful to bring all these people together; it was a happy accident to bring all my heroes together on the same night. A real thrill and it made a lot of people very happy.
How did Tosh seem with seeing it?
He didn’t really know what to expect, ahead of the night he was kind of ‘“well what do we do, are we sitting down? We having a meal or what?’” He’s not the most technological of guys, he doesn’t do emails or texts so I couldn’t just send him something explaining what it was going to be like, it all had to be explained in a phone conversation. When he arrived he quickly got to grips with what was going on, cameras in his face etc… but he’s so media savvy he took it in his stride and was just fantastic. He had time for everybody – selfies etc. He was thrilled to see many of his old players, and his old assistant Terry Medwin especially and also the family of Malcolm Struel. It took him down memory lane and I think he enjoyed it; he came again on the Saturday for the public opening – he was brilliant.
And the exhibition and this feature is all building up to hopefully putting a film together. How is this coming along?
It’s going really well. We are in pre-production at the moment. I took the idea to Gabriel Clark from ITV who has his own production company. He’s an Everton fan and was familiar with the Tosh story and agreed it’s a tale that needs to be properly told. He is currently making a film about Bobby Robson so this project fits in nicely with what his company are all about. We quickly got hold of Tosh in January this year who replied in the affirmative and we have been in pre-production since. We are currently halfway to achieving our target budget and green-lighting production.
We are actively seeking investment partners, anyone who wants to help in the production. We have Rob Brydon as executive producer and Michael Sheen as narrator so there is kudos for anyone who wants to be associated with the project. We expect to make a film similar to ‘Jack to a King’ but with a more jumpers-for-goalposts, Panini sticker book feel to it. A real nostalgia-fest. We aim to shoot all over Swansea, places like Caswell and Three Cliffs with Tosh to show off the best of the area. Film Curt talking about the old days on the site of the old Vetch. It is going to be spliced with old archive footage and with a killer soundtrack of the time – Dexy’s, Jam, disco etc. It’s a film about a remarkable football story – a Roy of the Rovers adventure – that really must be made and we are hopeful that we can get into production soon. We’ve got a targeted cinema release for the Swansea area and a DVD release penned in for Christmas next year, all tied in for the 40th anniversary. If there are any businesses or individuals who want to get involved then they should get in touch via Jack Swan. It’s a good investment opportunity – comparable productions like the Nottingham Forest film “I Believe in Miracles”, and “Dark Horse” – another Welsh underdog story – had similar budgets and made a decent return. ‘Tosh’ will be no different.
Big thanks to Peter for meeting up with me but also for putting on the fantatsic exhibition.