There are many ‘what ifs’ in football and one I think about from time to time is what would have happened if the Swans had (as they deserved to) beaten Barnsley and got promoted to the Championship with Kenny Jacket.
It may have resulted in a direct competition to Joes Ice Cream in Swansea………..
This is what I thought after I spoke with Rory Fallon.
You joined Swansea in the January of 2006, how difficult is it moving to a new club and area in the January window?
I think that it is always difficult to move clubs. New things, new players, just to set off and start again is always difficult. Most of the moves which I made happened in January. In some ways I think that it’s a good thing as you get thrown straight into it and don’t have time to think about it. You could be playing that evening or the next day. I moved to Swansea and was in the hotel at first before I ended up renting somewhere down the Marina.
What were your first impressions of the club? With the new stadium, did it feel like a club on the rise?
I loved it. Straight away you could see that it was a proper club. The training facilities hadn’t kicked on yet, but the stadium was amazing and you could see that it was club going places.
Was promotion the aim from word go?
Promotion was definitely the aim. When I left Swindon, credit to the lads, I don’t think Swansea had been out of the top three all season. I think automatic promotion was the aim but if not then definitely the play-offs.
How did you and the players take the play-off defeat?
Gutted. One of those things which I still think about to this day sometimes. Penalties are a lottery. We should have won the game in normal time. They were happy to go to penalties, we were all over them, they got the second goal and sat back for penalties. We had a few chances to win it, Trunds Bayo and Tatey I remember getting close. I never asked why I got taken off. I assumed that I would have had one of the penalties, I’d already scored that game, felt good and I thought it was a strange call from the Gaffa. Yourself, Bayo, Leon Knight and Lee Trundle were pretty formidable at that level.
Did you feel Jacket got the best out of you all?
You all offer a very different threat. Yeah, we all brought different things. None of us were the same in any way really, all different which allowed the gaffa to chop and change us about. Near the end me and Knighty were playing together a lot, we had a great strike-force.
How mental was Leon Knight?
We’ve all seen videos etc….One of the craziest men in football. No idea what he’s doing now but no doubt that it is something completely mad. In fairness, that whole team was a bunch of mad lads. Out of all the sides that I’ve played for, I’d say that team and the one at Plymouth had the most characters in it. Robbo, Trunds, Bayo, Kevin McCleod were all completely mad. Tom Butler joined then, and he was nuts, Steve Watts: it was never a dull moment with all of them.
You left the club after a year. Were there any doubts about leaving?
To be fair, yes but at that time I really wanted to play in the Championship. I was offered the chance and I didn’t want to waste it. You could tell that the Swans were going places but I was being offered the chance to go straight into championship football and I simply couldn’t turn that down at the time.
Did the Swans make it clear that you were still wanted or did you feel that it was their decision too?
Kenny made it clear that he wanted me to stay. Usually the Gaffa would give you the option, I certainly never felt like he wanted me out. I just wanted to move and that was that really.
Plymouth was obviously a great time for you. Assume you have no regrets with the decision anyway?
I’m still living here and so it has become my British home. Although I do call Swansea home too. You can’t dwell over things in the past, obviously Martinez took over shortly after I left and I may have found myself on the bench or I could have worked really well in his system; nobody will ever know at the end of the day.
You played with Leon Britton. Were you surprised at all to see him become an established Premier League player?
He was technically really good. He obviously went to Sheffield United but that never suited his style, sometimes that is just how it is in football. I wasn’t surprised at all though because he was always technically very good.
I’m not sure whether I have ever spoken to a player who has played at a World Cup before. What is that like?
I can’t put it into words. Two dreams which I had were to play as a professional footballer in England and to play in the World Cup. I always thought that being a Pro in England could be possible but that a World Cup was highly unlikely. New Zealand is a small country and it is so difficult to qualify, for us to achieve that was just unbelievable and an absolute dream. As a kid, you didn’t have much football on T.V but you could watch the best games in England and then obviously the World Cup would be on and so they were my dream. Asides from that, there wasn’t any football on TV.
And you had a good World Cup?
We did. We had a really good world cup. Very difficult to beat, a bit like the Iceland side which we saw in the Euros. We had a side made up of mainly Pro’s playing in Europe and so the quality was there and more importantly the experience of playing against top players. We had three at the back in Ryan Nelson, a young Centre back in Winston Reid and Tommy Smith who was at Ipswich. They were hard to break down and it was a great World Cup.
What are you doing now?
My wife and I actually have an Ice Cream business here in Plymouth but I have just got back into football again as a coach with Plymouth Argyle. My last game was New Zealand against Peru in the World Cup Qualifiers last year. I wanted that one final tour, that was my goal. After that, I retired and had a year out. I didn’t watch it, talk about it or anything. I actually got to know a lot of people in that time who are totally unaware that I have ever had anything to do with football. I just had a total clean break. I’ve just got back into it with Plymouth, we have a 9 month old called Maisie and I suppose I’ve got back into coaching for her. The opportunities for girls in football now are huge. New Zealand were one of the first countries to give parity with the men and women and so if the men’s team were flying somewhere first class then the women’s had the same, equal pay and everything. I prefer watching the men’s game but the quality of the women’s game has really kicked on, watching the Women’s World Cup was great.
So there you have it. If the Swans had beaten Barnsley then Rory Fallon would have probably stayed in Swansea when in the Championship and the ice cream business could well be here in Swansea competing with Joes……. A huge thanks to Rory Fallon and the very best for the future!