Tears with Roberto Martinez and Michael Laudrup chats: Life as a club secretary

Jackie Rockey celebrates at Wembley with other Swansea City staff
Jackie Rockey (L) celebrated on the Wembley pitch after Swansea City's Championship play-off win over Reading in 2011

She has shed tears with Roberto Martinez, chewed the fat with Michael Laudrup and measured Paulo Sousa's inside leg.

For Jackie Rockey, who retires this week after 19 years' service, life as Swansea City's club secretary has been about much more than pushing a pen.

She was around when the purchase of a toaster was a landmark event at Vetch Field.

A few years later, she celebrated on the Wembley turf alongside Brendan Rodgers as Swansea claimed a place in the Premier League.

Rockey packs up her desk having been a central figure behind the scenes during the most memorable period in Swansea's history.

It is quite a story, particularly when you consider she was raised a Cardiff City fan and worked for the Bluebirds before joining Swansea in 2000.

She has served under 16 permanent Swansea managers, the first of whom was John Hollins.

"John used to come and tell the sponsors in the lounge about his tactics and team selection before a game," Rockey recalls.

"He would get so into it that I'd be saying: 'John, it's 2.30pm, you'd better go'. He was a one-off."

John Hollins
John Hollins led Swansea to the Third Division title in 1999-2000

Colin Addison was Swansea's next boss, but his reign was overshadowed by Tony Petty, whose most notable contribution as chairman was to try to sack numerous players.

"One by one they went in to see him and they all came out in tears," Rockey says.

The attempted sackings were part of Petty's bid to slash Swansea's outgoings.

Rockey, meantime, was one of the staff members who for a while were paid in cash.

"The unlucky ones got paid by cheque - they all bounced," she explains.

Despite the financial troubles, Rockey remembers a shopping trip with Petty's right-hand man, John Shuttleworth.

"We had no appliances so he took me to Tesco and we bought a microwave and a toaster," she says.

"We put them both on in my office at the Vetch, but you couldn't use them at the same time because the fuse kept going.

"That's what it was like. Things like that made you love the place."

Petty was ousted by the group of businessmen who would eventually lead Swansea to the top flight, though there were bumps along the way.

The biggest scare came when Swansea avoided relegation to non-league football on the final day of the 2002-03 season.

Leon Britton, Alan Tate and Martinez were among the new recruits Rockey drew up contracts for during that season, while Lee Trundle soon followed.

"Brian Flynn has to take a lot of credit - his signings were inspired," she says.

"Players like Leon and Tatey came from big clubs but they got caught up in what Swansea's all about."

Swansea waved goodbye to the Vetch in 2004-05, with fans dismantling the ground to claim souvenirs.

"I don't think there was a seat left," Rockey says.

"I remember looking out of my window and somebody was taking a wheelie bin. They just wanted something."

Martinez made a big impression as a Swansea player, and his impact was even more significant when he returned as manager.

Roberto Martinez
Roberto Martinez began his managerial career at Swansea City in 2007

The Spaniard won admirers in the club offices as well as in the stands.

"Roberto is the loveliest person I have met in football," Rockey says.

"The day he went (to Wigan) was one of the worst of all our lives.

"The rumours were going round. He came into the office and we knew.

"Roberto doesn't drink, but he had a bottle of champagne and all these paper cups.

"He gave them out to everybody and said: 'I'm leaving'. Everybody just burst into tears - including Roberto."

Martinez's last act before moving north was to marry girlfriend Beth in Swansea. Rockey's son James, a performer, sang 'Amazing Grace' at the wedding.

"Roberto was quite a big name and he could have had anybody, but he asked my son to sing," Rockey says. "That was quite a moment."

After Martinez came Sousa, the Portuguese who won two Champions Leagues as a player.

Paulo Sousa
Paulo Sousa was Swansea manager in the 2009-10 season

"At the end of the season he was invited to Monaco to take part in something to do with the Grand Prix," Rockey says.

"We had to measure him for the suits they wore. We were in his office measuring his inside leg. That was a bit bizarre."

Sousa was replaced by Rodgers, the Northern Irishman who delivered Premier League football in his first season.

"He was a great people person, especially with the players," Rockey says. "We were distraught when he went as well."

Swansea clinched promotion in May 2011, but it was not until fixture-release day - always a busy one for a club secretary - the following month that the achievement hit home.

"They came through and I screamed out because it was Manchester City away first," Rockey remembers.

"That was the realisation of what we'd done."

After Rodgers left for Liverpool, Swansea appointed an icon in Laudrup.

"I must admit I was a bit star-struck for the first time in my life," Rockey says.

"We had press conferences at the stadium in those days and Michael started to come up to my office beforehand. I will talk football all day - not just Swansea but any team.

"We started talking and I think over the weeks he started to think: 'Oh, she knows about football'.

Michael Laudrup
Michael Laudrup led Swansea City to their only major trophy, the 2012-13 League Cup

"So then every Thursday he would come up and talk for half an hour. I was like: 'Cor, Michael Laudrup's talking to me'.

"One week he said he had someone he'd like me to meet - his brother Brian. I always thought Michael was a bit of a looker but his brother - whoa!"

Rockey was also close to Laudrup's successor Garry Monk, the captain-turned-manager who masterminded Swansea's best Premier League finish of eighth in 2014-15.

"I was really pleased when he became manager. It was good for the club," she says.

Monk left in December 2015 amid relegation concerns. From that point, life in the top division became a scrap for Swansea, who eventually dropped into the Championship 12 months ago.

Graham Potter lifted spirits last season, but Rockey retires with Swansea on the lookout for another new boss after he joined Brighton.

She will return as a fan in 2019-20, when it will be strange not to be at the heart of the club.

"I don't think I will be sitting watching Loose Women any time soon - I just love football," she says.

"I will still be watching games on television, seeing a red card and thinking: 'We've got to appeal that'."

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