This is the definitive portrait of John Toshack. Welsh, Liverpool and Swansea legend, and one of football’s most inspirational figures. TOSH will have its UK Premiere on 13th May at Swansea Stadium, in UK Cinemas from 17th May and then available on Digital Download, DVD & Blu-ray from 6th June. More information here.
A documentary film directed by lifelong Swansea City fan Pete Jones who has put together a heartwarming tribute to John Toshack a footballer who playing for Liverpool FC won domestic and European honours, played for his country and would go on to manage Real Madrid and Wales but who will be most remembered, by Pete, for becoming Swansea City’s player-manager and taking them from the 4th Division to the 1st Division (the Premiership equivalent back then).
Pete has put together a nostalgic look back at Toshack’s playing and managerial career that captures this charismatic football figure’s imposing yet gentle personality and whose love and enthusiasm for the game made footballing dreams come true. Making his debut at his local club Cardiff City, Toshack was signed by Liverpool for a then club record and under the management of the great Bill Shankly he would win all the major honours. Unfortunately, injury would cut short his top level playing career but he was given an unexpected opportunity to become player-manager of lowly Fourth Division Swansea City (who had come close to dropping out of the football league) and he would take them on a triumphant journey, gaining 3 promotions, to play in the top division.
Whilst Toshack is the central star of the documentary it’s the stories of the supporting cast that make this an interesting football documentary to watch. Reflecting on a bygone era, a core of the old local Swansea players give their entertaining anecdotes about Tosh’s arrival from Liverpool as he began to install the vision and methods of what he’d learnt under Shankly.
But he had an up hill struggle on his hands. Describing the Vetch, Swansea’s ground, one reporter comments, “the pitch was bumpy and bear and the support likewise” – you don’t get sports reports like that anymore, not without an inquiry anyway. Showing experience beyond his years, he had to change a lot of things at the club bringing in new ideas like putting in washing machines so the players didn’t have to wash their own kit and driving the team to away games the day before a match (in a mini bus that looked like a Guinness World Record attempt).
Other influential characters included Harry Griffths, the Swansea manager at the time, a Swansea man through and through, who had to step aside when Tosh arrived, Dolly who did the catering but sounded more like the general manager and the chairman Malcolm Struel who would match Toshack for his vision and ambition to elevate the club.
Whilst it is only football, what a difference he made for the town and the community. The stadium gates more than doubled in Toshack’s first game with over 15,000 turning out and who else could call upon his old playing pals from Liverpool, Ian Callaghan and Tommy Smith, to help the team win a successive promotion. His success in getting Swansea to the First Division had Liverpool manager Bill Shankly describing him as the “manager of the century”.
Produced by Daniel J. Harris, its gentle low key narrative slowly builds as the expectation and belief grows around the team and the club. The emotions are enhanced by a low key sound design that ramps up with the roaring crowd after each thumping result. The media coverage is sadly as bear as a lower league’s pitch, but this doesn’t detract from the storytelling and laconic banter, in fact it adds to this magical moment in time for a club and a city galvanised by a man on a mission to the top.
Tosh is a wonderful reminder of the olden days of professional football and every player’s, manager’s and supporter’s dream to rise to the top of the tiered football league.
Director: Pete Jones
Genre: Documentary, Sports
Stars: John Toshack, Alan Curtis, Leighton James
Run time: 1hr 15min