Monday 11 November 2013

The Truth is stranger than fiction.

Swansea City v Stoke City , PL, Liberty Stadium, 10th Nov 2013

Yo, guys, welcome back to the Lib, for the show that must be seen to be believed.

Previous performances against SCFC (North) have seen us struggle up at the Brittania, but have better outcomes and better enjoyment back here in South Wales.

In a match shunted to 4.10pm on an armistice weekend, and coming off the back of that frustrating 1-1 draw at Kuban in the Europa League (about which Stokies of last year and this will speak with some passion), yesterday's bun fight at Copperopolis was surprisingly enjoyable containing as it did many of the slants that make the Premier League the fascinating watch that it is.

From a disappointing start and a trudge off at half time that felt cathartic, City emerged renewed and laid on a second half to be proud of.

We Swans were approaching the game with a background of a bitterly frustrating Derby day loss to the Devil's Spawn, and a demonstration of the concept "Deja Vu" mainlined into our consciousness by Thursday's performance at Kuban in the Europa Competition.

Meanwhile the Potters were coming to terms with Asmir Begovic, their excellent keeper, confirming that as the Club's leading joint top goalscorer subsequent to his long distance strike v Southampton last week, Mark Hughes' revolution in transforming them from bruising punch-first merchants to subtle stick-and-twist artistes had a distance to go.

The game we witnessed went at least some way to confirming all of the above, containing as it did moments of sublime brilliance and jaw -dropping inanity in equal measure. Really, if you were taking bets on how it would turn out, cash your chips in NOW because you sure as hell didn't get it right. The PL is often bizarre – it's just not ALWAYS this crazy. On to the game....................the sides lined up thus..............

Swansea City

25 Tremmel , 22 Rangel , 33 Davies , 07 Britton , 04 Chico , 06 Williams , 15 Routledge , 20 De Guzmán (Shelvey - 71' ) , 10 Bony , 24 Pozuelo (Cañas - 93' ) , 14 Lamah (Dyer - 55')
02 Amat , 03 Taylor , 08 Shelvey , 12 Dyer , 21 Cañas , 26 Alvaro , 45 Zabret

Stoke City

01 Begovic , 20 Cameron , 03 Pieters , 08 Palacios (Adam - 72') , 17 Shawcross , 04 Huth , 19 Walters , 15 N'Zonzi , 25 Crouch , 32 Ireland (Wilson - 72' ) , 10 Arnautovic (Etherington - 54' )
06 Whelan , 09 Jones , 12 Wilson , 16 Adam , 24 Assaidi , 26 Etherington , 29 Sørensen

Ref: Robert Madley
Att: 19,242

The referee was Robert Madley, and some would say that he officiated to reflect his  surname - I couldn't possibly, unless some kind soul were to replace his first patronym with a combination that reads Truly Deeply as replacements for Robert. Even in the PL, it was ever thus – we DO SEEM TO GET THEM.

There are several things to say before we get into the game.

Point 1

Are you, like me, fed up of seeing fit and healthy PL footballers fall over when brushed/contacted by the opposition? (This includes ours as well as theirs), but I accept it seems to happen from ANY opposition.

Point 2

If the opposition GK'er from the first 5m onwards takes 30/40secs whilst taking a GK especially by running from the outward side to another, and each injury takes a player some 1m to 2m to get back on, why don't referees book the first instance and put a stop to this nonsense of regular, blatant time wasting.

Point 3

Having taken the piss consistently throughout the game WHY IS IT THAT the 4/5/6 m awarded of extra time takes no account of WHO HAS WASTED IT?? IN other words, when, in the 6th minute of extra time (ALL OF WHICH HAD BEEN WASTED BY THEM) why should we suffer the indignity of a wrongly awarded penalty in time which would have not been played had it been recognised that they were trying to CHEAT. Yes, CHEAT.

Now I know I'm a pain, but I have a suspicion that you'll feel I've made some valid points.

 Haven't I??

If you doubt the veracity of the above I urge you to come to the Lib some time soon and have your worst fears confirmed.

The game,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,ah, the game, bloody hell.

Having suffered the nonsense of seeing a limited Stoke threaten early from our mis-performing CB's attempts to clear some vaguely threatening balls, the ultimate insult came as early as the 8th minute.

From a Swansea FK on the right, we saw Ash Williams stumble out of a challenge and be forced off.

The subsequent Stoke free ball, channeled into Ash's vacant position and poorly defended by JdG and a tumbling Ben Davies left Stoke free to play in Jonathan Walters, whose clip inwards left Gerhard Tremmel embarrassed by the concession of a sloppy goal. 1-0, and we groaned inwardly.

We continued to play our patient passing game,  which demonstrated its lack of tempo when a simple training 1-2-3 man free routine by Stoke on attack left Stephen Ireland loose and at his leisure to clip a second beyond another exposed Tremmel. 2-0 and only 25m gone.

Mumbles and grumbles were heard from the stands, although to be fair to City they tore into Stoke to try to get something back.

It included a series of chances from the oft criticised Wilfried Bony, and whilst he failed the Loic Remy test by taking around Begovic, his glancing header from a sitting cross was perhaps more disappointing. The air was ripe with talk of cow's arses and banjos.

The best that can be said for the side is in this period, despite beating their heads against a brick wall (which Stoke were) they continued to try and create, and even though they went in at HT 2-0 down, their closing efforts left we fans with a vague sense of "what if"??

Laudrup's second half tweaks at least made us start to believe.

The immediacy of Swansea's efforts were instantly recognisable - you've been there - you're sitting on your backside sucking your mints and all of a sudden you realise the team's effort deserves your support, so when you sit down having screamed "Cmon City" for the previous 30secs you don't feel half so bad when those around you begin to murmur/stutter/shout agreement and the team's play reflects it, too.

We were back in the game.

The breakthrough came when after an attack down the left, Britton hit a rebuffed volley out to deGuzman on the right, and his immediate whipped in cross was headed home by Bony from the 6 yd box.

1-2, and the crowd was now more than alive- it was buzzing.

The team confirmed it's optimism by consistently winning the 50/50 challenges and just believing - you know what I mean - it's that determination to try something/anything without considering risk - if we go at it the opposition will try to defend it BUT BE LIMITED.

Thus, with just 15m to go, another threatening attack saw the ball headed out to Dyer some 8yds out, and after a chest control his mis-hit volley did what many shots on target do - it nestled into the L Hand corner with everyone going central.

2-2, and even we limited West Stand semi crocks were rocking and bopping, and I swear I saw Jimmy push the man from the Mail and tell him to "write it again Buster".

The most pleasant piece of this period was realising that the team had indeed cast off it's limitations and were now out and out playing to BLOODY WIN.

What an absolute joy and pleasure, so when Shelvey turned their right side and cut back a superb ball, Bony's slotting of same led to delirium all around, 3-2, wooHoo.

For those of you not able to attend games (for any reason) get this. The team (I'd suggest) know the same. Passionate support brings a passionate response.

Having got in front with a limited time to go , we probably did deserve what we've got and may sometimes ground out a win but we will definitely not lose.

You all know my feelings re the extra time awarded, so when, in the 96th MR Truly Deeply Madly awarded an absurd penalty against a presumably straight up Wayne Routledge challenge for a hooked ball it not only enraged our players but made a confirmed sceptic (for life) of me on whether Refs of insufficient experience/ability should ever be allowed in the PL.

Check it out FA - they ALWAYS, ALWAYS get it wrong.

I've told the tale previously of a friend of mine's theory that Llanelli's roads are a patchwork quilt of potholes and repairs because EVERY Single apprentice hole-digger in Britain is sent to Llanelli to practice mucking up their first ever digs. Similarly, ALL PL apprentice match officials are sent to the Liberty to practice screwing up football matches at Swansea City's expense in our stadium before being released into the wider world.

I'm all talked out - after that absurd decision I've even sat here this evening and tried to transpose my thoughts to what have it must have been like for him - and each time, unsurprisingly, I find myself ignoring the challenge and awarding a corner kick, which can't be taken because we're OUT OF TIME.

Am I wrong or is Truly, Deeply, Mr Madley??

You decide, (hey Stokies, that includes you).

# Goes away to lie down in a darkened room, mumbling........


Friday 8 November 2013

The Psychology of being a fan.

We ( Swansea City FC) have  been resplendent in our PL occupation of the past couple of years, and at the end of each subsequent period of time we've seen our progress year on year demonstrably evidenced by our final position and the results that mirrored it.

Still, whilst I'd accept that we've made (and continue to make) progress, the very gist of the here-and-now nature of modern football existence demands that our perception is on the immediate (witness the fevered response to our 1-1 draw away at Kuban midweek) , and limits our longer term ideas on where we may, or may not, end up at the Season's close.

Hey, this is all part of our being modern football fans!

The days of sober and considered appreciation/reflection are long gone. In an age where the immediacy of social communication is defined by whomsoever gets the first significant Tweet live onto the Web or Website, the downside of that is that the doom-mongers and nay-sayers have an easily exploitative chance to "get their retaliation  in first".

As the Lions and McBride learned early and to their cost, a tad of negative will usually swamp the more measured response of the positive. The corollary, of course, is that they didn't have the option of a convenient "ignore" button, either physically or metaphorically . We do. And I'd urge those seeking a reasoned evaluation to excercise their choice with a degree of fastidiousness.

Use it or lose it as we say - otherwise, please excercise the normal fans prerogative of analysis by rationality.

Most of us will have realised that when, on a discussion board, the critics come out to play they are usually vehemently vocal on what's gone wrong, but what limits their arguments is that you'll find it very hard to spot what they might suggest as an alternative.

Let me give you an example of which we're all significantly aware.

My own team, Swansea City, were this week involved in a 1-1 draw away at the Russian PL team Kuban Krasnodar in the Europa Cup, and conceded a last minute equaliser to mirror the performance at home against the same team when the same thing happened.

Had you only seen the same information reported in your daily newspaper/ radio station etc you might well have thought - bloody hell, how did we let that happen ??

My suggestion is that there were a great deal of differing circumstances - and before going on to make predictable and braying long term value judgements, it might be worth investigating the multifarious differing circumstances.

Having lived through our first couple of seasons in this most unforgiving of Divisions with a degree of equanimity and enjoyment, and seen us, no less, win our first major trophy (the Capital One Cup) and thus qualify to play this (amongst others) European ties, you'd be right in assuming that I'm a pretty happy pixie in my appreciation of SCFC's performance.

I've been a fan since 1963, and I'm aware of our history, and I can honestly say that this club has never, ever, seen better times.

That's NOT to say that I don't ever offer an opinion that's critical of the Club/Team in some way. I regularly do and I'll be happy to offer those opinions further down so that they can be considered and either rejected/shot down by you, my fellow fans, or agreed with and maybe developed.

In considering this season in comparison to the last 2 I feel it's fair to say that this year has brought it's share of frustrations.

Given our Europa League commitment, I'm delighted by our negotiating our way through 2 testing ties to get into the Group Stage and our performances in same thus far.

Beating Valencia 3-0 away was a classy, elegant performance against a long established La Liga "big club". To grind out a win against St Gallen at home, and to achieve at least parity against Kuban both home and away shows resilience (even if we could / should have won both ties) so to sit on 8pts and in second in the group with 2 to play is no mean feat.

Yes, we could have done better.

YES, also, it could have gone worse.

Doubters, please get real, we're playing in European competition - not Barnet FC and Kidderminster as we've done in the recent past.

In the PL it's fair to say we've veered from the sublime to the ridiculous.

From an unsurprising (predictably) no show against last year's champions MU, we stumbled through a loss to the high flying Gunners at home and what can be said is what most of us felt and was evident from both performances - we really COULD have got at both (as has been evidenced in previous home games against the same opposition ) and made it BLOODY HARDER for them to win.

Against Liverpool at Home we spent half the game in shadow and half the game tearing them apart to get a 2-2 draw.

West Ham did what West Ham do under "Big Sam" - grind out a point, and Sunderland capitulated when we turned up the heat properly.

Away from home we've had the desperately disappointing display at WH Lane where we let ourselves down - the deserved victories at West Brom and Palace where we put teams in similar positions as us to the sword, and the suicidal foolishness of outplaying the PL's buzzing team, Southampton, to lose a game 2-0 that we should have won.

Mixed in there of course, were two of our most disappointing performances of all - the loss to Birmingham in the Carling One Cup (we were sorry defenders) and the stuttering, stumbling loss to a limited Cardiff City where we seemed to me to settle after about 25m for a 0-0 draw. From that moment on I thought we were doomed, and Steven Caulker on 60 odd minutes confirmed the same.

So, you'll be asking yourself, where do we go from here?

Looking at our our fixtures from here to Xmas, it seems to me that we have a far better run possible than we've had thus far. 

This is how it goes up until the new year........
Swansea V Stoke : Sun 10 Nov     16:10    
Fulham V Swansea : Sat 23 Nov     15:00         
Swansea V Valencia CF : Thu 28 Nov 20.00    
Man City V Swansea : Sun 1 Dec 16:10    
Swansea V Newcastle : Wed 4 Dec 19:45        
Swansea V Hull : Mon 9 Dec 20:00    
FC St Gallen V Swansea : Thu 12 Dec 18:00        
Norwich V Swansea : Sun 15 Dec 13:30        
Swansea V Everton : Sun 22 Dec 16:00        
Chelsea V Swansea : Thu 26 Dec 15:00        
Aston Villa V Swansea : Sat 28 Dec 15:00 

When I compare these fixtures against those we've had thus far it seems to me unfair that I say anything other than this - this is what it's like in this League and in this situation.

No game is easy anymore , and Michael Laudrup is more aware than all of we "Armchair Managers" on the Psychology involved in approaching such fixtures.

After all's said and done, Huw Jenkins and the Board have done us proud in employing a succession of Managers who've done us justice in taking us to this, our best ever position.

That doesn't mean that we can't comment, constructively criticise, moan, groan and just occasionally throw our toys out of the pram.

Overall, though, what we MUST DO is support.

That's what real fans do.

Swansea City. 

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Swansea City - a Tactical Appreciation

 Given that we've just come off a painful 1-0 reverse to our arch enemies, Cardiff City, in the first ever all-Welsh Premier League derby, this might be a strange time to be considering the highlight question that's the title of this piece - namely : Swansea City, a Tactical appreciation.

After all, over the past couple of seasons where we've finished 11th and 10th in the Premier League and won the Capital One Cup thus qualifying us to play in the Europa League this season, you might be thinking that as a Swans fan this is as good as it gets. Think again, bro.

We have always been good at self-deprecation. It's something bled/bred into us as youngsters. You grow up knowing this is how it is. For all these good times there will surely be some bad.

So when I traveled, bubbled, to the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday I knew damn well that despite the schadenfreude of US being able to sing to THEM "We'll always be white" , there might well be something that slapped us back in the chops and said " Don't get ahead of yourself, sunshine".

And so it turned out to be. Despite Steven Caulker's admirable restraint in refusing to celebrate his winning goal against us (he had a successful loan year with us last season), it still felt like a stab to the heart for me, sitting, as I was, in the front row near the corner flag, and witness to the demented delirium of the CCFC fans nearest us.

Many of these same, at 40 plus years of age, must have been praying their families didn't see them on MOTD2 later that evening. Ugly. It was ever thus, and I'm suspecting a few of our "fans" might feel the same.

The build up to this game had been fevered - you can't blame the Broadcasters for that since it's their job to maximise the audience. No. For me, the fillip to writing this piece came from the fan reaction . I was there, LIVE, as Sky like to say, and to me it seemed the hysteria might have been a bit disproportionate. Bear with me here and I'll explain what I mean.

We've become used, over the last few seasons, to playing what would generally be construed within football as a 4-2-3-1 formation , but, as has been seen in endless comment within the Swansea/Fraternity bubble , the formation is dependent on many other things.

As putative examples, take these. As a Div2/Div1 team under Jackett or Martinez, this wasn't important - possession was all, and our superior players allowed us to progress.

In the Championship, under Sousa and Rodgers, it reared it's ugly head on occasion - whilst most fans would give Sousa his due for making us more defensively resilient, we were pleased to see Rodgers loosening of the defensive strings to enable us to get forward faster - still keep-the-ball but with wide, pacy wingers.

Evolution saw Laudrup as next up require his wingers to play "narrower" as previously, but with developed FB's too.

Simplistic ? Maybe.

Vaguely accurate?  Maybe.

So what's next on the Swansea City tableau ?  Read on.

When I read the Swansea City messageboards subsequent to our defeat at the CCFC Stadium it struck me that, as ever, there are 2 generally observable strains of fans.

There are those, like me, who are generally tagged as "glass half full", "rose tinted specs" types who will still support the club tomorrow. There are a further set who's principal enthusiasm seems to be "we are doomed, the management and players are crap" and who are happy to criticise but NOT offer any sort of alternative.

And this what gets my goat.

So this piece is an attempt to analyse where we are, and where we go from here. As I said previously, there's a great fission and frisson between players and tactics in many supporters eyes, as the Guardian's Jonathan Wilson elucidates in this perceptive piece.

I'd suggest that Wilson's argument is persuasive to the Nth degree but as a disciple of "inverting the Triangle" I would be, wouldn't I?

To that end, I've chosen to concentrate my discussion on 4 (to me) pertinent points. And they are.............

1) Formation
2) Tactics
3) Tempo/Pace
4) Originality

1) Formation

Over the last six seasons, we Swans have seen 4-2-3-1 and it's variations sewn into our DNA. It got us up through the divisions ( where non-converts were swamped of possession, particularly in MF) and then established us into the PL by a freak confluence of a stellar performer (Miguel Michu) with a developing team. Bloody hell, it even enabled us to win the Capital One Cup last year on the back of a series of performances where the perceived input exceeded the sum of it's parts. We had a lot of excellent players, but the performances were even better.

The bummer, of course, is that THIS IS the PL. Opponents don't just go away to lick their wounds - they analyse to the infinitessimal degree what went wrong for them and right for us with a view to making it different this year. Oh, and btw, teams who haven't played us previously do exactly the same, making this most 'ornery of Divisions a bundle of problems next time around (this year).

I've been a fan of the formation, and I can see it's relevance as a long term staple, but, just recently, I got into a conversation with one who suggested some alternatives, and I put them up here just to stimulate debate.

The first point is this - we, and all other PL teams, now know that ML has our wingers playing narrower, and compensate accordingly. Similarly, Everton under Moyes and Norwich/Villa under Lambert ALWAYS push up to press and thus stop us playing out from the back. Bet on Stoke City to do it this weekend.

Given our sad weekend last against CCFC it may allow us to experiment a little - but the major question is SHOULD WE?

Imagine these - a 4-1-3-1-1 that goes, Tremmel, Rangel, Williams,Chico, Taylor/Ben, Canas, Dyer, de G, Pablo/Lamah, Pozuelo, Bony

That's just the first, and I'm aware that injuries screw, but I'd ask you to slot somebody in if a player is obviously inconvenienced. C'mon, GET WITH THE FLOW.

I've seen this offered as an alternative and forgive me, but it seems to make a bit of sense too.

Even more radical would be to pick a team with one change from that line up - ie, play only Canas as the holding MF'er with a 3 in front of him of JDG, Pozuelo and Pablo (if fit, Lamah otherwise) and have both Vasquez and Bony ahead (the youngster as support STR). Radical I know, but since both Nathan and WR have stunk the house out lately, and we are stuttering, "radical" might work.

Then again, since we're talking radical, a 3-5-2 (a la Brendan at the 'Pool) might read ....................Tremmel, Chico, Ash, Amat, Rangel, Dyer, Canas/Leon, Pablo/Lamah, Ben, Vasquez, Bony

I haven't considered Michu since he's injured.

What about this - and screw you Sam Allardyce - it's effectively a 3-6-1 that reads...........

Tremmel, Chico, Ash, Amat, Rangel, Dyer/JdG, Canas/Leon,Pozuelo, Pablo/Lamah, Ben, Bony

It may be the case that I, and my correspondent are being a tad fanciful but if we played with either of these formations I'd suggest we could get the attacking 4 players, 6 when Rangel and Ben push on, playing a lot closer together with quite a sold unit behind.

Whether ML is sufficiently brave/foolish to adopt such a break I doubt, unfortunately, but it's surely a very valid point that we MIGHT use these upcoming Europa Cup games to at the very least try some things we'd be loth to adopt in the PL.

2) Tactics

To approach a PL (or any) game without a tactical analysis of how we, and hopefully, they, intend to play would be foolish in the extreme, and we're not the sort of side that does that. Unfortunately, we seem to have fallen into a routine where our tactics don't surprise, thus allowing teams of all levels to set up to counter us.

The most generally noticed difference from the Laudrup team to the previous regime under BR seems to be the wingers playing "narrower" and a general direct thrust and more incisive final third passing. I confess I see the former, and whilst it's had it's good days ( West Brom last year 3-0 at HT and we tore them apart) I've also seen it stagnate and stink the house out . Tottenham away and Cardiff last Sunday spring to mind.

So, the question I'm asking is this - is it possible with our current playing squad to vary the ante as we've done previously under Martinez (although he too could be a stubborn bastard) or does it depend on our being able to augment the squad come January to allow us a little more flexibility.

If I had a choice and free reign to sign players in January I'd target these 3 (all creators and scorers) a) Matt Jarvis at WHU, b) David Hoilett at QPR, c)Emanuel Adeybayor at Tottenham. I know, I know, we can't afford the wages let alone any bloody fee, but if we can negotiate something of that ilk (would Spurs pay a chunk of his wages to get him off the books on a loan?) then we might be tactically a little more flexible.


You know as well as I do that when we play "quickly" we play well. That doesn't mean that all of our players have to outsprint theirs ( it helps) but that we pass and move with a degree of tempo that makes the opponent uncomfortable.

The ball is ALWAYS faster than a player, so moving it at pace makes sense for all teams, and the best do it without thinking.

Think Barcelona, Dortmund, Bayern Munchen, Citeh even, we've all seen the high tempo press allied with rapid pass and move bring success. At the moment, the team doing it best in the PL is Southampton, and having bested them in our recent 2-0 defeat at St Mary's we ought to have learned a valuable lesson. We didn't then, but we're certainly capable of doing it ongoing. Let's start against Stoke.

4) Originality

We Swans have been lucky these past 10yrs to see our Club progress as it has. Very recently, our estimable Chairman Huw Jenkins did an interview with the Guardian (get it here) that makes for more than interesting reading.

Allow me to paraphrase just a short piece, where he suggested that to concede defeat to the so-called Super Clubs meant that we were effectively conceding defeat in almost a third of the PL Program. Bloody hell Huw, spot on.

It's my belief (and I suspect HJ's too), that part of the reason we've been so successful over that period has been precisely because we're original. We're the only PL Club with a model of fan ownership, we're one of the few that lives within it's means. And, let it not be forgot, we're one of the few who's played consistently innovative football over that period.

We should never forget this - what got us here was daring to be different - on and off the field.

Over the next six months we must dare to be different again.

If that means we go at teams at Home via the throat from the off I'd love that.

If it means performing as we did against Fulham 3-0 and West Brom 2-0 too I can live with that, because this is a Club that gives me more than I possibly dreamed about.

We are really fortunate in the PL to see Sergio Aguerro, David Silva, Mesut Ozil and players of that ilk. Just give me Ferrie Bodde (who helped get us here), Leon Britton, Miguel Perez Cuesta and I am a happy pixie.


Onwards and upwards,

Sunday 4 August 2013

Fantasy Football

A Season Preview

Well, now, here I go again.

I've been blogging about the Swans for some years now.

I started doing occasional pieces back in 2007 when we were in League 1 and so I've seen the recent upturn in our fortunes. However, prior to the shrieks of Jonny-come-lately that you may want to throw in here, I saw my first game in 1963 (Ipswich, at the Vetch, since you ask), so no j-c-l tag please.

Using modern parlance, it would be fair to say that it's "been some Journey" - perhaps a litle more interesting than its Big Brother/ X-Factor/IACGMOOH equivalent, though no less emotional for all that. Hey, maybe  there really are some better days to come.

I'll take it as read that you know just as well as I (and possibly better) how we got here, and say only that most Swans fans I meet are like the proverbial "dog with two tails" in that we're inordinately happy, so this will be a piece that comes from a member of the glass-half-full fraternity, and a fully signed up one at that.

Never mind Better Days, how about Glory Days ? We'll see.

During our first Season in the Premier League, I wrote regularly both previewing and reviewing Matches and planned to do the same for our second, but a bout of ill health meant that I suffered from second season syndrome and was unable to keep up to the pace at quite the same level. Get a taste of the previous efforts here....

The fact that our Second season in this most bizarre of Leagues outdid our first in achievement is by the by. This is where we are. And where we intend to remain.

As we clapped off both Players and Staff after that disappointing 3-0 reverse to Fulham at the Liberty last May, were we really prepared for such a tumultuous Summer? I'd suggest not - along with the caveat that our Board and Chairman's assertions that we will grow both progressively and incrementally have a deal more credence after their handling of transfers (particularly) in this close season.

So - we get to the purpose of this piece .

Let's have a look at our playing staff, and what it may mean to us in this upcoming season.

Those readers who've missed the sublime Ferrie Bodde, who was forced to retire this summer as a result of his knee injury whilst playing for us against Birmingham ( I can see it now, along with Kevin Phillips' theft of two goals to win.) may find some new heroes amongst the gems, especially if this season we shoot as much as he used to. Ferrie had a great knack of ripping in some snorting shots, and lots of us will hope that Ki and Shelvey, particularly, can take us back to that.

So :- let's have a look at our current team.

In goal we have the fantastic Michel Vorm, currently Holland's no 2 but given Maarten Stekleenburg's transfer to Fulham this season we might well see Vorm overtake him as the Dutch no 1. Direct comparisons within a League are valid. Vorm remains an excellently athletic Keeper who is in the top 10 keepers of the  EPL, and his stature and ability is covered by Gerhard Tremmel who has proved to be a capable deputy.

Some of us initial doubters, circa Stoke City away 2-0, have learned that the Carling Cup and steady League performances when Vorm was injured have had those early doubts quelled, and I feel quite comfortable in our set up nowadays.
David Cornell will spend the season on loan in Scotland.

Further, the Club have shown foresight in signing the exciting Slovenian Gregor Zabret, at 17 yrs old a highly rated future star.

At RB, the established and ever reliable Angel Rangel will be covered this year by the developing Jazz Richards. Just ask yourself this - if Michael laudrup and staff are happy with that, are you?Then so am I. Jazz's spell on loan last year will have done him well, and we forget how briefly effective he was before going when he appeared in the first team. I like to think he's made the "Joe Allen step"  - as when that particulaar £15m magnet made the transition to first team regular after his brief loan to Wrexham.

At LB we have Wales' first choice LB in Neil Taylor. We also have Wales' first choice LB (when Neil Taylor's injured) in Ben Davies. I see no problems there, and am even aware of Davies' ability to play at CB long term - a future treat, no doubt.

At CB we are blessed. Ash Williams has, arguably, been in the PL's top 10 CB's for 2 seasons now. Last year, Chico Flores had a strong argument to join him in those upper echelons. You will know as well as I that his grasp of the "Swansea Lifestyle" is the equivalent of Magic Daps' and Tatey's grasp of the same, and he will go on to have the same regard. Legend.

Whilst Garry Monk's classy ceding of the First Team (but NOT Club) Captaincy to Ash Williams has bolstered the solidity of the team we shouldn't ignore the signing of Jordi Amat, a genuine Coup. This is a first rank CB brought up in La Liga and capable of goals like this, amongst other things.

Over and above that, Amat will provide a genuine third choice at CB, and he can play. GM, of course, remains available to play too.

We have, understandably, a genuine surfeit of talent in MF. I'm salivating thinking about them.

In Football generally, MF is where the greatest change has taken place in the last 10 yrs.

Think about Man Utd's team back in their treble winning year.

With Beckham and Giggs wide, and with Keane and Scholes central, they were the epitome of the 4-4-2 with Yorke and Cole scavenging up front. That 4-4-2 has mutated into a 4-3-3 in much of British football nowadays, and our pattern reflects that change.

It's come about partly because even then, down in South Wales, a change was afoot.

When Robbie Martinez first asked Leon Britton to come inside from his right wing placement, and to do what he had done, it's fair to say that Leon found it strange, to say the least. Still, he found that he got a lot more ball and was "IN" the game for more influential periods.

There's an argument to be made here that Britton has been "THE" most influential MF'er in the past 10 yrs of British Football.

Claude Makelele, Cesc Fabregas and a few others might dispute it, but I wouldn't. He has been integral to the development of the Swansea City style in which ball retention and passing are the key elements, and he will remain an influence in the coming season, but for the first time in years ML has seen the need for a top  class replacement for the coming seasons - and acted.

In Jose Canas we may well see this year another deal of the value that Miguel Michu brought us last year - ie = a "bargain of the season type" - NOT in terms of goals, but in terms of influence and control. He, Canas, is a defensive MF'er from the top drawer, - of superb technical ability allied with a passing/ball retention ethic, and topped off by a desire and passion to obtain, dominate and develop the ball and play. Add to that a "combative temperament" and biting tackling prowess and you have a blueprint for what most good teams  would give their eye-teeth for = a snarling, inflential and smiling defensive MF'er.

Think Daniele de Rossi rather than Michael Carrick ; prepare to admire a real coup. Despite the lack of fee, let me be the first to suggest that here's our most important signing of the upcoming season - that's how highly I rate the ex-Celta Vigo Captain who's at the peak of his game.

The rest of the MF has been upgraded too.

Jon Jo Shelvey, the young Full England International was secured at a bargain fee, some £5/6m being the reported fee and has impressed in each of the pre season games. Jonathan de Guzman and Ki Seung Yung we know well from last here and both look likely to continue the superb development they showed in last season's triumphs.

Alejandro Pozuelo, the 19yr old Andalucian signed on a free at the end of his contract shows the advantages of the Modern PL over La Liga in terms of attraction for the modern player. 5 yrs ago, this type of talent would have stayed in Spain, but the PL's and ML's cachet attracted him instead to us.

We're in for a treat over the next few years. Along with the measured (and successful looking) development of Rory Donnelly, these are 2 future prospects who may entertain us royally. Let's hope so, it'll certainly be interesting to watch.

Our 4 wingers already entertain us and I can't be the only one to be convinced that Pablo Hernandez, Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer and Roland Lamah wil do more than just that this year - they'll make us even more  exciting than last year. All four are players of outstanding technical ability, and each brings a slightly different and subtle style to the team. In terms of selection, along with other areas on the pitch, it'll be horses for
(tactical) courses methinks.

This brief summation can do no more than whet our appetites for the coming season - but it really wouldn't
be fair to not mention two of our genuinely thrilling signings - one, our absolute gem from last year, Miguel Michu - and the other our statement of intent from this year , last year's Eredivisee Player of the Year, Wilfried Bony, acquired from Vitesse Arnhem at an eye watering £11/£12m fee. As has been said many times on various outlets - it shows how far we've come.

It was a real priviledge to see the Spaniard's growing influence last season, and whilst we'd be foolish perhaps to expect the same phenomenal rate of scoring this year, Daddy Kool's recruitment promises to release some of that incessant reliance we had on MM being almost expected to score each game. Bony's hopeful prowess will allow Michu to play more often in his preferred role - as a 10 rather than a 9 - even if
they wear the opposite numbers.

This is our full squad list with the relevant numbering for the coming season............

1 Michel VORM, 2 Jordi AMAT, 3 Neil TAYLOR, 4 Chico FLORES, 5 Alan TATE, 6 Ashley WILLIAMS, 7 Leon BRITTON, 8 Jonjo SHELVEY, 9 MICHU, 10 Wilfried BONY, 11 Pablo H., 12 Nathan DYER, 13 David CORNELL, 14 Roland LAMAH, 15 Wayne ROUTLEDGE, 16 Garry MONK, 17 Ki.S.Y , 18 Leroy LITA, 19 Luke MOORE, 20 Jonathan DE GUZMAN, 21 Jose CANAS, 22 Angel RANGEL, 23 Darnel SITU, 24 Alejandro POZUELO, 25 Gerhard TREMMEL, 26 Kemy AGUSTIEN, 27 Kyle BARTLEY, 28 Curtis OBENG, 29 Jazz RICHARDS, 30 Joshua SHEEHAN, 31 Lee LUCAS, 32 Liam SHEPHARD, 33 Ben DAVIES, 34 Henry JONES, 35 Daniel ALFEI, 36 James LOVERIDGE, 37 Scott TANCOCK, 38 Gwion EDWARDS, 39 Kurtis MARCH, 40 NUMBER RETIRED, 41 Rory DONNELLY, 42 Oliver DAVIES, 43 Alex BRAY, 44 Samuel EVANS, 45 Gregor ZABRET, 46 Kenji GORRE, 47 Alexander GOGIC, 48 Jernade MEADE

(Names in bold will appear on the back of players' shirts)

Of course the piece above looks but briefly at the prospects for the coming year, but looking at the full squad list at least we can see that the Club has made genuine progress with regard to developing the squad, but we won't truly get a realistic picture until we're some way into the season.

We can at least be encouraged by our pre-season form, which reads Played 7, Won 7, Goals for 28, Goals against 1. Now I know that these are just "Friendlies" but at the end of the day we can only beat what's put in front of us.

All the reports of the games so far I've read, both from journalists and fans, confirm we appear to be doing so. The goals shown, both on the OS and You Tube look pleasing too.

We saw last year that ML had moved us on as a team and club, both tactically and structurally, and with our European adventure starting on the 2nd August with a difficult qualifying Tie against Malmo, one of the better of the unseeded teams we could have been drawn against, we'll soon get a realistic test of our worth.

WooHoo - I can't wait - I'm really looking forward to another wonderfully rewarding season following our Super Swans.

If it's anything like as rewarding as our progress over the last 10 years , it promises to be a thrilling ride.

All aboard, and..........

Onward, Swansea City.


Since this was written, not only have we seen off Reading 3-0, but even beaten Malmo in a satisfying 4-0 Home Tie. Things are, indeed, looking good. 

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Coming soon...... Season Review's my intention to do a Review of our second season in this  wonderful Division.

Promise to have it ready by Tues 28th May.

See you then.

Friday 15 March 2013

Swansea City v Arsenal, EPL, Match Preview and thoughts.

This is why we love the Premier League, so be careful what you wish for.

You're allowed to read this twice if you want - this Saturday, we stage our latest Premier League fixture against Arsenal FC.

Yes, that's right - the Gooners : serial winners (though not of late) but a Club that has legitimate claims to not only occupy that fiction of the EPL (the "big" 4 ),  but has an history and past that puts it realistically amongst the upper echelons of world football.

Quibble all you will, the Deloittes list and others of equal repute always place them in the top 10 European Clubs, so when they come to town, I always get a buzz on.

Listen - in 15yrs time if we've each year finished in the top ten of the PL, having meantime won the odd Capital One Cup and regularly appeared in Finals (various) all the while being entranced by the style of play (as we are), imagine how content the vast majority of we Swans will be.

The Gooners have done a little more than that.

In the last 15yrs, Arsenal have in every season qualified for the Champions League (via a top 4 finish at the least), and reached a Champions League Final, won the PL several times, and the FA Cup several times also, including the double, the League Cup as well, won various other trophies including the Community Shield and achieved countless other awards whilst all the while playing by far the most attractive football in the League.

Oh, and they had an Invincibles, unbeaten season too.

Oops btw I forgot, they've done this whilst moving from their Iconic Highbury Home  (at 36k a little small) to the fantastic Emirates Stadium (60k plus) and doing it, moreover, without putting the sort of debt onto the Club that the Glaziers have done at ManUre. Without also a potentate of sorts as has happened at Citeh and Chelski.

If you're going to be a "BIG" club, seems to me that the Arsenal route (as at Barca and Bayern) is more one to be admired than envied and criticised.

Despite this level of achievement, Arsenal, it's suggested in the more rabid Tabloid Press and TalkShite style phone-ins, are having yet another "poor" season with Arsene Wenger, their increasingly beleagured but permanently cultured Manager having "lost the Plot" and worthy of the Big E.

This feeling is reinforced from the mounting grumblings of their own supporters, and those of we Swans who were blessed to be at the Emirates as Miguel Michu stroked in the second goal in the last minute to cement our 2-0 victory can't fail to have noticed the resounding boos for the home team, however ill deserved we percieve them to be.

So, what's gone wrong? Not a great deal, I'd suggest. Some perspective, please.

You'll probably have heard this one - but please, bear with me if you haven't.

George Best was one of the top 10 footballers in the World - ever - but he was a bit of a rascal, a sort of Gazza with 10 times more talent - but an equal propensity to self destruct.

All but the very young still reading will have heard the possibly apocryphal but defining tale of George Best - the British Messi of his day (he was THAT good, trust me), being delivered  a room service trolley by a waiter at the Ritz, serving Champagne to him and the then current Miss World in bed on a Friday evening prior to a game against Chelsea at the Bridge the following day.

Whilst the purported waiter gazed at these two semi naked beautiful young people locked in a passionate embrace on a bed scattered with roses, petals  and £5 and £10 notes he, the waiter, is reported to have involuntarily (almost) said.................. " Oh George, George, where did it all go wrong??????".

Now I may have gone over the top in attempting to draw a parallel between Best, Gazza and other talented but wayward talents and the travails of the modern Arsenal (when compared to other Clubs) but you'll forgive me if I remind those Gooner critics who are demanding Wenger's replacement for his plethora of late careful what you wish for!

We who've spent the majority of our hundred year existence down amongst the dead men of the Football League are, not surprisingly, a little more enthused to celebrate our recent successes (Capital One Cup amongst them) and our performances in this unforgiving League against what the red tops still lazily call "the Arsenals of this world" (as if there were loads of them - there aren't) with a little more equanimity.

Regular success, it seems, breeds complacency - and we, along with lots of clubs, are a long long way from that.

So, again, a little perspective, please.

Despite reports to the contrary, Arsenal currently sit in 5th place in the PL on 47pts and we in 9th on 40pts.

We've achieved our principal aim this season ( staying in the division) and been treated to a blissful Capital One Cup run that saw us secure Europa League involvement next year in our 5-0 mauling of Bradford City in the Final.

Still, as ML has pointed out, our next target is to see how high we can get. He's suggested 50pts is achievable before season's end and that seems to me to be realistic.

In our 2-1 defeat last Saturday at WBA, our first half performance (and late late wrong goalscoring denial by the officials) suggested we at least haven't switched off - Steve Clarke agreed - and our players are not thinking of the beaches just yet. That, at the very least, is how we MUST mean to go on.

As for them, you wouldn't bet against them achieving yet another top 4 finish just yet, but with just 9 games left it's becoming progressively more difficult, and we'll seek to add to this problem for Monsieur Wenger.

Earlier this week , prior to their CL fixture at Bayern, TalkShite, via it's resident Bulldog Adrian Durham, and the well known "Bring on the Wall" presenter and fat ex-Cricketer Darren Gough, spent a whole couple of hours on radio slinging mud at the "cowardice" of Wenger for putting out a reserve side against the German Champions in the upcoming tie, as had been suggested in the gutter press earlier that day.

At which point, of course, the Arsenal gaffer did no such thing. He picked a near full strength side that proceeded to win 2-0 and almost drag the tie back from the dead.

So, how will that impact on us?

My point, as I've said above, is that we should all within football be careful what we wish for. The game has a regular habit of kicking us in the nether regions by regularly surprising us.

The Gooners are without Jack Wilshere it seems, the young English Maestro being protected after feeling tender in the shins after his long layoff and participation in many games of late.

Lucas Fabiansky looks likely to keep the GK spot in front of Wojciech Szczesny, and the back 4 at Bayern paired Per Mertesacker with Laurent Koscielny at CB, with Carl Jenkinson at RB. The English qualified but Finnish born FB signed from Charlton had a very good game, but at LB, Nacho Monreal, signed from Malaga in January should replace Kieran Gibbs who was injured again.

Thomas Vermaelen, the Club Captain, is set to deputise should there be any changes in these areas.

We'll maybe get our first look at Santi Cazorla, one of the very finest of the many current crop of Superb Spanish Midfielders along with another Spaniard, the hard working Mikel Arteta who has never been able to get into the all powerful Spanish squad. Cazorla is a player who makes paying decent money for entrance seem worthwhile, and Arteta's on and off field charm make you think that not ALL footballers are either stupid or self-obsessed.

Up front maybe Olivier Giroud, the increasingly successful Frenchman acquired from Montpellier, and maybe Lucas Podolski, the hard shooting German all but-record Capholder. Both were signed after the latest of a long line of almost "forced" sales - Flamini, Henry, Fabregas, Song, Van Persie amongst others who have fanned the flames, but it would take a deeper piece than this to throw some light on that view.

And then there's the option of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain wide (or narrow in Walcott's wish). Either are lightning quick and will go on to have very good careers, so will require attention from us.

Thomas Rosicky, almost a forgotten man but a gifted footballer played midweek too, so there's another talented individual to worry about.

From these few names you'll see that there's a huge amount of both quality and experience. Thus, the game will not be easy, and any points gained will be gratefully received by me, at least.

That's not to say we shouldn't hope and play for better - for the win.

This will be a game where we know that the opposition will at least not to kick us off the field, and the ensuing outcome threatens to be one of the better adverts for the EPL, since we, just like them, like to and can play a bit.

After having dominated the first half against WBA last week, the team seemed to me to me to feel the full impact of the loss of a key cog, namely Leon Britton, but I'm encouraged to think he'll be fit by ML this week allowing Mark Gower go to Charlton on loan (and good luck to a decent servant).

Moreover, the rest of the team is fairly settled, the only 3 questions being these.

1) If Chico is still not fit who partners Ash. Personally I'd like to see Bartley, particularly after his decent cameo against the Arse in the home FA Cup tie draw.
2) Luke Moore up front again ?, or a reversal to the false-9 Michu?  I opt for the latter.
3) This option leads on from the last - please can we play the three wingers again - I just think it improves the full flow of our game.

So, there you have it. We have a month of these sorts of quality fixtures to look forward to at the Lib - next up come Tottenham and soon also last year's Champs Man City.

Don't you just bloody LOVE being a Swan in these fantastic times. My guess is we ALL do.

Onward, Swansea City.

Thursday 7 March 2013

WBA v Swansea City preview plus other things...

Take me up......

Like many Swansea City fanatics, given our recent, rewarding and justified  good press and "big up" in the National Media I've been much given on reflecting from whence we came - but - truly, as Harold McMillan  once said - "We've never had it so good ".

Just as curiously, when asked why things could go wrong for him, the then PM and his party, he presciently replied ... "Events, dear Boy, events". (He was an Old Etonian after all, a sort of truly upper class Cameroon).

Let me tell you a secret - midway through our first season in the Premier League - last season since we forget - we WestStanders were having a pre match Pint in the Concourse when one of my compadres said that if we lost today.....,,,,,, " it'll be your bloody fault since you've had a haircut and a shave ".

I must confess I had, indeed, turning from Razputin/Worzel Gummage into a 60yr old Borstal Boy.

Needless to say, we proceeded to lose ( the 3-1 Norwich City game) since you ask.

At that point, unsurprisingly, I vowed it would NEVER, EVER happen again.

So this season started with me as a recently shorn, clean shaven skinhead, and progressed through the months with my developing hirsuteness, all the while stipulating that there'd be no change prior to our making those 40 "magic" points.

I'm here today to tell you that after last week's convincing win v Newcastle, the Fu Man Chu is trimmed, again, and the fading Barnet is neater than before.


Here's a question for you, and please, be honest when you answer in your own head.

How many of us, myself included, would have said pre season we'd win the Capital One Cup and be safe on 40pts some 10 games from season's end. Wished, certainly. Hoped, fervently. Believed, perhaps, but not a large number, I'll presume.

The above , of course, doesn't pre-suppose that we expected our side to struggle or do hugely worse - but I feel we were all a little nervous again given we'd gone through yet another Managerial change. As it happens, we'd be hard pushed to argue that on the contrary , it couldn't have gone a great deal better than it has, and we're indeed witnessing our proud Club's best ever year, in this, our centenary season.

Results, and their effects (events, dear boy) are paramount, of course, but all of us who've been there to see, for instance, the first half against West Brom at Home, Michu's 2 goals at the Emirates at the death, or the bizarre 0-0 at Sunderland when we played them off the park will always remember individual occassions over a Seasonal outlook, within limits.

Bloody hell, we didn't half play well and look good, and that's a major source of pride in itself.

Moving on what this means without any caveat is that we're a seriously achieving Club with a seriously resultant outcome from this best of Seasons and, if we continue to perform at the level we're capable of, there's no reason to think that it'll be any different from now on in.

We've learned from Michael Laudrup, our justly esteemed Gaffer, that it's possible to follow stellar performaces with yet another, and also it's feasible to bounce back from disappointing ones to go better again.

This charming, serious, grounded Manager has taken the PL by storm, part of his charm being his culpability in admitting his limitations (shock,horror) and his few wrong turnings being equally accepted with his many and more various successes. It would seem that his fantastic, World Class playing career has given him nothing other than a sensitive and friend winning personal charm. Just watch him being interviewed in ANY situation and tell me you don't feel proud that he's in charge of our Club. Respect, Guv'nor.

So, as ML has pointed out, you motivate players by setting them new and different targets, and he's concentrated our players' minds by pointing out that this weekend's visit to West Brom is our chance to establish supremancy (or not) from the 2 teams percieved to being the "surprises of the season" in their performances. It'll be hard, we know, but part of the ongoing motivation will surely include what my compadre and ST fellow Jim voiced in a conversation with me today.

His theory was this - having already achieved stability, and won some serious silverware to boot, there will be many eyes cast our way. For the players what a chance to prove a) they can be good enough to be here next year b ) for some, what a chance to showcase their talents and move on to bigger (if not better) things and c)   if you weren't in either of those 2 categories, here's a chance to get in.

Laudrup, he insists, is likely to have made them aware of all of these possibilities and MORE, so we shouldn't think that we're going to complacent. It seems to me to be a vaguely compelling argument, so we can genuinely hope for more decent things out of this smorgasbord of a season.

Last year to the Hawthorns was a stunning, snowy trip , where Gylfi Sigurdsson's double saw us come away with a 3-1 win in a superb and classy passing Away performance, so a repeat of that would be highly acceptable. Still, as some things change, some remain the same.

Albion are still a hugely competitive opponent, and whilst their squad hasn't changed radically, there's an argument to be made it has improved. Here it is, currently,...................

1 Ben Foster GK, 2 Steven Reid Def, 3 Jonas Olsson Def, 4 Goran Popov Def, 5 Claudio Yacob MF, 6 Liam Ridgewell Def, 7 James Morrison MF, 8 Markus Rosenberg Str, 9 Shane Long Str, 11 Chris Brunt MF, 13 Boaz Myhill GK, 14 Jerome Thomas MF, 15 George Thorne MF, 16 Scott Allan MF, 17 Graham Dorrans MF, 19 Luke Daniels GK, 20 Romelu Lukaku Str, 21 Youssouf Mulumbu MF, 22 Zoltan Gera MF, 23 Gareth McAuley Def, 24 Peter Odemwingie Str, 26 James Hurst Def, 28 Billy Jones Def, 30 Gabriel Tamas Def, 32 Marc-Antoine Fortune Str, 35 Romaine Sawyers MF, 36 Adil Nabi Str, 38 Saido Berahino Str, 40 Liam O'Neil Def, 43 Isaiah Brown MF

Rather than go through the squad one by one, some players I'd suggest have been hugely influential in this fine team's progression, and you'll excuse me if I start at the top.

The Manager, Steve Clarke, although previously a no 2 at Chelsea, Newcastle and Liverpool has always been considered a first class Coach, so although it may have seemed like a risk when he replaced England Recruit Roy Hodgson , he immediately asserted his presence on the Training Field, and even that odd beast "the modern football player", can't fail to have been impressed. Albion's players weren't , and their early season results were exceptional. They've since hit one or two blips, but ask their fans what they think and there'll be a large proportion happy with where they are.

Talking of England's Mr Hodgson, as the previously employed WBA Manager, he was perhaps well positioned to persuade Ben Foster, Albion's keeper to come out of his self-imposed England exile, and the suggestion is that the Baggies keeper, who's having an outstanding year, is likely to be called up Nationally soon.

In MF the key performer is Claudio Yacob, a much underrated Argentine defensive MF'er who's ball winning and control is as important to them as our own Leon Britton.

Up front, the Man/Boy Romelu Lokaku, on a season long loan from Chelsea, continues to show the form that should make Fernando Torres doubters at the Bridge take a chill pill - here comes the new Didier Drogba. Chelsea's loss this year is Albion's gain.

Looking through the list, the other outstanding performers are the sublimely skilled Chris Brunt, a sort of Jordi Gomez with attitude and application ; Zoltan Gera, the flaky (Hungarian) MF'r- veers from the divine to the ridiculous and Peter Odemwingie, the QPR player manque, famed for his transfer deadline day faux pas, but dangerous on the field. I also admire James Morrison, the Scot another product of Middlesbrough's underrated Academy. Shane Long, ex Reading, can sometimes be a buzz saw nuiscance to defenders, and has great heart.

I've hinted above what I think ML's mental approach might be (albeit simplistically) to the Players, so I'm perfectly content to go with whichever team he sees fit, though, if Chico is still unfit (and we KNOW what GM can give us ) it might be interesting to see how Kyle Bartley copes at the back.

Anyway, enough from me.

Given that our next two games, at Home as well, are against Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur and the delight that this evolving team and season continues to give us I can only wish you as much hapiness as I'm getting. We are living a rather more structured dream than some in the recent past. Enjoy.

Onward, Swansea City.