The Blank Weekend….
For us football fans, and by that I mean CLUB supporters, the International Weekend is something of a disappointment. Now I don’t mean to denigrate the thousands of fans who’ll flock to Stadiums all over Europe to passionately and patriotically bellow their allegiance in support of their nation’s cause. But in commenting , as I am, you’ll forgive me for feeling a little bit of a traitor.
Wales, for that’s my country, on Friday evening take on Switzerland in the Group G fixture for qualification for the European Championship Finals. Hey, that’s a serious football match in a serious tournament that ought to mean something to me.
Despite Wales not being able to qualify as a result of their under-achieving performances thus far. Despite the prospect of seeing top class professional footballers both in our, and their, teams. After all, last weekend, I was deliriously happy as I watched Ashley Williams, Joe Allen, Neil Taylor,(the Swansea contingent naturally) and the rest of the multi-national Swansea side perform more than admirably at our home the Liberty in turning over a muscular Stoke City in the Barclays Premier League.
They’ll grace the pitch on Friday against very different opposition- opposition who, let it not be forgotten, include a player that after last week is guaranteed to stick in Sir Alex Ferguson’s craw.That in itself pleases me no end. Switzerland will include Alexander Frei, scorer at Old Trafford and Gokhan Inler of Napoli along with a slew of quality European Club regulars. So what’s the deal? Why am I not there, and(horribly) not that bothered?
I think it’s because I’m a fan. As opposed to a “Fan”. Can a capital letter really make that much difference? Yes, it can, and here’s why.
Ask yourself this - “Who do I support?”. Simple answer, really. I support Swansea City - have done for years, will do for many more.I guess you’ll say the same about your club.
For me it’s since 1964. In those days we were a typical Football league Division 2 club. We’d wobbled down, up, down, up and so on for many years between the lower Divisions and it wasn’t until Tosh’s remarkable transformation in the 80’s and our club’s subsequent elevation to Division 1 that we were ever near the blessing of MOTD appearances even.
After a brief flirtation(too soon) with the upper echelons of football’s hoi-polloi we were sent back to the place from whence we came(and belonged, said some) - the “Lower Divisions”.
But they weren’t you see to me. The “Lower Divisions”. I put it to you that ALL fans of clubs like ours - clubs who have skittered up and down with brief flirtations among the elite - are truly satisfied customers.
The real “Lower Divisions” are below us……..Conference, Unibond Triangle, Regional and so on. And do you know what? We’ve never, ever been that unfortunate. (Pace Wrexham and Newport , we know you’ll be back one day.)
This, by the way, is not meant to be any sort of chest-puffing, superiority claim.We aren’t necessarily “better” in any sort of way to the clubs below us in Football’s formalised structure. We just happen to have been, of late, a tad more successful.
So that’s the reason why Wales , despite my fond regard, will never, ever, be as important to me me as Swansea City.We are now amongst the Premiership elite but it’s not about that.
It’s why you’ll see many non-league flags amongst Wales support wherever.
Why you’ll see Alfreton Town, Basingstoke, Billericay and who knows what else on the terraces at Podgorica supporting Ing-er-land.
It’s because they’ve never had that unique connection with one of the 92.
There is no other nation on the footballing planet that sustains such a system for better or worse.
That’s why on International weekends I’ll be watching and caring but planning for Norwich, away.
Bizarre? Maybe. Unusual? Not really.
Or at least not for me.
## Peter Thomas is a sad sack with a full Sky Sports/ESPN Subscription, a West Stand Season Ticket at Swansea and a passion for Football.