Thursday, 29 December 2011

Swansea City v Tottenham Hotspur . Liberty Stadium. 31 12 11.

Talking Tactics, amongst other things.

I still get a terrific buzz from simply tapping out our fixtures onto a blank piece of paper because it is pleasurable to be in exalted, quality company.

On Saturday, Harry Redknapp brings another of the genuinely iconic Clubs in English football to our Home patch, and that feels good in itself.

First club to do the double in the 20th Century, first club to win a UEFA sponsored trophy etc..Another Club with a justifiably proud history.

Nowadays managed by the ostensibly geezerish 'Arry, with his wheeler-dealer East Enders schtick, they sit excitingly 3rd in the Table and to all of us who saw them comfortably outplay Norwich on Sky on Tuesday evening for a 2-0 win at Carrow Rd., are sure to provide a stern test, albeit of the sort that both we and our Club crave more of - a top quality, top class, exciting football match with players on show that make the Premier League what it is.

Anyone who's seen them this season too will have noticed that HR's media-savvy, good man manger cloak conceals an astute tactical brain, capable of shaping and imposing his team's myriad skills into a tactical game plan that has seen them kick on from their Champions League qualifying season of 2 years ago and into a team that this year leads their fans to dare to dream of challenging the Manchester giants at the very top.

No one within Tottenham's ranks has yet mentioned the word Champions? without the question mark, but their performances since losing their two opening games to City and United have been truly excellent, confirming the fact that it's not JUST a fanciful dream.

It's come about of course because they have been able to augment an already stellar cast of players by both retention/development and addition, and a refreshing tactical acumen that 'Arry and his staff have used to brilliant effect, matching games to personnel and fitness, styles to occasions, and shrewd practical performances.
Witness that very recent game at Carrow Rd., and the feeling you got that they were always in total control.

Let's have a little look more closely and see if we can get a guide to what may have helped them advance.
Harry Redknapp, over his years in Management, has developed his immediate close knit assistants into a formidable set.

Both Kevin Bond (son of John) as Assistant Manager and Joe Jordan, First Team Coach, have followed "H" from Club to Club. Les Ferdinand (Strikers), Tony Parks (GK coach) and Tim Sherwood (Asst 1st team) - very well known ex players all - are also key. But, most importantly, Daniel Levy, the Executive Chairman has been arguably as influential as any, with both retention and recruitment of players, and balancing and juggling the Club's finances to their advantage. This is both ongoing and crucial some would argue, particularly with regard to any Stadium development.

In goal, nowadays, Brad Friedel, the long serving 40yr old Yank, continues to astound, having brought stability in replacing the benched Brazilian Heurelho Gomes (no more bloopers then). The Yoga practicing , record breaking American is better trusted. They also have Carlo Cudicini signed. Fair depth there, then.

At RB, Kyle Walker has replaced the departed Scotsman Alan(I'll kick you if I can)Hutton , to far more threatening effect. Blisteringly fast, selected by Capello nowadays too, some will remember him from last year's loan spell at QPR. Very, very good.

At LB, Benoit Assou-Ekotto has won round both fans and staff alike. Earlier seen as a weaker link, he has refined his game and is nowadays skillful and flexible in attack and defence. Both FB's can, and do, bomb on rather well.

CB's are generally chosen from William Gallas, Younes Kaboul, Ledley King and Sebastian Bassong. Michael Dawson, the highly rated England player is an achilles absentee. Gallas and Kaboul, the French Internationals started the game at Norwich. Both are top quality.

Ledley King is a wonder- only able to train by swimming and light workouts due to a degenerative knee condition, he continues to be Redknapp's first choice if available- that tells you about his quality. Bassong plays less, but is excellent cover.

At Carrow Rd, sitting in front of the back 4 as two holders, Scott Parker and Sandro were the gel that helped the side play with a tactical freedom that allowed the 4 ahead to consistently and constantly switch, to Paul Lambert's consternation.

Parker was an unbelievable steal by Redknapp/Levy from West Ham. Known to be moving after WHU's demotion, £5m secured the FW 2011 Player of the Year and England's No1 defensive midfielder. Nowadays fulfilling all his prominence into regular game changing performances, he complements perfectly the Brazilian's box to box vigour. Like Chelsea's Ramires, Sandro has grown into the English game, and now relishes the physicality.

The four remaining places likely to be chosen on Saturday illustrate perfectly the team's tactical flexibility.

Earlier games saw them start with Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale wide and Luka Modric or Rafael van der Vaart tucked in behind Emmanuel Adebayor. Lennon's recent injury has seen 'Arry use Modric or Van der Vaart wide but the key is that they appear to play with both Modric and Van der Vaart with the license to go anywhere.

Similarly, Bale, (does he have three lungs?) , in imperious form, also has a license to roam. Oh, and Adebayor, his Arsenal and Man City languid days long behind him, nowadays works his socks off for the team. They all do, really. And they score goals too, regularly, often of the "great goals" variety.

You really don't need me to try to describe the level of skill that these forwards can provide.This year, when I've seen Tottenham on TV, I can honestly say that only Man City at their very best have provided entertainment of the same quality. It really is a pleasure to watch.

Mind you, 'Arry will still tell you that his squad lacks a little depth, and he'll be looking to add in January.

I'll list the remainder of the squad here....... Tom Huddlestone MF, Roman Pavlyuchenko Stk, Giovani Dos Santos MF, Jermain Defoe Stk, Niko Kranjcar MF, Vedran Corluka Def, Danny Rose MF, Yago Falqué MF, Jake Livermore MF, Andros Townsend MF, Harry Kane Str, Steven Pienaar MF, Ryan Fredericks MF,Thomas Carroll MF.

One or two tasty names in there by the way. Jermain Defoe, Roman Pavlyuchenko anyone?

So, to get back to their tactical shape. The outline appears to be a 4-2-3-1 that bends to a 4-3-3 as they will.

But, as I've already suggested, both full backs will augment going forward, allowing that side's wide man to wander infield or out, literally where he will. Rapidly changing angled runs from one of the front 4 always changes the space for another to run into. The defensive holders also press and tackle rapidly, always seeking to win back the ball as high as possible toward an opponents goal.

Pace, and tempo, is key. By this I mean that when breaking from defense to attack they will often try to do it at top speed. Conversely, when facing an already organised back unit, they will, like us, go back if need be, go around when they can, and try to commit an opponent to be drawn toward the ball, varying and slowing in order to exploit any vacated space.

For us then I would suggest it's important to keep shape, with a more rigorous and defined defensive shape - something that Roy Hodgson does so well at any of his clubs. Even though he has often worked with a 4-4-2, at West Bromwich Albion he has been clever enough to vary the strict lines it imposes so that it evolves into something more akin to our signature style.

Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair, if it's them, will tuck in and squeeze, hopefully. Kemy Agustien last week provided good screening and I think Gower for Joey might aid us too.
Steven Caulker, as he's on loan to us from them, will be replaced by Gary Monk, and the Club Skipper has never let us down.

I'm assuming that much the same as she goes for the remainder.

High energy, high competition and a pride in hosting a prestigious fixture that many Nationwide would love to see and show will go a long way toward confirming that we really have come a long, long way. I'd love to see us go further.

Onward, Swansea City.

#Oh, and here's a little good will and good cheer to ALL readers. Viva Guardianistas.
# thanks to both Spurs fans who commented, and please forgive me for substituting Damien Commoli, since gone to Liverpool,and since corrected, for the current Spurs admirable Chairman Daniel Levy. Apologies, and respect.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Swansea City v QPR. Liberty Stadium. 27th December 2011

Two points lost or 1 gained ?

Perspective is all.

When I first started blogging a couple of years ago, I wrote a couple of pieces on a Home game we had coming up against QPR in what turned out to be Ian Dowie's last game as their Manager.That was the game where Alan Tate went in goal. I've re-read them, and my, how things change even when they stay the same.

I've kept very few of the blogs I wrote from those days and I'm sorry now. Because they never fail to remind you of how things were, for better or worse, to get us where we are today. You can read them if you want to on the blog Archive Links.

I headlined those splurges as "West London Millionaires?" and "Boutique football, retro-chic or just cloggers?", and the titles will perhaps give you the clue to my approach.

They, QPR, had not that long ago been taken over by a conglomerate of very rich men, and the talk was of the "can they do a Chelsea?" approach, even in what was then the Coca Cola sponsored Championship, prior to nPower's largesse.

Some of the rich men have changed, along with personnel, but it still remains the case that they're a very different animal from us. As was proved in an intriguing game at the Liberty in one of the myriad cliches prevalent today - " a game of two halves".

We got a much needed live "fix" of football, and, mathematically, it was truthfully a point gained but felt, just as I've seen Arsene Wenger say with regard to their draw at Home to Wolves, one in which "...unfortunately we could not take advantage....." and ........"rued the dropped points".

For Tuesday's tea time kick off, the line ups were thus.

Swansea City
01 Vorm, 02 Williams, 04 Caulker, 22 Rangel (Moore 57), 07 Britton, 11 Sinclair, 15 Routledge (Dyer 56), 24 Allen, 26 Agustien, 29 Richards, 10 Graham

01 Kenny, 03 Hill, 05 Hall, 13 Traore, 18 Young, 04 Derry, 07 Taarabt, 11 Faurlin, 17 Barton, 12 Mackie,22 Helguson

So Swansea had Rangel back at RB, but Neil Taylor's knee-knack kept him out so Jazz Richards switched to LB. Agustien replaced Gower in MF, maybe to invest some muscularity, energy too.

For QPR, Taarabt started, hopefully to renew his last year's Boxing day performance. Twitter's very own Joey Barton, with a gob to match his unenviable sociability, graced the pitch as well. Or not, dependent on your viewpoint.
Guess mine. # spoiler alert- this may be more complicated than you think.

The Swans were very keen for a Home win to get them back on track, and QPR's stumbles on their own patch meant that an Away result for them would guide them to a more settled mindset.

From the kick off the Swans' neat passing pressed the visitors back, and Routledge was prominent on the right, dribbling , crossing and earning several early corners.The energy of the bright start came to fruition as early as the 14th minute when Danny Graham controlled a Routledge ball with his back to goal and cleverly spun and turned first one way then the other before getting off a low right footed shot that that beat Kenny's dive and nestled neatly inside the net at his left hand post.

That Graham took the shot early and the accuracy of placement beyond the keepers dive confirmed the fact that he is growing comfortably into a quality Premiership striker, scoring his sixth goal despite the suspicion of an accidental handball aid in his controlling first touch.

Swansea's 1-0 lead was well deserved and throughout the first half they were generally on top with Graham again coming close from a Sinclair cross, and other half chances not quite clicking into place. At times, City's pace and tempo of pass don't quite match, but there was synchronicity on show.

QPR were held to a long range powerful effort from Joey Barton, parried over by Vorm, and some dangerous crosses, headed over and wide by Helguson, always a danger in the air.

The half saw a decent, competitive, fairly open game with Agustien influential for Swansea, and Warnock's combative nature reflected in the physicality of some bruising challenges, mystifying mainly for Referee Lee Probert's apparent need to make himself the most important man at the Stadium by getting decisions regularly wrong for both sides, confirmed by both Managers after the game. A word for the Refereeing Assistants, as they're known today. When they were just Linesmen (and persons too) they used to make decisions. Nowadays they seem to just parrot the Ref, almost always glancing at him before making their mind up. Presumably to reinforce his masterful powers of control. Or not, as the case may be.

As the sides went in at Half Time my main worry was that we had not pressed home our edge by getting a second goal; in this division, a fact that has haunted us previously. 1-0 was a fair reflection of our performance, theirs too, but things DO change, as we were to find out.

When the teams came out again, Clint Hill was in Ref Probert's ear, as he had been throughout the first period - a clue to the old Pro's technique of influence I would suggest, and reflective of his Manager's style. Warnock had obviously geed up the R's, because they now were far more dangerous and attacking, with Taarabt catching the eye not only for his prancing posture but for creativity, and Faurlin influentially playing both Mackie and Helguson into the game.

From one of many testing "tackles" Rangel had suffered earlier in the game, he was forced off injured in the 57th minute, and this was perhaps the turning point/ crux of the game.

It came a minute after the Swans best chance to go 2 up when Routledge, played in close to goal by Allen, stabbed his cross/shot across the face of goal with Danny Graham just failing to connect and turn it into the gaping net. Wayne Routledge had been hurt in making the attempt, and he was replaced by Nathan Dyer. At the same time, Luke Moore came on for Rangel to slot into MF, with Kemy Agustien going to RB.

QPR struck immediately via Route 1. Kenny boomed a clearance forward and from Britton's defensive header, the ball skimmed further toward the Swans goal taking the CB's out of the equation and leaving Mackie free to advance on Vorm's goal, with Ash Williams offering a failed challenge on the edge of the box. Mackie, to his credit, took the ball and rounded Vorm to slot in a neatly taken goal in front of the Away fans. 1-1, and a different game as well.

As the half progressed QPR were now in the ascendancy and put us under a deal of pressure for the remainder of the game.There was, however, one final indignity for the Ref to perform.

Danny Graham, put clear in the box by a through ball, was cut down by Traore, but Mr. Probert waved away the penalty claims to stunned howls of derision from the crowd.

You'll know my views on the quality of Officials we've seen at the Liberty, but this was really a gross error. As Warnock said...." I thought that was the most stonewall penalty you'll see. I said so to Brendan afterwards.......".

So it's not just me then.

Dyer and Agustien combined when they were able to get forward to offer some momentum but with Swansea stuttering mainly as a result of the re-jig , the match almost felt as if they were at Home sometimes, and with their pressing I felt we did well to keep the 1-1 scoreline, if a little disappointed that we were unable to kick on from periods on top.

At the end of the game, both Managers agreed that the draw was probably the result that most fairly reflected what the game had had shown- parity, if a little unbalanced.


There aren't any, from me, anyway. I'll just make some comments, since that's what I do.

It's been shown many times that Life isn't always fair. Nobody has suggested it is, although you sometimes feel as if some football fans demand that it ought to be. So let's have a rational look at what yesterday told.

QPR came up alongside us and Norwich as the Champions of the CCC.They are owned nowadays by Tony Fernandes, the supremo of Tune Air Sdn. Bhd - Air Asia amongst other things, and very, very rich.
This, I would suggest, influences the differing approaches of our respective Clubs.They lie 2 pts below us in the table, and thus yesterday it was important not to lose. We didn't.

Yes, I know that it was frustrating not to win, but this is as I've always said the Premier League.Nothing comes easy.

We sit, currently, 14th in the table, above 6 clubs, below 13, and level on points with Fulham, 1 behind Aston Villa, 2 pts below Everton and Norwich.
The top 6 are City,United,Spurs,Chelsea,Arsenal and Liverpool.

Get your head around these names - because that's the league we're in and that's the level of competition. And, believe me, we're competing - proudly. As I said earlier, it's all about perspective.

I've seen the rantings of mad people on Twitter, on Guest Books and elsewhere from supposed "fans" of ours of the sort we've all come to expect from certain quarters. I'll share this with you.

When I was driving home from the game yesterday I heard an Arsenal fan, no less, slagging off his Club, Arsene Wenger included, saying, and I quote..." he's useless and we're done for " . That's the sort of level of stupidity we're talking about. Similar levels of dross will no doubt be levelled at Swansea City.

Laugh, chuckle, move on.

We're playing Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday. At the Liberty. I can't bloody wait! I want MORE of this wonderful adventure.

Onward, Swansea City.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Everton v Swansea City Goodison Park. Match report.

"Football is an excuse to make us happy." Jorge Valdano.

The wonderful Argentinian, ex Real Madrid coach, World Cup Winner was sometimes known as The Philosopher of Football and the above is an apt description of how we Swans have always viewed our football, and it contrasts markedly with one of his more colourful descriptions of the English game.

I was put in mind of this after watching last night's visit to Everton, a game that generally failed to thrill.

Seeing your side get a disappointing loss in a game Away from Home when they didn't really threaten the opposition is not a pleasant experience and it does well to point out that it must be like that for the Players, too.

We've perhaps become a little blase in expectation, and, as I've pointed out before, this is the Barclays Premier League and we were playing a side that is English football's second longest servant in the top division (behind only Arsenal) in Britain. It doesn't make us feel any better, but it does convey a little perspective, and to any of those of our fans who like to crow a la Private James Frazier " Doomed, doomed, we're doomed" I say this. Get a life.

Cast your mind back 24hrs and think about those "supporters" at Blackburn Rovers, snarling, spitting and cursing at their own team in a 2-1 defeat to Bolton, equally struggling, but whose fans at least sang and supported FOR their team. This is not a plea for blind loyalty- it is a request for rational analysis and a determination to do better.

This report will be one of the shorter efforts presented thus far, and that's for two reasons. Firstly, Christmas time constraints ; secondly, I don't really have a lot to say, but that won't stop me from saying it.

If you saw the game I feel you may well agree,- it was one of those that we've all seen over the years- we were in the game but never really at it- a gut feeling confirmed by Leon Osman's only goal being one that was half expected but no less hurtful.

As was our inability to put sufficient pressure on the Scousers to get close enough to get anything like parity, and the travelling JackArmy will do well to travel home in reasonable cheer, enjoy a Merry Xmas, and put things a little more right on Boxing Day, at the Liberty against QPR, Colin Wanker and all. The Mrs Doubtfire of the Prem will bring his bouffanted head and Barton-led boys to us - let's hope we can send them packing.

To the game, but in a general rather than m-b-m sense.

The one thing you can have predicted from this game was what the Bookies did - less than 2.5 goals total. They can't score a lot, anywhere, and we can't score Away, not often. So one goal was going to be crucial.

The other thing that tells you something is when Wigan 0-0 Liverpool is on MOTD before you, it's grim.

For all of our possession and fight in the first half, we were always just behind the black ball. In other words we were hanging on to keep things level, and, to be fair, we did.

Baines, throughout the half, and Coleman, before substitution went wide and dangerous for the Toffees. Drenthe too was influential, the more so when he switched to the right and we, coincidentally, lost Neil Taylor to foot-knack. But as at Newcastle, passionate and forceful defence from Vorm, Williams and Caulker meant the Swans went in at half-time level at 0-0.

The midfield had been won by the home side, with Fellaini solid, Osman busy, and Britton, Gower and Allen struggling to establish a foothold. Routledge had been perky without ever really threatening, Sinclair had one of his more forgettable games and thus Danny Graham was isolated.

I breathed another sigh of relief at the HT whistle, but I was less than optimistic. It just felt like that. It does, sometimes.
The second half brought not a great deal that was noticeably brighter. We continued to compete. They continued to press.

It's at times like this that we really miss the contribution of a player like Ferrie Bodde. Someone, despite no matter how ordinarily you are playing, who can get on the ball and bend a game to his will and ability, and, moreover, who can score that quite extraordinary goal from nowhere.

Their goal was an example of a quite different kind - in fact, one that came from no great passage of play, no sweeping move, just a question of inches really.

Drenthe, in the inside right channel, advanced and dribbled toward the Swans goal. Ash Williams backed off, covering and ushered him toward the outside. Drenthe, running out of room, attempted a cross shot from about six yards and from a probably high shot the ball clipped Williams (or did it?) on its way up and out and went for a corner.

From that well taken inswinging corner, Osman cleverly had started a run early and was first to the ball, a fraction ahead of Caulker, and his excellently executed header flashed across and in at the far corner of the goal.

Some will tell you that DG , who had headed clear previous corners, should have done so again, but the difference was the pace and placement of the cross, which made it not possible this time. Inches, as I said.

It would be wrong to argue that for the remainder of the game we tore at them in search of an equaliser. We didn't. But nor did they, in search of any more.

Everton sat back and satisfied themselves they could contain us, and apart from DG's header from a Routledge cross, which was our closest effort, they did.

The half played out to an end we had come to accept within the game. second best, this time.The substitutions, in this instance, had made very little difference.

There will be the usual explosion of spleen from the site trolls, who will predict nothing but failure for the remainder of the season as the outcome from this game, since that's what they do. Easy to slag off your own team, just ask the Blackburn fans. Ugly, and pointless too.

So let's have a realistic look at what we can do, rather than what we can't.

As Brendan Rodgers has intimated, the Club will be seeking to strengthen in the January window. Lee Dixon, on MOTD, no less, offered the opinion that both we and Everton "will be all right". I am comforted by that, since I place more value on his opinions than some I read (and listen to), cruelly illustrated by these Stoke City fans on the last "deadline" day.

Incidentally, here's a copy of a Tweet from Tim Cahill, and much the same was said by Phil Neville. They both have a degree more "Football Credibility" than some we know...........
Tim_Cahill @chris_kammy They are a great passing team that have a great footballing mindset. Their manager deserves a lot of credit.

However, all we Swans are also perfectly aware that our Away performances are likely to have to improve to give us some more comfort, since our Home games are going to be equally difficult post January. This is, as I've said, the Premier League - nobody said it was easy, no matter what some knockers suggest.

Defensively, we are sound, and I don't see that changing. But, but, we MUST seek a way to get more threat Away from the Lib.
Whether this means by adjusting personnel and systems eg Agustien for Gower/Allen, more squad rotation, different shape, faster tempo, more risk............whatever.

WE can, suggest - but we must, also, support. Criticism without analysis and suggestion is just vapid nonsense. We have a Manager, Staff, Board and Players we can trust with our allegiance. Do you think they're not concerned? Get real comrades, they will be working their butts off to try to make things better, and successful.

Let's have a little faith, please, and retain some dignity. This experience is meant to be enjoyed. Remember that quote from Valdano at the start?

Onward Swansea City.

# Please have a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year. I'll get as much in as time will allow over the Holidays, since it's bloody great to be a Swansea City fan.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Pre-Christmas Away days No 2.

Everton v Swansea City. 21/12/11. Brief Preview

As hinted in my previous NUFC preview piece, the quick turnaround of fixtures lets me concentrate less on Everton's predicament, admirably analysed in depth here , by the teriffic Swiss Ramble, and focus directly on the squad.

This fixture is another difficult AwayDay, another learning step on the Prem's "get smart or die" premise. Here goes.

When you first cast your eyes on their first choice (Sq No 24) keeper, Tim Howard, don't automatically be ducking any stray bullets. The American GK's kit this season looks like it might be worn at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, in camouflage from some sniping Guerrilla Taliban sharpshooters, the better to blend with the desert background. Who chose that? Surely, not him.

One of the few players who's gone on to have a BETTER career post SAF's and MUFC's rejection, (it WAS the period where they were looking for a long-term Peter Schmeichel replacement), he is athletic, vocal, controlling and an excellent shot stopper. Similar in build and style to our own MV, he's also a fine example of success in sport through adversity, making light of Tourette's Syndrome, and capping a fine domestic and International career with regular and current displays.

He is covered by Jan Mucha (Sq No 1), who's Carling Cup error will cruelly be on Xmas Blooper DVD's.

Also on the books is ex-Wolves (sq no 12) Marcus Hahnemann, petrolhead, popular fellow Yank, experienced from his days at Reading and the Midlands.

At RB, they generally field (2) Tony Hibbert, the long serving PL stalwart or (23) Seamus Coleman, the exciting Irish marauding wing-back, once loaned to Blackpool and key in their promotion season, who often plays as a RMF. Energy personified.

At LB, (3) Leighton Baines, England's understudy to (C)Ashley Cole, is possessed of that wonderful staple of Tabloidese, a "great(sweet,wonderful, etc....) Left Foot". What about the rest of him? one feels like asking. That's pretty good, too, as it happens. He regularly exploits the modern FB's license to go forward, taking free kicks, corners, penalties all, and crosses wickedly. At a level that our own Neil Taylor may progress to, I like to think.

At CB, they have (6) Phil Jagielka/ (15) Sylvain Distin/ (5) John Heitinga as the first choices (perm one from the latter two - PJ always plays if fit). Jags is one of Capello's first choice England squad members, and one of many examples of David Moyes' (the Manager's) ability to mine gems from the lower division - we'll come to that.

Partnered by either the experienced Frenchman, Distin, or Holland's WC runner-up Heitinga, the solidity of either pairing is devilishly difficult to "get at". Talent, experience, attitude, application - they've got it in spades. Sylvain Distin has thrived in the Prem. At Man City, Newcastle and now Merseyside, all the fans and teams have seen his value. Heitinga, from Holland via Atletico Madrid, can also work as a DMF, a la Claude Makelele, but has Moyes' trust at the back also.

In Midfield we find some of the more influential players. (7) Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, (10) Royston Drenthe, (14) James McFadden, (17) Tim Cahill, (18) Philip Neville, (20) Ross Barkley, (21) Leon Osman, (25) Marouane Fellaini, (26) Jack Rodwell,- they are the players likely to be chosen from. Given their recognisable and continuing puzzling weakness up front, these players are the heartbeat of Everton. On Saturday, v Norwich, they went with Neville, Osman, Cahill and Fellaini in a Diamond/1-3 variation.

Phil Neville, younger brother of Gary, was the holder. Since he can also play FB, it seems a natural role. Arguably, another "better after than before" ex-Man Utd player, he is also a popular Club Captain.

Osman, busy, skilfull and a grafter is a typical Moyes player to some, coupling technique with a work ethic, and has a knack of scoring key goals.

Both Fellaini, he of the Blaxploitation hairstyle and Cahill, bargain of the century, are excellent in the air. Tim Cahill has that uncanny knack of staying airborne longer than most, hover-like ( a la Denis Law) . He, and Fellaini, are also hard as nails. Leave a foot in, Guvnor? Pleasure, mate.The Aussie and the Belgian are always tough opponents .

Drenthe and Bilyaletdinov, left footed worker bees, flit in and out of the side dependent on opponents and match-ups. Drenthe reminds me of Edgar Davids, in looks and style, and in a cameo on Sat v Norwich, made the equaliser for(11) Denis Stracqualursi, the other sub introduced in that game (successfully). Billy also has a fearsome shot.

Rodwell and Barkley, academy graduates and English, draw covetous glances constantly from Top 4 sides, according to the tabloids. There is some truth in this, since Rodwell, particularly, is often classed a FEC, and Barkley inevitably performs outstandingly when selected, as MOTD likes to highlight. McFadden, ex Brum, is back as a squad filler.

The eternal puzzle from the talented Moyes is the front players, or their lack thereof. Finance, as cited, is reputed to be the problem, but it always makes me think WTF?? From a Manager who has fielded a 4-6-0 line up (when both Saha and the Yak -since gone- were available), doesn't it puzzle you too?

(8) Louis Saha is still there- and if he were not made of plasticine would surely be in the Thierry Henry talent bracket were it not for his ALWAYS seeming slightly broken. Appalling injury record is what I'm saying. He remains though, when on the field, a real threat.

The other forwards who have featured recently are (11) Denis Stracqualursi, (27) Apostolos Vellios, (43) Conor McAleny, and (28) Victor Anichebe . The first 2 were acquired from Argentina and Greece, as bargains, and we're back to money problems again. Both are young, of promise, but Prem inexperienced, although every player was once.

Anichebe rivals Saha in the fitness stakes, and McAleny is another Academy graduate who has been scoring regularly for their Reserves. Although when compared to some "big" clubs this may seem a paucity of threat, and despite David Moyes using that 4-6-0 once, the highly experienced Scotsman is renowned for getting absolute commitment from every single player.

Am I being harsh?

Yes, of course, but only up to a point.Another young French player, (19) Magaye Gueye played last Saturday in that Home draw against Norwich, paired with Vellios, the inexperienced Greek youngster. Evertonians are wishing that January, and the returning Landon Donovan on loan, can perk up the front line, as he did last year.

David Moyes is the PL's second longest serving manager, behind only SAF. He has to general acclaim performed miracles at Everton. Throughout this piece I've hinted at the "money troubles" at the club. He has a reputation for buying bargains, (Cahill, Lescott, Jagielka), developing talent ( Rooney, Rodwell, Coleman, Barkley), and STILL keeping the team PL competitive without the financial backing available to Mancini et al.. He is also one scary dude. Would you argue with him? I guess not, and neither do his players. They work their butts off to make the TEAM succeed. Remember Joe Royle's "Dogs of War" midfield from Everton's past? This group are much, much better, I believe.

This will be a fixture where we do well to match the Newcastle result, a point, and the famous Gwladys St end will make sure that the fixture is as atmospheric as any in the PL, particularly at a night game. Top class, top quality, opposition. Let's hope we, the JackArmy, get to celebrate.

#Celebrity fans.
Two spring to mind.
Mike "Porky" Parry, late of the TalkSport stable, and nowadays engaged by the repellent Kelvin McKenzie's Internet Outlet, Sports Tonight TV.
Amanda Holden, ex Mrs Les Dennis, friend of Neil Morrissey, she being the possessor of the original trout-pout (allegedly).

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Happy with a Point. Newcastle Utd v Swansea City. Match Report.

(Or why Tactics really do matter).

It's a phrase you will have heard often enough if you're a football fan of whichever club - but on occasion it rings true.

As it did on Saturday at St James' Park, when Swansea City clung on to the opening status quo, and suggested, no more, but just now and again, it could have been more.

Let's not be greedy. To go to a side who's Home record stood at 4-2-1, 10f vs 8a, before the game, and to come away with a share of the spoils was both satisfying and realistic.

We are playing in the Barclays PL, not Welsh League Div 1 for goodness sake. Previous recipients of "NUL POINT" at the SDA were Everton, Wigan, Blackburn and Fulham whilst those who got a point were Tottenham and Arsenal. Only Chelsea have won here this year. Good company, to say the least.

So when the game kicked off, my expectations were at least realistic, at best hopeful. My Internet stream, courtesy of confirmed the toughness of the fixture. Despite the almost constant time lag - which meant that the picture inevitably froze on some of the key moments, I got the general gist - we were being pummelled, pressed and being put under pressure.

The corner count gives the hint - 9-1 over the length of the game, and for once, overwhelmed on possession 57% to 43% .

Still, ever the optimist I am, what you can say is this.

Newcastle had shaped with a conventional 4 at the back, and with a midfield diamond 4, plus 2 blusterers up front, and had gained the upper hand.
Cabaye was particularly fond of the wide swept ball to Obertan, which we've seen from Ferrie Bodde and Ash Williams to Dyer be effective for us. It was for them, too.

Tiote, at the base of the diamond, not only protected the CB's, but in besting Joe Allen, took Swansea's creativity out of the game. Obertan, wide right, and Gutierrez, wide left, pinned Richards and Taylor back, freeing up Cabaye, at the tip, to create. And he did.

He took every free-kick, corner, free ball and all, and also laid Ba and Best into the channels. Think back to how stretched we were early in the game, how vulnerable were our full backs, and, without outlets of our own, Williams and Caulker , Vorm too, had to work to hold the line. ALL of their attempts on goal, and there were several, were the result of overloading.

That fluid 4-4-1-1 meant that the two wide men, Obertan and Gutierrez, were able to keep our full backs right back, negating any forward momentum we may have wanted and allowing Tiote, the ball winner, and Cabaye, the creator to flourish.

Because Gower, Britton and Allen were being dragged into help covering the wingers, Best or Ba were able to augment Cabaye/Tiote by dropping in, and we were for once being outnumbered in MF, because Santone and Simpson, their FB's too, were pushing on, and causing Routledge and Sinclair no end of worry in battling for their piece of the ball.

Witness the number of times Obertan, particularly, was free and threatening wide, and even more influentially, Cabaye passed, crossed, tricked and plotted us into a Pavlov's Dog type defensive panic. Stimulus and response.

Despite Cabaye's constant probing, despite Ba both hitting the post and threatening, and Best's half chances, despite Tiote's bite, despite Gutierrez and Obertan trying to get wide plus some, and even despite the full backs, Santone and Simpson pushing on...the Swans held firm.

Call it luck, good fortune, over-excitement, obdurate defense and more - call it what you will, the score remained 0-0.

And for all of that threat and attendant danger, it was only Fabricio Coloccini's header from Cabaye's looping f/kick, and Ba's post bound shot from Best's chest/shoulder pass that really jarred me. The rest of it was a kind of vague pressure/dread; you know the sort, it's like when you know Michael Myers is in the Halloween house, you just don't know which window/cupboard/mirror he'll leer at you from next.

It was the sort of half where I felt that a goal against us would have knocked us for six - ie if we'd gone behind, particularly with our record, we'd have not come back. I have a feeling that this is the tack that Brendan Rodgers will have taken on sitting his players down - a sort of collective "How disappointing do you REALLY want to be?" type approach. For all my speculation, the second half proved that he HAD got to grips with his team.

Having taken an all but proverbial pasting in the first half, it's no surprise that BR saw fit to change things,and not only in personnel, but in systems, too.

The half time whistle came and as I exhaled and went to make a cup of tea in reflection of what I'd seen, I was a little morose.

I put it down to cussedness, and positive mental attitude that we came off bested but not beaten.

You know that thing that lots of silly football fans like me do when you think the play's going against your team and too much for the opposition? You change things, because irrationally, it'll bring you "good luck". I did. Ha.

Switching to a far better Receptioned Internet stream (perfect pictures for rest of game- thanks Bethan) things could surely only get better? And, blow me, if they only went and did. Although, let's be perfectly clear, it was not due to even a Higgs Boson worth of a % of my "luck" longings. It was down totally to the Manager, his staff and team.

My analysis of what happened is this.

The personnel change was straightforward and it worked. Agustien replaced Gower, who had had one of his quieter games, and was by-passed in the battle.

Sitting deeper, Kemy immediately engaged Cabaye, closing avenues, regaining and retaining possession from tackles and freeing both Britton and Allen particularly, to play a good 10yds further forward.

This in turn closed Newcastle's creative space further and let the Swans begin to make their own positive inroads, and it could be argued that the best chances of the half both fell to Swansea.

One, from yet another Routledge run down the right with a wicked cross at the end, only just eluded Joe Allen following in from getting a touch.
The other saw Sinclair turn in the Inside left channel in the box, but screw his shot just wide of Krul's left hand post. Noticeably, both wingers had now turned the tables, and the puzzles were being set in reverse to the first half.

The other important contributors were the Swans attitude and tempo.

Far more committed, busy, constructive and destructive, threatening to the ball, and above all slicker and quicker generally, the game had turned from a Home Banker to that awful (to the Toon) gut feeling of "Uh, oh, - There's a point here for them". And there was.

The game ended with Ba blasting a half chance high and wide, and despite the introduction of the Ameobi siblings, the more successful substitution of Agustien for Gower at HT, and Dyer's replacement of Sinclair on 77m to further steel Swansea's harrying of NUFC players, and fresh pacey legs to the side's engine, confirmed the transformation from a disappointing first half to a point well earned at a ground where many of our rivals will have not got, or may not get, anything.

Vorm was excellence throughout. Richards and Taylor, from difficult starts, fought back well. Caulker and Williams were and are what they are- top class CB's. Danny Graham puts a shift in , in defense,too. The other players have had a mention, and they ALL deserve praise.

Again, a performance that brought pride, ultimately, and reward, tangibly, to all us Swansea fans . Pre-Xmas Away day No 1 is done.

To Everton at Goodison for No 2 on Wednesday.

Onward, Swansea city.

# I'll be doing a brief preview of our fixture at Everton on Wednesday of this week. It'll be up here, and on SCFC2, from about 6pm on Monday evening.These are heady days indeed, to be enjoyed for what they are - pure, unadulterated pleasure.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Pre-Christmas Away Days. No 1.

Swansea City's game at Newcastle 17/12/11 in Preview.
At this time of year the games come thick and fast.

With two difficult Away fixtures within the next week, Swansea City and the travelling JackArmy will have clocked up considerable mileage before we and they get to unwrap some Christmas presents.

A long, cold journey North is in the offing.

Of course then later, we, the fans, will happily and post-prandially take in the Home Boxing Day clash with QPR, the better to clear our holiday excesses and bid good cheer to our Team, all of whom will be in the middle of a slightly more controlled and moderated Festive season.

Last Saturday's rewarding win over Fulham saw us confirm our good run of Home form, and the question now turns to the still under-rewarding matter of getting better material results Away from the Liberty. Brendan Rodgers knows as well as we do that it's imperative that at some stage we turn the performances on the road, which have ranged from sublime to disappointing, into points.

He will, no doubt, have calculated and targeted an overall picture of reward, but not to the extent of doing more than approach each individual fixture with a plan that suits THAT particular game. We armchair strategists meanwhile also have targets in our heads, but perhaps we OUGHT to keep them to ourselves, lest we REALLY get egg on our collective faces.

What, no spilling the beans whatsoever on what we think? Where's the fun in that ?

Awwh, go on then, just a teensy-weensy bit, otherwise there'd be no point in my doing this piece. Some may say that anyway, and they're perfectly entitled to, but it's not going to stop me since it's cathartic for me, and I enjoy it, too. So here we go. To the first of those fixtures.

It's a well known fact of Climatic record that the mean Temperature in Newcastle is some 5 degrees colder than that of Swansea. At this time of year it can also be considerably damp and gloomy, which led Lindisfarne, initially, and numerous others (including the legendary Geordie Toonster Paul Gascoigne), to regale us at one time or another with a chronic lament. "The Fog on the Tyne..", is, indeed, as Alan Hull claims ".....all mine, all mine", and he's welcome to it. Dig the retro football shirt, Man,....groovy!

Pack a warm coat. In 2009/10 at Mike Ashley's "Sports Direct Arena at St. James' Park"(sic), I sat in the Gods and wished I'd brought opera glasses as well, as Newcastle beat the Swans 3-0 in a view that put me in mind of the shots you get at big matches from the Goodyear Blimp. I swear the air was thinner at the top of the stand : oxygen masks would have helped I'm sure.

Whatever the view, you can be sure that Newcastle on the field have improved since then too. Mind you, so have we.

Their record up until 3 recent defeats has been excellent, but injuries and squad depth have begun to have an effect, particularly disrupting a previously constant back 5.

Tim Krul in goal has ensured he's now the No 1 ahead of Steve Harper, and Geordies will tell you his form has been Vorm-like. They also have Fraser Forster on loan at Celtic, and Rob Elliot, on the books.

Disruption at CB, where Steve Taylor's ruptured achilles tendon injury has put him out for the season and Fabio Coloccini has been injured too, with a thigh strain. The Argentine, first signed for a big fee a couple of seasons ago, and who seemed like an older version of David Luiz (in Gary Neville's delicious phrase...." like a PlayStation Player controlled by a 10 yr old") in his early games for the Club, is nowadays confirming far more legitimate Argentina CB form - granite hard, technical efficiency and buccaneering (goalscoring occasionally) leadership.

With both CB's out injured in their recent losses, Danny Simpson, nominally a RB/RMF, and James Perch, signed from Forest as a versatile Defender, have been covering in a less stable manner. They also have the Hungarian rookie Tamas Kadar signed, but he has not yet got a squad number.

Ryan Taylor, the right footed LB is a renowned free kick specialist, and the club in the close season signed the LB Davide Santon from Inter, a highly rated Italian International.

Mike Williamson, another strong CB came from Portsmouth after an initial loan period but has struggled with injuries too this season (a broken arm and ankle strain amongst them), but he is at least back in training.

The squad also lists James Tavernier, a youth academy graduate CB primarily, and Shane Ferguson, acquired from Derry City, who has always played thus far as a MF.

The injuries have stretched the depth of defensive capability, but in Midfield they have genuine quality, if again tested by the knocks, bumps and strains of the modern game.

The players are Yohan Cabaye, Danny Guthrie, Hatem Ben Arfa, Jonas Gutierrez, Sylvain Marveaux, Dan Gosling, Cheick Tiote, Mehdi Abeid, Alan Smith, Gabriel Obertan and Haris Vuckic, a truly cosmopolitan range.

5 French, 3 English, an Ivorian, an Argentine and a Slovenian, the Midfield mix gives a clue to their revamped (from previous days) scouting system.
In the past they had a reputation for signing big name, big money, often disappointing older players. Nowadays they go for lesser known, younger, cheaper alternatives, and have had and are having better success from it, utilising Ligue1 in France particularly.

Cabaye, Ben Arfa and Marveaux, creators all and both technically excellent and young, are full French caps. So is the winger Obertan, ex Man Utd, gangly physique and all.

Abeid, the French Algerian, capped at U18 level, came from Lens. Tiote is the ball winning mainstay of the Ivory coast, Internationally, and came from Twente Enschede in Holland.

Jonas Gutierrez plays wide left or right, and as a member of Diego Maradona's Argentine WC team of the past, has added a grafting work ethic to his attacking verve, and the crowd love it.
Vuckic, recently called into the full Slovenia squad for Euro 2012 qualifiers, is an attack minded link.

The three English representatives range from the ageless Alan Smith, who started at DirtyLeeds, controversially kissed the badge and went to Man Utd on his journey to the North, to the young Dan Gosling, snaffled from Everton at the end of a contract and since capped at England U21 level.
Along the way we get also the workmanlike Danny Guthrie, ex Liverpool and Bolton, who, if they're wearing short sleeves, displays a fine example of the penchant from some modern footballers for the like of the Tattooist's Art.

Up front, they choose from Demba Ba, Leon Best, Peter Lovenkrands, and the brothers Shola and Sammy Ameobi.

Ba, attracted from West Ham last year (after being reportedly rejected by Stoke due to a gammy knee), has been scoring for fun. He got both in the 4-2 defeat at Norwich, and now stands on 11 for the season, behind only RVP's 15 at Arsenal.

Leon Best, ex Coventry, had always been considered a second-tier jouneyman, but has scored profitably and regularly since coming to the club, and has earned 5 RoI caps from Trapp.

Lovenkrands has 22 Danish caps, and the left footer is both pacey and tricky.

The two Geordie brothers, Shola and Sammy Ameobi, are hugely popular local lads-made-good in a City where the Centre Forward (and No 9) has always been revered. Think Shearer and Jackie Milburn. Think of the Robledo brothers. You see what they've got to live up to? The burden is heavy, indeed.

Shola, the elder brother, has been in the first team squad since Bobby Robson's days but his languid frame has caused him to miss time regularly over the years from injuries, many and varied.Has scored over 50 goals for them.

Sammy , the younger sibling, came again from the Academy, and broke into the squad against Chelsea at the end of the 2010/11 season. He is trickier, slightly quicker than his brother and is fast becoming a fans favourite.

They are managed nowadays by Alan Pardew, the shrewd ex-West Ham gaffer who took them (WHU) to the Premier league, and who was appointed by the still reviled Owner Mike Ashley in replacement of the popular Chris Hughton who, in his turn, had plotted the Toon's re-entry to the Prem.

Tactically, their shape is likely to be 4-3-3, 4-1-3-2, sometimes even 4-4-2. It depends on fitting personnel to the system (ie who's fit, who's not) and he will change within games as well. They ARE that flexible.

Pardew had to do a lot to win round the justifiably fickle Toon Army but he seems to be succeeding. Seen as a track-suit manager in the modern idiom, slightly David Brent-esqe in his use of Management-speak and motivational messages pinned to dressing room walls ( eg .. "Touching base" , "pro-active NOT re-active" etc....), his style obviously struck a chord with the owner and his "mission to enhance the Customer Experience" at The SDA. Although to be perfectly fair, the Geordies DO seem to be enjoying themselves more than they have at some times in the recent past.

Whatever, this is a difficult fixture, although the first of several where we will hope to get those elusive Away points.

My feeling with regard to our line up is this.

Given that the back 5 kept another clean sheet last week, I feel it would be a major surprise to us if there were any changes there. It's the rest of the team that sets the puzzle.

I know you'll excuse me these tactical musings, but in a week where we saw Guardiola, in ElClasico no less, go to 3 (maybe 3.5) at the back, well illustrated by Jonathan Wilson here, it doesn't half make you think.

Kemy Agustien made a difference on his timely introduction last week but Joe Allen is available again. In my head I've toyed with the idea of a 4-1-3-2 shape, meaning that Agustien could anchor as the 1, thus providing defensive
security ahead of the Centre Backs. I'm conscious of the notion too that Ash Williams has done that role previously for both us and Wales, but on reflection it's probably a step too far.

An anchor would allow us to include Leon Britton, Joe Allen AND Mark Gower but the weakness of THAT argument is that one of the wide men has to be sacrificed, and I can't see BR going that route. So, since Joey didn't play v Fulham, and since our more usual 4-3-3 is our Identity, KA, MG and LB would be the 3.

That leaves the front 3.

As the wide men in possession, Wayne Routledge and Scott Sinclair would hold their places, with Nathan Dyer on the bench. And, harsh as it would be on Leroy Lita, I feel a fully fit Danny Graham gives us just a little extra. At the end of the day, it's all about Chemistry.

I am just very glad that the ones making these decisions are Brendan and his staff.

Whatever line up he chooses, I guess it's fair to say that most of us Swans will go with that, and although I won't be there in person, I will be in spirit, (and live,too, Internet stream allowing).

Good luck Swansea City.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Swansea City v Fulham. Liberty Stadium. 10/12/11. Match Report.

All roller-coasters go up, then down, then up again. (Yes, I know, they come to rest at the bottom, but let's not go there until we need to).

Personally, I'm happy to come to rest up here in the ether - subject only to the doom 'n gloom merchants slinging mud from below. What's with these people? They just don't get it, do they?

The visit of Fulham, winners against Liverpool earlier in the week, set the Swans a puzzle that took them a long time to solve. But, ultimately and decisively, a solid TEAM performance proved to be successful, and we ran out 2-0 winners in this highly competitive division, and 3 + 14 = 17. Points, that is, and 11th place currently. Am I smug?

Most definitely, not. Am I pleased, proud even ? You bet your life I am. MOTD, Football First, Goals on Sunday, MOTD2 all loom large, and pleasurably so, as I will delight in watching again.

Pre-game chat concentrated on the differing line-ups, and who would go with what. They certainly made for interesting reading and from different perspectives perhaps shaped the early part of the game.

For Fulham, Danny Murphy had failed to recover from his injury, but his replacement was not Steve Sidwell, but Simon Davies, the Welshman playing his first game for several months after his injury recuperations. The greater surprise was up front, where Zamora, left out of the squad entirely as well, had not travelled, so Andy Johnson was tasked with taking the fight to the Swans.

This followed a flutter of Tweets on the the Twitter social media feed (get on-you know you'll love it) on Friday evening that speculated that Jol and Zamora's long known about spiky relationship had fractured, and the forward was being disciplined. Since these were ideas being flashed up by reputable Journos - Martin Lipton and Tom Hopkinson take a bow- and since not ALL media is of the NoW/Sun type facile standard- I give them some credence.

It's less than a secret that they remain "Desperate Housewives" rather than "The Good Life" with each thinking less of the other's abilities reciprocally.

Incidentally, I thought Martin Jol got an easy ride on this point from both immediate post match TV and Broadcast Media of the "Where was Bobby Z today?"......, or "....wasn't he here then? Ah yes , he was rested...." type lines of enquiry. I don't expect the Spanish Inquisition, but there WAS a story here. As was confirmed by today's Print Media. Watch this space, Maybe Mo needs to bang heads.

Brendan Rodgers choices reflected a more clearly defined line of thought. Both Luke Moore, as the "link" forward, and Wayne Routledge, wide right, retained their places after their in-game introduction last week, and were given the opportunity to influence the game (as they had done then) from the start this time.The other change saw Steve Caulker return to the CB spot, giving Club skipper Gary Monk a perhaps well deserved rest.

To the game.

Possession , because it's our friend, was embraced early. This allowed us to dictate both the tempo, and the shape, of the game.From patient probings, including flashes of good skill from Jazz Richards and Routledge going foward ; similarly Neil Taylor/Sinclair wide left too, and intricate midfield triangles, the first real chance came from a very same midfield shuffle. The ball was worked to Moore, a half-yard in front of his marker, for him to release a short backlift right footed drive from 30yds out that bulleted and skimmed off the top of the crossbar and over, with Mark Schwarzer well beaten.

Two other instances of slim pickings emerged. From another Gower slanted cross from the right, Lita eluded the defenders, but in planting his firm header, had slightly mis-timed it and the ball went a yard wide. Sinclair too, fed into the area with his back to goal on the left manged to skilfully spin, turn, and get his shot in from 8yds away , quickly, but slightly scuffed. Schwarzer gathered easily.

Two further incidents I'll comment on. From a corner taken by Gower in straightforward fashion........ ie ball crossed to just outside the six yard box, I watched to confirm on TV and replay, and Riise, with both arms wrapped around Lita from behind, almost put a straitjacket on any possible leap .
The challenge, as they both tumbled to the floor, brought howls of derision. All the Swans crowd, and team, appealed in vain for the penalty because Referee Goss, he of portly girth but not-so-jolly disposition, awarded a free kick to the defenders. Ho, ho and not so bloody ho.

The other saw a Swansea cross, again from the right, strike Riise on the arm as he challenged to block - I've seen those given, too, and just as regularly, not, so I'll not bleat too loudly.

Look , I know this is becoming a theme, but think of it this way. I live in Llanelli, for my sins. A friend once described it as "The Hole Digging Capital Of The UK" because he was convinced that every Trainee Navvy in Britain was sent to Llanelli early in his career (sic) to learn how to dig holes, thus plaguing the Town with roadworks, everywhere. Well, similarly it seems, The Liberty Stadium is the Professional Game Match Officials testing bed for Borderline Trainee Refs, where they get to get ALL of their really poor decisions tested on the Home side, because we complain so little. Let's be fair- we've seen it all- devious, incompetent, fat, unfit, still a child, even(dare I whisper it?)crooked.

Now, now, don't get hot and bothered you "Arbiters of the Laws of the Game" - it's only my opinion, 'innit?

The half was in Swansea's control but Fulham could be fairly described as playing at a leisurely pace, almost as if it were designed to take the sting out of the game, but, if I were a Fulham fan, it would have disappointed me in light of it's being almost a passive acceptance of Swansea superiority, especially when contrasted to later. We'll come to that.

At half time, as the players made their way off, I could see pockets of 2/3 Swansea players earnestly and animatedly discussing the game with each other. Fulham's players, to a man, trooped off almost as if they were in their own world of zen-like transcendence. Weird, to say the least. They obviously had a lot on their minds, but hey, who am I to say that. So did I.

The second half was even more rewarding, in all senses. Swansea continued to press, Fulham continued to resist,
until one of a startling number of things changed the dynamic.

In the first instance it was a goal, and what a relief and sense of release. Routledge and Jazz Richards, down the right, were becoming more prepared to push forward in the fashion we've seen Rangel and Dyer do on a regular basis.

From one such raid, a corner was won. Gower swung it over and from a crowded six yard box, Schwarzer punched, high and looping, but significantly not long. As it dropped at the edge of the box centrally, Routledge volleyed an attempt that he miscued, but one that reached Sinclair on it's way toward goal, with his back to the target. He spun, skillfully,and volleyed it onward,on target toward the net, where it struck Dempsey back defending and spun beyond Schwarzer and in. A goal from open play was credited to him, and BR hinted in his post match interview it was "a monkey off his back". Good to know. The crowd roared- full throated, lung bursting catharsis.

The effect on the game was startling.

Fulham resembled a bunch of Holby City actors who'd been given a shot of life-affirming adrenaline in the chest and the collective whole body of the team upped pace, tempo, aggression and tore at the Swans in pursuit of an equaliser. Goodness me, I thought, where the hell have this lot been? It was bizarre, because demonstrably they were a team transformed.

You know that old football saw that your team is at it's most vulnerable just after they've scored? Fulham confirmed it's truth by almost immediately getting Dembele to work Dempsey free, who flicked it to Bryan Ruiz, all done through the heart of the Swansea defence, to leave Ruiz free in on goal, one on one with Vorm.To his credit, the keeper produced the first of several top drawer saves, diving and pushing wide to his left Ruiz's hard hit effort.

BR then produced evidence of why top notch managers learn from previous experience by timing the first of his 3 key subsitutions to perfection, Kemy Agustien replacing the tiring and by now less effective Luke Moore.

From being in danger of being swamped by Fulham's resurgence, this immediately made Swansea more competitive as Agustien, sitting deeper, put in the challenges and showed class and athletic muscularity in both breaking down and building up, attacks.

From one such instance Sinclair,stepping and dazzling down the left cut inside and rolled a square pass to Agustien , 30 yds out, and the Dutchman sidefooted a drive that struck the right hand post but went wide with Schwarzer beaten.

The game was now genuinely open and Vorm showed twice again his quality, as he dived to his right to secure a
fierce Dempsey drive and retain it, and , even better, raced from his line to close down and block Andy Johnson's shot, put through by Ruiz's slick flick, clear on goal, but denied by the Swans custodian.

Further key and influential substitution came when the Swans swapped Graham for Lita (who had done well) on 76m and Fulham brought on Frei (of whom more later) for Dembele (who had also done well) on 77m.

In edging toward the finishing post, the Swans created a glorious chance to wrap it up when Danny Graham, stretching the line and cleverly equi-distant from both CB's was freed on goal by Agustien's sublime, weighted through ball. Graham's onward touch pushed just wider right than perhaps he meant, allowing Hangeland to get back, and although DG cut inside him, the delay was enough to allow Fulham's Schwarzer to block his shot low on the line almost, and see Mark Gower's acrobatic volley attempt in follow up go wide . Chance gone, and it came back to bite us.

Kerim Frei rounded Wayne Routledge outside the box on the left, and cuttiing in, was balked as he went outside Jazz Richards. I'm a Home fan. I thought it harsh. Yes he ran into JR, yes he dangled a leg, yes he tumbled nearly as spectacularly as Seb Larsson's Tom Daley impersonation of last week, but, BUT...
remember those Refs we talked about earlier?

This time WE had dug the Hole in the Road. Mr. Moss, (or Porky, as he'd become to some of us) just pushed us in, and awarded the spot-kick.

Now I've said it before and I'll say it again. With 7 clean sheets this season, six at the Lib, we all know that Michel Vorm is both the bargain, and the best GK, of the season. If David de Gea cost Man Utd £20.5m from Atletico Madrid, what is Vorm's true value? You do the Math.It ain't, though, just about the Price Tag. He had already made 3 World Class saves. Now he proved that saves not only do what they say, SAVE matches- they WIN them, too.

Having been booked for delaying the kick by wandering toward the corner flag whilst he composed himself he kicked studs and mud from his boots on the post and crouched, cat-like , whilst Clint Dempsey, from an initially straight but then curving run up , put a hard mid height shot towards Vorm's right hand post. His calculation had been perfect, and he met the shot full length horizontally , and beat it away for a corner.

Truly stunning. If we thought the roar for the goal had been loud, the crowd took the roof off the Liberty in release, a real shiver inducing, hair stands up on the back of your neck, moment. His name, justifiably, rang out to the rafters. There IS, only ONE, MICHEL VORM!!

On the buzz of that magic moment, the Swans tore into every tackle, and Brendan's final touch put the icing on the cake. Nathan Dyer, introduced at the death to a warmly applauded Wayne Routledge departure, harried and chased Riise to win a late corner. Gower took it, low across the face of the goal, and Danny Graham, with no little skill and effort, held off Hangeland at the near post to turn it home. 2-0. Joy, unconfined.

A lovely celebration, too. DG went to the touchline, to join the subbed Leroy Lita, and both danced a jig of success.Teamwork evident in both the joy and body language of both participants. Really, really good to see.


The Liberty rocked again, and the crowd put the disappointing Fulham travellers to shame."We'll sing on our own" seemed very apt, and we did.

In retrospect, a good display that showed tactical acumen, cohesive teamwork, determination, patience, and a whole lot else.

Psychologically, a very important game, and win. Fulham are evidentially, from both yesterday's latter stages and last Monday's win v Liverpool, a decent team. A win against them is something to be proud of. However much I feel that they didn't just shoot themselves in the foot, they took a big toe off with a shotgun, by dropping Bobby Z, that's their problem , not ours. Our job was to win, if possible.

BR's, and our, team took full advantage in a crucial pre-Christmas fixture. It released the tension, put points on the board, and bolstered the belief for ALL of us. And, it was really enjoyable. It confirmed for me that our
trust, our passion, our love for the Club is not in the least place misguided or mistaken. AND, it is very much appreciated.

Here's a little tale from pre-match yesterday. As my compatriot, Jimmy, and I were crossing from the Rossi's side to the game, who should be entering a restaurant along the road but Alan Tate and his family. Dressed immaculately in a club suit and looking both handsome, healthy and trim (get me) he took time out to chat with us and confirm, on our asking , that he resumes Training in less than 2 weeks. THAT quality of professional, along with both targets and current squad, confirms for me that we're in for a fantastically exciting year.

Really well done again Swansea City.

# Match preview of Newcastle Utd v Swansea City will be up on Thursday sometime.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Swansea City v Fulham on 10.12.11 at The Liberty. Preview.

"The same, again, but so very, very different".

The contrast from last week's disappointing loss at Blackburn to this week's Home fixture v Fulham will be particularly stark, however much we are naturally tempted to look at the teams in and around us in the Table as being the really key fixtures.

Ostensibly, in comparing the two opponents, one is initially tempted to class them as Clubs of similar stature.

By that I mean in the Radio phone-in sense, a sort of "My Dad's Toy is the same size as your Dad's Toy". Neither, in the language of the TalkSport aficionado, is that much "BIGGER" than the other. And, almost certainly, neither could be considered that behemoth of the airwaves "A MASSIVE CLUB".

Both, after all, have been members of the PL for some years. Both, either were, or are, bankrolled by 2nd tier (in PL £ stakes) benevolent Owners, the late Jack Walker and the very much still here Mohamed AlFayed.

They play in similarly sized Stadiums (of differing History). Neither have regularly, but have occasionally, been troubled by big time relegation worries. That though is where we start to run out of like for like examples of sameness, and begin to see contrasts, the over-riding one being in the matter of football styles.

Fulham, unlike our Northern nemesis, play what is generally considered to be Football in the modern idiom. Very much a pass and move game, predicated on ground based skills, designed to out-class as opposed to over-power opponents. A bit like us then, eh? Yes, to a degree, and it was on show in their latest fixture - a satisfying 1-0 win over a powerful Liverpool team at Craven Cottage, on Monday night last.

In that game, they went, unsurprisingly, with their first choice XI, which was........
Schwarzer, Kelly, Hangeland, Senderos, Riise, Etuhu, Murphy, Ruiz, Dembele, Dempsey, Zamora.

Evidently a 4-2-3-1 going forward, rapidly a 4-5-1 when defending. The strength of the side remains in the spine.

Mark Schwarzer, the long-serving Aussie GK, has over 440 PL appearances, which puts him 10th of all time for all players. Many accrued at Middlesbrough, his previous club, he has, since 2008, been an ever present and a rock in the Fulham side. Still good enough to send the Club's England U-21 player David Stockdale to Ipswich on loan, many will remember his performances against us in a Cup Tie 2 seasons ago, with numerous brave and acrobatic saves.

Brede Hangeland, the CB, was signed initially from FC Copenhagen by a previous (in both senses) Manager, Roy Hodgson, and after a stuttering initial period, the Norwegian captain has turned out to be one of the more successful CB's in the Division. Like Samba last week, he is equally good in attack at Free kicks and Corner kick opportunities, as he is as an out and out defender.Long,slim, and seemingly limited, he is anything but.

The cornerstone of the team is Danny Murphy, the eloquent and elegant Midfielder, ex-Liverpool.He is, I understand, struggling to be fit. His top class passing skills, allied with a football brain that makes his lack of pace redundant, he often scores from free kicks, spot kicks and open play, and will be hard to replace.

Should he not play, they may well go with Steve Sidwell, ex Villa, Chelsea, etc and this option will see them utilise Sidwell's run all day leaning, leading to a switch in tactical roles, where Dickson Etuhu, often picked as a holder/tackler becomes more creative and pushed further forward. His bite and energy mean that they often switch him into this role, dependent on the state of the game. Both Sidwell and Etuhu have plentiful PL experience and ability.

Up front, the line is led by Bobby Zamora. Having started his League career at Bristol Rovers and then Brighton and Hove Albion where he scored 77 goals in 3 seasons (with 2 promotions included), he went on to have some fallow years at Tottenham and West Ham. But, since his promotion with West Ham, and his move to Fulham in 2008, it's fair to say his career has advanced even more. A key component in Fulham's run to the UEFA Europa League Final of a couple of years ago, his form has brought him to the (still continuing) attention of Fabio Capello, and since 2010 and a win against Hungary, he remains in England's and Capello's plans. A highly mobile, two footed fulcrum, he links well to late running midfielders, and finishes well himself, too.

The FB's are generally Stephen Kelly and John Arne Riise.
Kelly, on the right, is an Alan Tate type club servant. Always reliable, rarely headline material, the Irishman has nevertheless the confidence of Trappatoni at the RoI internationally, and Martin Jol for his club. His competition is Chris Baird , the talented ex-Southampton utility defender. On the left, John Arne Riise, returned from Roma, was once Craig Bellamy's golf club target on a Liverpool trip to Spain. They won, and so did he. After a big money move to Italy, the Norwegian International returned to Britain via a move to Fulham to join his brother, Bjorn Helge Riise, a squad player. Possessed of a rocket left foot, he is always a danger when shooting.

The remainder of Monday's team v the Pool are equally interesting. The other CB was Phillipe Senderos, the Swiss traveller via Arsenal and Milan, never quite Diamond quality, more a semi-precious stone.He seems to have more of Jol's confidence than Aaron Hughes, previously the first choice partner for Hangeland under Hodgson, but we shall see. Hughes can cover RB too.

Moussa Dembele, is a 24 yr old Belgian International attacking midfielder signed from AZ Alkmaar in August 2010. He tends to play as the withdrawn striker in the 3, but this group rotate regularly and to good effect. Predominantly left footed, his ball skills are excellent, and he has combined this technical excellence with a committed, competitive streak, becoming a key member of the Cottagers attack.

Then, Bryan Ruiz, a Costa Rican International scouted by many PL clubs, was signed from Twente Enschede for £10.6 million in the last hour of the transfer window. He is still bedding in to the PL but has scored, particularly one against Everton, which show his level of skill and ability. Similar in style to Jordi Gomez, late of this parish, he's one of those players like Marmite - it's a love or hate thing.

Now then, Clint Dempsey.The US forward has a genuine claim to be the Premier's best ever American outfield player. Whilst Landon Donovan's star shone brightly for a limited period at Everton, and Fulham's own earlier Yank, Brian McBride once had the most American goals scored in the Division ,and again whilst their keepers are always good (think Friedel, Howard,Keller,Guzan etc....), here is a US import who gets better by the season.The Texan has since
become the goals record holder, and delighted a lot of people by scoring against England for the good ole' US of A in the last World Cup. (Remember the E.A.S.Y headlines from the raggedy Sun ?. I do- karma, ha ha.)

Some of us will remember too that he scored against us in that FA Cup replay win at Craven Cottage, along with Hangeland. He remains that which we seek - an important midfield link player who fits effortlessly again into the second striker role and a player to admire.Two footed, good in the air, too.

Front cover is given by Andrew Johnson, who remains a pacey, busy alternative. Ex-palace and Everton, penalty winner, one to keep an eye on. Offers mobility, terrier like tenacity, and a contrast and balance to an evolving squad.

Squad depth is given by Bjorn Helge, brother of John Arne, Riise that is, a MF'er. Neil Etteridge (GK), Zdenek Grygera (Defender), Rafik Halliche (defender we nearly signed, remember?), Patjim Kasami, Marcel Gekov (MF'ers) and the ageless Damien Duff, once a Chelsea wing wizard, and still in the RoI squad. Simon Davies, (remember him?), is still on the books,too, although he has been out with a knee-grunge.

Think back to that FA Cup tie.

I would like to suggest that that was the game when we came to more general, national even, notice. As a Championship Club, we entertained Fulham from the Prem in front of the live National Broadcast media. It was the first time, in recent years, that many people throughout the country had seen us, and our style of play. It was also a game in which I can genuinely say we outplayed the opposition, and despite the despair of their getting an undeserved draw, it brought the entertainment that we'd been privvy to for the last few seasons to the watching millions.And despite the disappointment of the 2-1 replay loss, I like to think it did us well, because it showed us and those who saw on the box that we could not only compete, but compete well, at this level.

Fulham's manager, nowadays, is the affable, bluff, gruff Martin Jol. Eventually getting their man (ex Tottenham and Ajax gaffer) on the bizarre resignation of Mark Hughes, he is in the early to middle period of transforming them from Roy Hodgson's training-ground drilled competitors to something a little more adventurous, if no less problematic. Just ask Liverpool.

That run to the Europa Cup Final did many things. Financial and Commercial bonus; tactical, continental experience; pride and kudos, both from their own fans and Commentators generally - and no little excitement, including a fantastic 4-1 win against Juventus before an ultimate defeat to Atletico Madrid's Diego Forlan, it confirmed Fulham as a cut above people's laziness in labelling them yearly strugglers to beat the drop.

There has been some excellent debate this week about how we will set up against them.

It's almost inconceivable to think we'll do other than retain our general shape. Talk has centred on individual personnel to fill roles. My thoughts, for what they're worth, are these.

At the back, I can see no change other than the possibility that Caulker, if fit, might step in for Monk, to give us more aerial prowess, but I get a gut feel that BR will stay with the club skipper.

Two other positions, certainly, are up for grabs. Joe Allen's suspension means the choice seems to lie between a)Kemy Agustien as a one for one b)Stephen Dobbie or Luke Moore as a Home-game influenced more attacking option or c) assuming Lita keeps his place up front, a fit again Danny Graham at the tip of the Midfield 3, though I concede this is unlikely.

There has also been consternation over Nathan Dyer's replacement at half time last week and whether it foretold a little more than seemed so at the time. Was he injured, bruised, exhausted? I suspect a little of all of the above and no more. So Wayne Routledge may keep his place, with ND used as an impact sub.

All of this is pure conjecture on my part- no more. I know for certain nothing other than Brendan and all of the coaching staff, the players and all involved will have been working hard throughout this week on these and a whole lot of others issues too. We get to enjoy the fruits of their labour. They get to play in the relentlessly hyped, but no less rewarding, Premier League. We get also, to discuss and share this rewarding experience.Remember, please, the bad days - because the contrast is so pleasurable.

I'm delighted we're welcoming another classy, worthy, footballing, above all PREMIERSHIP team to the wonderful Liberty Stadium on Saturday. I would dearly love to see us take all 3 points.

Onward - Swansea City.

# Friday evening, late, just hearing on Twitter from Tom Hopkinson, Martin Lipton that Bobby Zamora has been dropped from the Squad to play Swansea tomorrow and that it's a result of his falling out with Manager Martin Jol .
There has been talk/whispers of their relationship as Player/Gaffer being rocky previously. Could this be terminal?

Monday, 5 December 2011

Match Report - Blackburn Rovers v Swansea City Ewood Park. 3/11/12

"Jogo Bonito"...... The Beautiful Game

Or how "We wasn't robbed", but maybe we were pilfered. Pickpocketed, even.

So it turned out to be a bitterly disappointing day for all we Swans.

Having travelled North in great numbers, and despite long periods where our class shone through, we ultimately failed the test of one of the oldest (and ugliest) tactics in the game - that of the long high ball, consistently pumped into the heart of the defence.

Coupled with the willingness to cut it up rough, often barely on the allowable side of the fence, it guaranteed an effective outcome for Blackburn. Or did it?

Principally because , I would suggest, the win for them means they get to keep their Manager, which, for all of us at Ewood Park, didn't seem to be the thing they want.

I ask the question particularly, because even immediately after Yakubu's race to the touchline to high-five Steve Kean in celebration of their first goal, the boos rang out from the Home crowd. Similarly , later in the game, at 4-2 and even after the final whistle, a sizable chunk of Home "fans" continued the "Kean out" and vociferous grumbling they had shown throughout the game.

It does make you wonder about the mindset of such a fan, and puts me in mind of the kind of troll who haunts some of our own Guest Books on Swansea City fan sites - you know the ones - they usually appear when the Team has struggled for whatever reason, only to be conspicuous by their absence when the team does well. Trolls. Doncha' just love 'em.

Often highlighted by their use of "kiddie-speak" when seeking to disparage another..........."You are Numpties" for instance if you don't agree with their bad-mouthing, and usually coupled with poor, constructive Grammar....."he was worst than" is another example, they seek more to annoy rather than inform.
To act as a magnet for response, because that validates the effort. (sic)

It's more sad (if a little infuriating) than anything else. Almost as if nerdy cyber-keyboard warriors are for once made flesh, to take their place alongside real people.

You'll know them when you either see or read them - they're the ones with a consistent stream of dribble/drivel coming from their lips. A sort of verbal diarrhoea, with the result that they generally stand on their own, or perhaps tap at their keyboards in a bare bulb bedroom, stopping only to check out "Best of Big 'Uns" or the "Reader's Wives" section of the program.

If you want a fine summary of the pointlessness of Internet debates please read this

It's where the excellent Charlie Brooker points out that "...all Internet debates, without exception, are entirely futile." . Read it, please, and recognise the type.

Then shiver.

It's as well, too, to remind people here of the contrast. The JackArmy were again, magnificent throughout. From the wit of "Is this a Library", to the pride and graciousness of clapping and cheering the Team off the field at the end, they once more did us all proud.

As to the game, it began in our usual fashion, something we've come to appreciate. Ball control and retention, patient, if at times a slightly slow rotation of same, designed to take the sting out of the game and crowd, - profitably, in the main.

Dyer, Allen, Britton and Gower did their thing. Sinclair was still running at the full back, not always successful, but at least in combination with Taylor getting forward, and Lita tried manfully to engage Samba and Dann with some defensive problems. At the back, the Swans were sound without immediate worry, and the whole settled into a rhythm, without pulling up any trees.

It continued in this way until Blackburn, attacking down the left, managed a one-two between Givet and Yakubu, which freed the left back toward the byline, where he was able to outpace the defence on the outside and pull a wicked ball back toward the Nigerian International. Without breaking stride, Yakubu swept it left footedly into the top corner of Vorm's goal. A jarring punishment, and really well taken. 1-0.

The next phase of the game confirmed what had already become evident. Blackburn were robust, muscular, physical, bruising - all of those epithets for dirty, really - consistently niggling and combative, and, once again, getting away with it.

I hate to highlight this but I'm going to, because I believe it to be true. Some sides have learned that we can be kicked off-course, and unless Refs offer protection we suffer. Chris Foy, like others before him, didn't give us so much as a sniff, never mind basic protection. Is it because we complain so little? Is it because the opposition fouling is always cumulative, not singular? Is it just me that sees it like this? I don't think so, and here's why.

The foul count yesterday was 12-13, but what that shows is the fouls awarded for and against the sides. What it doesn't show is the number of times a Swansea player was balked, or kicked, and impeded, and Foy saw fit to wave play on. I can genuinely recall 10 such instances. This is not an excuse for losing a match. It's a cry from the heart for either fairer play, or a hint that we need to do what others do - roll on the ground, go and stay down more often, generally get "cuter". Some would say cheat - I couldn't possibly say that.

The equaliser came from a move of good quality. The ball was moved and swept, to and fro, through numerous passes to end with Mark Gower chipping as he had at Wolves (but with more pace) toward the far post where Lita, free of Samba, headed text book fashion back across goal and into the far corner. 1-1, and deserved.

The game's key moment came, I would suggest, just a minute from half time.

From Hoilett's raid down the left, he attempted to go outside Richards, only to find the Swans full back chase and harry him so that the ball seemed about to go out, but Richards put in a challenge rather than risk a stand off block, and Hoilett earned the corner.

Pedersen took it, driven at head height, and from Williams skimming header to the edge of the box, we Swans watched in horror as Vuckovic volleyed the clearance back into the goalmouth and Yakubu, no more than 2 yards out, headed skillfully into the net. I felt sick. I guess the players did too.

Instead of going in level, we now had to face a 2-1 deficit, and a newly encouraged Blackburn Rovers.

In the second half the homesters continued their aerial bombardment, consistently getting the GK Robinson, the midfielder Pedersen and various others to give it the Hail Mary into the Swansea Box.

A word of praise here to Christopher Samba, their giant CB, seemingly put together by the Frankinstein school of body parts.

I mean no disrespect when I say that his huge body seems too big and heavy for his long, knock kneed skinny legs.That he looks too clumsy at first sight to be a footballer. Do not be fooled. Here is a player of huge heart and no little skill and effectiveness in a game- at either end of the pitch.

No wonder that Arsenal, reportedly, were sniffing around him during the summer. You get the gut feeling that Samba and Vermaelen would be a better combination than the Gunners have ended up with - Vermaelen with either Mertesacker or Koscelny.

I get the feeling that even now and with Wenger's distaste for older players, January looms.

I am not one to counsel our board to spend big money. However, apart from the much missed Fabio Borini, currently domiciled in Italy (but you never know), I can't think of one other player I'd rather see come to us. Would £10/£12 million do it. It's a lot of money, I know. Steve Kean wouldn't say so, but the Venky's Board is a different matter. Discuss and debate.

From the by now familiar Luftwaffe tactic, Blackburn got their third.

Pedersen's corner (again) was won by the self same Samba and headed back into the six yard box, where, not for the first time this season, the second ball man was free (think Vokes/Doyle at Wolves among others). Yakubu, for it was he, rose above Taylor to guide his header home. 3-1.

The Swans, however, were not quite done. Brendan Rodgers, having already introduced Routledge for Dyer at half time, now sent on Luke Moore for Gower, and it was these two players who dragged the Swans back into the game.

From a Swans attack down the right, Routledge took on Givet on the outside and his cross shot was beaten down by Robinson, only for Luke Moore to coolly chest control and volley the goal. 3-2, game on.

With half an hour almost to go, the game was now nip and tuck, and despite Sinclair narrowly putting a difficult chance just over the bar, and the same player's drive ricocheting out from a block, we never quite got the break our enterprise maybe deserved.

The confirmation of refereeing silliness came, for me, in the 80th minute, and it was a game changer.

Joe Allen, having previously been booked for a flashy, rather than petulant, ball return to Blackburn after a free kick award, was again booked for a late tug on Hoilett in a quick midfield break. Two soft yellows = one harsh red, and off he went.

To stick the dagger into our hearts, Blackburn almost immediately sent another Garryowen forward again, where Neil Taylor, attempting to drive Vuckevic wider, dangled a foot and the Blackburn man went down. Justifiable penalty, which Yakubu again dispatched, and we were down and out.


Yet another game where the fantastic variety and excitement of the Premier League was on show.

Blackburn Rovers, a long established PL Club and ex title winner, entertained Swansea City, pass and move disciples, newly promoted, and showed that we are always and still learning.I expect the Coaching and Technical staff will spend some rewarding time this week in analysing the details of the game.

In a game that they, Blackburn, were more able to bend to their will, there were still enough positives to help us survive and thrive- but only if we learn.

There were occasions in the match when we could have pushed on to be on top. I've read from some sensible analysis that we are sometimes guilty of failing to push home periods of dominance. That seems fair comment to me.

Similarly, we knew we would be under aerial attack. We must do better there too.

As I've said above, we must also get slier/cuter/ it what you will. We must get the weaker Refs on our side rather than have them give us little return.

And, most of all, we must shed this "little club doing well" mindset for a "we told you so, see" craw-sticker.

We do it to a greater extent at Home. Let's hope as the season goes on we can do it to a greater extent Away.

To anybody who reads this as a whinge or bleat about our Club let me say this. It is, most definitely, NOT. Our next fixture will be at Home to Fulham, and their reputation for football more in our style will make for another fascinating and crucial game.

We are experiencing a fantastic season in the hardest League in the world (according to some). I am proud to be witnessing it, being a small part of it.

Onward, Swansea City.

# I shall be doing a preview/analysis of that upcoming fixture later in the week.