Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Come on you Swans - Wolves, at the Liberty.

I thought for this week's preview we might have something of a change, so a reminder that a more conventional Match Report from our Away game can be found here.
For the more adventurous, please read on.

Seven Slots of Influence, observations on both teams.
Things that may be crucial in Swansea's Home fixture v Wolves, and our Season as well.

1) Dorus de Vries.

Let's get the first thing out of the way. DDV, as a previous keeper we've all been privy to, has had many good, and occasional bad, days at the coal face. He is susceptible to the cross, be it free kick, corner, whatever, sent into the box.

How many of us have not said "For God's sake Dorus, catch it! It's in the six yard box after all". Wayne Hennessey's injury has meant that after a season spent on the bench, DDV is likely to be the keeper facing us this coming week - and that's generally perceived to be to our advantage. Unless the recently recalled Carl Ikeme is preferred, it seems we're lined up to be able to confound the Dutchman's pre-season Wolves preference - and, to confirm, that there's a better Dutch keeper on the block - our own Michel Vorm.

He was always an excellent shot-stopper, and despite a strong stretch of decent performances for us, we Swans have seen particularly by the performance of the aforementioned Vorm, how DDV's weaknesses have been overcome by better ability, with the "Dracula" epithet hard to shake off (hates crosses) in comparison.

The likelihood, of course, is that Dorus has an excellent game, as many returning past performers seem to do, but it's fair to ask the question - what if he doesn't?

As far as the "should we jeer or cheer ?" argument is concerned, I intend to give him polite applause as a past servant, and then consistent ragging for being a current opponent. Enjoy, DDV, because we will if possible, and at your expense too.

2) Rabbit in the Headlights

Another former Swan, the long time coach Terry Connor, was the man presented with the poisoned chalice when the sacking of Manager Mick McCarthy led to a shambles in attempting to replace him, and the Club were left with no other option than to promote from within once their purported "replacement strategy" left them with no alternative.

Whatever, it can't be argued that TC, as he's genuinely fondly known, has appeared more and more an X-Factor contestant rather than a Premiership Manager in each and every post match appearance - culminating finally in his after match words last Sunday, where, he honestly appeared close to tears as he confirmed the pain of relegation at last statistically confirmed.

When the team needed a Richard the Lionheart, what they got was a Larry the Lamb. Although that near lachrymosity was from the heart, I think you know exactly what I mean.

The contrast with our own BR, showcased on his impeccable appearance on last Sunday's MoTD2 could not have been more stark.

For all Connor's impeccable coaching excellence, it takes a little more to manage at the top level, as our Gaffer consistently demonstrates, and to get the modern day PL player on board requires more than just training field expertise.

3) The Cardiff connection

There were those of us of a Swansea persuasion who had more than a little chuckle (perhaps it was a guffaw) when it was reported some weeks back that the Club captain, one Roger Johnson, signed from arch rivals Birmingham City as part of their fire-sale pre season and controversially appointed by MM as the club captain in advance of Karl Henry (a long respected good-pro), turned up for a day's training "the worse for drink". Really, you couldn't make it up.

Think on this.

There was a time in our own earlier season when Steven Caulker, who's had an excellent on loan season with us and has confirmed that he's likely to be one of Tottenham's starting CB's next year (however much we covet him to stay), stepped out of line in one of Swansea's more salubrious night haunts, but this was both quickly and confidently dealt with by our estimable Manager.

Youngster SC was disciplined - in house - and we all moved on, in keeping with the Club's open updates of what had happened, why, and why it would not happen again. We sit her some months later, and that has indeed been the case, evidenced by Caulker's outstanding performances since. A big up to the way it was handled.

Contrast, please, to the ugly repercussions of the Johnson incident, where current first team players have been quoted very recently as "his having let the club and the team down". Undoubtedly, he did. It just seems to me that it's contributed more than it should have in their downfall.

It's as well to remember too that there was a time when we as a Club were reported to be interested in Johnson prior to his signing for the Championship Club up the road in the nation's capital. What a decent piece of missed business that turned out to be, as he appears not only shaky, but something of a Jonah - it's his second successive demotion after all. Where next Roger? Back to East Wales maybe? Well, we can but hope.

4) Karma
I don't want to criticise but......................

Regular readers will know that I'm a convinced believer in the concept of Karma - that feeling you get of being wary of making open predictions of what will be, particularly to your own advantage, when subsequent happenings may come back to haunt you, particularly in light of your own similar misdemeanours to any you may have disadvantaged.

Consequently, I am loath to overly criticise teams worse off than us, for whatever reason, but there comes a time when you can't help but think things ought to have been done differently elsewhere. And that's the feeling I get with Wolves.

Many of us will remember our visit to Molineux on a sunny Autumn day, our first of the season National TV Broadcast in a game that we dominated for 80 of the 90m, and established a 2-0 lead that began to signal to the nation our capabilities and style.

We saw that day the evidence of a fractured season - from the way that the fans turned from snarling a la Blackburn at their own team and management, to their delirious release at being able to come back and claim a share of the spoils against what was in ourselves then, a nascent PL newbie who hadn't quite worked out how to close off games we should have won comfortably.

Needless to say, we have, since, whilst WWFC have stumbled from nastiness and disappointment to resigned acceptance of their fate.

I am not yet foolish enough to think that these points have been the predominant influence in Wolves sad season - but they have played some part. Nor am I immune to the fact that some odd things may happen to us in seasons to come, but, it seems to me, we're on a significantly different road, and thus might avoid some of the pit-falls.

5) Talking Triangles

One of the true delights of this fantastic season has been the style of football and the way that the club conducts its business both on and off the field.

Football in the modern age continues to throw up bizarre examples of Clubs much like our own who still continue to conduct their affairs like a child let loose in a sweet-shop ; gorging themselves on the apparent wealth at their immediate disposal whilst forgetting that it's good to exercise just a little restraint on life's wicked treats like Chocolate, - and Sky Sports/PL wealth distribution.

Classic and numerous examples - Portsmouth, Coventry, Port Vale, even Rangers for goodness sake- are even now not enough to dissuade both the crooked businessmen at the top, or the poor deluded amongst the fans who still see a "White Knight" type figure riding to the rescue.

We, of course, have been there, done that, and have learned from bitter personal experience.  And that business "style" leads on to the way we play our football.

We have won many, deserved, plaudits from all across the Media spectrum for pursuing a trade mark pattern that puts us nearer to Arsenal than Stoke - and I guess that for the vast majority of us that's one hell of a good thing.

I recall travelling to the Potteries earlier this season and I tell you truthfully that the bulk of Potters fans I spoke to that day were almost desperate for Stoke City to play in our style rather than the "hoof-ball menu" that they got on a regular basis, with several even going as far as saying they wouldn't mind relegation back down to the Championship in exchange for a radical change of emphasis.

Be careful what you wish for, some would say, though I think most of us too would rebel if we consistently sent it skyward. As Brian Clough once said " If God wanted Football played like that he'd have put grass in the sky......".

Now I recognise that it wouldn't do for us all to be the same - hey, after last night and Chelsea's triumph even Barcelona, probably the world's best team, have been accused as much as we Swans often are of "not having a Plan B".

This, undoubtedly, is one of those modern phrases that have mass appeal but ultimately mean zilch. Almost guaranteed to make me unreservedly angry.

Here's the explanation - Plan B, for sides like us, is just doing Plan A better. Not SkyBall, but more effective pass and move. It won't always succeed, even the best fail occasionally, but it wins most of the time.

So let's please glorify and enjoy our style, our fashion - because not only is it better, it's fun , too.

6) Finishing it Off
because points mean prizes.

We currently sit in 12th place on 43pts, a position we'd be more than happy to occupy at season's end, but, since each PL placing is worth some £750k, there is a rather large incentive to either retain this position, or better it even, since each slot is almost a tenth of a Gylfi Sigurdsson type player. A big, big incentive.

This, coupled with both the significant bonus structure of each player's individual Contract, and the kudos that a higher League placing would hopefully attract better quality players incoming should guarantee that the performance will certainly not be complacent.

Both Manager and Players have recently commentated on this very point, Brendan Rodgers on National TV on MoTD2 recently, and Nathan Dyer and Joe Allen via the print media.

I'll be honest and admit that I came into the season with limited expectations, determined to both enjoy and experience as much of football at this level as I could, with a feeling that if we stayed above the dreaded "R" statistic, even on the last day, I'd be more than satisfied.

I can't quite pin down the exact moment this changed, there are several games and instances that spring to mind, but I don't feel quite the same now.

Just like the Team, as our performances particularly began to lead to not only results but plaudits from the Football Community, my hopes and expectations rose. Not only was I enjoying every minute of the ride, it turned out that we were getting better and better at handling the expectation and delivering fare that not only pleased us as fans, but was effective too.

I have always been proud of my club - what was even nicer was that the team was representing our City with a degree of style and performance.

What has happened, of course, is that the  ever rising expectation has infected us all - particularly over the last couple of weeks, where, despite the mathematical chance of our still being dragged into the "R" fight it was obvious to most that we were safe.

The next step is to do the very best we can, and, since the decent turnaround from that miserable QPR night, we've put in two excellent performances.

A win against the Wolves would not only see off the shimmering ghosts of failure, but would send us to Old Trafford with a genuine attempt to put a large custard pie into Fergie's face. Oops, there's my ABU bias showing. After that we get to entertain "King Kenny", the Anfield Messiah and his troops to the Lib for our closing act - get another foam-filled face target at the ready. See, I told you it was fun.

7) Who are we ?

One of the most impressive facets of Brendan Rodgers' character is that he's tapped into the pride that's accompanied us on this journey. Hear him talk about living in the area, hear him talk about meeting the people, and you soon realise that this is a man who grew up in an area of NI that has a similar take on place and people as our own.

His natural empathy in bringing his young family to both live and work in the City has shown us his commitment, and him our respect. It works well for both, since this is a Club confirming rather than forging it's identity.

This social aspect of the outsiders perception of Swansea City both as a club and a place should not be underestimated. It has been, and remains, an integral part of our success.

Similarly, our realistic Chairman and Board seem also to agree on the need to develop the Club organically, with a sensible timetable to both extend the Stadium such that it becomes a revenue generator in conjunction with a Training Ground/Youth Facility that makes it easier to develop players from within.

That, in conjunction with playing performance - after all, to be in this League particularly is to be party to the largesse that makes this achievable - and it's paramount.

We are part way on this trip toward achieving a lasting identity - a confirmation, almost, of what Swansea City has always stood for to most of us. Decency, honesty, style......proud to say.........

Onward, Swansea City.

As mentioned above, next Sunday we get to travel to Man Utd's Theatre of Dreams. I shall be making my first visit for many years (26 to be exact), and the Ground has changed a great deal since then. Wouldn't it be great to have an influence on the outcome of the PL Title - you never know - Don Roberto may be relying on us to do him a favour.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

bonnothwsgisgreat read again ,thanks