Sunday, 29 January 2012

Bolton Wdrs v Swansea City, FA Cup 4th Round,Reebok Stadium, 28/1/12



Up for the Cup ?
or
Were we really?

For this tie at the Reebok, the biggest surprise for us Swans was not the changes, since we'd expected rotation, but perhaps the key indication was the number. Ten swaps from the previous game gave us all a clue that Brendan Rodgers had decided that the League, as we'd suspected, was a greater priority than progress in this famous old trophy.

Whether it was quite right for this game will be a matter for reflection and debate, and that's how it should be.

On a personal level, it confirmed what I'd discussed on one of the best BWFC forums, The Wanderer, with some of the Trotters' faithful, that if we were to field a so-called "weaker" side, then their greater squad depth was likely to trump ours. I'll come back to that later. I don't think, after today's game, that we could argue any different.

The sides lined up like this........
Swansea City : 25 Tremmel, 29 Richards, 16 Monk, 02 Williams, 20 Bessone, 26 Agustien, 15 Routledge, 17 McEachran, 27 Gower, 18 Lita, 19 Moore
SUBS : 21 Moreira, 05 Tate, 10 Graham, 12 Dyer, 22 Rangel, 24 Allen, 42 Sigurdsson

Bolton Wdrs : 01 Bogdan, 18 Ricketts, 25 Boyata, 31 Wheater, 39 Riley, 07 Eagles, 10 Petrov, 16 M Davies, 19 Reo-Coker, 21 Pratley, 24 Ngog
Subs : 22 Jaaskelainen, 04 Robinson, 06 Muamba, 09 Tuncay, 14 K Davies, 36 O'Halloran, 15 Mears

...which was illuminating for us to see Alan Tate back in the squad, and to see the two ex-Swans, Darren Pratley and Sam Ricketts both start for the Northeners.

The crowd was a disappointing 11,597, but at one of the better "new" Stadiums in the PL that can be no slur on BWFC who had set an attractive pricing structure for the game that both we, and other clubs, would do well to imitate.

£15 for top flight modern football in this day and age is fair and attractive - our 1000 odd support did not match the tickets sold - a lot of Swans bought for the JackArmy points scheme and didn't travel - but, given the current social and economic climate, no criticism is either offered or intended.

The game kicked off and settled into a rhythm we're familiar with. Despite a possession stat that came out as 50/50 overall, we were reasonably happy to compete on that basis. In terms of chances and opportunities created, Bolton were on top, but hey, this was a Cup Tie at their ground - did we really expect anything different?

The overall game stats will give the clue - whilst the possession turned out to be 50/50, the shots on target, 12-3 (off target was 8-8), and the corner count, 17-4 for Bolton, led you to reflect that it really was a performance from us consistently behind the eight-ball.

Chances in that first half fell initially to Chris Eagles, both from a shot wide and a block from Ash Williams.

Bolton's young Celtic sounding striker, David N'Gog, was then put clear but failed to get round Tremmel, and subsequently put a shot wide too. I should explain.

As is my wont, during the game, I flicked via the net to that esteemed "Wanderer" site, where the on-line , live invective matched that of an SCFC2 , or Planet Swans, debate.

I was amused by the Match stream that linked us not to Sheep, for once, (that was a nice change) but to the linguistic delights of the famed Anglesey tongue twister - Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

Their team forward line particularly was at once everything from Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogon'gog? to
Petrovmaviscokerpratleyeaglesngogandbogdan by the sea to Petrovmaviscokerpratleyeaglesngogandbogdansiliogogogoch.

As they say on the net - pmsl. Respect, guys. Cheered me up no end from the pressure we were getting.

But, wouldn't you just know it, with half time approaching, Swansea, from a break, thought that they might be ahead. Wayne Routledge got it into the net, but was flagged offside. Not allowed.

No matter, 3 minutes later Luke Moore held off David Wheater, and clipped in a cool finish to genuinely take the lead. 1-0, and we Swans took a deep breath.

Of course, it doesn't do to get at all smug in modern football, because before half time, in extra minutes even, Bolton were (deservedly) level, and, worse still, it came from the immutable law of the Ex.

We all know it was bound to be scored by Darren Pratley, still suffering from disillusionment displacement from many Home supporters, and his headed goal from a Petrov ball may give him some breathing space.1-1, and just before the break they were level.

Whatever you think personally, from my point of view he never did anything at our Club to let me down, and his muted celebration showed that he still has respect for where he's been. Well done Prats, good on you mate.

Now buzz off and leave us in peace, please :)

Mark Davies had been prominent for Bolton, as had Petrov - both had tested Tremmel, and for Swansea Luke Moore's good finish had done as much as anything to lift spirits, but I got the feeling that this was a game where we would be pleased to take it back to the Lib.

Maybe it's just me, but I certainly wasn't that confident. You know the feeling I suspect, we've most of us been there. Sometimes you can't quite put your finger on it, it's a gut thing.It certainly was for me, yesterday.So the sides went in with the scores even.

The second half got no better in outcome for the Swans .

Just 10 mins into it Martin Petrov cut outside Jazz Richards and fired in a low shot to the near post, but Tremmel, although he got down well failed to hold the ball. From his stumble and fumble forward, the ball rolled to Chris Eagles who spun neatly and fired a low shot into the far corner.

2-1, and we knew it would be hard from now on.

Swansea's nearest chance in this period came when Leroy Lita hit a post, but at the other end Darren Pratley came close again when a header hit the bar. Reo-Coker too put a shot just wide.

I got the feeling that Bolton had almost settled on seeing the game out. Am I mistaken ? I ask because I've seen us do it, even when there is 20mins or so to go.

Swansea best period came when the subs were introduced, Graham and Dyer on 65m and Allen on 79m. They replaced Lita, Routledge (who had worked hard), and Gower.

For Bolton, Kevin Davies came on for N'Gog, and Muamba for Pratley. Eagles' replacement right at the end by Tuncay was just a Fergie-time thing to run down the clock.

Swansea best chance was from a decent move and chip to Danny Graham, who's header back across goal rebounded from the far post into Bogdan' s hands.

The game played out with City unable to mount enough consistent threat to cause the Bolton cognoscenti too much bother, and with that, at 2-1, we were out of the FA Cup, for another year.

For the Swans I'd been pleased by the graft of Kemy Agustien and Wayne Routledge had worked hard. McEachran had been quiet, and the amazing Ash Williams continues his run of games. He is some player.

Brendan Rodgers placed no blame on Gerhard Tremmel's spill, but was perhaps being honest in saying "we made mistakes" in this radio interview
His comments on the rotation used deserve some thought too. Owen Coyle, quoted at the same source, was very fair as well.

For Bolton, I thought Mark Davies continued to display his recent good form, and Chris Eagles is a player I've always admired. He, along with Petrov, put themselves forward to decent effect. Reo-Coker will always give energy and I think if some Homesters cut Pratley some slack, they'll eventually get a decent squad option.

At the end of the day, debate among us Swans will centre on that squad rotation we talked about beforehand.

We know now that BR went with 10, whereas OC limited himself to 3. As I said then I was worried that this would leave us with an unbalanced , slightly weaker option, and so it turned out to be.

But, as I've also seen very pertinently suggested too, it wasn't the individual weaknesses that were key - it was about the sheer number (and thus weight) of change.

As has been said on at least one of our MB's, this big turnaround made it very difficult to bring our level of performance up to that to which we've become accustomed.

So, no overall beef from me - and since I'm usually vociferous in my support for a trust in what our Manager is trying to do on a personal basis, I've just got to suck up the disappointment of the defeat.

Doesn't stop me being unhappy mind - I SO dislike seeing our Club lose. So it's good luck to Bolton in the rest of the competition but a little less than us in the Barclays Premier League. And, don't forget, that's on Tuesday, against Chelsea for us.

At that Chelsea game, I think we can safely say that the bulk of the team will reflect a line up that's very different to Saturday's.

Vorm will undoubtedly return in goal, and we can expect our first choice back 4 of Rangel, Caulker, Williams and Taylor. Danny G up front for me, with Dyer and Sinclair wide. And the middle 3? Ah, it's ALWAYS the middle that's the key.

My stab is for Leon Britton, since he's our ball-hog : Joe Allen, for his creativity and energy in pressing : and Gylfi Sigurdsson, for clever prompting and, hopefully, shots leading to goals.

So, as I sign off this afternoon it just remains to answer the question I posed at the top of the page. It's this.

As that weary old football cliche says, no, we weren't really "Up for the Cup", for several reasons, but we can go now for that equal, or, some would say bigger and more important task, of "concentrating on the League".

See you Tuesday,

Onward, Swansea City.


# Completely pointless FACTS. Did you know that Patrice Evra (Man Utd) is one of 25 children? But, in the PL, one other player can go better than that. Alex Dimitri Song Billong (Arsenal) is one of 28 children. BIG families.It must have been absolute chaos when one of the children started to cry

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Bolton Wdrs v Swansea City,Reebok Stadium,28/1/02. Swansea City v Chelsea, Liberty Stadium, 31/1/02.Match previews.


Baggy Trousers.

Suggs will tell you, because he's a Chelsea fan, and Madness were always students of the bizarre, that when you're squatting on the Stamford bridge touchline under Roman's unforgiving gaze, it's as well to look as if you know what you're doing.

And their current Manager, Andre Villas Boas, from a long line of top-notch top-money talent at least looks the part.

Think on this.

There comes a stage in every man's life when both he, and most other people, recognize that the view of his legs may have been a great deal more pleasant some years ago. Before, in fact, his fast approaching (or,being kind, lately arrived at) Middle years.

I recently viewed a picture in a photo album that showed me, as a youth, on Port Eynon beach, in a rather snazzy set of tartan short swim trunks. It was on an early date with my eventually-to-become wife, and, looking at that photo now it was obvious I was never going to become some buff Charles Atlas type figure, but, even so, it's not a figure that I'm the least ashamed of.

In contrast, the last time I saw Owen Coyle, Bolton's once-not-so-long-ago well regarded Manager, he did remind me NOT to get snapped on the Gower nowadays without my Chinos, especially at this time of my life, lest I give people the appearance of Les Dawson on Justin Bieber's legs.

You know what I mean - for goodness sake Man, put some trousers on!

I know, I know, - it has little to do with a football Club's abilities on the field - it's just that I'm a little more comfortable seeing Brendan Rodgers on the sidelines, looking vaguely similar to a Mourinho/AVB type Gaffer in smart casual robe, than some Herbert Chapman-esque type figure, shorts and all, who looks as if he's about to go for a quick fag behind the bike sheds, as some did, in the past.

Forgive me if I'm being unfair - I'm certain that Coyle is as much of a "bright young Manager" type as our own Brendan, or Andre for that matter, it's just that image, in the modern age, reflects reality, and as Marshall McLuhan once said.. "the medium IS the message.

To labour the Trouser metaphor, one thing we won't want to do this weekend, when we go to fellow PL club Bolton in the FA Cup 4th round tie, is to be caught with our pants down. Ouch. (All right, no more, I'll get my coat).

We come off a painful 2-0 loss to a buoyant Sunderland in a game where the frustrating result left us hoping for a lesson-learned performance/s to come. First up, at the Reebok, then back home to the Lib.

Squad rotation will, not surprisingly, play a part.

It's been interesting to listen to and then watch Brendan Rodgers put this rotation to good use, particularly over the demanding Christmas period of games, and it can be argued that the side's first Away win at Villa was crucial both in the ongoing fight for PL stability, and the Manager's attempt to progress in the unfolding FA Cup.

It can also be advanced that it has contributed as well to the use of the lesser utilized squad players, this being another important tool in further bonding squad unity, and thus strengthening what BR feels is a crucial issue of Squad Morale. Players have said, individually, how it has helped them feel a vital part of this brilliant journey we're on.

What we've seen as fans for ourselves is a gradual improvement in performance levels, (think Man Utd to Tottenham to Arsenal), albeit it with sometimes the wrong result (Sunderland,most recently).

So that leads us to the 2 upcoming games as I've said.

We've been drawn Away to Bolton in the Cup Tie, and whilst we'd all have been happier and more confident at The Lib, it remains a game that I, along with many Swans fans, think we can win.

Let's look in more detail at Bolton, a Club that like us came up initially via the play-offs, but over the years since then has proved under various Managers that it's both possible to stay in this Division, and create a modern identity that matches an historic past.

Whilst being managed by the still well regarded "Big Sam" Allardyce, the side was always considered a model from the Stoke City mould - get it long and forward, compete for the second ball/knockdown, battle like blazes (bruises included for free), and make the game seem as hard as the (almost always) inclement weather. In other words, NO club, top 4 particularly, ever came away from the Reebok with a pleasurable report, either to, or from, Bolton
Wanderers.

The Home crowd loved it, the Away fans less so. Whilst they've since gone on to ostensibly develop more esoteric tendencies, given their League start this year, I suspect that many Trotters will believe that getting further progress this year can, and does, show a discernible return to those values of "bash and boss".

This can be seen from their very recent besting of Liverpool, 3-1, last Saturday evening, despite what the stats tell us.

In that game, the swarming MF press through Mark Davies, Nigel Reo-Coker, and the wide momentum provided by Chris Eagles and Martin Petrov, led directly to the first two goals.

Charlie Adam and Steven Gerrard, for Liverpool, were stymied by sheer weight of numbers, and their side suffered an uncomfortable period where they were simply taken out of the equation by a hard tackling, bothersome, nuisance of a presence from a side determined to give an up-yours to a supposedly more talented XI.

Liverpool's 4-2-3-1 line up was bullied by Bolton's 4-1-4-1, with N'Gog (ex-Liverpool) leading the line, and the aforementioned 4 anchored by Fabrice Muamba, in an excellent impersonation of how Claude Makelele gave his name to a holding, defensive, MF position.

At the back, Adam Bogdan continued to deputize for the ageless excellence of Jussi Jaaskelainen in goal, with a solid, but vulnerable, back 4.

That back 4 was made up of Gretar Steinsson at RB with old friend Sam Ricketts, fit again and playing well at LB. The CB's were the error prone Zat Knight, strong in the air but vulnerable to pace, and David Wheater- the England U-21 player who came from Middlesbrough and is expected to replace the recently departed Gary Cahill, reluctantly sold to Chelsea as he was out of contract in the summer.

In that very good win v Liverpool, it was interesting to see Mark Davies further confirm his top reputation as a skillful, box to box influential MF'er and play very similarly to the injured American Stuart Holden, still out as a result of a Johnny Evans tackle in a League game against Man Utd last March. He, Holden, has still to recover. Evans was sent off, and was suspended for three games.

This, along with the unfortunate foot injury sustained by Chung-Yong Lee has generally been recognized as being a major reason for Bolton's midfield struggles this season, but against Liverpool, Reo-Coker and Mark Davies, as well as each scoring to put Bolton 2-0 up, along with Eagles' effective through-field press and play, allowed them to get the key tactical initiative in the game.

Incidentally, having mentioned an ex-Swan in Sam Ricketts, there is also, of course, the presence at the Club of another, Darren Pratley, but it's equally fair to say that he is not flavour-of-the-month with their fans. Possibly the Home crowd thought they were getting a direct replacement for Stuart Holden, who's skill level is in advance of Prats, and who's running capacity is as strong as Prats' undoubted stamina-based game.

Notwithstanding DP's fabulous clincher v Forest last year and his passionate performances for us, Holden is missed for this sort of goal.

The depth beyond the first XI confirms that this is a strong PL Club, so Ill just list the whole of them here...

1 Adam Bogdan GK, 2 Gretar Rafn Steinsson DF, 3 Marcos Alonso DF, 4 Paul Robinson DF, 6 Fabrice Muamba MF, 7 Chris Eagles, 8 Stuart Holden MF, 9 Tuncay Sanli STr, 10 Martin Petrov MF, 11 Ricardo Gardner MF, 12 Zat Knight DF, 14 Kevin Davies STr, 15 Tyrone Mears DF, 16 Mark Davies MF, 17 Ivan Klasnic STr, 18 Samuel Ricketts DF, 19 Nigel Reo-Coker MF, 20 Robbie Blake STr, 21 Darren Pratley MF, 22 Jussi Jaaskelainen GK, 23 Sean Davis MF, 24 David Ngog STr, 25 Dedryck Boyata(on loan from Man C ) DF, 26 Rob Lainton GK, 27 Chung-Yong Lee MF, 28 Gael Kakuta(on loan from Chelsea, 31 David Wheater DF, 36 Michael O'Halloran STr, 37 Joshua Vela MF, 39 Joe Riley DF, 43 Jay Lynch GK.

There are some well known and rated players there, highlighted for me by Tuncay Sanli, the ever skillful Turk and Kevin Davies, the seemingly everlasting bruising forward. Of late, Davies has been left out (once unthinkable at Bolton), but that has seen David N'Gog, the young fresh recruit from Liverpool begin to replicate his alleged talent where, at Clairefontaine, a typical description of him was as a "young Thierry Henry" type.

That may be taking things TOO far, but you see what I mean.

Since I've mentioned both Gaffers, here's a point to chew upon.

Don't forget that Owen Coyle, who was recruited from near neighbors Burnley, controversially, mid way through that Club's recent Premiership debut season, has generally had the sort of press that our own much revered BR gets currently. You know what I mean- "bright young manager", "future of the British game", etc, etc.

Those accolades, however, for OC have been recently tested. Bolton's Home PL record reads W2,D1,L8 and the fans have been grumbling and mumbling. Not, of course, in the "Steve Kean-Out" type of pelters meted out at Blackburn, but uncomfortable, for sure. I'm not sure this "means" any thing other than to remind me of the fickle nature of some football fans.

Does make you think, though, doesn't it?

The key to this game will be, surely, the respective Managers' willingness to commit to a win as much as their needs to balance the upcoming PL games just 3 and 4 days later. For Bolton that means facing Arsenal at Home on Wednesday, whilst we go a day earlier when Chelsea come to the Liberty.

That leads me to believe that BR will go with a bigger switch around than OC in terms of personnel, but tactically I expect no different shape for us other than perhaps a balance that leans toward 2 of the main 3 MF'ers being of a defensive rather than attacking bent. Similarly, I'd not be surprised to see Gerhard Tremmel go between the sticks.

As has been said about defensive capability, we will need a heart so big it could crush this town , because , if not, even walls fall down.

Interesting times. Let's have a quick glance at the following League game then.

As we've all come to recognize over the last few years at Stamford Bridge, for the Manager particularly, success doesn't necessarily lead to longevity. The wants and needs (some would say whims and fancies) of your Modern Russian Oligarch are quite difficult to predict.

AVB's immediate predecessor, Carlo Ancelotti, can certainly testify to that. The urbane, eternally classy Italian was dismissed just a year after winning the Double of PL and FA Cup, for the failure to either replicate or better that achievement by finishing Second. No time for losers, eh?

In their most recent "disappointing" 0-0 Away draw at Norwich - personally I thought it was a good point- it was enlightening to read of Grant Holt's assertion that with Drogba away at the ACN, Norwich, tactically, were content to let them cross the ball. The plan was "to keep tight, to show them wide".

He was surely hinting that Paul Lambert, a Manager who will alter tactics within a game for the right end result, had deemed that a front end that included Sturridge and Torres were far more dangerous when allowed to play through the middle. From the result, and reports and sights of the game I've had, it seems to have worked.

You don't need my pen pictures of either the 2 mentioned above, along with Juan Mata, Florent Malouda, Frank Lampard et al to know that most all of the players in the Squad, are outrageously gifted footballers.

AVB, this year's boss has, however, not been QUITE able to produce a blend that has visibly shown the blazing attacking success that both their fans and Russian Owner demand. Let's just take the pleasure involved at glancing at some of the blistering talent we're getting to see this year.

This is the full squad.

1 Petr Cech, 2 Branislav Ivanovic, 3 Ashley Cole, 4 David Luiz, 5 Michael Essien, 6 Oriol Romeu, 7 Ramires, 8 Frank Lampard, 9 Fernando Torres, 10 Juan Mata, 11 Didier Drogba, 12 Mikel, 15 Florent Malouda, 16 Raul Meireles, 17 Jose Bosingwa, 18 Romelu Lukaku, 19 Paulo Ferreira, 20 Josh McEachran, 21 Salomon Kalou, 22 Ross Turnbull, 23 Daniel Sturridge, 24 Gary Cahill, 26 John Terry ,33 Alex, 34 Ryan Bertrand, 40 Henrique Hilario

The fixtures in the side are likely to be these.

Petr Cech has a legitimate claim to be one of the PL's best ever goalkeepers although some will claim he never really got back to his best subsequent to being kicked in the head by then Reading's Steve Hunt. Still wears a protective custom built head guard to protect a bone weakness. Still brilliant.

England's Ashley Cole could say the same about the LB position, which he's made his own. Similarly, the ever controversial John Terry at CB. Is it fair to say though that one of AVB's issues is to judge just when these Grade 1 players have just a teensy-weensy bit "turned the career corner" as it were, and to plan, and integrate, their successors?

In Terry's case, one could argue that David Luiz, the Brazilian, and England's Gary Cahill were exactly that sort of purchase. Ryan Bertrand - the U-21 full back covers Cole, but Ashley still plays 95% of the time, and is still as strong defensively as he's good at breaking forward for width.

Neither spare keeper, Hilario or Turnbull, will figure in any long term change in goal. They are cover, no more.

RB is a problem position never quite solved. Jose Bosingwa, the Portugese flier and current occupant, gives excellent pace and width going forward, but can be defensively unsound. In a game they want to lock up, Branislav Ivanovic, the Serb, is their go-to man, but then he lacks the creativity they demand in the attacking third.

Nowadays, Paulo Ferreira, an early Mou-era signing, is no more than emergency cover. Alex has been frozen out and will soon depart.

In MF, there's a wealth of talent, but no less heated debate.

Since Caude Makelele's retirement, they've been looking for a "Makelele-type" to fill the "Makelele-role". Initially, Mikel Jon Obi, the Nigerian was groomed and persisted with, but they've eventually become frustrated by his penchant for slowing play down too much, and Oriel Romeu, snaffled on loan from Barcelona, seems to fit the bill better, and Raul Meireles, a late pick up from Liverpool, can sit deep either with Romeu, or instead and as well.

Lampard is currently out with a slight muscle tear, so we may get to see the magnificent Michael Essien, but this sort of "superior Model Kemy Agustien" has only recently returned from another long, debilitating injury. If he can get back to his best, he is some player.

They also have the 18yr old man-boy Romelu Lukaku, signed from Anderlecht, a sort of Didier Drobga-light, and a wonderful future talent.

Florent Malouda continues to frustrate the Bridge faithful, but Daniel Sturridge is obviously benefitting from last year's loan to Bolton, and seems to have grown from boy to man with a concomitant upturn in performance and effectiveness. Again, huge skill, huge talent.

Last to look at in MF, there's the terrific Juan Mata. With a skill set that's almost a match for his countryman David Silva at Citeh, he, along with Silva's team mate Sergio Aguero, have surely been the top 3 recent imports to the PL. This continuing investment in the Premier League is one of the things, surely, that attracts such interest, and makes every member club fight so hard not to be "At the end of the Line", as it were, and to fight for one more season.

That's my bias, I know, and ignores the defensive solidity also required in this League, but then I'm a sucker for the pass and dribble, as opposed to the mark and tackle.

The legs of the side (and more, much more) this year have come from Ramires, a sort of Sandro (of Tottenham) with a bit more Brazilian attitude. After a rough PL intro, he has grown into both fan and Managerial favour.

At the front end of the pitch, they will miss the still rampant Didier Drogba, and the frustrating Salomon Kalou, both at the African Cup of Nations.

So Fernando Torres will likely lead the line. We all know the trials and tribulations this world class striker has, and still continues, to have, in integrating fully and getting back to his Liverpool era form and substance. He still remains for me my favorite "outfield opposition player" for some sublime past moments, and I wish him well in his quest to rediscover that form - just NOT against us, NOT this week.

Our very own Josh McEachran, on loan to us from them, is a part of this squad too, and although he will not be allowed to play for us against his parent club, it should tell us something about how far we've come to be able to attract that caliber of player to come to us for the rest of the season.

As I've hinted earlier, my feeling is that given the current form of both teams, we are certainly capable of getting a positive result - from both this, and the previous game. It'll all come down to tactics, and performance.

So what, ultimately, can we look forward to?

Well, what we can be certain of, because it's what we've become used to, is a 100% commitment from the whole of the squad. I'm certainly not skilled enough to predict specific lines-up, but I do believe that BR and staff will again rotate, hopefully, to equal, satisfying extent.

It will of course be difficult both at the Reebok, and at the Liberty. I think, if we see a full-on performance from the mixture of players chosen, then the bulk of our support will trust to their ability to get satisfactory results.

What though, would constitute for us, satisfactory results?

On a personal level, I'd take 2 draws. That way we'd get another bite at the cherry of the FA Cup, at Home, which would both be a bonus financially and a chance to progress, with a further point in the League important in our quest to stay a PL Club.

That way too we'd get some more chances to see BR strut his stuff alongside the AVB's of this world, and, who knows, maybe one day the Special One himself. And what of him, Mourinho, I hear you ask ?

Well, he's currently going through what's kindly described as a Bumpy Period at Real Madrid. Yes,that's right, Real Madrid. Read it again. It really is that good.

This is a time in our history where we can legitimately link our current side and current Manager in a piece that realistically describes the level that we've got ourselves into.

Doncha' just LOVE it.

Onward, Swansea City.

#
Celebrity Fan Alert
For Bolton = Amir Khan, Vernon Kay, Paddy McGuinness
For Chelsea = Suggs, Tim Lovejoy, David Baddiel, Sir Richard Attenborough and a whole lot more.......



Sunday, 22 January 2012

Sunderland v Swansea City, Stadium of Light, 21/1/12.Match Report.


Just can't get enough

When one is doing the prep work for an upcoming fixture prior to that game being played, there always comes a time when you go to save what you've written, and, of course, the laptop asks you for a name.

It's always tempting to give it something that's reflects your current successful streak - always knowing that this could come back to splat you with a great big dollop of mud in your eye or, worse still, a great big Omelette's worth of egg on your face.

Such was the case on Saturday, when BR took the flying Swans to a fixture at Sunderland's resurgent Estadio da Luiz, albeit the North East version, not its Potugeezer equivalent. The upturn in spirit and hope at SAFC's home has mirrored our own good results of late, and had led us to expect no more than what we got - a bruising, difficult encounter against an established Premier League side.

That the result turned out as it did will have given both sets of fans a glimpse of what's likely to be the case for the rest of the season, if both squads stay much as they are.

So, as I put this little piece of prep to bed on Friday evening, the butterflies in my stomach dictated that I was far from confident of any outcome other than that the game had always promised to be competitive, if nothing else.

Which is as it should be. The truth, of course, is that even if some of this report was thought about before hand, it's only now, after the game, that it's getting written down.

It was certainly a game to fascinate.

As it turned out, both Managers selected what could be argued were their full strength sides, with MoN able to select the first choice FB's in Bardsley and Richardson, and BR staying with last week's second half lineup v Arsenal, with Sigurdsson retaining his place above Agustien in the middle.

All prior debates to one side, the teams lined up as follows.........

Swansea City
Vorm, Rangel, Caulker, Taylor, Williams, Dyer, Sinclair, Britton, Allen, Sigurdsson, Graham
Swans bench: Tremmel, Monk, Richards, Agustien, McEachran, Routledge, Moore.

Sunderland AFC
Mignolet, Bardsley, O'Shea, Brown, Richardson, Larsson, Cattermole, Vaughan, McClean, Sessegnon, Bendtner
Sunderland bench: Westwood, Meyler, El Mohamady, Ji, Wickham, Turner, Gardner


The game opened as it was destined to proceed - Swansea got the bulk of possession and thus control, but Sunderland are an experienced and cute PL side who've been around for a while - and thus they were happy to concede on that basis, as long as they didn't concede the ultimate embarrassment, that of a goal.

When we look back on both the chances created and the flow of the game overall, this was, without a doubt, a really painful lesson. The trick will come when we look back and consider "did we learn from it?".

Only time will tell, but we'll get to see it.

Back to the game.

Let's just go progressively through the opportunities that gave the impression that the Swans would come out better than they did.

There were, in fact I'd suggest, two key moments when the game shifted on its axis and the result was shaped to be what it was, as opposed to what it could have been. That both involved the same player will be highlighted no doubt, but as BR will point out- hey, we're ALL in this , together.

Early on, Sigurdsson played Dyer free, advancing into the box, but from a brave last gasp Brown tackle, the threat was blocked. When Sunderland went forward, McLean put in a great cross that Larsson volleyed onto the base of the post and out.

In the 10th minute, Nicklas Bendtner got an accidental foot to the face in a challenge, and was unfortunate enough to be unable to continue, being replaced by Conor Wickham, and this immediately presaged an influential passage of play, as hinted.

The first of those two key moments came when Sigurdsson again played Dyer free on the right, and his excellent cross was deflected across goal to arrive at Scott Sinclair's feet some 4 yds out and with the only decision to be made whether he should go right or left foot, to score.

He went left (yes, I know, he should probably have gone right in retrospect). and ballooned his strike over the bar. Ouch, it hurt us all, Scott included, and you KNOW what happened next, because it does, regularly in football.

Sunderland immediately attacked down the left and from a neat one two between McLean and Sessegnon, got the Benin man free in the box approaching goal from some 8 yds out. His exquisite first time finish into the top opposite corner of Vorm's net was a worthy contender for goal of the day thus far. Gardener, later in the game, may have something to say about that.

1-0, and somewhat stunned, the whole first half continued to unfold as had this early period - Swansea, from comfortable control of the ball, were excellent up until the final third, but were repeatedly denied by SAFC's dogged and determined repelling of these attacks, coupled with their willingness to break forward when they could.

It had that familiar fear for us Swans when you know you're on top, but don't know quite enough whether you'll get the reward you feel you deserve, ie, a goal back.

There's a point to be made here. I write this blog as a Swansea City fan, so my bias is always going to be prominent, but let's also be realistic. Both Managers, going in at half time to address their teams will have said no different than what we ALL saw.

Swansea had been predominantly on top throughout, and had they turned that superiority into an end result, would have been in front. That this was confirmed by various Sky Sports and radio pundits was just affirmation of the reality.

The second half, wouldn't you just know, was not so very different.

It confirmed what we'd seen before half time. Although City were again dominant, MoN had briefed his team to be both resilient and effective, which is what they were.

Gylfi Sigurdsson had provided many moments of promise, and his free kicks were getting nearer, particularly one where Mignolet beat away a direct hit and where a follow up might have payed dividends.

The continuing feeling about the half was the Home crowd's almost incessant urging of their team to compete more, which reflected City's almost constant pressing, passing and possession, all done urgently, with not quite the finishing etiquette that their on-top demeanor deserved.

Whilst Swansea pressed forward it was no surprise that they would sometimes be under pressure to concede on a break.

Sunderland created some chances thus, and Sessegnon headed wide, and was also frustrated from his flick on to Wickham, denied by Vorm.

Their clearest chance though fell to Wickham, who, from a challenging duel with Williams and Caulker, slashed a shot wide when easier to score.

So., let's go to the other key moment. Again, as is the case when you think about fate, it involved Scott Sinclair.

Having been shifted inside by BR when Josh McEachran made his debut in replacement of Gylfi Sigurdsson, and Wayne Routledge's introduction on the left for Britton, he made great progress when played free, and advanced in the inside right channel to hit a screamer that just curved from his cut across the ball to fizz just a yard wide with Mignolet beaten.

Think back to the first half, when from SS's near miss, Sunderland broke away to take the lead. Oh my word, as Ray Wilkins is wont to say, they did it again.

From an attack down the left, the influential Sessegnon turned it inside across field to Craig Gardener, on as a sub for Vaughn. He took one touch, chested, and hit a dipping rasper from 30yds that gave Vorm no chance. Another bloody "worldy". Hoo, hah, 2-0.

That he kept such good control over the swirling wind was evidenced by the blowing of chip wrappers and other detritus around the players in the build up, and the shot curved and swerved over our blameless keeper to leave him helpless.

With just 5 mins to go, it put the cap on a rewarding performance for the Mackems, and an ultimately hugely frustrating one for us.That, sometimes, is football all over. Ouch.

So, where do we go from here? This, for what it's worth, is my assessment.

# spoiler alert #.........this is a glass half-full leaning.

I don't intend to ignore the side when the performance has been poor and they've struggled through no fault other than their own. When an outcome is the blatant fault of nobody but ourselves, we can have a case for admonishment.

However, nor do I intend to ignore the side when they've played well, as today, and struggled for a variety of reasons.There was effort, skill and competitive endeavor throughout. There was admirable pride in performance as well, and it's not just blind loyalty that leads me to say this. Talk to many Sunderland supporters, which I have, and neutrals as well, which I'm currently doing, and both will confirm we were one of the better sides seen at their Home venue this year.

The Premier League season is played over 38 games and any team's final position is likely to be an accurate reflection of it's performances over that whole rather than specific games, whether they've been of the "one off brilliant" type, or the "we are doomed" viewpoint. Hold fast, me hearties.

Perspective, as I've said before, is all.

This was a performance where the sum of the parts didn't quite give us the whole. Despite a possession stat of 67% to 33% away from home, we didn't do anything, results wise, but get beat, and thus statistically at least, we got nothing.

However,consider this

The Analysis carried out this week will also show some telling factors, and this is where the learning we've seen from games like Wolves Away, and Tottenham and Arsenal at Home will hopefully again bear fruit . All those examples show that we do bounce back from frustrations and disappointments to decent effect.

Yesterday, we were playing a side that's a PL resident, with a recently appointed top-flight manager who has dragged their recent performances to something approaching NE satisfaction.

We lost to a side who scored two "worldies".

We introduced for his first full start Gylfi Sigurdsson, an £8m creative midfielder, and Josh McEachran, a priceless gem of the English game.

The guy copping the flak for "misses" is the same guy whose 27 goals and play off hat-trick took us to this division - Scott Sinclair. Cut him some slack you mindless Internet twonks. We are managed by one of the brightest young Managers in the British game. Have a listen.

Despite an abundance of possession, 2 top class finishes saw us off, and in the end it turned out to be a decent test at a decent Club, albeit it one we couldn't quite meet..

We are at home, to Chelsea, next, and then have another sixteen games to confirm our position in the hardest League in the world. Coupled with that next Saturday we travel to Bolton to meet our fellow Premier League team in the 4th Round of the F.A. Cup.

I don't care what anybody says, if we can't enjoy THAT, we really do deserve to cop all we get.

Cheer up, you mutha's.....

Onward, Swansea City.


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Get a SAFC perspective from Colin Randall's first class salutsunderland, one of the best of their sites.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Sunderland v Swansea City. Match preview.


Shipbuilding.

The North East is famous for many things, and the down to earth culture of the region has a familiarity for us Swans in terms of the life led over recent years.

In fact, since the long gone days of full employment, both regions have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous and lazy Metropolitan disregard, both in real life and the Fantasyland that is Premier League football.

The similarities are manifest - from the run down and ignored loss of manufacturing industry, to the oft-repeated bad mouthing of the respective football teams representing our proud and similar areas. So, what's new there? Not much, I suggest.

Whilst it's fair to categorize City's history in football terms as being a generally lower League existence, it's just wrong to forget that Sunderland FC were once known as "the Bank of England Club".

And whilst Swansea was once "Copperopolis", our opponents were feted for their maritime status, and.... "Sunderland was once dubbed 'the largest shipbuilding town in the world', and employed a wide variety of shipyard workers...."

The point of this brief wander down History's paths isn't to elicit any thing other than a respective admiration for each other's achievements over the years. There is a great deal of pride, justifiable, in each of the regions, and it's no bad thing to approach this fixture with a touch of humility, lest both we, and they, start to believe the hype attached to our recent, decent results.

Following our besting of a very good Arsenal side last Sunday, BR has been sure to remind us all not to get carried away too far too soon, and we fans and our playing squad will need to keep in mind Sunderland's admirable progression since that cute appointment of Martin O'Neill to replace the discarded Steve Bruce, and the consequent upturn in their results.

MoN has now been in charge for 8 games, and they went W4 D1 L3, the defeats being Away at Chelsea and Tottenham (both 1-0's) and a 2-1 loss at Wolves in his first game. The wins include a hugely impressive 1-0 last-gasper at Home to Man City, where Dong-won Ji's 94th minute winner sent the raucous fans into delirium.

MoN has always had a reputation of being an excellent man manager and motivator, and his "kicks every ball" animated touchline antics are always worth a watch on their own merit, but it's obvious that his new era is suiting both fans and players (not to mention Ownership), with a noticeable uplift not only in results, but in a concomitant rise in atmosphere at the occasionally daunting Stadium of Light.

Immediately picked up and praised by the discerning fans, his use of the whole squad, including players seemingly frozen out under Bruce, has immediately lifted the spirit and morale of the Club. Thus, we are facing a dangerous and revitalized opponent, a squad packed with talent, experience and plenty of PL nous.

They have 3 quality GK's in Simon Mignolet, Craig Gordon and Kieran Westwood. Gordon, the Scottish International, was signed from Hearts for £9m in 2007 but suffered a knee injury pre-season that's still keeping him out, and his first choice status is no longer guaranteed. Kieran Westwood is the ex-Coventry shot stopper who has held us at bay for his previous club and came as a free agent signing this year. Hugely experienced, a fine custodian.

Currently the No1 is Simon Mignolet, a young Belgian International considered one of that country's top talents. He has vied with Gordon for the No1 spot, and has played of late with a face-mask, protecting a broken cheek bone, earning the Manager's respect and trust.

Defenders at FB, and the first 2 ex-Man Utd personnel, are Phil Bardsley, the marauding RB with a cracking shot, and on the LB side Kieran Richardson, the multi-talented but wayward sometime MF'er or Forward. He can't help being the cousin of the ex-BB gob-artist Charlie (remember her?).

Both go forward well but the lack of FB cover has seen MF'ers used instead when either is injured.

CB's are chosen from John O'Shea and Wes Brown, the vastly experienced ex Man Utd pair who have a wealth of PL games, along with Michael Turner, once of Hull City and Titus Bramble,(ex Newcastle, Wigan etc), currently ensconced in an alleged off field assault charge. All are strong in the air and physically robust.

Cover is provided by Louis Lang and John Egan, two Academy graduates. Matthew Kilgallon, ex-Leeds, has been re-integrated of late, and he's shown that his is a talent that remains, despite a rocky period.

There is real depth in MF, with players of differing, complementary talent.

First to highlight is Seb Larsson, the free kick specialist who is as good a player in real life as his many Fantasy Football enthusiasts make out. Part of last year's Birmingham City firesale, he, along with Craig Gardener, (who recently showed his FK prowess too at Wigan's expense in the 4-1 away win), is not afraid to shoot.

Both generally play on the right, where they also have the option of Ahmed Elmohamady, the twisting Egyptian International winger. Very tricky, very skillful.

On the left side, MoN has gone of late with Jack Colback, a wonderfully talented red-haired technical grafter, a Youth team graduate whose value was recognized immediately by MoN with a new long term contract, and James McLean, a goalscoring winger from Derry City who had been scoring for fun in the Reserves, and has continued in the same vein since being introduced by O'Neil to first team action. He is good in the air, too.

Centrally in MF we will get to see no doubt, and feel also, the crunching Lee Cattermole. Building some physical notoriety with the card-issuing fraternity (Refs), he does like to make a tackle, some would say, or "leave a foot in". I couldn't possibly comment, for fear of litigation.

His graft is complemented by the guile of Wales' own David Vaughn, and his passing skills have been utilized more by O'Neill than was the case with Bruce. They also have available Jordan Cook, an Academy grad, and David Meyler, ex Cork City. Cook is ostensibly a winger, whilst Meyler is more of a worker-bee type.

Just forward, sometimes as a Striker, sometimes as a Playmaker, we'll see the intriguing Stephane Sessegnon. A very talented dribbler, with a work ethic to match his skillset, he was a £6m buy from PSG. The Benin forward was a star at the African Cup of Nations both in 2008 and 2010 and went on to have great success in Ligue1 with both Le Mans and PSG as he moved upward. An import last season, he is building a growing reputation as a dangerous opponent and is a local fans favourite, with good reason.

Up front they are not short of choice either.

The ultimately self-confident Nicklas Bendtner, on a season long loan from Arsenal, we have seen veer from the sublime to the ridiculous. Equally capable of fighting with his own team mates or scoring a "worldy", as Merse would have it, his Danish Zillionaire ex-Girl friend, a Royal Family member, is no doubt as well treated as his new flickering-flame. Either would be sure to light up the Stadium when watching him. He has, don't forget, a lot of International caps with Denmark. Never a dull moment.

Signed from Ipswich last year for a reported £10m, Conor Wickham, the 18yr old Englishman, has been capped at every age group, and his reputation as one of English football's best young talents meant he was coveted by Liverpool and others before making his move to the North East. He made his debut for Ipswich as a 16yr old, and although he is still growing into his undoubted talent, seems to be settling into this harsh division remarkably well for one so young.

The other 4 front men in the first team squad are Frazer Campbell, Dong-won Ji, Ryan Noble and Oumare Tounkara. Campbell, ex Man Utd again (and a successful loanee at Hull) was Steve Bruce's first signing for the Wearsiders, but after a horrific 2010/11, where he missed almost a full season due to a knee injury, he has yet to reintegrate fully.

Ji, a South Korean international, will be forever feted for scoring that remarkable late winner v Citeh when the Stadium rocked. Striker Ryan Noble is a product of the club's Academy and was the top scorer for their Reserves last year, and is now at Derby on loan. Tounkara is a former triallist from Sedan in Ligue2, and has yet to make an impact.

All in all, a squad with depth, if a little unbalanced, which is something that MoN will seek to remedy over his tenure. England's once "Bank of England" club is not short of a few bob.

Ellis Short, their American supremo (and Chairman since taking over from the popular Niall Quinn- still employed as an executive) - has shown in the past that he's prepared to lay out big money in the lavish modern style.

He will, no doubt, continue to so do.

Whatever, we can expect a physically imposing, raucously supported challenge, at a ground where the wind whips in from the North Sea.

Not, I would suggest, a game where BR will want to start with a side dissimilar to the one that started the thrilling win against Arsenal. The languid skills of the recently joined Josh McEachran may be kept for either a more suitable Home fixture or a Bench role this week.

Our defence as we've said before is a stable, reliable unit, and again I'd be majorly surprised to see any change there. The debate, this week as last, will centre on the middle 3.

Having started with the physicality of Kemy Agustien allied to the ball retention of Leon Britton and the creative pressing of Joe Allen, BR switched at half time to the Playmaking creativity of Gylfi Sigurdsson as a direct replacement for our Dutch bruiser. Dare I suggest an as-we-were again for this week.

Up front, both wingers were effective and the indefatigable Danny Graham is playing so well it's hard to rotate even.

You'll guess, from what I've said, that my vote's for a repeat, for what it's worth.

I shall leave any further speculation on our make-up to all who contribute to the Club's GB's and MB's.

It's always fascinating to see how we all put the side together but we can at least all be assured that in Brendan and his team we will have total commitment from our beloved Swans.

It only remains to say, the best of luck and.....

Onward, Swansea City.


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Very decent article/interview with SCFC2's own Jim White on one of the best Sunderland AFC fansites, Colin Randall's http://salutsunderland.com .Recommended.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Swansea City v Arsenal. Liberty Stadium.15 1 12. Match Report

Swans will tear us apart
or
It's all a case of Geometry.

When Ian Curtis of Joy Division left us some years back, he left us a legacy, and a lasting one, at that. Not only was that particular piece a song that endures along with other modern classics, it came to represent, for us, a way of playing, even, dare we think it, a lifestyle.

That the East Stand choral JackArmy used it again on Sunday, was no more or less appropriate than that it got the other, more reticent, parts of the ground to want to take part too, which they did, to increasingly better effect.

That was just part of Sunday's experience which got me thinking on just Why is "Live" Football so much better than the TV? That, coupled with later the excellent Lee Dixon's appreciation of Swansea's angular, geometric phases, with a particular emphasis on the triangles.

I have a feeling that most people reading this will prefer "Live" games to the immaculately presented, efficiently edited highlights package that we get from MOTD and the "Championship Show", both of which we get from the Beeb. Similarly, "Goals on Sunday" from ITV and even "Football First" from Sky suffer in comparison to actual attendance at a match. Whatever your club, whatever your level, it just is not the same.

No shame there, and I certainly am not aiming any sort of criticism at anyone unable, or unwilling even, to go to the game.I first started to ponder this after a game against the Champions, Man Utd, some weeks back, when my team, Swansea City, had entertained, but lost, and, coincidentally or not, had both entertained and frustrated, because particularly, we were both competing and matching against the very best.

The games since then we've been involved in have further strengthened that preference for live, including Tottenham at Home, Villa Away, and this past Sunday, Arsenal - at the Liberty no less.

The past week had seen Thierry Henry remind us of his capabilities in changing games, and gone on to change a Carling Cup fixture for Arsenal. Not only that, at Man Utd., Paul Scholes played a part in both their Derby Cup win v City, but at yesterday's coast home v Bolton , he scored, as well. Where's Lee Trundle when we need him., eh. Oh well, perhaps a little far fetched.

Whatever, with this fixture one for the football purists, of which I'm proud to count myself a member, both tabloid and broadsheet media had done us proud with a whole series of flattering articles in their pages at the back end of the week. Many of those self same journalists were present, perhaps confirming for the first real time that the National Press and more were paying attention.

What would we get to see?

Sky had scheduled us for the first time as the main game on a Super Sunday, and I'm delighted now to say we didn't let either they, or the nation, down. We were all treated to a vibrant, exciting and open display from both teams, guaranteed to make the Sunday audience sit up and take some notice.

The Referee was the top rated Michael Oliver, a poster boy for the new generation, and one that I've always rated above some of the more traditional we've met this year. His performance can be measured in the stat that there were no bookings yesterday. Good to see.

All at the Stadium were rewarded with a whole plethora of talent on display, including personnel with those intriguing storylines, most of which played out on the immaculate surface, with the promise of more, much more, to come.

There had, incidentally, been some questions asked of the pitch because the Ospreys played at Home only on Friday night, but Dan Duffy had done his stuff, and he and his team had again prepared a surface that allowed the game to grace the occasion. After the game, Arsene Wenger did himself no favours in having a go both at the surface and the referee, of which more later.

For this game the line ups were as follows.........
Swansea
01 Vorm,02 Williams,03 Taylor,04 Caulker,22 Rangel,07 Britton,11 Sinclair,12 Dyer (Routledge 81),24 Allen,26 Agustien (Sigurdsson 46),10 Graham (Lita 90+3)
Substitutes
25 Tremmel,16 Monk,15 Routledge,29 Richards,42 Sigurdsson,18 Lita,19 Moore
Arsenal
13 Szczesny,04 Mertesacker (Oxlade-Chamberlain 77),06 Koscielny,20 Djourou,49 Miquel,14 Walcott,16 Ramsey,17 Song,23 Arshavin (Henry 63),30 Benayoun (Rosicky 63),10 Van Persie
Substitutes
01 Almunia,18 Squillaci,07 Rosicky,15 Oxlade-Chamberlain,56 Yennaris,09 Park Chu-Young,12 Henry

Brendan had seen fit to go with a side that many fans predicted, whilst M Wenger followed suit, allowing only for Mikel Arteta's absence through injury.

Most will know my contention that we are nowadays on occasion lucky enough to see World Class players performing on our own pitch, and that it takes but a couple of minutes watching to realize you're seeing something special.

The early minutes of the game confirmed this when, after a patiently probing intro from both sides, Arsenal went up a gear.

Alex Song took possession and put Andrei Arshavin on a promising run, in from the left for once and he, in going forward, noticed Van Persie some 20yds further forward, and cleverly holding his run such that he wasn't to be offside. Both Williams and Caulker, Swansea's CB's both realized this spelled danger, and Caulker did well to push towards Arshavin's slotted pass, and force Van Persie wider but in on goal in the inside right channel.

It seemed at first as if Caulker would surely block any attempt, but Van Persie produced a bit of magic that Dynamo, Magician Impossible would have been proud of.

As he shaped to shoot, he threw in a dummy that forced both Caulker, and Vorm, at the near post, to commit. He then held his shot back just a fraction, and Caulker's lunge and Vorm's good placement were worthless as he drilled the ball between Vorm's body and the near post. 1-0. I felt as if I had been pickpocketed.

From Vorm's look to Caulker and back, I suspect they did too.How had he done it? World class level,that's how. If you get the chance, watch and learn.

RVP wheeled away, as if to say "it's just another thing I do, innit", and both me and my immediate West Standers looked at each other, thinking, "bloody hell. that was good".

Would this blazing start put us back into our place?

When you concede early in such a fashion to a good team, it's natural to think it's going to be hard to get back in. However, Swansea have shown in the last few weeks particularly, that they are made of sterner stuff. They came back by firstly re-iterating that imperative - getting hold of, and keeping, the ball.

As in their better performances, it was being zipped about the park, with both pace and appropriate tempo.

The game continued to fascinate till the 15th minute when Joe Allen, clear on the left, turned back inside and slid a decent ball across the box to Dyer, 12 yds out. With his back to goal, Dyer flicked and turned, only to be lightly scraped by Ramsey on the ankle, but enough to send him down, and Michael Oliver to award the penalty. Harsh?- maybe: Penalty?- Yes.

Wenger later complained that "it was not a penalty", which only confirms for me that Monsieur "I didn't see it" has eyes slanted in his own, suitable direction.

Szczesny will have done his research, 90% of Sinclair's penalties go to the Keeper's left. This one did too, the difference being that the pace and accuracy of his side foot drive was good enough to beat the despairing dive. 1-1, and the roof of the building shook.

When you're in a game against a "top-4" side and you spend the rest of the half not only competing as equals but showing your undoubted capability to the watching TV audience, it doesn't half make one feel proud. The Swans football was the equal of the Arse, passing and moving to better phases, with the middle three of Agustien, Britton and Allen to the fore.

A personal confession here. Normally, when I'm watching the Swans, I'm as tense as a taut piano spring. What was going on? I was smiling contentedly as I watched the past Masters, as I've seen them described, give way to the pass masters. Because, thrillingly, that's what we are, and that's what we're playing like.

Mind you, when I start giggling uncontrollably, which I did later in the game, you know it's time to kick me into touch, if only not to attract any bad karma. It CAN, and HAS, happened - to most of us I don't doubt.

Up until the break, both sides had threatened, with Arsenal forced to go round a defending Caulker which squeezed the move into inaction, and later a bounce into Vorm's hand from Ramsey's effort via Caulker/Williams . Van Persie was also bravely stopped in a one on one by a sharp Vorm from a through ball.

Caulker's header from a corner drifted near the junction of post and bar, and Dyer stung Szczesny's palms after cutting by Miquel again and drilling a left foot shot at the keeper.

The half continued to thrill end to end, offering the watching crowd, another club sell out record at 20409, a superb spectacle, and the tunes of Joy Division, with Max Boyce Hymns 'n Arias also prominent, echoing through all the stands to give an atmosphere redolent of a Cup-Tie, with the East curving choristers prominent in leading.

As we contemplated the outcome at half time, one of my close companions offered the thought that he'd like to see us push for even more in the second half.

The Swans were performing to a man, whereas for Arsenal, one or two had struggled and it was sad to see the talent of Arshavin almost shot to pieces from lack of confidence- a reminder that even "superstars" suffer.

BR's tinkering saw him introduce Gylfi Sigurdsson at the break for Kemy Agustien. This is a point where it's as well to think about the real meaning of having an astute Manager at the helm,. The Dutchman had been an integral part of the MF unit that had gradually exerted more and more control, allowing Allen, Britton and he, Agustien, to assume prominence over Song, Benayoun and Ramsey in an influential display.

However, Brendan had recognized that in Sigurdsson, Swansea would have the further advantage of a Playmaker/Creator as opposed to a MF grafter/worker available now for the adventure a team gets from looking forward, as opposed to containing.

His many touches and clever probing on-the-ball allied to his further pressure on the defenders slightly higher up the field, and was hugely influential. I thought this was the major tactical change that, enhanced by all round aggression and confidence, got Swansea on top eventually.

The danger was confirmed when this midfield business led to Allen robbing Ramsey on 57m from this very high press, and feeding Dyer on the right just outside the area, and cleverly free of his man, Miquel, who had wandered 10yds forward. Dyer controlled, got it out from his feet, and crashed a shot past Szczesny and in. 2-1, and a dagger to Arsenal hearts.

Some heads dropped, and it was no surprise to see Henry and Rosicky, a double substitution, introduced on 63m for Arshavin and Benayoun.

Sinclair and Dyer were by now confirming the threat for Arsenal at full back, and Miquel and Djourou were struggling to contain them. Graham and Sigurdsson too were more and more able to drag Swansea's marauding FB's further up to join in and progress the wide raids but just suddenly, on 69m, Arsenal got a lifeline.

From such a raid, Swansea switched from Rangel on the right diagonally out to the left where, for once, the ball was intercepted by Djourou before it could find Sinclair, and his astute, immediate, early ball down the right found Walcott able to exploit Taylor by running beyond him and drawing Vorm from the goal to cooly chip a high speed quality finish to complete the break.

2-2, and whilst the Gooners beyond the goal celebrated noisily, Swansea proved what we all know- a team really is most vulnerable just after it scores.

Immediately from the kick off, competition for the ball on the right at half way led to the FB Miquel being drawn to compete, and from a series of one -two's, Lee Dixon's highlighted Triangles from later analysis, the ball went to Sigurdsson just inside the half. He beautifully illustrated the value of a top class creator in the Playmaker role by curling a cushioned impact through ball first time beyond the struggling Koscielny, and into the path of Danny Graham, who had timed his run perfectly.

The ball, nurtured forward by Graham drew Szczesny toward it, but Graham's exquisite instinctive decision to finish took his shot perfectly across the keeper to nestle neatly into the far corner. 3-2, and within a minute, the terrific move meant the Swans were deservedly back in front.

The noise was deafening as we Swans all danced a jig and reminded the Gooners that they'd "only come to watch the Swans". Perhaps some of them had - it certainly sounds like it from today's sport radio.

I'm hearing a whole stream of London's finest (and beyond) not only praise Swansea for the quality of football, but castigate AW and their players loudly and vehemently. Adrian Durham, talkSport's pit-bull, is like a dog with two tails. A very happy pixie, but since he's delighting in the misfortunes of others more than analyzing the game, you'll excuse me if I don't join in the goading.

I prefer the analysis of the aforementioned Lee Dixon ( a previous Arsenal player who KNEW how to defend), when he pointed out on MOTD2 last night Swansea's penchant for geometric syncopation in their confident retention of the ball. It was certainly on show yesterday.

For the remainder of the game, Arsenal's desperation was illustrated by their final substitution - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the young winger, replacing the statuesque Per Mertesacker who had just, from a corner, slashed a decent chance wide.

Incidentally, I know he comes with a burgeoning reputation and in his brief cameo yesterday looked dangerous, does the OX as he's known have a propensity to carry a bit of timber? Seems to me he's an endomorph more than an ectomorph (despite being small), and like Gascoigne and Rooney before him, his rear end can appear a little bulky.

The other sad thing really was Thierry Henry - seeing this once great footballer fall out with his own fans at the end whilst appearing to be "carrying a couple of shopping bags" is not how I'll choose to remember him.

There were still chances for both teams- DG squaring to Rangel on another almost successful foray, and our own Michel Vorm parrying Rosicky's drive, and then springing cat-like up to catch Koscielny's follow up, but in truth, Swansea 's superior possession football held them in good stead, even through the 4m Fergie-time.

Truth is, the Swans had shown that they were equally as likely as Arsenal to score again, and the 3-2 final result saw a delightful outburst of glee and satisfaction, as the crowd gave it some Levellers.

Looking back at the game now from a calmed down perspective it seems fair to make these comments.

There had been GB and MB speculation on whether we could down our first "BIG BEAST". We did, and we did it with some style. The respective Manager's press conferences (they can be seen here), only served to confirm that the display was NOT some sort of aberration, a Chimera even - it had been one of superiority overall confirmed by not only both Match statistics and the Pundits generally, but the evidence of our own eyes.

The performance will send us to the North-East to face MoN's revitalized Sunderland - a different team to the one we faced at the Liberty and likely to be a hard task. Then of course, we come back to the Lib to see if we can bag ourselves another trophy-opponent not, I hasten to add, for anything other than the desperately important 3 points on offer - although the feel good factor of these types of win is immeasurable and influential too, I think.

As many will know, I'm a Twitter aficionado (some would leave out the second word- who cares). Over the ether, last night, it was genuinely encouraging and hugely enjoyable to bask in the reflected glow of a superb Swansea City team performance and win. It felt like a crucial stage in the season and a significant mark achieved.

It still does.

#TwitterJacks and #SwanseaCity posts were a real pleasure to read, and in marked contrast to some bile being spilled by some so-called Gooner "fans" who were only keen to call out their own team, evidenced earlier by Henry's spat with one of his own. That's the ugly side of this pleasurable experience, although I know one thing, and it's this....

I KNOW there will be corresponding lows to temper the highs that we are experiencing at the moment. There always are. Ah well, C'est la Vie. And a rather good one, just now.

Onward, Swansea City.

#
It's a real treat to write about your own Club when it's playing this well. But hey, it's a real treat to write about the Swans anyway. See you later this week.

##
And, a genuinely warm welcome to the fantastic talent that is Josh McEachran, a player who will be allowed to flourish and grow. Welcome to Swansea City Josh, from all Jacks, please enjoy.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Preview. Swansea City v Arsenal, Liberty Stadium, Sunday 15/1/12.

Back to the Future II.

Are the two longest serving Gaffers in the Premier League great supporters of the Michael J Fox School of Football Management do you think?

I ask because both have shown in the past week a beguiling touch of sentimentality, almost.

Or have they?

Given the re-appearance of Paul Scholes at the Etihad in Utd's FA Cup victory over Citeh last Sunday, when SAF produced him almost as Paul Daniels would pull a rabbit from a top hat, Arsene Wenger followed suit at the Emirates on Monday, when a famous and equal Titan of the game strolled onto the pitch in the 69th minute of their tie with DirtyLeeds, and proceeded to stroke in the winning goal in an eerily familiar fashion.

Thierry Henry, for it was he, was back - and in even his 20 minute cameo showed that a man commemorated by a newly endowed Bronze statue outside the Stadium was able to produce more in that small space of time than Marouane Chamakh had done in the whole game.

The value of each player's contributions, both in the appearances already seen, and the immediate games in the next phase of the PL is surely debatable.

I'll no doubt return to Scholes, and Utd., in future pieces when and where they face us, but with regard to Henry, we Swans will get to see him this very Sunday, when Monsieur le Professeur brings the Gunners to the Liberty for our next fixture.

When we played them earlier in the season Away, they were battling to recover from a poor start to the season, and Arsene Wenger had come under intense and Media, critically led, reprobation.

Having "lost" both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri over the summer, and not replaced them suitably according to many, both within a section of their own fans and the broader football audience, their 1-0 victory over us that day was a halting and stuttering performance, I felt.

Gunnersaurus, the Gooner Mascot, echoed the grumpier of their fans on the day. He, according to a sign I saw displayed in the Home end, needed to convey to the Players something that would "fix you lot".

That performance was, however, effective, and was also the beginning of a run into better form that has carried them back to the upper reaches of the table, to which they are more accustomed, if not quite into a European-qualifying-guaranteed position.

Their form over the last six League games has seen them veer from the sublime - really good performances in both the wins and the battling 1-0 defeat to Man Citeh, to the ridiculous, - the absurd throwing away of the game against Fulham.

The reasons for that are various and we'll talk about some of them here, but one thing we shouldn't forget above all else is that we can guarantee that a side with their reputation and talent will be a marvelously compelling and pleasurable match-up for both the team and us fans.

They will also want to put aside that last game League loss, and perform a little better if only to get their regular Media critics off their backs.

Their squad, much debated, much discussed, is still one that many clubs would envy. Plus, M Wenger has a handle on how to cope with the limitations on age group eligibility etc that permeate PL rules.

Let's have a fleeting look, if we may.

The big Poland No 1 , Wojciech Szczesny, has made the GK spot his own, and has developed into a brave, skillful Keeper. He is having a Season to compare with our own Michel Vorm, said by some. 6ft5in, great shot stopper, good talker/organizer. Tweets regularly and funnily. GK cover comprises = Almunia, Fabiabski, Mannone, and all 3 have fallen down the pecking order, mainly due to his form and performances.

FB has been a real problem for the Gooners of late. Both first choice RB's, Bacary Sagna, Carl Jenkinson, and both first choice LB's, Andre Santos, Kieran Gibbs, are or have been injured, and still likely to be out. Sagna's a maybe according to their Message Boards - we'll see.

Gibbs, who is ostensibly England's cover for Ashley Cole, and Santos, the rotund Brazilian who'd just shown an aptitude for adapting to the Prem, were both unfortunate to pick up knocks at the wrong time.

Similarly, Sagna's bone break and Jenkinson's stress fracture have kept them both sidelined for a while.

Whilst youngsters like Ignasi Miquel have slotted in, this has meant that they have fielded both experienced CB's mainly, but occasional MF's and other adaptable youngsters, to cover - but before you take tissues out to wipe away tears of sympathy please have a look again at the link provided above, which shows the full value of the sheer numbers of pros and scholars a modern, senior top flight side can carry.

Poor them ? You will see that that sympathy should be held in check yet.

The first choice CB's on form would be Thomas Vermaelen, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny. These 3 CB's seem to me to encapsulate the incessant chat show arguments about The Arse.

At this moment I'm listening to talkSPORT's very own Adrian Durham, a pit-bull (ugly,with a BIG mouth) drone on about AW, and Arsenal having "...lost the plot."

Mertesacker, we are told, despite 79 German Caps, is deemed "not good enough". Coming from a ginger wimp who can't kick a football, but is a "journalist", this seems to me to be a little over the top, but his lack of mobility is enough to condemn him, apparently.

Vermaelen, arguably along with Vincent Kompany, his fellow Belgian at Citeh and one of the stand-out CB's in the Division, is "too injury prone".

And Koscielny, having supplanted Gallas in the full France team, has "not improved enough". The fact that he's probably one of the most "improved" players in the PL over the past year seems to carry little weight.

Oh, I know, I must stop allowing this licensed troll get to me. We hear enough foolishness within our own club.

Btw, talking about pundits, the Guardian's wonderful Jonathan Wilson had this to say when commenting upon Sky's Gary Neville, (hated as a player, winning people round on the box),........."(Gary Neville, somebody at Sky mentioned recently, is apparently determined to be the best pundit on television presumably because he is programmed to work with ferocious discipline to be the best at whatever he does)". I think he's on the money.

All three are genuinely good International players. They are backed up by Johan Djourou, the Swiss WC Player, and Sebastien Squillaci, another French International.

It is, of course, possible to criticize any football player. It just seems to me that when it comes to Arsenal, or even Premier League players generally, they cop a quite extraordinary amount of flak which is wholly indicative of the phenomenon of the Premier League era "fan".

Is it a money thing ? Maybe.

In Arsenal's case, this, presumably, is because they haven't won a Major trophy since 2005's FA Cup.They have, qualified and thrilled in the last 14 Champions Leagues. They have managed to finance, build and occupy the fabulous Emirates stadium complex. They have, in that time, entertained and played some of the best football in Britain.

In the modern parlance, they are a genuinely "Big Club".

However, this is not enough for their critics. I reply - Yes, it is. Enough!! - such nonsense.

In Midfield, the sitter is usually Alex Song, the Cameroonian jack of all trades (and master of most), augmented by the Wales captain, Aaron Ramsey. They create through both them and Mikel Arteta, late of Everton. Thomas Rosicky, the Czech schemer too. Another oft criticized player is Andrei Arshavin, still, disappointingly "too Russian" for some.

They have also taken in Yossyi Benayoun from Chelsea, to add guile to the mix.

They use Abou Diaby as well, currently injured, along with the wonderful talent that is England's future, Jack Wilshere (still recovering unfortunately), and Francis Coquelin, although he too, suffered the curse against DirtyLeeds (playing at FB), and had to come off hurt.

Out on loan are Frimpong, Vela, Bendtner, De Nilson and Lansbury. They'll manage, huh.

Up front we will get to see the League's leading scorer, Robin van Persie. The fantastically talented Dutchman is having a season to savor. The best League scorer in the calendar year 2011, his goals are legion in their variety.

A World Class forward , the leader of the line in the Holland team too, started as something different. In his early days he was generally considered to be a wide man, somewhat akin to Arjen Robben, that other Dutch treat, but Wenger's nose for conversion has seen him supplant all other candidates as their go-to man, just as Henry, in a remarkably similar career conversion, had done before him.

Thierry Henry, back temporarily, moved on from Arsenal to Barcelona, and people often forget that he was as influential in his first season there as both Samuel Eto'o and Lionel Messi. He is now at The New York Red Bulls, in USA's expanding MLS.

If Robin van Persie can do the same he will have had some career.

Chamakh, who started brightly enough in his earliest games for the Club, but has faded since, has gone to the African Cup of Nations, which is why they've brought back Henry on a 2 month loan. They are still able to call upon 2 of the better products of Southampton's Youth Academy - England's Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (the ox).

Other attackers of note are Gervinho, imported from Le Championnat winning Lille in Ligue 1,and an excellent dribbler at pace. Chu-Young Park, the South Korean, and Ryo Miyaichi, the highly rated, much sought after Japanese teenager, are available too.

And then there's Henry.

Sporting a non-Gillette full beard on Monday night, he produced another magic moment in scoring the winner in that tie. That was his 227th goal for the Gunners. That is SOME record.

He was and remains one of those very rare players that transcend the League or competition they're playing in. In his prime, he was one of the few who made the price of admission immaterial, you just had to be there to see him. His performances in Arsenal's "Invincibles" Year were regularly game changing. Tim Stillman, a fellow Tweeter, and Arse fan to boot, will tell you all you need to know about him in his amusing blog.

Take a fond farewell look at one of the best ever imports into the Premier League. Some would argue he is the very best. Whatever, it promises to be both a pleasure and a thrill to see him live, here, in our Stadium.

Back to the Future indeed.

I've written before about our early tendencies to be somewhat in our shell when facing these Iconic, as I call them, clubs. To meet Arsene Wenger's Arsenal on Sunday we will need this NOT to be the case.

As our first game back in the League after that encouraging victory at Oakwell we fans can reflect on a demonstrably progressive start to the New Year.

We've seen Gylfi Siggurdsson make his debut, and we've also seen both the Darnell Situ and Rory Donnelly transfers completed and given clearance.

On radio today, I heard Brendan Rodgers confirm that the Josh McEachran move from Chelsea (on Loan) was all but complete. This is a player I would put in the same class as Arsenal's Jack Wilshere, if a little behind because he hasn't benefited from a loan as Wilshere did at Bolton.

He will, and with us.

So, let's briefly consider how we might line up.

Our back 5 seems to be an agreed unit if all are fit and eligible. In other words, the Club's excellent skipper, Gary Monk, will probably go to the bench to enable us to go Vorm, Rangel, Williams, Caulker and Taylor. Solid, proven and confident, I would suggest.

Up top, it would be very surprising to see Danny Graham not start given his form, and the 2 wide men from 3 - Routledge, Dyer and Sinclair - I would be happy to see utilized in any permutation the coaching staff deem to be appropriate. Favourite are probably Nathan and Wayne, with Scott sitting down early, but hey, what do I know?

The middle 3 are always the puzzle. For me, given this game and these opponents, it would be Agustien, Britton and Allen.

Orlandi, Sigurdsson, Dobbie, Moore, Richards and others have all earned their corn, too.

If it's any different, in any way, I really won't mind. Our management have more than earned the respect of my bowing to their choice, and bellowing my support whatever the make up of the personnel.

That's the very least they deserve.

The side is both playing well and successfully. Long may that continue, starting with this Sunday's meeting, and for us Swans, they're the only one.

Onward, Swansea City.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Barnsley v Swansea City. FA Cup 3rd Round. Oakwell, 7/1/12

The Barnsley Chop......

or

Could Swansea City down it in one ?


Today's report is written, as occasionally happens, from the comfort of an armchair as I'd been unable to travel to the game.

To further frustrate, this being an FA Cup tie and thus contracted to ESPN and I-Teeh-Bloody Vee, Internet Streams were not available.

However, the good old Radio stood firm, and I've subsequently feasted on highlights galore.


This, I hope, reflects what it was like for many of us.

In the midst of our Premier League program, the still famous 3rd Round of the FA Cup, always scheduled for the first weekend in January, and confirming for us older geezers a specific point in the program, had seen the Swans drawn Away to Championship Barnsley, a tricky tie that made us wonder just what sort of prominence BR would give it.

Primarily, of course, because many PL clubs have of late been tempted to field less strong sides against (supposedly) less strong opposition. Would we tread the same path?

Pre match speculation from fans on supporters sites had leaned toward this being their preferred option, with a view to saving the senior players for a continued, and nowadays heavily rewarded, effort to maintain Premier League status.

Ever since this tie was pulled out of the bag, I'd had a nervous feel about it. I suspect a lot of us had. It's that awkward thing where we were playing a Team that is demonstrably below us in both situation and success - but that's recent, and doesn't make a great deal of difference to this sort of Cup Tie.

The supposedly "lesser" team is certainly capable of giving its bigger brother a bloody nose. Just look back to August 2011, when Shrewsbury sent us scuttling from their place 3-1 in the Carling Cup. And we were awful.

BR's recent successful tweaking of the squad led us to hope that he'd be equally as prescient this time, and he could choose an XI that was good enough to get us out of Oakwell with both reputation and result intact. If I'm honest, I'd have taken a draw right then.

My view has always been, and remains, that a progression in Cup Competitions reaps ample reward in League campaigns if only for the winning habit being contagious. I like to think I'm not daft enough for any good Manager's view being wildly different, but the question of how much and how many of the Club's front line troops will be needed in a specific tie is ALWAYS a matter of degree.

So it proved in this meeting.

Brendan surprised only in choosing such a strong side. Two changes from the win at Villa, Gerhard Tremmel in goal, to give the superb Michel Vorm a break, and Gary Monk for Steven Caulker.

For Barnsley, Keith Hill included the prolific-of-late Ricardo Vaz Te, formerly of Bolton, and thus the teams fielded as follows :

Barnsley
01 Steele,02 Hassell (Wiseman 57),03 McEveley,06 Foster,15 McNulty,17 Addison,10 Done (Noble-Lazarus 52),11 Perkins (Gray 57),20 Drinkwater,09 Davies,18 Vaz Te

Substitutes
12 Preece,04 Edwards,14 Wiseman,33 Digby,29 Taylor,24 Noble-Lazarus,27 Gray
Swansea

25 Tremmel,02 Williams,03 Taylor,16 Monk,22 Rangel,07 Britton,08 Orlandi (Sigurdsson 59),12 Dyer (Sinclair 78),15 Routledge,26 Agustien (Allen 66),10 Graham

Substitutes
21 Moreira,20 Bessone,11 Sinclair,24 Allen,42 Sigurdsson,18 Lita,19 Moore

The start was noticeable if for any reason, principally, by the absence of home fans (unless they'd come disguised as red plastic seats).

7380 was later reported. Crowds? In Yorkshire? It's a big County I know, with a lot of attractions, but this was truly a poor turnout for a game against one of the Premier league's more attractive teams.

Don't they ever watch any Sky TV up there? C'est la vie, eh lad?

I'll digress a little.

I was married once, to a Lass from Leeds , and she, to this day (we are still good friends), still has, like many proud Northeners, a special place in her heart for her fellow Tykes.

It was she who first introduced me to the surprising Barnsley, with its wonderful Town Hall, and the magnificent Barnsley Chop.

This fine cut of meat, particularly to a wimp from the South (that includes us Welsh), was something I was vaguely aware of, having heard Darren Gough, Harold (Dickie) Bird, two scions of Barnsley and other such luminaries from "God's Own County" extol it's vicarious virtues, and was ALWAYS, as a carnivore, a thing that I was keen to try.

You will be so very pleased to know, I'm sure, that I can honestly claim to be a man who managed it, but never won a T-Shirt for so doing. Let me explain.

During our married life, we would on regular occasions visit my now ex-wife's family in Leeds. In fact, one year, since we both worked in Education, we decided to take our tried and trusted Trailer Tent, along with our 2 young boys, to sample Yorkshire's many and varied visitor attractions, camping near Wetherby, the better to take lots of visiting days at the many options, and to be close and in-touch with her family too.

It was a lovely 3/4 weeks, I recommend it if you haven't ever been, but that's by and by. Let's get back to the Chop.

We were made aware of a famed "local" pub, The Rythre Arms, whose claim to fame was that it presented and cooked Meat Platters of such monster size and fantastic flavour, if you were to complete one of their "challenges" you would not only enjoy, but get a T-Shirt to boot - inscribed with their fabled Logo and a phrase like "I DID IT AT THE RYTHRE ARMS "- along with a bottle of rather decent wine whether you completed the challenge or not. That was, whatever, free of charge, to accompany your meal.

It had, from talking to people, an outstanding reputation and seemed a perfect place to celebrate my wife's birthday, especially since her sister had graciously allowed to both babysit and sleep over with our two, too young children. We went.

I am not making this up. The pub was superb, beers lovely, traditional, (we were in a Taxi), atmosphere decent , live guitarist (classy) and pianist (talented), packed to the rafters. Wonderful place.

When the food came I knew, straight away, I was doomed (but in a nice way). My wife had very sensibly ordered a 16 oz T-Bone which was cooked to perfection along with it's side dishes. I, because I'm the fool that I am, had believed that I could cope with The Barnsley Chop. It was served as part of a Mixed Grill - hey, you've seen them advertised in many restaurants - but I had never, ever, seen as much prime-cut succulent meat served for 1.

I swear it would have honestly fed 4 people. I thoroughly enjoyed, but failed to finish. No T-Shirt for me then.

From the hundreds of customers that tried that evening, there turned out to be two, only, who were able to meet the rigorous "challenge" that was offered.

I saw Racks of Lamb, Steaks of all varieties, and most of all, The Barnsley Chop (and it's accompaniments) go on to defeat most eaters - not, as I hasten to add by their unsuitability -it was all down to SIZE. Gargantuan. Monster. Very, very BIG. Respect.

The two successful men (for they were) deserved to walk out with their emblazoned pride and prize. They had truly earned it.

Saturday's game put me in mind of this tale because we fielded a side that reflects our reputation, that of a generally smallish side , who puts their trust less in Carnivores than Gourmet eaters, maybe. Barnsley, on the other hand, were those meat eating Yorkshire Men from the tale above.

The game followed this outline - Swansea's possession and contentment to keep the ball denying Barnsley's need to have it, and put some pressure on us as Visitors. They just weren't allowed to share, early on, by Welsh desire to hog the football, exemplified again by Britton's constant support, and assertion of seniority by almost every other Swan in any one-on-one.

Barnsley had already kept us out with goalkeeper Luke Steele denying a Kemy Agustien drive amongst other half chances, so it came as a shock then when the aforementioned Vaz Te on 29m, was the end result of a right sided counter-attack, and from being played in by Craig Davies, hit a steepling shot into the upper corner of the Swansea net. Ouch, 1-0, that hurt.

Fortunately, the Swans nowadays are made of more resilient stuff and, within 90secs, they were level.

Nathan Dyer took an attack forward, and from his neat one two with Angel Rangel, was able to put the marauding full back clear to slide the equalizer into Steele's net. 1-1, and we Swans and #Twitterjacks all breathed a sigh of relief.

It's a bummer to be nowadays listening to a game on Radio for your immediate needs, even if supplemented by m-b-m updates from Guardian Sport, Twitter, Fan site links, and any other view you can get your hands on. It just ain't the same as being there, so respect to all you JackArmy faithful, who at least give us a warm glow with your incessant support.

You CAN be heard, and it adds a great deal.

Fortunately, the remainder of the half played out without any heart-attack inducing threats, and even confirmed, from the always worrying Broadcasters, that Swansea were in general control , with the Tykes struggling to get any piece of the action that was rewarding rather than frustrating.

The grumbling and kerfuffle from the Home fans was again prevalent, and comforted me at Half Time. Well, I thought, if we bring them back to the Liberty at least we get an extra game. It turned out not to matter.

The second half started in cracking fashion for the Swans, when in the first minute, Danny Graham took a pass midway in the half, and turned, trickily again, to release a blockbuster from 30yds that flew into the net leaving Eric Steele despairing. 2-1, and what a comforting blow for both the players and supporters.

Tricksy psychology notwithstanding, when your team has gone in front in such a fashion, to confirm your oft-reported superiority, the practical effect is extraordinary. Swansea preened, Barnsley slumped, and it was to get worse, for them.

The wide players were really giving Yorkshire's best a hard time, threatening and running at an at times despairing effort, and it came to fruition when Wayne Routledge beat Foster on the left, and pulled a ball back to Dyer, who crashed it home.

He'd done it, with a little help from his friends.

It was no more than he deserved after being frustrated just previously by putting another good opportunity over. 3-1, breathing space secured, but a long way to go, still.

With so much time left, 25mins at least., the game became an end to end encounter without any clearcut chances. Vaz Te had had another couple of whispers blocked, and the Swans looked like they could close it out if only they were able to turn possession into something more threatening.

However, from this last gasp Home effort, on 65mins, an effective free kick delivery from Drinkwater led to Vaz Te again getting the final touch. 3-2, maybe game on.

When a side realizes that it's either going to succeed from forward commitment, or will only get something from risking its all, games stand in the balance. Swansea were able to resist this effort, and ultimately the killer blow came from a late put-down.

There had been, for us, some noteworthy substitutions. Sinclair replaced Dyer as the final one in the 79th minute. Prior to that, Joe Allen had replaced Agustien on 66m, and had settled into an influential slot. Earlier, on 59mins we Swans got our first glimpse too of Gylfi Sigurdsson, who'd replaced Andrea Orlandi.

And, as if to prove the fickle nature of those football Deities again, a couple of minutes from the end, Vaz Te was robbed of the ball by Joe Allen, who set up a cross by Routledge again and turned in by Danny Graham for his second, and the Swans were home and dry. 4-2, and a victory for the enduring class of the Swans.

Looking back on a game that could have proved a problem, one would have to say that Swansea handled it well.

In selecting a strong starting XI, Brendan Rodgers showed that he too was keen to see the Club continue it's forward momentum, but, imagine the chagrin and flak likely to be flying about had they not performed.

It would, I proffer, have been both loud and critical, which only goes to prove the Manager's confidence over and above some critics. Really good to see.

Coming away from such a tie with a comprehensive win can only stand the side in confident stead as next weekend they get back to the challenge of Arsenal in the Premier League at our very own Liberty stadium.

Coupled with that, there's the excitement of seeing the Draw for the 4th Round on TV this afternoon. Personally, my preference is for anybody as long as it's at the Liberty.

Bring it on.

Onward, Swansea City.

# Incidentally, for all wondering how to pronounce his first name, think of it this way. If a collection of friends goes together to the Algarve for a Golf Weekend, we could say they were Golfy People, in the main. Similarly, fans of Mr Sigurdsson , Gylfi, are Gylfi people (and fans). That's GILL (as in a fish's breathing outlet) + FEE (what Solicitors, Lawyers etc charge you).

With regard to his Surname, the easy part is at the start - SIG (as in the gun Sig-Sauer)) - URD as in " an 'ERD of cows", and SSON as in the German: phonetically = TZON. That TZ sound is a hard one, I know. Anyway, welcome, Gill-fee Sig-erd-tzon.

Hope that helps.

Whatever, he is a FANTASTIC talent.