Wednesday, 17 June 2015

2015/16 Premier League fixtures: "Nice easy start..."

What's this? It's summer and there's a new ForzaSwansea post? You aren't dreaming.

With the release of the Premier League fixtures for the 2015/16 season this morning, I thought it best to write a short post (a very short post) highlighting some of the ties we'll see next year.

Garry Monk's men will be kicking off the season on 8 August against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. What a tough game to open a campaign with! But then again that will be arguably the hardest match out of the way instantly. Plus, like last seasons' opening day victory at Old Trafford, Swansea may just pull off a shock against the champions!

And the Swans won't have to wait too long until facing United at the Liberty Stadium, which also takes place in the first month, on 29 August.

Christmas is looking busy as usual, with a festive trip to the blue side of Manchester on 12 December and a home match against West Brom occupying the Boxing Day spot.

Without going into too much detail (you can do that yourself by checking out the full listings on the BBC website), it's looking like a pretty balanced season.

With relegation worries no longer an issue (touch wood), Premier League safety will be secured early in 2016 and there won't be any cause for concern in the last few weeks. Which is good news, because Swansea's final match is against Man City at the Liberty on 15 May - a great way to end what will hopefully be another record breaking season.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Tate and Britton - Ending An Era

The summer is the season of change when it comes to football.

And watching two players leave Swansea City after over a decade of uninterrupted service is certainly change in its rawest form.

First, Alan Tate. Last week we saw the departure of the Swansea stalwart, who left the club in a move that seemed to be in the pipeline for quite some time.

Disappointing as it was, it came as no shock - Tate never really made the step up to the Premier League, not helped by his broken leg in the first season, and had spent more time out on loan than at Swansea in the past four years. (For more on Alan Tate, check out my tribute to him from October 2014.)

Things were different back in 2011 (Image: Action Images)

The biggest shock of the week came from a brutally honest interview with Leon Britton, in which the talismanic midfielder admitted he too was considering a move elsewhere if Swansea couldn't offer him first team football next season.

Of course, the reason why this grates more on fans is because, unlike Tate, Britton not only made the giant step up to the Premier League, he excelled in it. Remember January 2012, when statistics suggested that he was the best passer in Europe? But you don't even need statistics to see that he was one of the key men for Swansea.

Yes, Britton truly owned the centre of the pitch and was rightly one of the first names on the team sheet for so long.

However the recent 2014/15 season was hugely frustrating for the stalwart, who was forced to watch his talented team mates - Ki Sung Yueng, Jack Cork and Jonjo Shelvey - consistently picked before him, even when he was fully fit.

A few months ago Swans fans had a feeling that something wasn't right. And they were correct. No matter how much he loves the club, you could sense that Britton had probably had enough.

But we have to applaud his decision if he does decide to go. In his own words:

'I am not someone who will be happy to play every couple of months or whatever and then pick up my money.' 

Many players would be content to fester away on the bench; enjoying a large payday come the end of the month for doing absolutely nothing.

The right kind of footballer, Britton wants to play on a regular basis and if that means ending nearly 13 years at the club he loves, then we have to accept that.



If he does go - possibly to another Premier League side, the Championship or even America - we can always hope he'll return to Swansea as a coach later down the line. The other option, which hasn't been discussed much (at least not in public) is to loan him out. That way he technically never has to leave!

But whatever happens, even if this is the end of his playing career with Swansea, I'm sure that we haven't seen the last of Leon Britton.


Thursday, 28 May 2015

Swansea City's 2014/15 season is over... What do we do now?!

What do we do now?

The 2014/15 Premier League season is finished, meaning there is no Swansea City action for a few months. And to rub salt into our footballing wounds, there are no summer competitions like the World Cup to give us our fix.

But in reality the football season never finishes. There's a fine line over when the post-season ends and the pre-season begins and - thankfully for football fans - both tend to overlap. (I love the below cartoon from the New York Times which captures the essence of the summer perfectly):


Although the next time the Swans kick a ball may seem ages away, the club will start their pre-season tour in July, which is essentially just a month from now.

Unfortunately, as reported on the club's website earlier this week, the original plan to play a mini tournament in Dallas, Texas has been cancelled. A great shame. Rest assured Swansea will definitely be arranging an alternative, but we're still waiting to hear what exactly.

For those of you yearning for a little live football action closer to home, there's always the SwansAid 'Sellebrity Soccer' match, which features a line-up of local and national celebrities such as Kevin Johns, Lee Trundle, Shane Williams and Dean Gaffney, along with an array of others (many of who are from soaps and shows I don't watch, like X Factor - I therefore don't know who they are. However, you probably do and can check out the full list here.)

The fun match will take place this Sunday, May 31st at the Liberty Stadium at 3pm. Proceeds go towards SwansAid - the club's charity, which helps local sport, health and educational projects and causes. Watch Lee Trundle and Kev Johns train for the match on the video below:




Finally, while I will temporarily stop the semi-regular Sunday morning catch-ups, I will bring some news of transfers, as well as a couple of nostalgia posts through the summer, although - as you know by now - for a great dose of Swans history you just have to check out Swansea City's Greatest Games!

Good luck keeping entertained in the post-/pre-season.

Chris

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Cup o' coffee and the Swans (Sunday Catch-up - 17th May 2015)

There are not many Sunday's remaining this season and as you read this Swansea are hours away from kicking off their penultimate game of their 2014/15 campaign against last season's Premier League champions (...unless you got up too late and have missed the match, in which case Swansea won 6-0!)

Either way, grab your cleanest cup, fill it with the strongest coffee and read about what's been happening this week at Swansea City.


Swansea City vs Manchester City

While there's one fixture left after this, today is the final home game of the season. And what a way to end, with the chance to cause the second big upset in a week against second place Manchester City.

I had a good feeling about the Arsenal game and was right - Swansea defended like hell and came away with a well earned three points, taking full advantage of the new goal line technology.

At home against the big spenders who are more clinical it may be a tougher ask, but a draw is surely not out of the question. My prediction for today is 1-1.

Guess who's back...

The biggest talking point will probably be if a) we see Wilfried Bony take the field, and b) if he scores. He's said in a recent interview that he wants to score against his old club - let's hope that doesn't happen (although I have put a few pound on Bony to score last... just in case he grabs the winner).


Goodbye Gerhard?

It looks like the popular, but certainly not Premier League-confident Gerhard Tremmel will be leaving the club in a few weeks as his contract runs out.

Thanks Gerhard.

There's little chance he'll stay as the Swans have apparently lined up the 25-year-old Swedish international Kristoffer Nordfeldt as a replacement.

Whatever happens we'll always remember the huge part Tremmel played in the Capital One Cup success of 2013 - undoubtedly his greatest period with the club.


Lawro eats his words

It seems Mark Lawrenson finally admits he was wrong about Swansea. This week he was reported as saying that the Swans had 'stuck a pie in his face' after constantly predicting failure for the club.

His predictions, like many pundits, were based around the departure of Wilfried Bony in January, with Lawrenson expecting Swansea to 'sink like a stone'. But, in his own words...

"[Swansea] have done the opposite and have gone higher than probably even they thought possible, with a top-six finish within their reach. That is very different to their position in the league table based on my predictions. By some distance they are the team who I have been the most wrong about, so I am sure their fans will be pleased rather than annoyed that I am going to tip them to lose again on Sunday"


Ten years since the Vetch

Last Monday (11th May) marked a decade since the Vetch closed its gates for the last time, following the FAW Premier Cup win against Wrexham in 2005. Just in case you didn't know.


Have a look at this Swans website for some great nostalgic photos of the Vetch!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Cup o' coffee and the Swans (Sunday Catch-up - 3rd May 2015)

**UPDATE FOR SUNDAY 10 MAY**  Sorry, there's no catch-up today as I've been busy this week finalising my second Swansea City book, which will be out in September! However, I promise to have a nostalgia piece up next week. Enjoy your Sunday and see you soon, Chris


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I've missed the last two weeks of Sunday catch-ups, but I hope you were still drinking your coffee without me. I did post a couple of other articles during the week, including a nice one from Alec Johnson on why Swansea need to set their sights on cups instead of top of the league next season.

But now let's see what we can catch-up with this week:


Swansea City 2 - 0 Stoke City

So we're into May - that season went quite quickly! And kicking off the final month, Swansea beat Stoke 2-0 in their penultimate home game.

After a pretty forgettable first half, the game livened up soon after the break, as did the crowd at the Liberty. And although more chances were being created, a 0-0 still seemed on the cards - until 15 minutes remaining when, after some hard work to get to Nathan Dyer's poorly placed pass, Jonjo Shelvey chipped in a cross for Jefferson Montero to head home - his first Swansea City goal.

Stoke were reduced to ten men when Marc Wilson was rightly shown a second yellow for blatantly hacking down the breakaway Montero, before second-half sub Ki Sung Yueng slotted in his eighth goal for the club in the first minute of injury time.

The two goal win takes the Swans to 53 points and extends their lead in eighth place (with Stoke now six points behind in ninth). A great start to the final month of the season.



Pre-season tour announced

Heading back to the States!

This summer, the Swans will once again head off to America as part of their pre-season tour, where they will take part in a mini tournament in Texas in mid-July. I know there are many Texas-based Swans fans who will be celebrating this news, having the chance to see the club play on their doorstep.

It seems Swansea will take on both Malaga and Mexican top flight side Pachuca in their 'group' games, before playing either Newcastle, Lyon or Moroccan outfit Raja Casablanca afterwards. The first two Swans' games are currently scheduled for July 14th and 16th, although stay tuned for changes.


Loan watch

Let's briefly look at those players out on loan and how they are doing now the season is coming to an end.

Firstly - as you've probably guessed considering he made a late appearance for Swansea yesterday - young Modou Barrow is back from his time with Nottingham Forest, having made four appearances for the mid-table Championship side.

After his poor debut, Dwight Tiendalli remained with Middlesbrough and played just one more game, bringing his total to two. He didn't impress fans with his shaky performances, and I can't see Boro trying to keep hold of him somehow.

Elsewhere Swansea's young Irish striker Rory Donnelly made quite an impact with Tranmere Rovers, scoring five goals in 20 games and was even named Sky Bet League Two Player of the Month back in January.

Michu is still with Napoli, but rumours suggest he'd be happy to return to Swansea having had an awful time with the Serie A giants. Jazz Richards' one month loan at Fulham was extended to the end of the season - he made 14 appearances for the Championship club since joining at the end of January.

And finally club stalwart Alan Tate is still with Crewe Alexandra, having made 26 appearances with the League One Railwaymen since joining at the start of the season.


Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The Only Way From Here Is Down

How high can we go? That's the question everyone is asking now that Swansea City have broken the 50 point mark in the Premier League. However, former Swans player and football agent ALEC JOHNSON explains why the ambitions of Swans fans should now actually turn away from the top of the table...


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By Alec Johnson

Ignore the negative title - readers of my previous Forza Swansea blogs and those that engage with me on Twitter understand that in over 10k tweets to date you would struggle to find a single negative message.

However, looking at our perennial and lofty position suggests small steps of progress since our arrival in the Premier League, and a realistic acceptance that this is as far as it goes for us.

It's certainly not the end of the road, but the vision and ambition must now switch to consolidation and cup runs, not attacking the big fellas occupying the spaces above us. Rolling that dice is the recipe for Portsmouth, or even our nasty neighbours.

While it's a privilege going into the final matches without any pressure, there is a feeling of complacency in the club - not on the pitch but among so many fans.

Last weekend we won at St James Park. No, this wasn't against Exeter in the bottom division, but the Premier League version and so called 'Giant of the North', Newcastle. Yet so many fans were moaning like a bad mother in law. Our gang of international heavyweights were getting slaughtered by the East Stand's loonie brigade.


Cups: Where Swansea's ambitions should lie in the relatively near future

Back in the real world, a recent report showed that in our past 100 seasons we average a league finish in the mid thirties out of the 92 clubs. I was surprised that it was that high after our past fifty years which realigns our place at an ugly 57th - that's League One as we know it.

Also currently looking at the seven clubs above us, only 11 seasons in that period has one of them not won the league, so we're in great company up there.

Yet some still aren't satisfied.

The ambition within the club remains in tact, capable of satisfying a modern day Caesar; adjusting the goals year on year to recruit better players, attract more commercial partners, build the Swans brand globally and invest in the club infrastructure.

All of this will secure our status as the stable and efficient top half club in the Premier League, slowly helping us to lose the 'over achievers' tag often bolted onto our brand. We can expect exciting news through the close season relating to more lucrative deals for pre-season tours, merchandise, expansion and commercial partnerships.

It's an advantage that our board sees no limit to the possibilities and won't settle for mid table in any facet of the Premier League. Collectively they don't accept the realism of our position and that ambition has no bounds.

So, given the fifty points racked up this season with two winnable and two dodgy games left, a mid fifties total is on the cards. That exceeds my optimistic pre-season forecast of 49 by some so it's difficult to see how much further we can go than what we've achieved this season, perhaps other than adding a big fat FA Cup title to our cabinet.

This record breaking season deserves some real fanfare to sign it off as it may not get better than this. The only way is down; but please resist from singing 'the Jacks are staying up'! That pain relieving song is unwelcome in these parts, despite many predicting that we would be singing it for the past four seasons.

The Jacks are here to stay.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

No Sunday catch-up this week!

Just a quick post to say there'll be no Sunday catch-up tomorrow as I'm a little busy at the moment. Rest assured I will be back again soon, perhaps with a new Swans nostalgia post next week.

As for the Audio Jacks podcast, it's been a few weeks since the last one, but - similar to what happened last time round - we are unable to find a day when we are both free to record. We will do more of them, but it's hard to say exactly when.

Meanwhile if you fancy contributing an article to Forza Swansea please get in touch - I'd be more than happy to hear from you!

Cheers, Chris