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

Friday, 17 April 2015

Records are there to be smashed, not just broken

After last Saturday's draw, which equalled the club's Premier League points record, where are the Swans sights set for the rest of the season? Forza Swansea guest writer CHRIS JOBLING takes a look at the ambitions of the club now that there's nothing left to achieve.

---

by Chris Jobling

With last week's 1-1 draw with Everton enough to see Swansea equal their best points return in a Premier League season, it is now a question of when, rather than if, a new benchmark is set.




It's a mark of the club’s consistency since stepping into the top flight that their annual league return over the last three seasons has been split by just seven points. They may have been edging in the wrong direction – 47, 46, 42 – but there have been mitigating circumstances.

From being a relatively unknown quantity under Brendan Rodgers, to toasting major silverware and having to juggle the demands of domestic and continental competition under Michael Laudrup – who was ushered through the exits to welcome in another new dawn.

Being free of Europa League commitments has undoubtedly aided the club this season and got them moving in the right direction again.

Club legend Garry Monk has shown himself to be a more than capable boss, with the right mix of passion and Swans philosophy allowing him to drive things forward without infringing upon the efforts of his predecessors.

Standing on 47 points is some achievement, given that there are still 18 left to play for. Monk will, unquestionably, write a new chapter in the club’s history, but sights need to be set much higher than that.

Plenty to think about for Monk

With plenty of winnable fixtures to come, at least on paper, breaking records should not be the acceptable standard – smashing them should be.

Given that four of Swansea's remaining six games will be away from the Liberty Stadium – with tricky trips to Arsenal and Crystal Palace among them – it's not going to be easy to finish with a flourish.

There are, however, holes to be picked in the credentials of just about all of their upcoming opponents: Leicester City are scrapping for their Premier League lives, but are down there for a reason, while Newcastle United are – yet again – a side in disarray. There is little advantage to be taken from playing in front of a disgruntled St James’ Park fan base at present.

Arsenal will be a stiff test on a Monday night at the Emirates, but out-of-sorts Manchester City are unlikely to be relishing a trip to South Wales, while Stoke City and Crystal Palace have little left to play for.

There is no reason why a double-figure haul should not be targeted heading down the final straight, with the Swans pushing towards the 60-point mark.

Ambitious? Yes, but that would put down a serious marker for others to follow in the future and help to set the bar at a level an ambitious outfit are now expecting, rather than hoping, to reach.

It is also looking increasingly likely that a new record points total will deliver a club-high finish among the elite, with consolidation in eighth enough to edge them above the class of 2012/13.

Why stop there though? Spurs are hardly pulling up trees at the moment and, while a seven-point deficit is a big gap to bridge at this late stage, Premier League betting suggests that they are there to be shot at after slipping into reverse.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Jack in Time: One muddy step from Wembley (with video)

After writing my first book, Swansea City's Greatest Games, I began buying a few bits of Swans memorabilia. Nothing big, just a couple of programmes, signatures, books and so on. It's probably not surprising how much affection you begin to have for the heroes of the past after writing about them every hour of the day!


My new nostalgic purchase

My most recent acquisition was an original programme from Swansea Town's FA Cup semi-final match against Preston North End at Villa Park in March 1964.

The quarter-final saw Swansea paired with Liverpool at Anfield on 29 February. That day Trevor Morris's Swans pulled off a huge shock by beating the Merseyside giants 2-1, with Jim McLaughlin and Eddie Thomas scoring the goals for Swansea. However goalkeeper Noel Dwyer was the true hero, putting in his greatest performance for his club - so much so he collapsed from exhaustion in the dressing room after the match!


Noel Dwyer (hand on his head) and the Swans celebrate the Liverpool victory with cups of tea!

The semi-final took place on 14 March 1964, with around 30,000 excited Swans fans making their way to Birmingham for the historic match. Despite a huge list of injuries and illnesses pre-game, Morris managed to field a full strength team of talented youngsters: Barrie Jones, Keith Todd, Derek Draper and Herbie Williams to name a few.

The Villa Park pitch was essentially a bog following a series of terribly rainy days, meaning the players were pretty much covered from head to toe in mud from the first whistle. However the conditions didn't deter the gallant Swans, who created an array of early chances before opening the scoring in the first-half through Jim McLaughlin's clever turn in the box.

As soon as the referee blew up for half time, Swansea were 45 minutes away from their first Wembley appearance. But sadly, it was not to be.

After 53 minutes, the ref deemed an innocent coming together of Brian Purcell and Preston's centre-forward Alex Dawson in the Swans box a foul on Dawson. No amount of arguing would change Mr Carr's mind and an unjustified penalty was awarded. Dawson converted from the spot.

The equaliser was a big blow to the Swans, who then suffered an even bigger set back when Preston's burly defender Tony Singleton's clearance from the centre of the park caught the wind and soared 40 yards, over the head of poor Noel Dwyer, and into the net to make it 2-1 to the Lilywhites.




Swansea were unable to come back into the game and the semi-final is where their FA Cup dreams came to an end. It remains the furthest the Swans have gone in the competition. Watch the above video for the brief highlights of the game.

This was just a very short overview of an exceptional period in Swansea's history. Make sure to pick up a copy of the book and read more in depth about what happened. See you next time!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Cup o' coffee and the Swans (Sunday Catch-up - 12th April 2015)

Another Sunday, another cup of coffee, another Swans catch-up.

Here we go!


Swansea City 1-1 Everton

Swansea were certainly the better team in the first half of their second home match in a row; probing Everton and almost coming away with a couple of things.

We saw a stunning shot from Bafetimbi Gomis which was tipped away by Tim Howard, although it caused an unfortunate hamstring pull, with the striker leaving the field soon after. Shelvey had his own excellent half-volley goal, which was disallowed due to an apparent foul in the build up by Wayne Routledge.


Shelvey's adept penalty (image: South Wales Evening Post)

Unfortunately it took just one smart move from Everton to conjure up their first real chance and - with it - their first goal, coming from Aaron Lennon in the 41st minute. Their confidence grew tenfold after that.

In the second half Swansea managed to equalise from the spot through Jonjo Shelvey with 20 minutes to go, after Seamus Coleman handled the ball while on the floor in the area. Gylfi Sigurdsson saw his well struck free kick punched away by Howard in the latter stages, but the game finished 1-1. Still no league win against Everton, but an entertaining match which probably ended fairly. (Find a full minute-by-minute round-up here).


Taylor misses two

After his 10th yellow card of the season in yesterday's match, Neil Taylor will miss the next two matches.

With Tiendalli out on loan (see below...), who will fill his boots for the away games against Leicester and Newcastle?


Europe bound?

I read an interesting article that essentially says if Arsenal are in with a shot at the title, surely Swansea are in with a shot at a Europa League place. And it's true - the Swans are currently in 8th place, seven points behind Spurs.

With six games left in the season and Spurs well off form, there's no reason Swansea couldn't catch up. Of course it'll take a great run from the Swans and, while a top six finish is almost certainly out of the question, this season - providing Liverpool finish 5th place and win the FA Cup - 7th place in the league would be enough to grab a Europa League spot.

Although this brings up the question: do we really want to be in Europe next season?


Tiendalli's unfortunate debut

It seems Middlesbrough fans now understand what Swansea fans feel when watching Dwight Tiendalli. He made his debut for Boro on Monday, when they lost 2-0 to Watford. Boro fans weren't pleased with their new acquisition, taking to Twitter to vent their frustration over his positioning mainly.

The defender was subbed after 63 minutes in that first game, and didn't feature in yesterday's 2-0 win against Rotherham (not even on the bench).

I'll leave you with some comments from a Tiendalli Twitter search...



Sunday, 5 April 2015

Cup o' coffee and the Swans (Sunday Catch-up - 5th April 2015)

Happy Easter!

Swansea City were finally back in action after a long break and won their Premier League clash against Hull City pretty comfortably.

So grab your Easter egg and cup of coffee, and let's catch-up on all the action of the past week:


Swansea City 3 - 1 Hull City

Ki Sung Yueng opened the scoring in the 18th minute, adding to his growing tally after slamming in a rebound from Jonjo Shelvey's saved shot, before Bafetimbi Gomis scored a surprisingly good acrobatic shot from close range, five minutes from half-time.

Gomis on fire (never thought I'd say that!)

After the break it took just four minutes for Hull to nab a goal of their own, with Paul McShane scoring from a free-kick floated into the box. Hull piled the pressure on after that, with a few corners making Swans fans a little nervy.

However nerves were settled when David Meyler was sent off in the 52nd minute for a challenge on Kyle Naughton. With the extra man Swansea probed a little, then defended against a few potential Hull equalisers, before Gomis stole the show with a cheeky chip in the 91st minute. Undoubtedly his best game in a Swans shirt. Wilfried who?!*

(*Bony. Just in case you did forget)


Injuries

Tom Carroll scored the only goal in the England U21's win against the Czech Republic last week, however in doing so he managed to injure his ankle and now faces up to six weeks out of action.

Carroll - like Leon Britton - has found it difficult to get into Swansea's starting line-up recently, thanks to the form of Jack Cork and Ki, so this is a big blow to his chances.

Injured again...

Elsewhere, the international break saw another injury for the Swans, with Jefferson Montero straining a muscle in Ecuador's 1-0 loss to Mexico in a friendly last week. However it's not as bad as Carroll's and he's likely to be back in action very soon.


Rescheduled matches

Earlier this week it was announced that two upcoming Swans matches have been moved for TV.

The game vs Arsenal at the Emirates will now take place on Monday, 11 May (8pm), while Man City's trip to the Liberty will now happen on Sunday, 17 May (1.30pm).

Swans fans weren't too happy with the Arsenal change and I can't blame them. Many had bought train tickets and booked time off work to go up to the Emirates and now they'll have to reschedule (with no reimbursement) or not go to the game. They get my full sympathy.


Michu recovering

It's been reported that Michu is on his way to recovery over an ongoing ankle injury. He's still with Napoli and in an interview earlier this week he talked about his want to repay Rafa Benitez for his faith.

The midfielder, who will always be remembered for his first glorious season with Swansea, has said on his future with the club:

'Will I return to Swansea? I really don’t know, the truth is I’m not thinking of my future right now. I just want to heal.'

However, I seriously doubt he'll ever pull on the Swansea City shirt again. But then again, with Gomis on fire, who needs Michu?!


Sunday, 29 March 2015

Cup o' coffee and the Swans (Sunday Catch-up - 29th March 2015)

Quick, you're late! The clocks went forward last night and you've missed all the fun stuff because you were sleeping!

Oh well, grab your latte with a shot of hazelnut syrup (if that's what floats your boat) and let's see what's been happening this week.


Three-match March

March hasn't been a good month for Swans fans, as the club have only played three matches over the four weeks. And there was no Swansea match again this weekend thanks to the international break.

However, on the bright side, Swansea are safe in the Premier League for another season and they will be playing next weekend - at home to Hull City on Saturday, 4 April at 3pm.


Swans players in action

One good thing about the international break was that we got to see at least some of the Swans stars in action in a different environment. And they were all winners!


Captain of Wales

Yesterday evening the Welsh team beat Israel 3-0 in their European Cup qualifier, with Swansea's Ashley Williams and Neil Taylor both in action.

Elsewhere in Europe, Gylfi Sigurdsson played the full 90 minutes for Iceland in their comfortable 3-0 win against Kazakhstan, although he failed to score. And not forgetting Lukasz Fabianski, who is likely to start for Poland in tonight's match against the Republic of Ireland (7.45pm kick off - the match is live on Sky Sports 5).


Tiendalli has gone

Don't worry - he'll be back (as if anyone was worrying...). Yes, earlier in the week it was announced that Dwight Tiendalli would be joining Championship high-flyers Middlesbrough on loan until the end of the season.

Tiendalli in action...

With Kyle Naughton in good shape and Rangel a fine back-up, the right-back position is pretty much sorted, so there's little for Tiendalli to do apart from rust up on the bench. So it's a good move for both the club and the player - who definitely needs game time.

In 2010 Swansea borrowed Marvin Emnes from Middlesbrough and he produced a very memorable goal against Cardiff. Let's hope Tiendalli can be of similar use to Boro in their quest for the Premier League.


Jack in Time

Earlier in the week I wrote a new Jack in Time post about Swansea City's Football League Trophy Final escapades at the Millennium Stadium in 2006, with a couple of videos - check it out here.




Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Jack in Time: a volley, a trophy and a big Welsh flag (with videos)

In the last few weeks we've seen two former modern-day Swansea City players retire - Andy Robinson and Owain Tudur Jones.

Bustling winger Andy Robinson - who scored the last ever goal at the Vetch - was with Swansea from 2003 until 2008, making nearly 200 appearances and scoring 44 goals. Meanwhile Owain Tudur Jones joined Swansea in 2005 and stayed until 2009, playing 41 games, scoring three goals in the process.

I was looking for the most iconic game that they both featured in and the greatest has to be the Football League Trophy Final (aka the LDV Vans Trophy) against League Two leaders Carlisle United at the Millennium Stadium on 2 April 2006.

Why was it so great? Well, Swansea won of course!

The match started with an exceptional volley from Lee Trundle, who chested down a perfect cross from Leon Britton before unleashing a thunderous strike across Kieran Westwood and into the far corner with just three minutes gone. It's probably worth reminding yourself of the beauty of that goal with the video below...



After Trundle's screamer, Carlisle looked to equalise in the 23rd minute when Karl Hawley headed home, but the linesman ruled it offside to the Jack Army's delight. However the Cumbrians would get their goal with just five minutes until the interval, when Adam Murray headed a long throw in past Willy Gueret at close-range.

After the break, with the scores level, both teams came out to win it. Carlisle had chances, although Gueret made some fine saves. Andy Robinson had a couple of strikes too, but it would be Swansea's larger-than-life (literally) striker Adebayo Akinfenwa who would seal the game, hitting a low shot past Westwood in the 81st minute. Swansea held on and soon after were lifting the trophy!




And that was that.

Oh yeah, there was also the flag...


And the shirt...


And that wrapped up an incredible day for Swansea City fans.

Of course, Swansea were back at the Millennium Stadium the following month for the League One play-off final, but missed out on promotion after losing to Barnsley 4-3 on penalties. You can't win them all...

You can read about the Carlisle game - with an exclusive interview Lee Trundle interview - along with 49 other superb Swans matches in my book Swansea City's Greatest Games, available now.