Thursday 28 October 2010

Don't be a Closet Jack!

Since my blog traffic stats had to be deleted and reinstalled, I felt the only way to get my traffic tracker whirring again was to announce a new blog post! So here it is!

A few things have happened since I last posted. Frank Nouble has returned to West Ham after a not very memorable performance with the Swans, Gorka Pintado is back playing for the reserves (is he really going to feature again in the first team?) and the Swans ended their Carling Cup campaign, after being beaten by Martinez’s Wigan, 2-0 on Tuesday night in front of a massive truckload of travelling supporters. And it’s these travelling supporters I want to talk about.

These men (women and children) who braved the endless motorway journey to Wigan, just to see a second string side, returned home very disappointed. I can safely say that half of the 4000+ Swans fans wouldn’t have travelled so far if they knew such a weak team was going to be played. But do these long, away game trips show you are a good supporter?

Not really, no. You are not obliged to make that kind of trip. You don’t even have to buy a season ticket. I think that by making the effort to go and watch Swansea at home a good few times a year, checking the scores and reports online when you can’t get to the game and generally keeping up to date with the club is the way to show you are a true fan. So by travelling to these away games it just shows that you are not a good, but a great supporter.

I say all this because the Cardiff game is just around the corner and, with it, the true “fans” begin to show themselves again. The ‘Closet Jacks’ as I call them. “Fans” that don’t know Dyer from De Vries, but will watch the Cardiff game in the safety of the pub just to shout derogatory slurs at our neighbours. These “fans” who are unaware that Trundle has left the club are the people who will buy bulk tickets to the Cardiff home game, just to chant ‘scum, scum’ and so on, leaving no tickets for those who watch the Swans most weeks but can’t afford a season ticket!

When (and it will happen) Swansea achieve promotion and play their football in the Premier League, these Closet Jacks will show up more and more, but not because they are becoming bigger fans of Swansea, but rather just to see Man Utd down here. To watch the Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool games. This, of course, will only be to see Rooney, Gerrard and Drogba in Swansea. They won’t be there for the game against West Brom, Wolves or other smaller Premier sides. Why bother go to the game unless you can see a star? These people irritate me. I have a friend who is a Closet Jack. In fact, the only time I will receive contact from him is to watch the Cardiff game on TV in the pub. I don’t think he’s been to the Liberty. I don’t think he knows half of the players, what points Swansea are on and the last handful of results.

While annoying, these aren’t necessarily bad people. However, when you only watch two games a year on TV (both vs. Cardiff), you are not a true supporter. Being a Swans fan shouldn’t be about hating Cardiff. It should be about loving Swansea! It may be great to see Swansea win against Cardiff, but don’t be the loudest one, shouting ‘you scum bastards’ then forgetting about the Swans until the next Cardiff game. It’s much like the Six Nations (rugby) tournament. Every rugby “fan” in Wales will pull on a battered old Welsh rugby jersey and scream “Wales, Wales, Wales”, “as long as we beat the English” and such, which is all very well, but rugby is played throughout the year, not just at the Six Nations and not just against the English. Where are these Closet fans when Wales play Canada in a Friendly on a rainy Cardiff night?

I’m only a relatively new Swans fan (within the last three years – read my bio and you’ll understand), so I am in the position to salute all you who are there week in, week out. Well done to those of you who travelled up to Wigan, and those of you who travel to occasional away games, and those of you who have a season ticket, and those of you who go to most Swansea home games and check the scores online if you can’t – you are true Swans fans, and put Closet Jacks (like my friend) to shame.

Long blog over!

Thursday 21 October 2010

Penalties, handbags and Sven

Will someone please show this video to David Cotterill?

Third time lucky? Only joking, but I think your next penalty needs to find the back of the net or it may be time to pass the duty to someone else.

Penalties aside, Tuesday evening might have been a cold one in the stands, but on the pitch the heat was high, with 7 yellow cards and quite a few ‘handbag’ moments throughout. It made for fine watching if you were a neutral. However, as a Swans fan it might have been a different story with QPR really dominating in the first half, until the Swans got back on track after the break. Although we were unlucky not to score the penalty, we were very lucky not to concede a few in the first half. In the end both teams walked away with a point, which, against a top of the table side, is a good point to have.

Onto Saturday, where Swansea entertain Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Leicester. I think every Swans fan was hoping that Sousa would still be with the Foxes on Saturday so we could have shown him what he walked away from, but it was not to be. So, instead of embarrassing Paulo Sousa, Swansea will have to put in a decent performance for a Leicester side with more hunger for points (they’re on a role, unbeaten for the last three games – a nice change)!

Onto some things that must happen on Saturday:

1) Swansea need to score
Okay, it’s not vital, but the last two games at the Liberty have seen 0 – 0 draws. Combining these with the 1 – 0 victory at Reading sees Swansea scoring only one goal for the last three games. I know we were spoilt for goals at the start of the season, but give us one (or two, or three) to cheer at on Saturday!

2) Garry Monk must sharpen up
The last two home games have been his worst for a while. Giving possession away to the opposition thanks to sluggish movement and generally looking out of puff. He will need to show he still has what it takes to make the Swans back four, as there are others pressing for his position.

3) Nouble has to do something (I’d rather Kuqi back at the moment)
If Nouble wants to go back to London with everyone talking about him like he so wishes, he needs to make sure he gives them something to talk about. Static movement and slow vision won’t get anyone chatting.

So, The Liberty welcomes Sven’s men for a nice Saturday kick about, before travelling to Wigan for the long-awaited Carling Cup clash on Tuesday. Forza Swansea!

Monday 18 October 2010

Marvellous Marvin?

With news surfacing that Brendan Rodgers has made another signing for Swansea City in the last couple of hours, a few Swans fans tilt their heads and ask “why another winger?” Well, being short on blogging material thanks to the international break, I have looked into Marvin Emnes and here’s what’s emerged:

22 years old
Born in Rotterdam, Netherlands
Made 3 appearances for Netherlands under-21 side

That’s the essentials out of the way. Down to the other facts.

He doesn’t seem immensely goal capable for a winger (this may be an unfair remark as I am probably subconsciously comparing him with Scott Sinclair); only scoring 9 goals in 56 appearances for Sparta Rotterdam and only 1 goal in the 31 appearances for Middlesbrough (guess who he scored that against? That’s right; Swansea City), but Rodgers has made it clear his why he has signed the Dutchman (thanks to this article for the following quote):

“We've got a few young players in the squad who are not going to last every minute of every game'

'And I just feel we lack pace on both wings when Scott (Sinclair) or Nathan (Dyer) aren't playing. Marvin has a lot of pace and can go people in one on one situations.”

Fair enough. From a couple of clips that I’ve seen of him, I would agree he is speedy. And from the below clip that I’ve fished from the dregs of YouTube, you can see him scoring a magnificent solo(ish) goal for Sparta Rotterdam!

Some of the Swans fans now un-tilt their heads and say “ah right, I understand”, but a few may still be confused as to why it’s only a month loan period. Rumour has it that Emnes was a signing that Rodgers wanted to make before the start of the season, but for one reason or another it never happened. This is good news as we now see it isn’t just an impulse buy like that overpriced lip balm I bought from Boots the other day. This is just the first opportunity Rodgers has properly had.

But surely a month isn’t long enough? Well, if we’re going by calendar months it should be: we have a whopping 8 games in the next 33 days or so, which, providing he plays at least 6 of them, should be enough exposure for the fans and Brendan Rodgers to make the decision. Pursuading Middlesbrough to let him go permenantly shouldn’t be too difficult – he’s only made 31 appearances for them since 2008.

But Emnes? I hadn’t heard of him before today. Is he really worth having?

Well, I’d never heard of Scott Sinclair until he joined the Swans, and that worked out pretty well! Will this be another Rodgers miracle signing? Hopefully we’ll find out tomorrow.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Internationals over, let's have some Swansea!

Doesn’t it seem like aaagggeeesss since the Derby match? Despite the obvious advantages of the International break (outlined in last week’s blog), I eagerly await the action from the Premier League, Serie A and, for Swans fans everywhere, Championship action kicking-off again this Saturday!

The Swans will be away to Reading this week, the place where Brendan Rodgers did a Paulo Sousa (i.e. winning only 1 in 11 matches before mutually leaving... okay, so not exactly a Sousa then). Rodgers will be keen to get a good away result for this fixture, not only for the satisfaction of the “I-told-you-it-wasn’t-my-fault-we-didn’t-win-many-but-you-wouldn’t-listen” moment to the Reading board at the end of the match, but also as Swansea need to build on their away success of the Watford game (another Rodgers hunting ground)

A win would be a great prize to both teams, with the victor (providing Burnley lose or draw against Sheffield Utd) launching into the top 6; a place that was home to the Swans for most of last season. Though both teams are on the same points (16), Reading are a place above them thanks to goal difference. With Sinclair and Pratley hopefully back from injury, there’s no reason why the Swans can’t grab at least one point away from home. The stigma of no away result has vanished, so the only thing players can blame for not getting any points is themselves. So here's to hoping nobody gets blamed because Swansea win!

After Reading, we entertain QPR at the Liberty on Tuesday, before (finally) a Saturday home game against Leicester on the 23rd. Interesting fact alert: From now until Christmas, there are only three Saturday home games - Leicester, Portsmouth and Millwall. Interesting fact over.

If you read last week’s blog, I found a new team with an obscurely great name in the Highland League. With no international breaks up there, my new favourite team 'Keith’, won 3 – 2 against Formartine Utd last Saturday. Well done Keith. Well done.


Monday 4 October 2010

Derby, Sousa and Internationals

Saturday, v Derby
Saturday was the first time this season that the Swans let anyone walk (or drive) away from the Liberty with a point. 0-0 against Derby and, in all fairness, not a bad game (unlike last year where the 0-0’s were tedious). Swansea were clearly missing Sinclair (as well as Pratley and Cotterill); despite what Monk says in this article, it does seem to be all about one person at the moment.

Actually, with regards to that article, Monk states “I thought we defended pretty well, to be fair”... Personally I think Monk had his worst game all season, with every ball he touched going out of play, and some very lazy passing and movement giving Derby ample opportunities on goal. Luckily the work rate of Williams, Rangel and Tate made up for Monk’s off-day, so the defending was ‘average’ in my view. Then again they didn’t concede a goal. Okay Monk, have it your way – “pretty well” it is...

Paulo Sousa has been swiftly removed from Leicester, a removal that was expected by all. Maybe not so soon. Is nine games really enough time to judge a man? I suppose it probably is, considering what he did for them while he was there (nothing). I didn’t really have anything against the guy during his time at Swansea. He took the Swans to their highest league place in 27ish (is that right?) years, which is good going. He seemed to lose his touch at the end, so him buggering off was a blessing in disguise. We wouldn’t have had Rodgers, or Sinclair, if he’d stayed, or entertaining football for that matter. Or goals. Or... I could go on. I can’t really see him getting another job in the Championship or higher, and he probably thinks he is above the lower leagues, so I reckon he will head out of Britain. Good luck Sousa, you old fox!

No Championship or Premiership action this weekend. I know a few fans are annoyed about the international breaks, but ultimately they have to happen! Wouldn’t you feel empty come 2012 if there was no European Cup! You can’t wait four years for the World Cup without a Euro in between! Just think – that’s a month of extra football at the end of the 2011/2012 season. Losing a couple of weekends at the Liberty throughout the season is an investment towards more footy in June 2012! Imagine the look on your girlfriend’s / wife’s / mate-who-hates-sport’s face when you tell them that the season is over but there's still three weeks of football left to play! I love that look. If you need some live football this Saturday though, the Scot-Ads Highland Football League fixture of ‘Formartine United v Keith’ kicks off at 3pm Saturday!

I never knew there was a team called Keith. That is fantastic.

More odd thoughts on the Swans (and maybe ‘Keith’) in a few days!

Friday 1 October 2010

The Swans and FIFA 11

FIFA. A man’s best mate on a long winter night, short winter night, long winter day, short summer evening, long… you get the picture. Perfect game for every occasion. The sworn enemy to wives and girlfriends worldwide. Love it or hate it, FIFA 11 was finally released today! If you are slightly mental / up at that time, you could’ve headed into town to pick up your copy at midnight. Me? I’m a definite enthusiast, but too lazy for a midnight shop. Instead I headed out first thing this morning, grabbed it and went home to fire up the PS3. After playing a few games, I’m ready to share a couple of thoughts.

My first game was Italy v Germany, where I drew 0 – 0 against the Germans, before rightly losing on penalties. Then, my international career looking bleak, I headed to the npower Championship and took the reins at Swansea. I found it was too early to start a career mode; I wanted to get a feel for the new game without being too concerned over long term careers of players / injuries and so on. Instead I cracked on with some random exhibition matches. Firstly, I am pleased to say I didn’t lose a game… admittedly I didn’t win a game either (0-0 v Cardiff, 0-0 v Chelsea, 0-0 v Real Madrid, followed by a 1-1 draw v England, with none other than Sinclair netting my only goal). I’m not a goal scoring machine as you can tell…

The squads have been updated completely (apart from the loans – Kuqi is in the Swans squad and Nouble is still with West Ham). Real life injuries are overlooked, meaning Pintado, Beattie and Bodde are all fit and available to play. No sign of Makabu-Makalambay, but he was a late signing in all fairness; if he performs well for the Swans in real life, I’ll sign him to my FIFA team!

Obviously a lot of money has gone into rendering the big names (Rooney, Kaka, Chiellini) as accurate as possible. Most of the players in the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, all look and move basically identical to real life. However when we jump to the Swans squad, up-close the players look bugger all like their real life counterparts. From a distance though you can easily tell who’s who. Even though the facial detail isn’t accurate, the smaller details seem to have been picked up and included: Scott Sinclair’s yellow boots and strapped wrists, Dyer and his bright red boots (does he actually wear these anymore?) and the bullish running that is (was?) Kuqi. The body types have had, like advertised, a complete revamp. You wouldn’t confuse Williams with Dyer if they stood next to each other in real life and this has been mimicked in the game.

Game play is immaculate, with EA totally revamping passing style and control. As I’ve said, this isn’t a full review as I haven’t had time to play until my fingers bleed (yet), but I’ve already noticed subtle changes, such as controlling the ball and the way the ball bounces off the keepers – much more realistic this time around. Passes won’t always go to who you want; it all depends on the power and angle you hit the ball – which makes the game less ‘ping-pongy’ and therefore harder to score (well, that’s my excuse anyway)!

Other features within the game have been created. For example, before playing an exhibition match, you’re able to select which referee you want. They differ in the strictness over cards and fouls, which can totally change a game (as you know if you’ve seen some of the refs down the Liberty over the last year). During the game, stats appear at the top of the screen: passing, possession, shots which make for a more realistic experience. At the end of the game, you can select different highlights to watch – the computer will pick up any good shots, saves or misses and files them for your convenience. If you missed a sitter during the match, it will be waiting for you at the end! Another feature I’m yet to try is the option to set your own personalised themes for when your team walks out onto the pitch and scores a goal. I just need to find an MP3 of the souped-up theme from Gladiator and that’ll be the Swans entrance sorted!

So there we go. A little summary of what I’ve experienced so far. To be honest, I’ve barely scratched the surface, but am sure I will over the next few months. Look out for a more in-depth review later in the year. If I can still type through the blood.