Tuesday 29 January 2013

Beware: The Curse of Swansea City

Danny Graham is the central figure in the current 'I want to leave Swansea City' rumours. Though nothing is confirmed, he's clearly not happy starting behind Michu every week and it looks like he wants out.

In Laudrup's defence, Graham hasn't particularly wowed recently.
In Graham's defence, he is a footballer who wants to play football (we assume).

Can we blame him? If he really wants to play, maybe Swansea isn't the best bet for him at the moment. Then again he may just want to go for the money, like so many others have done in recent years. But be warned Graham - bad things tend to happen to those who leave Swansea, especially for the money.

To commemorate this event, and the closing of the transfer window, I'm dedicating a blog post to look at some victims of the satisfying curse:

Scott Sinclair
This is the best one for me. Greed and nothing more led him away from Swansea City. Sinclair clearly had visions off knocking the likes of David Silva to the bench and cementing himself as one of Man City's starting wingers. However he was the only one in the whole country who could not see he would be a reserve player and nothing more. For a man who spent much of his career hopping clubs, he clearly made a massive mistake - but he'll receive no sympathy from us.

Joe Allen
Local-boy-makes-good Joe Allen was one of the key figures in Swansea's midfield last season. However, he was very quick to follow Brendan Rodgers out of South Wales to Liverpool. Unfortunately for Allen he hasn't really shone under Rodgers the second time around and has seen more of the bench than he probably wanted to. And, with Rodgers on the hunt for new midfielders, will he have much of a chance to impress at Liverpool in the future?

Darren Pratley
There was plenty of hoo-hah (finally managed to use that phrase) surrounding Pratley's departure but he officially left the club for Bolton on a free transfer, immediately after Swansea reached the Premier League. He now plays regularly for the Championship club which sit in an uninspiring 16th position. After his amazing halfway-line goal against Nottingham Forest, getting relegated with Bolton must have been a little anti-climactic.

Dorus de Vries
If there was ever a case of why you shouldn't leave Swansea for reasons of greed, The Cautionary Tale of Dorus de Vries is one people should tell their grandchildren. The highly-respected goalkeeper was adorned by Swans fans for many a season, including his awesome promotion-winning final season. On his departure, De Vries said: "Wolves are going into a third season in the top division and ... the difference for me is that while Swansea will hope to maintain their Premier League status, Wolves will expect to survive."

While Swansea are now 9th in the Premier League, Wolves are currently 18th in the Championship, and de Vries is a reserve player. While we can't hate him, we can chuckle at the fact that he may be sitting on the bench for a League One team next season.

Brendan Rodgers (not a player, but still...)
Rodgers ditched a place where he was loved, to join a bigger club where he was initially hated. Fans have warmed slightly to him - from hatred to indifference - but with Liverpool off the mark and Swansea heading for another Wembley final, Rodgers must have some regrets now. Not that he would admit it. Okay? Okay.

Alan Tate
Just joking - Tate's loan move to Leeds was the right decision for everyone involved and he is welcome back at any time.

Out of all these players, can we really be that bitter? The answer is no. They all helped Swansea get to where they are today in one way or another, and their exit made room for an even better successor to come in. Still, there should be no guilt in smiling at their misfortune.

This post was kindly sponsored by XLSMedical.co.uk

Thursday 24 January 2013

Swansea City: Historic semi-final and a boy with a ball

Another trip to Wembley looms after Swansea City hung on to a 2-0 aggregate victory over Chelsea at the Liberty stadium last night. The game certainly had its share of drama, but the important thing is a cup final is now just a month away and a trophy is just 90 minutes from that.

Swansea performed very well over two legs - first nicking a good win at Stamford Bridge, then playing their away game at home, with deep defending and exciting counter attacks, absorbing Chelsea's limited pressure.

Ashley Williams and Chico Flores were both outstanding and deserved to share man of the match (though Williams took the award himself). Gerhard Tremmel showed why he has made first choice keeper throughout this cup. Leon Britton was rapant as usual, despite the golf ball sized lump on his head after an accidental elbow. Wayne Routledge was, again, brilliant - he has really found his stride and has been consistent for so many games. Overall there were no underachievers last night.

But, annoyingly, most of the post-game chatter wasn't about Swansea's historical feat of a Wembley league cup final. Instead talk was shadowed by #ballboygate. And it seems this blog post will be overshadowed by it too...

Firstly, I don't believe Hazard should have kicked the ball boy, no matter how frustrated he was. But looking into it, 'ball boy' (whose real name is Charlie Morgan) is not an innocent child as we all first thought. He is 17 - and he actively planned to time waste. Check his Twitter account for the full confession.

I feel a little sympathy for Hazard, despite him being a diver himself. It wasn't the 'Hazard kicks a child' scenario we all thought at first, but more 'a 22-year-old kicks a 17-year-old for interfering with the game.'

The ref had no choice but to red card him, but I can see why Hazard was frustrated. Ultimately, ball boys aren't there to interfere with games, they're there to assist - no matter what the team, no matter what the competition. I may take stick for saying that, but it's what I believe.

I'm not complaining as such - Swansea had an easier ride after Hazard was sent off - but the truth is Swansea didn't need time wasting from an adolescent to see them through. They were doing a fine job of making their way to Wembley by playing good football. 

The only other things of note in the match, I felt, were a few of the Swans' chances were wasted. Many was the time that players (notably Ki and Hernandez) had an opportunity to uncork a shot at the target but hesitated and/or passed. Sometimes a shot is worth taking, even if it is way off target. It's not always easy to pass it in, like in the Championship days (remember those)?

Onto Wembley next month for a certain cup win against minnows Bradford! Not so fast - Bradford aren't in the final for no reason. It'll be a tough game, but the Swans certainly have to fancy their chances now. Favourites going into a final - who'd have thought it!?

Thursday 3 January 2013

Swansea City: one week, three competitions

It's been a busy few weeks of footballing action for Swansea City over Christmas, so what better way for the team to rest and recuperate than with a... well, another grueling week of football.

The Swans are about to embark on a week which will see three intense games, against three quality sides in three different competitions. Naturally all three are big games, but which should Michael Laudrup make priority?

First up is the FA Cup match against Arsenal on Sunday. This jumps out at me (and probably to 99% of you) as the one game, if any, that doesn't particularly matter.

Don't get me wrong - it would be nice to see Swansea progress and win the FA Cup, but with a demanding league and another cup run in progress, this is the last thing on anyone's mind this week.

I don't see Laudrup throwing David Cornell in goals, or feeding Kurtis March or young Henry Jones (that's a good old fashioned name) to Arsene's lions, but he may replace some of the key players with the fringe men. You'd hope he would.

Prediction: Swansea lose

Next we have Chelsea on Wednesday in the Capital One Cup semi-final. Despite being a cup match, this is important. A semi-final is the furthest Swansea have ever come in the competition and, with another Wembley trip in view, the Chelsea game should be taken very seriously.

Swansea have the goods to emerge victorious at the end of two legs and certainly have the advantage playing at the Liberty Stadium in the second leg. We all know how unlucky the Swans were not to take all three points against Chelsea last season (after the annoying last minute equaliser), and drew 1-1 with them again earlier in this season.

With a team who are now stronger and more able to score goals (apart from when facing Villa...), and providing they are able to keep themselves in the tie at the end of the first leg (ideally a win, draw or no more than one goal deficit), there is absolutely no reason why Swansea can't book a place in the final!

Prediction: Swansea draw

Finally Swansea will play Everton the following Saturday. The Premier League is the overall priority this year, but let's be realistic - are Swansea likely to be playing in the Championship next season? Not with the likes of QPR, Reading, Wigan, Southampton, and Aston Villa already battling it out for a spot in the doomed three. That's not to say Swansea are safe, but survival is much more certain this time around. I'd say a few points could afford to be dropped on Saturday.

However, a strong team will be needed if Swansea are to come away with anything against in-form Everton.

Prediction: Swansea draw

What the @ForzaSwansea Tweeters say:

Premier league, it's all about money these days and that's where the money is.

Going to have to say points in the league everytime, but a trip to Wembley in a major final would be nice.

Chelsea two legs for me... we will not go down this season and have never won anything worth winning... need to win in this cycle!

Chelsea is the one I'd like us to win, beat them 1-0 over 2 legs!! Great chance to win a trophy.

Chelsea - lets go and win something. 

Chelsea for me. Our best ever chance of a major cup final.

What do you think? Cup final? Points? Another Arsenal scalp? Leave your opinions below!