Swansea? In Europe? Yes, I recall being laughed out of various forums/blogs at the beginning of the season for suggesting that Swansea City may end up in Europe. I was talking optimistically of course, and actually meant “it may happen in a few years”.
But it could well be a reality next season. While it's highly doubtful (yet not impossible) that Swansea will qualify for the Europa League next season by table position, they have another route.
As we speak (well, as I type and you read a few hours later) Swansea sit second in the Premier League Fair Play Table, just below Spurs. As you might be aware, Swansea were leading the race for first up until a few weeks ago.
But there is ample opportunity to claim top spot again, and you can help with this.
The Fair Play competition is not just about red and yellow cards gained, it covers many aspects of promoting the "beautiful game", including positive play, respect towards opponents, respect towards the referee and – where you come in – behaviour of the public.
The full details of how the Fair Play scores are calculated can be found here.
The rules are basically encouraging the public to "verbally support their team in acceptable form" (I think Hymns and Arias has helped Swansea to no end this season!) and to also “covert recognition of outstanding play by the opponents”, which means applauding when, say, Heskey scores an overhead kick.
Teams can be deducted points for “persistent foul and abusive language”, “persistent abuse of the officials’ decisions” and “aggressive and threatening conduct towards opposing fans.”
So think carefully next time you decide to remind the referee he is a wanker (even though he may well seem it).
At the end of May, even if Swansea don't top the Fair Play table, they may be able to gain access to Europe depending on who is above them (if it's Man United, Spurs, etc, chances are they will already have a spot, so Swansea will automatically qualify).
There is another league controlling entry to the Europa League however, so this will all be obsolete if the English Premier League does not finish in the top three of the overall country league (it's getting confusing now). As it stands the EPL would not be given a fair play place as it sits eighth in the league.
Here is a little more reading on the subject, along with the current table – definitely something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.
So how will Swansea fare in Europe? There are negatives such as squad size and a dent in finances to balance the prestige of playing with the likes of Napoli, Udinese, Bayer Leverkusen, Levante, and so on, but we'll cover that if Swansea do get there!
Remember to check me out on Twitter @ForzaSwansea for blog updates and general Swans discussion!