Showing posts with label Jacob Cristobal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jacob Cristobal. Show all posts

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Swans in the USA!

With news of record television viewing figures for the South Wales Derby in America, we are checking in with our American writer JACOB CRISTOBAL, who takes a look at the impact Swansea City are having in his fine country!


By Jacob Cristobal 

Three weeks ago Swansea City hosted the return leg of the South Wales Derby against Cardiff City. We all know the result of that - a convincing 3-0 trashing of our bitter rivals, gaining some revenge from the early season fixture that yielded a 1-0 defeat.

We also know it was the managerial debut of Alan Tudyk... I mean Garry Monk (Googling Alan Tudyk will reveal why we may confuse the two!). We also know that since then the Swans have played back to the form that got them to the Premier League originally.

The dismissal of Michael Laudrup (to who I must say thank you for the memories and the great hair) has definitely seen the Swans playing better. What might not be a known fact for some is that the South Wales Derby a few weeks ago generated some good television ratings over here in the US.

In fact, up to this point, the South Wales Derby gave NBC (who have the broadcast rights in the US) their best ratings ever among all of the Premier League matches they've shown since the start of the season.

In the land of television viewership numbers the match scored a 1.2 overnight rating, which means at least 1.2 million people around the country tuned in. That's right - the South Wales Derby posted the highest Premier League TV ratings here in America to date! Give yourself a round of applause if you were in the stands singing Hymns and Arias.

There were other factors to this boost in that it was sandwiched between the Sochi Winter Olympics coverage, while a manager being sacked is always going to cause a brief spike in any club taking the sports headlines.

One thing NBC has done very well in their maiden voyage of broadcasting the Premier League is giving all the clubs a fair shot at the spotlight. Where in the past it would've been easy to just highlight the big four because... well they're the big four, today there's no excuse not to cast out a wide net.

And when there's a derby on the Premier League calendar, NBC has tried to give that match the stage for all in the US to see.

In the case of the South Wales Derby, a late start resulting in the match being broadcasted here in the West Coast at 9:30am versus, say, 5:30am or 7am definitely made it easier for us sleep-in folks (yours truly) to tune in.

There is also the reality that the Swans are getting an increasing fan base in America. You already know my story, but I know north and south of me (shout out to Melissa Douglas and Jonathan Weaver who live in Vancouver B.C. Canada and Portland, Oregon respectively) that there are folks following the Swans.

There's even a Facebook group for American Swansea fans and associated Twitter account. Their progress so far in the Europa League and breath-of-fresh-air manager Garry Monk has fans near and far saying "this is the Swansea we know!"

Just look at the last match against Liverpool - the Reds had to score four to beat them. If Swansea can repeat the energy in the first leg against Napoli and pull off the stunner and advance further, it will no doubt bring echoes of when Fulham made that surprise run in 2002. And, for a club already lauded as being the alternative to the "big four", such a bump will only intensify that support.

If there's one club that's been the biggest recipient of NBC's solid effort of bringing the Premier League to the US, very few would debate it being Swansea City. And just like the energy of their supporters in the stands at the Liberty, it could very well be the energy of the US-based supporters increasing the club's popularity here.

Friday 20 December 2013

The Official Jonjo Shelvey Drinking Game

'Tis the season to drink (in addition to all the other things you may do at Christmas), so what better way to take the edge off an awkward family gathering than to play a drinking game. And what better subject for a drinking game than the enjoyable, talented and totally unpredictable Swansea City midfielder, Jonjo Shelvey?

Our resident American Swans fan JACOB CRISTOBAL has jotted down the rules to the drinking game (with a few extras chucked in by me) for your enjoyment. So, when Auntie Maude suggests a fun game to play this Christmas, turn on the TV, open your tipple of choice and hope Jonjo Shelvey is starting the match!


By Jacob Cristobal

What's one thing we've learned so far this season? As well as needing a healthy Michu and Bony, and doing whatever it takes to keep Michael Laudrup our manager, it's that whenever Jonjo Shelvey is on the pitch you know you are in for an experience.


I'll say this: an eight-hour time difference usually means that if I want to watch Swansea City matches live, it is in the morning. And it's a good thing they come in the morning when I'm sleep-deprived and drinking is very far from my mind, because when Jonjo's on the pitch, you'll damn well want to drink!

I've now realised that you will have more than enough scenarios within 90 minutes to create a drinking game based on his antics. So here are the official rules to The Jonjo Shelvey Drinking Game!

Remember, follow these rules at your own peril. I, nor, bear any responsibility for what happens. Besides, you Jacks are already a drunken lot by the time the ball is kicked - right? So, take another drink if:

  • Jonjo influences play so that it results in the ball in the back of a net (that's one drink if it's the opponent's net, two if it's Swansea City's).

  • Jonjo gets away with a foul that would normally warrant a booking (one drink if the commentators say it was worthy of a yellow, two if it was worthy of a red, and three if it was an arrestable offence).

  • Jonjo scores a legitimate goal. (Typically this comes after the previous two conditions happen first: (i.e. in the Newcastle game).

  • Jonjo gives the ball away in the Swans half in the 96th minute and it results in an equalising goal for the opposition.

Down your drink if:
  • Jonjo makes a hand gesture that is considered a declaration of war in another part of the world.

  • Jonjo scores an overhead kick from the Swans box in the 97th minute - reclaiming the lead and winning the game.

  • Jonjo nuts the referee.

Any others we should include? Let us know via the usual channels - Facebook, Twitter or leaving a comment below.

COMING NEXT WEEK - The Dwight Tiendalli Hangover Cure (...not really).

Saturday 31 August 2013

The £150 million Swansea City question!

After last weekend's match, ForzaSwansea's favourite American Swans supporter JACOB CRISTOBAL somehow found himself on BBC Radio's Sports World talking to presenters about the Swans vs Spurs match (you can listen to it again here). However his connection dropped out as he was asked a very important question - a question he attempts to answer in this blog post!


By Jacob Cristobal

If you listened to my broadcast last weekend you will know I was presented with a question of what would/could Swansea City do with “Gareth Bale money.” But before I could answer the question, the connection dropped off. Hey, it comes with the territory of calling from some six or seven time zones away. Coincidentally it did create the narrative that my brief appearance on worldwide radio ended on a cliffhanger. So the question remains - what would I do with a £150 million budget at Swansea City?

Before we jump into the money pit, take note that my approach to this question involves fantasy signings and some general practicality. £150 million to spend is indeed a lot of money, but it’s still not buying you the Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and, now, Gareth Bale's of the world. Yet you can still pick up a lot of talent with that much money. Or Itay Shechter 150 million times over.

So if the Swans were given that much money with the current squad as it is, here’s what I’d do:

For me, this is priority number one. I say it because lightning is just not going to strike twice (or is it thrice). Swansea were lucky to continue the climb to where they are after Roberto Martinez became the architect and Paulo Sousa and Brendan Rodgers followed in suit. Yes Rodgers guided them to promotion and in the first year, didn’t become a one and done. He leaves and we then get Michael Laudrup, only one of the greatest midfielders of not just his generation, but all-time. He only improves on what the previous guy did and guided the Swans to European competition. Maybe there is another manager that can easily come in with their own Midas touch, but I’d rather not take that gamble. Add whatever zeroes are necessary to his paycheck and keep him happy!

I’m a firm believer in that ideology that no player is bigger than a club. But Michu is sure going to be (if he isn’t already) the offensive spark for the club. I want him to be wearing the Swansea shirt as long as possible with the only exception being his personal dream of going back to his local club Real Oviedo where it all began and retire back home playing in the top flight of La Liga.

Swansea City need a strong holding/defensive midfielder. As you saw in the match against Spurs, their midfielders out-muscled Swansea’s. Capoue smothered whoever had the ball and that’s what I’d like to see Swansea have. Your Marouane Fellaini’s of the world, or if you could do some reverse-ageing and get Xabi Alonso a couple years ago. If I may go local flavor here, Osvaldo Alonso of the Seattle Sounders FC would be great. Hands down one of the best box-to-box mids - he will come at you hard and fast and take that ball away from you.

Another fantasy name on my list, one who would probably cost a good deal of that £150 million is Paul Pogba from Juventus. I don’t think I’m telling anyone anything new in terms of the potential he could very well reach while under such tutelage as the legendary Andrea Pirlo.

Remember in January the bookies had Swansea pegged to land the services of one David Villa? From 2010 to 2011 he was unstoppable and only a fool wouldn’t want his killer long shot. I could watch this goal over and over. I am always going to rate El Guaje and nothing short of him committing a major, violent crime is going to change that opinion. With that huge sack of money, I’d resurrect that rumour and turn it into reality!

This next name is strictly based on the fact that whenever I can afford him in FIFA he’s been nothing but gold. Adryan over in Brazilian side Flamengo is a teenage mid/attacking mid who, if you play regularly in the game, progresses very well. It got to the point that I was rejecting offers from Barcelona for his services at four, five times the price I got him. I’m not sure how Laudrup and Jenkins view Brazilian talent but in my fantasy scenario, since there’s plenty of years ahead of him, you can ease him into the system and first team.

Now - a gamble... Fernando Torres. That’s right, I’d take a flier on Torres. Here’s why. Ever since he made the move to Chelsea, people just cannot seem to let go of the running joke: “OMG! HE DOESN’T SCORE ANY GOALS! WASTE OF MONEY LOL!” - those jokes are just so tired now! Like it or not he has a spot on the Spanish national team and they don’t just give those out to anyone for just showing up with a smile. I’d be that guy who’d take Torres and at the presser, tell people to back off because I still rate him as an effective player that could fit well into the Swansea system and take some pressure off offensive threats like Michu and Bony.

Outside of those major-name moves and picking up various cheap talent to round out depth, I’d put the bulk of the money into developing Swansea’s own La Masia. Hell, if the club already has the nickname of Swanselona why not go all out and invest in resources to develop a youth academy like the Catalan giants have? If that academy could produce even half of the alumni La Masia has over the years, that’s still every worth dime spent on it.

The business model Swansea City have utilised is the ultimate light at the end of the tunnel for all those clubs in various depressing levels of financial plight, so this would only be another notch to claim that the club is doing it right.

£150 million is a lot of money and acquiring some of those marquee name talents will take a big slice of that pie. Yet I think such a sack of money would honestly have Laudrup and Jenkins confused as to what they could do with it. I know they wouldn’t just piss it all away and let it negate the hard work they’ve done to get where they are in the present. The years of hard work now sees them playing in Europe and making full efforts to stay in the Premier League. Stable and continued success could very well see them making savvy moves that translate to a club that operates and brings in quality players like they’re one of the big boys with a £150 million budget every year.

Still if that magical, giant sack of money showed up at the front door of the Liberty Stadium I fully offer my services as to how to use that money!

Sunday 2 June 2013

A Swan in Seattle: First season triumph!

With the football over, it's our pleasure here at ForzaSwansea to keep you entertained over the summer with some passionate blog posts, like this one from American Swansea City fan JACOB CRISTOBAL. He sums up his first season following the club perfectly!

So, the 2012-13 Premier League season is over. Fergie went out on a high, the hierarchy among the London clubs stayed the same and QPR learned what happened when they embark on a poor man’s Man City spending spree.

But none of that mattered much to me as I was following the journey of Swansea City as they ventured through their second year in the Premier League! What did this American - probably barely qualified to have an opinion on football - learn?

First and foremost, the chatter I saw on my Twitter feed on Saturday mornings was of two things: first, everyone who flashed the crest of the Swans wanted them to pick up three points. That’s a given with any supporter of any club. Jubilation when it happened, frustration when it was anything else.

The second thing was that, much like last season, everyone was just happy to be there. No one has taken the journey for granted, especially since this May the club marked the ten year anniversary of that match against Hull City - of course everyone reading this knows what happened there.

Where the first year in the Prem was all about making sure they didn’t fall flat on their face and avoid being a “one and done,” the second year was showing everyone the first year was not a fluke.

Like everyone else, I fell in love with Michu so there’s not much else to say there that someone else hasn’t. What I wanted to happen and glad it did was that in following the club I got to know the rest of the squad - those that have been there throughout the journey and the fresh blood that Michael Laudrup brought with him.

Without a doubt, my other favourite player on the squad is Ben Davies. Talk about stepping up in a monumental way. I still think he should’ve been nominated for PFA Young Player of the Year over Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck and if Davies carries himself into the next season, he best be on the shortlist or there’s something fundamentally wrong in the voting system.

I just have to say that it’s been a lot of fun following this club, outside of my local Seattle Sounders FC. It wasn’t easy waking up at the crack of dawn every Saturday morning to fire up the computer to tune in, but man was it fun demolishing QPR on opening day, Davies silencing a winger like Nani, Rangel’s humanitarian side and - of course - winning at Wembley.

I think that last one is the highlight that no one in their wildest imagination saw coming this season. I know all I wanted was a finish in the top ten. We got that. Now they’re looking at the summer transfer window for purposes of having enough bodies for the Europa? Wow.
Then again, European competition, top ten finishes, and building a reputation as possibly the next hot/big thing most likely is the culmination of what chairman Huw Jenkins has in mind. Just like the fans I’ve gotten to know across social media and through this outlet, those that run the club are not taking any of this for granted. They’re doing what they can to tell everyone that they are very legit and are here to stay. We all know that the modern game is wide open to the “here take this giant sack of money and win” ideology - yet here are Swansea City, the plucky underdogs that are doing it right.

Interviews from Jenkins and Laudrup confirm that to me. Sure it worries me that the rising stock of the club and their players draw the bigger clubs to try and poach the players, but that’s sports for you. Happens everywhere, like it or not.

At the same time though, it is pretty cool that others are taking notice of what’s going on at Liberty Stadium. I can’t help but find a similarity with how the hometown club Seattle Sounders FC have done it as well. Just like the Swans, they are fairly new to the league, yet they’ve made a whole lot of noise in such a short history. I guess the only thing left is for the two clubs to strike a partnership, resulting in me giddy like a schoolgirl.

I don’t know what will happen next season other than I know it will be something worth remembering. It’s been a lot of fun following this club some 4,600 miles away and the people that have welcomed me into the fold have been some class folks and I hope to have a pint with them soon.

A decade ago, Swansea City were about to fall off the football cliff. Now they’re making plans for European competition. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for those who were at that match against Hull City to be here now. I’m sure there aren’t enough words to describe it, but put a gun to my head and I would say the word that embodies the season was: fun.

Now the club just needs to hurry up and unveil the new kits so I can buy them.

Thursday 2 May 2013

Swansea City: Snubbed!

After the recent PFA Player of the Year announcements, ForzaSwansea's passionate American Swans fan, JACOB CRISTOBAL hits out at the exclusion of Michu and Ben Davies.

Recently Luis Suarez did a very Luis Suarez thing and bit Branislav Ivanovic. Before that was the weekend where we saw the shortlist for the PFA awards Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year. I understand the uproar of Suarez being on the shortlist, but I also understand the fact that he has kept Liverpool afloat despite being a liability of embarrassing magnitude.

Looking at the other nominees, I understand Bale’s inclusion, Van Persie’s, Juan Mata’s, and yes - even Eden Hazard's! The one inclusion that boggled my mind along with a lot of others is Manchester United’s Michael Carrick. When I saw the shortlist on Saturday, I went, “Huh. No Michu - but Carrick is in? Really?” No, no tables were flipped in anger, it was just puzzling. I’m not saying that Michael Carrick shouldn’t be nominated - it’s hard to argue the fact that he was voted on by his fellow footballing peers.

Looking at the other candidates they all have one thing in common: goal scoring. I know it’s not the be all, end all tool of measurement for a player’s effectiveness and influence, but Michu is fourth on the list of top scorers this season, leading all midfielders in the Premier League. And you know what, he did the same thing in La Liga the season before that.

But at the end of the day, them's the breaks and while individual accolades are nice to put on the mantle, no one can take away how Michu has arrived onto the Premier League in stellar fashion, becoming the latest Swansea City hero.

Ben Davies - Better than Welbeck?

If Michu’s snub was baffling, then Ben Davies’ exclusion for PFA Young Player of the Year was ridiculous. If there’s one Swans player that has won my affection not named Michu, it is Ben Davies. A graduate from the youth squad, we all know what Davies has done since coming in for Neil Taylor in August.

His emergence and locking down of the left back position has been nothing short of amazing (ask Brendan Rodgers if he finally recovered Raheem Sterling) and if I may go completely homer for a minute, we here in Seattle have something of our own teenage riot turning heads with right back DeAndre Yedlin of the Sounders FC. I swear I am not picking on Manchester United but how and why is Danny Welbeck on the Young Player shortlist over Davies?

If you look at the EA Sports Player Performance Index, which the Premier League swears by, Davies is ranked #75, above Welbeck at #235 by the most lopsided leaps and bounds. Davies has played in more matches than Welbeck, has the same amount of goals and it only took him eight shots, whereas Welbeck had to take 39. I wonder how Welbeck would feel knowing a defender has a better shots-to-goal conversion than him? Here are a few other comparable stats between Davies and Welbeck.

  • Average Passes: Davies - 42.5 / Welbeck - 18.4
  • Pass Success %: Davies - 82.8 / Welbeck - 86.4
  • Average accurate/Total Long Balls per game: Davies - 2.1 / Welbeck - 0.3

Make of that what you will in terms of who is the better player, and really they picked the wrong player from Manchester United.

There’s another aspect with the PFA awards that I’m sure I can’t be the only one asking. Should players be eligible for multiple individual honours? With this year’s nominees, Bale and Hazard are in Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year. Should it be that if they’re nominated for let’s just call it the “senior” one, should they still be eligible for the YPOY? If you take them off that list, you then open it up for a combo of De Gea/Nastasic/Davies in there. That would make for a more appealing pool to choose the winner for YPOY and quell the majority of journalists screaming “___ was snubbed!”

Maybe that’s something the PFA should consider so the field is more open. Again, in the end this is just how these things play out. It’s always tough for these sort of individual accolades to be dwindled down any shortlist. There’s always going to be debate about who got in over someone else across message boards, news articles, social media, pubs and the like. So while being officially recognised by their footballing peers in the form of an individual honour eluded them this year, Michu and Ben Davies have nothing to be sad about.

I bet they would gladly prefer the love and recognition from the supporters any day of the week. And hey, there’s always next season right?

Sunday 10 March 2013

A Swan in Seattle

In bed, through one bloodshot eye - that's how Seattle-based Swansea City fan JACOB CRISTOBAL watches his newly-adopted team. In his debut ForzaSwansea blog post, he explains how he fell in love with a club that play the beautiful game over 4,500 miles away.

There's something special about watching Swansea City, and the overall narrative of who they are and what they're trying to accomplish.

Most fans of the game here in the US tend to start off with finding a favourite in England's top flight before branching out to finding favourites in other places, including our own domestic league, Major League Soccer.

I was going through the motions of picking a Premier League side. Most of my friends already had their allegiances with someone of the "Big Four" and, while I was close to following suit, I wanted to expand my horizons.

My personal preference is to go for the new and in Swansea City's case they were the newest of new. Their first time ever being in the Premier League as well as being the first Welsh club to do so definitely struck a chord with my way of thinking and throughout the 2011/12 season I kept an eye on what they were doing.

The confirmation of picking and following them didn't really come until the summer of 2012. No, this wasn't like LeBron James' The Decision, though one of my friends tried to make a campaign for me to swear allegiance to Chelsea.

Looking at where Swansea City finished in their maiden voyage was very impressive and truth be told there are a couple aspects about Swansea City that I just like and, most likely, only by my logic make sense. They are:
  • The Swanselona nickname - having been dazzled over the years by FC Barcelona, this is a no-brainer.
  • Their crest is a beautiful design of simplicity and echoes something you'd see out of the DHARMA Initiative (yes, that's a reference to the series LOST).
  • Their nickname, the Swans - where sports typically go for aggressive nicknames, you have the swan. How can you not like that?
Living on the west coast of the US, I'm in the unique position of catching Swansea City matches from the comforts of bed, through an Internet stream and with one bloodshot eye. When kick-off happens over in the Premier League, most of the time it's 7am here in Seattle. So you can already imagine the process when those lunch time kick-offs happen and it's 4am here.

Sometimes the Swans are on TV and in those cases I have to endure Steve McManaman's attempts to use words to form sentences to make a point about who knows what! Then again, this is how it is following practically any European league match live. I would never complain about it because without the marvels of technology, discovering Swansea City and getting to know some of the fans would not be possible.

Chris asked me where Swansea City lie in terms of how American fans view them - I would say they are of two outlooks.

First they could be seen as a mid-table team who will make a little bit of noise, but ultimately lie in the middle of the pack. Something akin to your Stoke City and Fulhams of the world. Not competing for the Premier League title, but not trying to pull off a great escape from relegation.

The other outlook is that with their immediate success and feel good story of winning the League Cup and possible advancements in European competition, Swansea City could become an alternative for those looking for a Premier League team to root for that aren't part of the old, established giants.

I'm not saying the Swans themselves are going to be Premier League giants any time soon, but they are building a great case to attract more people to not just how they play and the stars they have, but how the club is managed and most importantly the fair and good people that support the club.

And that is one of the biggest aspects about Swansea City that I've come to like over the journey so far - the people. Those that I've interacted with over social media have welcomed me with virtual open arms and I've noticed that not one of them has ever felt the club was entitled to any of the success. Yes, the want is a great burning desire, but those that I've talked to know what's happening before them is special and they are just enjoying and appreciating the ride.

As the saying goes, the rest is history.

No one is going to be able to say where Swansea City will go next but the ride they're taking fans on, both old and new, has been a blast. It's roughly 4,600 miles between Seattle and Swansea and while I hope to one day close that distance and attend a match at the Liberty Stadium, near or far this guy says thank you and let the good times roll.