Showing posts with label Jules Price. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jules Price. Show all posts

Monday 5 August 2013

Interview with former Swans goalkeeper Mike Hughes ('83 - '88)

In this ForzaSwansea exclusive interview, JULES PRICE has been talking to former Swansea City goalkeeper Mike Hughes about his time with the club, his health problems and his thoughts on the club today.


By Jules Price

Mike Hughes played for the Swans between 1983 and 1988, making 139 appearances for the club. However, after making 101 consecutive appearances and not missing a game for three years, Mike was advised by neurosurgeons not to continue as a full-time football player.

I remember going to Mike’s testimonial match against Tottenham Hotspur at the Vetch Field. It was the first time Paul Gascoigne played for Spurs after his transfer from Newcastle United. Gascoigne scored a 25-yard free kick that evening.

Mike in action for the Swans in the 80s

I had the pleasure of watching Mike play in goals for many years when I was growing up and supporting the Swans. In my opinion he was one of the best ever keepers for the Swans. Therefore it is my absolute pleasure to be able to interview him.

Fans who were supporting the Swans during that period were very saddened to hear of Mike’s forced retirement. Still a Swansea City fan, here Mike tells us about the injury that forced him into retirement, the best player he played with and against and his ongoing love of the club.

(Note: Interview was carried out before the Malmo home game)

Mike in the present day: still a Swans fan!

What is your favourite memory of playing for the Swans?
No one thing stands out for me apart from it being a dream come true for a kid to progress from the North Bank to the hallowed turf of the Vetch Field and play in front of the Jack Army. I always had tremendous support from them even through the not-so-great times.

Who was the best player in the Swans team at that time?
I played with some very good players in the eight years I spent at the club. The best by a mile even at his age was the late great Robbie James. The guy was a legend. The world's worst trainer but what a player and what a guy. Very sadly missed.

Who was the best player you played against?
Probably Kevin Keegan at Newcastle. We kept them out for 80 minutes until he changed the game with a piece of magic only someone of his ability would have produced. Class.

What were the symptoms/illness that caused you to retire early?
I received two bouts of concussion during games at home to Bristol City pre-season and again at Crewe four months later and could not shake off the headaches. Following a scan at the hospital, neurosurgeons informed me that it was too great a risk to continue as a full time player. To say I was devastated was an understatement as I had not missed a first team game for nearly three years and had played 101 consecutive games at that point.

Your testimonial match was against Spurs when Paul Gascoigne played his first ever game for Tottenham. What are your memories from that game?
To be honest not a lot. I still have the game on video and have never watched it apart from the after match events in town. Not the happiest of memories to be honest.

Do you keep in touch with any of your old teammates?
Not on a regular basis but I have seen a few of them at various games and it is always nice to catch up.

What did you do after your retirement from professional football?
I initially worked in the financial services sector until joining HM Prison Service at Swansea in 1990. I then spent 13 years as a Physical Education Officer at various establishments before taking a managers role at HM Prison Chelmsford, where I have worked for the past 11 years.

What was the last Swans game that you went to?
Southampton at home last season, but as I write I will be at the Malmo game. I was at all the London games last season and it was a fantastic experience seeing us win at QPR, Arsenal, Chelsea and Fulham as well as drawing at Norwich.

Since your retirement the Swans have had some great keepers including Roger Freestone, Rhys Wilmot, and Michel Vorm. In your opinion who had been the best ever Swans goalkeeper? 
To be honest, I would have thrown Dorus de Vries in there as well for the contribution he made before his very poor lapse in judgement to leave! 24 clean sheets in a season - wow! However, despite Michel Vorm being our number one, I am personally a big fan of Gerhard Tremmel and would like to see him get more game time after his exploits last season.

Finally, do you think the Swans can keep on progressing? Ultimately what do you think they can achieve?
Why not? But when you are up against the likes of Man City and Chelsea who have billionaire owners, we have to be realistic. To finish ninth and win the League Cup was beyond everybody's dreams last season. I guess to match this again and make a reasonable mark in Europe will be progression this season. I for one cannot wait - starting with Malmo. COYS!


A big thank you to Mike for taking the time to answer these questions.You can follow Mike on Twitter @mike_hughes01 and you can follow Jules via @jpswansea.

Friday 7 June 2013

Swansea City: Kitted Out

IT'S almost time for one of the summer's best moments - the launch of the new Swansea City kit! What will we be wearing next season? Who will we be wearing next season? In this blog post JULES PRICE takes a look at rumours surrounding the new kit and sponsor.

Now that the dust has began to settle on another successful season in the Premier League, attention now turns to the behind-the-scenes work at Swansea City.

While much has been and will be written about the potential new signings, players leaving and the ongoing saga of the relationship between Michael Laudrup and the Board of Directors, I’m equally intrigued by the design of the 2013/14 shirts and club sponsor.

The Swans and current shirt sponsor 32Red came to an amicable agreement to terminate the arrangement early. No doubt the Swans would have compensated the online gambling company, but they (32Red) surely had the agreement of the century!

Just consider the amount the company had paid to the Swans while the club was in the Championship, but of course had since been given global coverage on an unseen level at the Liberty Stadium. Thus, the Swans sought a new partnership that would reflect the level of exposure the club could promise any new suitor as they enter the Europa League

Rumours have circulated it could be Infiniti who are currently a club partner, while the Swansea City Wikipedia page states Nexon as the new sponsor. But Leigh Dineen confirmed to me that the new sponsor isn't a current club partner.

I have heard rumours of Samsung and Black & Decker. The latter seems a little strange to me. The Korean company Samsung would be a potential fit as Swansea’s midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng is worshipped in the country, but they already sponsor Chelsea. What about LG? They previously sponsored Fulham and are always looking to ‘troll’ Samsung.

It does seem the Swans were hoping to tie the shirt sponsor into a stadium naming rights exercise at the same time. This will not be the case. Not for the foreseeable future anyway. The extra naming rights fund would have been used to finance some of the stadium expansion that should have started this month with the creation of a fourth tier in the West Stand. This is not going ahead and the better use of spare communal space in the West Stand will house the media.

Of course, the club shop is being expanded into a ‘superstore’ that will accommodate a record-breaking amount of stock. 55,000 shirts will be available this year. A staggering amount! The lead-time for the club to order the shirt design is nine months from Adidas, and thus they are currently being printed with the new sponsor’s name at the time of writing this article. I believe the shirts should be available during the first two weeks of July.

Finally, I have heard rumours of the Swans considering a second superstore in Cwmdu industrial estate. I haven’t been able to substantiate this, so if you have heard this rumour too I would love to hear from you.

Saturday 27 April 2013

Chico's future with Swansea City

With the Premier League season drawing to a close, JULES PRICE takes a brief look at one of this season's most influential signings, Chico Flores, and where his future may lie.

We are all aware of the success of Swansea City’s second season in the league and winning the Capital One Cup. We are also aware of the impact the 2012 arrivals had on the team such as Michu, de Guzman and not forgetting the promotion of Ben Davies to the starting eleven.

However, another standout performer this season has been Chico Flores and, as Michael Laudrup begins planning for the next campaign, speculation around Chico and the other Swans players is already underway.

The Spanish defender could be a man in demand according to respected commentator Guillem Balague. During a recent event evening at the Liberty Stadium, Balague more than hinted that Chico could be the target for some of Europe's largest clubs, in particular Barcelona.

It is widely understood that Barcelona stalwart Carles Puyol could leave in the summer, and that would mean an enormous gap for the Catalan club to fill. Balague cutely suggested Chico could be the man as he looked over at him and smiled. Of course, Chico did play for the Barcelona B team when managed by a young Pep Guardiola.

More pleasing to hear was another hint from Balague that Chico is on the verge of Spanish call up to represent his national team.

It seems Swansea’s success is being closely monitored throughout Europe and with Guardiola apparently a fan of the central defender, there is a quiet suggestion that he could be a target for German giants Bayern Munich.

Should the transfer speculation of Chico become true and the possible departure of Ashley Williams to Liverpool or Arsenal, it could be a long hard-working summer for Michael Laudrup and his coaching staff.

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Ashley Williams: On his way out?

In this blog post, JULES PRICE takes a look at why Swansea City legend Ashley Williams may well be heading away from South Wales this summer. And we don't mean on holiday.

I’ve lost count of reports linking established Swansea City players with bigger clubs, especially on the back of the Swans' continued success in the Premier League. This season there has already been a lot of speculation over players being lured away from Swansea including Michu, Vorm and of course Laudrup himself, while loanee Jonathan De Guzman would create a genuine void should he return to his parent club Villareal.

But a major headache for the club would be the departure of captain Ashley Williams. While he denies seeking a move, maybe there are some telltale signs to suggest otherwise.

What career path has Williams followed so far? After a short spell as a youth player at West Brom, he joined non-league Hednesford Town before being snapped up by Stockport County. He was well respected at Stockport and club captain, and was given a farewell round of applause when he signed for the Swans during the 2007-2008 season.

Since then, Williams has been a stalwart in the heart of the Swansea defence, breaking many records along the way. He holds the record in the 2012/13 Premier League season for the most blocks. His player influence stats are nearly always the highest in the Swansea team, and he has one of the highest pass completion rates amongst his peers. The icing on the cake was lifting the Capital One Cup at Wembley in February.

However, I have seen a side to Ashley Williams this season that has not been so visible previously. At the start of the season, the club was surrounded by rumour that all was not well behind closed doors, with the chairman holding meetings to resolve disputes between the players and the new management team. This seemed to have an effect on Williams as some sloppy back passing from him cost Swansea dearly. His levels of concentration were clearly strained.

Credit to him, his season has got back on track. But another problem occurs. Is he satisfied with the quality and commitment he sees from some of his teammates, especially the newer recruits? At the end of the West Brom away game and the recent Arsenal game at the Liberty Stadium, Williams was livid with some of his teammates, but one player in particular has been at the wrong end of his disgruntlement – Pablo Hernandez.

I have observed him shouting, swearing and screaming at Hernandez like I have never seen before, with pure frustration and anger. Could this be too much for Williams? I suspect he has had and will continue to receive offers from now until the start of next season, from other clubs and the opportunity may finally be right for him.

At 28-years-old a move to a richer club would guarantee one large pay-day before retirement, the possibility of Champions League football, and the chance to play with players of even greater ability. Or will Williams see Swansea’s entry into next season’s Europa League as enough of a challenge, and it will suppress any other desire to leave the club?

His agent Jamie Moralee has reiterated Williams is likely to stay, but he has confirmed discussions would need to take place between all parties if a substantial offer is received. With Arsenal and Liverpool reportedly admirers of the Swansea defender, the Swans will be lucky to have him playing for them during the 2013/14 season.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Swansea City: The ‘other’ summer signings

Although Michu has rightly claimed the title of the new Swansea City poster boy, he is not the only player who joined the club in the summer. As JULES PRICE explains, there are others worth celebrating.

To suggest Michu has been the signing of the season is an understatement. Not only is he one of the leading scorers in the Premier League, but he has demonstrated his versatility playing in different positions and, with the departure of Danny Graham, has taken on extra responsibility within the team.

However, he wasn’t the only signing that Swansea made before the 2012/13 season commenced.

New recruits Ki Sung-Yeung, Pablo Hernandez, Chico Flores, Jonathan De Guzman and Kyle Bartley have all enjoyed some success in South Wales. Let's take a look at three of these ‘other’ signings who sit in the shadow of Michu.

South Korean Ki Sung-Yueng had already enjoyed three successful seasons in British football with Scottish giants Celtic. Swansea signed the 24-year-old Korean international for a club record fee of around £6million. Little was known of the attacking midfielder, but it soon become apparent how useful this player is. He is a skillful player who has great vision to choose the right pass, many of which are forward moving and has the ability to use both feet.

For both Celtic and the South Korean national team, he has shown to be a valuable asset, scoring some spectacular goals from 25 yards plus. Although yet to score for the Swans, he has had the most shots blocked of any player in the Premier League this season. Ki’s willingness to help his team mates and his resourcefulness was typified by playing a full back role in the Capital One Cup Final game against Bradford at Wembley.

Pablo Hernandez is a 27-year-old player who was signed to compliment the wide players like Routledge and Dyer. Formerly a striker in his early days in Spain, Hernandez has been tipped to play for a big club with alleged interest coming from Manchester United and other top European sides. After some success at international level for Spain, making his debut against Austria in 2009, Hernandez’s career seemed to meander before Swansea signed him during the Summer of 2012.

He has the ability to round a player and has scored some memorable goals for the Swans. However, in more recent games against WBA and Arsenal, his pass completion has been poor, and he seems to try almost too hard to be precise with his pass. He played well against Bradford, showing some flashes of his true talent, whilst gaining an good understanding with Ben Davies.

Jonathan De Guzman has been signed on loan from the relegated Villarreal for a season, although both the player and Swansea are looking to make the deal a permanent one. This will depend on whether Villarreal are promoted back to La Liga. During the pre-season games at the Liberty Stadium, De Guzman could be seen marshaling his new team mates around the pitch, showing great zonal awareness, and demonstrating some true technical ability.

De Guzman has grown in statute, producing some wonderful free kicks, and is now the second leading goal scorer for the Swans with eight goals in total. Arguably his best game was in the Capital One Cup semi-final against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, where he proved to be the perfect foil for Michu helping to create the first goal.

Many media pundits will still argue that to be successful in the Premier League you have to spend serious money. I disagree! Yes, you need to sign new, better players to improve the squad, but more importantly a club needs to sign the RIGHT players and Swansea City have been justified in this approach.

Michu has been a revelation this season, and his recent League Managers Association Award has vindicated this, but the Swans are much more than that and, with two exciting players apparently lined up to join the squad this summer, may Swansea’s shrewd approach continue.


If you are after lovely, independent reviews of the fine eateries of Swansea remember to check out Chris's food blog - SwanseaOnAPlate!

Friday 15 March 2013

Fortress Liberty: Expansion

In his debut ForzaSwansea blog post JULES PRICE takes a brief, sensible look at the exciting new plans for the desperately needed expansion of the Liberty Stadium.

It was in 2005 that Swansea City and the Ospreys moved to the Liberty Stadium, which was a typical off-the-shelf packaged modern complex, based on plans similar to Sunderland’s ground, the Stadium of Light.

With an initial capacity of 20,500, this has organically grown to 20,750 with better use of space, but now the club has announced a three-stage plan to expand the stadium, increasing the capacity to an eventual 32,000 seats. Having the second lowest stadium capacity in the Premier League after QPR’s Loftus Road, Swansea City are now anxious to take advantage of its growing popularity among local and global supporters.

An artist's impression of what the front elevation may look like.

However, the club has brought forward the first stage of its ambitious expansion programme, as the current media facilities at the stadium are not compliant for the new Sky TV/BT Sports agreement commencing in August 2013. The initial phase will involve the creation of a fourth tier in the West Stand, which will house a new media centre.

This also provides the Swans with an opportunity to house a new spectator area on the newly created level, and replace the existing media area with spectator seats. Externally, the fourth tier will not be visible, and the perfect bowl shape is still retained.

Seating inside the stadium.

A further 5000 seats are expected to be added to the East Stand in time for the 2014/15 Season, and should the Swans continue to enjoy success on the pitch, a decision will be made to increase the capacity to an eventual 32,000.

This steady, calculated approach typifies how Swansea City have conducted its business under the guidance of Huw Jenkins. The Swans will be keen to avoid the mistake made by Wolves where an ambitious expansion programme to increase their Molineux Stadium was started, only for the club to be relegated to the Championship and subsequently struggle to fill the new seating areas.

Thoughts from Chris:

The stadium desperately needs more seating. In this age where Swansea have significantly increased their support in the city and beyond (not in Cardiff) there is a constant battle for tickets. The infuriating Jack Army membership scheme starts to play its part, tickets are sold for stupid prices, fans try to get tickets in the away end... it's not what football should be about.

How refreshing it would be to just wander down to the stadium on match day and pick up a couple of tickets half hour before kick-off.

As Jules mentions, if Swansea are relegated then support may wane (though it shouldn't if everyone is the Swansea supporter they say they are...) and the half-full stadium may make Swans matches seem like Osprey's matches!

Still, it's worth the gamble. Swansea don't look likely to be relegation material in the near future and now is the time to encourage new supporters who can actually pop along to a match without having to scavenge for a ticket weeks ahead of the game.