Sunday, 20 February 2011

Setting the record straight!

As I settled down with my beer and film last night, my phone buzzed to inform me of a new Twitter message. With horror I noticed a few more messages all asking me the same question: why I thought Swansea had performed so badly?

So, to instantly set the record straight, I didn't think they performed badly at all, in fact quite the opposite. I had Tweeted:

Great result for Swansea, 3-0! Goal for Luke Moore, glossed another poor performance, but hopefully this is a confidence booster!

I think I should have said: "Goal for Luke Moore, glossed another poor performance from him." It seemed to annoy a few people that I was being so negative about the Swans, when, in fact, I wasn't at all. I guess that's what I get for Tweeting while trying to edge my way through traffic on Neath Road!

With my name cleared, I can move onto yesterday's game, and I might as well start with Luke Moore. He isn't a bad player. I very much doubt Brendan Rodgers would spend that much money on a bad player. What he currently is, though, is a mediocre player. He scored his long-awaited first goal yesterday, which I am thrilled about, but it did gloss another average performance. It's his lack of effort that I find brings him down in my eyes. A couple of times in yesterday's game he could have been through on goal if he chased a slightly loose ball or looked up more to see what was going on around him. In other clubs maybe he was given shooting opportunities on a plate, but with Swansea it seems like goals need to be fought for! Hopefully the whole Luke Moore saga is put to bed now, as I hope he will get a couple more goals (as a striker should!) in the next few games due to a higher confidence level.

Elsewhere, as I've said, Swansea were pretty flawless. I noticed some amazing linking up from Dyer, Rangel and Dobbie, creating havoc on the right wing. If Dyer was running up the wing, Rangel was his option ahead, though he also had Dobbie running inside him. It was a perfect attacking triangle, and one which Doncaster didn't have a clue how to defend.

The re-inclusion of Neil Taylor added speed and support to Scott Sinclair on the left wing, giving another platform for goal-scoring opportunities to be made. Richards and, to a lesser extent, Alfei, made some great progress in the first team, but Taylor is the player who will suit Swansea's style more in the remainder of the season.

Tactically, I have to talk about the cross field passes from Williams and Tate. Dyer, who was rarely marked it appeared, could slip in behind the defence while Williams hammered a long ball up to him, cutting out any midfield play and creating an instant crossing opportunity from nothing! Tate also managed to successfully do the same to his opposite wing, Sinclair, where similar chances were created.

A mention for Man of the Match, Stephen Dobbie – a great performance by the creative midfielder, giving options to Dyer and Sinclair in the centre of the park and fighting for the win. He hasn't been played enough this season, so hopefully yesterday's performance shows the management that he is worth fitting in!

And finally, kudos to Mr Miller, who refereed the game well for a change. Used common sense to let the game flow. An example of this was when both Dyer and a Doncaster defender went down injured. Both physios came on to treat the players, but, instead of having the players leave the pitch to be later called back on, Miller let them both stay on. No yellow cards either, though that is also down to the players, from both clubs, playing some good, fair football. For a team that had zero shots on or off-target, Doncaster didn't get frustrated and start hacking away. I applaud them for that. And the drummer who kept it up all game.

It's all coming together now, isn't it Swansea! Another few games like that...

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Adopting the Swans!

In my quest to get into an American sport, I've stumbled across the notion of club adoption, where you chose a club to support with no solid ties to the city that the club is based.

Swansea City have been adopted by many people who live far, far away (that's right - even further than Carmarthen) and they all have their reasons for selecting the Swans. But this got me thinking that there may be many more out there searching for their own team to adopt.

Foreign football fans could end up choosing to adopt Barnsley or Preston or (*shudder*) Cardiff, instead of Swansea. So, I've put together a couple of reasons to help persuade potential fans that they should adopt Swansea as their football club!


1) The kit
As a supporter of whatever team you choose to adopt, you will naturally want to get your hands on a replica jersey to show where your loyalties lie and what better kit than that of Swansea City? The joy of the Swansea kit is that it's simple. You just can't go wrong with white (unless you spill Chicken Korma down the front). It's clean, stylish and bold. The away kit is similarly simple, just in black.

If you opt to support a different club, you could end up wearing a disgusting supporters kit. Everton's garish pink away jersey anyone? Fancy slipping on the Arsenal away top, reminiscent of a Girl Guide uniform? Thought not. With Swansea at least you'll look good.

Though in previous years there have been some kit blips (I didn't think much of last season's over complicated design), the current look is hard to dislike. It's a jersey to be proud of!


2) The place
When picking a team to adopt, you have to bare in mind that you might want to, one day, go to watch a live game in the city. Now if you pick Coventry or Hull, you'd have to stay in one of those cities, which can't be good for your well-being. By choosing Swansea City FC you'll have the joy of staying in Wales' best city!

I was about to reel off some reasons why you might want to visit Swansea, but I found that visitswanseabay.com has done a better job than I'd be able to:

Wales' city by the sea has Viking roots and a long, eventful history. Home to innovative visitor attractions and renowned for its awesome night-life, it's a vibrant cultural centre, and a regional shopping hub. Just a stone's throw away, the charismatic seaside village of Mumbles offers galleries and boutiques, snug caf├ęs and fine dining. The Gower Peninsula extends west of Mumbles, in miles of unspoilt coastal panoramas, award-winning golden beaches, and lush, rolling countryside.

See, that was a great description wasn't it? I was just going to mention that we have a Nandos!


3) The rivalries
It's not unheard of for a team to have a rival. The Manchester derby, Merseyside derby, Birmingham derby... all famous in their own rights, but none of these come close to the raw hatred involved when Swansea City play Cardiff City!

Being the only two major league teams in Wales, you'd think the clubs would support one another and try to put Welsh football on the map together wouldn't you? Wrong! The supporters generally can't stand each other, which ensures the South Wales derby is always a highly charged affair!

With Swansea and Cardiff both in the Championship, this derby is played at least twice a season, with added possibility of the teams facing each other in cup matches too. And, with both teams in a position to be promoted to the Premier League, this rivalry could soon be played out on one of the biggest footballing stages in the world!

(By the way, I'm aware that if you choose to adopt Cardiff as your team you would also get the joys of this celebrated derby. But you don't really want to support Cardiff...)


4) The football
Naturally the football is the main reason you are selecting a team to adopt. I could go on and on about the ins and outs of Swansea's footballing philosophy, but I guess you have to watch a couple of games first, to see if the style really suits you!

However I will say this. Swansea play exciting football, which has led to recent comparisons to giants like Arsenal and Chelsea. With up-and-coming youngsters such as Scott Sinclair, speedy wingmen like Nathan Dyer and solid defending from the likes of Tate, Monk and co., Swansea has a lot to offer the football connoisseur! Boredom is rarely a word you associate with the Swans these days.

Of course the club has had their blips and fair share of average matches in the past, but some of the games from this season alone are worth following the Swans for! Recent games such as the 4-3 win away against Middlesbrough after being 3-1 down really shows the fighting spirit the team have. If you love 94th minute winning goals, you'll love watching the Swans!


5) The future
As you read this, things could have changed, but Swansea are currently 5th in a very tight nPower Championship table, just seven points off the top spot. The Swans have been in with a great chance of topping the table over the past weeks, though a few slip-ups have cost them a place or two. However, they're still in a fantastic position to end the season in the automatic promotion places and, with 15 games to go, it wouldn't be impossible to actually win the league (I'll get scorned by many fans now for jinxing it).

Some may call it optimistic, but blips aside, Swansea can play fantastic football and can win most games put in front of them if they keep focused and take things game-by-game. We are in the later stages of the 2010/11 season at the moment and the Swans are looking to gain momentum for the final push to promotion glory. Exciting time to start supporting your new team!


6) Alan Tate
By supporting Swansea City, you have Alan Tate on your side. That should be enough to persuade anyone!

So there we go! 6 good reason to adopt the Swans. We look forward to seeing you at the Liberty Stadium some time in the near future!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Bite-size Blog: Swansea vs. Middlesbrough

Even though the Cardiff game may still hurt a little, the Swans know a win tomorrow against Middlesbrough (3pm, Riverside Stadium) would cure any remaining derby hangover.

Boro are sitting in 19th position in the Championship table and are a team the Swans should beat if they plan to go on and achieve promotion glory. They may not be able to do the double over Cardiff, but Middlesbrough should prove an easier test. Doing the double over Middlesbrough, much like the South Wales derby last week, would also be making history as neither side has ever done the double over each other since they first met in 1925. It just doesn't have the same ring to it as "double over Cardiff" does. Never mind.

The starting eleven should pretty much be the same as that of the Cardiff match, but with Edgar replacing Richards in the back four. Elsewhere, Luke Moore needs a break. Not because he has worked too hard, but because he has done nothing for the squad recently. He is now officially a striker who does not score goals. This isn't unheard of with Swansea as most goals come from midfielders, but at least with Dobbie and Beattie they work hard and look like they want to score. Moore has recently looked lazy and slow, always two moves behind everyone else. I think a game where he isn't played would be wise, just to remind him that he will not always make the starting eleven unless he starts putting a little more effort in. Trust me, now I've said this he will go on to score three tomorrow!

Betting on the match?

Here are some odds for you to check out. Firstly, I was just joking with the Luke Moore hat-trick – I can't see him scoring that many this season, let alone in one game. The odds for this occurrence are 80/1, so I wouldn't waste your money. If you like big odds, I feel the usual “1-0 win to Swansea, with Pratley scoring the goal” is worth a pound, at 50/1. Ex-Swans loanee Marvin Emnes to score first is 13/2 and, knowing Swansea's luck, would also be worth putting a pound on (just in case)!

So this ends my first bite-size blog. Very brief wasn't it? Enjoy tomorrow's match, whether you're travelling up or sitting on the sofa avoiding the rugby. Swansea need this victory to get back in the race for automatic promotion, and maybe just a little to give the fans something to cheer for! So here's to three points (... to the Swans. Obviously)!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Swansea 0 – 1 Cardiff: Just another game...

Well that didn't go as planned, did it!? No sir. In case you didn't see the match, there are plenty of neutral reports out there, so I won't go through it word for word, instead I'll share a couple of my thoughts about the game.

Firstly, Swansea and Cardiff both had the exact same amount of shots on target (3) and off target (6), so the chances were there, it was just finishing them off that Swansea couldn't get right again. Generally the Swans were much better in the second half after a poor start (almost an abysmal start, had Bothroyd's 30 second strike gone in). The truth is Cardiff looked a lot more hungry for this win. It wasn't until Allen and Beattie came on that Swansea started fighting for it.

Luke Moore looked, as he has done since he first pulled on the white shirt, limp and unlikely to score. Some say the occasion got to him, but he didn't look like he wanted a goal. In contrast, Beattie came on and battled for every ball, doing more for the team with his first touch than Moore did all game. I'm not sure why Rodgers insists on playing Moore as a first team player. He has yet to score a goal and goals are what Swansea need. As I mentioned in my previous blog, it almost seems like Swansea are playing with 10 men as the amount of work Moore does is nominal. Maybe Rodgers starts with Moore so often because he bought him and doesn't want to look like he wasted money. I can almost sympathise: I've bought books in the past that looked great in Waterstones, but when I get home and start reading I quickly realise it's not what the cover promised. However I'll keep reading because I don't want to admit I wasted money on a bad judgement. I'm not saying Moore isn't good, but he needs to find his feet soon and start doing what he is paid so handsomely to do; work hard for the team and score some goals!

After the damp start by the Swans and as the first half of a tight game ended, everyone knew the next goal would win the game. It's such a shame that the goal wasn't one of the Scott Sinclair near misses. After his dazzling run up the wing, passing three defenders, two shots went wide. Cardiff responded with a superb strike by Craig Bellamy, one which would win the game. Some may put the goal down to luck, but Cardiff had hit the post twice in the match already, so one was bound to go in! No, Bellamy took a great shot and got a deserved goal for Cardiff. Swansea eventually threw everyone forward, with Ashley Williams playing as a striker for the last five minutes, but to no avail. I guess in a neutrally perfect world, both teams should have walked away with a point – Swansea for their second half display and Cardiff for their desire throughout the match.

A word on the referee. He started out fine, letting the game flow well, however he was unable to stamp his authority as time went on and Cardiff players ran riot. Chopra should have had three yellow cards, but he escaped with little more than a light talking to. A poor display today Mr Halsey – you technically ruined a South Wales derby.

Moving my attention to the supporters who caused the commotion near the halfway line in the East Stand: shame on you. You embarrassed your fellow supporters and caused unnecessary trouble, just because you had a few too many pints. The stewards aren't there to have frustration taken out on them, that is not their job. Taking a swing at a steward (who might well have been a Swansea fan too) is shameful. Cardiff supporters must have loved your tantrum. Stupid.

So to all you true supporters, the ones who hold season tickets or attend whatever games they can, not just because Cardiff are playing “the scum”... I am sorry with the way things turned out today. Just remember: it is only one game. Swansea got the away win in Cardiff last November, so this has just cancelled it out. Disappointing, but it is just one loss. Plenty of the season left to bounce back.

Looking ahead to next week and an away win in Middlesbrough would take some of the sickening sting out of today. But for now, that sting will remain through the night and into a drizzly Monday morning.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Making history! (Swansea vs. Cardiff: Part II)

It's that time of year again. The egg-shaped balls are removed from their storage cupboard, the H-shaped goals are erected and the rhino-shaped players take to the field. It is, of course, Six Nations time. Some would argue the Wales vs. England game is the most important derby in this year's sporting calendar. Wrong.

November doesn't seem that long ago, when I was typing up a blog for the first Swansea vs. Cardiff game this season. Back then, nobody really knew what to expect. The Swans were doing well in the table, but were still unable to find a striker to score goals. Some Jacks were quietly confident of a Swansea win; some were loudly confident. It seems that the confidence paid off with Swansea taking home all three points. So is anyone confident with the Swans' chances of doing the double for the first time ever?

I guess we have to first ask what has changed since that match last year. If nothing has changed then, yes, Swansea will certainly do the double. But it seems things have changed slightly.

When the teams last met, the Swans sat just below Cardiff in the league table. Now, though, they are two places above their rivals and, with the home advantage, they'll go into the match as favourites. Is this a good thing? Being favourites is a mixed blessing. For confidence boosting it is a great title to have, but we've seen Swansea buckle under pressure already this season and there seems to be a little more riding on it this time around. It's the derby with their biggest rivals, there is less than half the season to go and a win is, again, vital. It also takes place in front of a loyal home crowd who will settle for nothing less than a win. Plus they have the chance to make history by doing the double! The expectation will be a heavy test of their coping abilities, but it is something they have to overcome if they stand any chance in the Premier League next season.

Naturally there is so much hype around this fixture, and rightly so, but if we strip this game down to a skeleton of itself, we see the Swans in third position in the table, with fourth and fifth place (Forest and Cardiff) having one or two games in hand. A win could see Swansea back into second, but a loss could take them down to fifth. The team, I'm sure, will all know how much this derby means emotionally, but they also need to remember it is just a game and a game they must win for points to propel them forward as the closing stages of the season approach. The wins are important. I can guarantee you that Cardiff fans won't care that Swansea beat them in November 2010 if they are in the Premier League next season while Swansea remain in the Championship.

So, pressure aside, what else has changed? Well, the squad has developed slightly, but for the better? The Swans have new signings such as Leon Britton and David Edgar to add a little solidity and familiarity, but they have lost Marvin Emnes, the one striker that could actually score! Replacing Emnes is Luke Moore, who is still goalless for the Swans. I know many fans are saying it'll be great for him to get his debut goal against Cardiff, but I can't see it happening. Currently it looks like a Swansea striker will never score again! Goals are coming, but only from midfielders like Pratley and Sinclair. Is this a bad thing? “As long as the goal go in” you may argue. But aren't we missing a trick here? Swansea have a problem if their striker isn't getting goals. He's basically not touching the ball all game, which could be seen as Swansea playing with a man less! Somehow something must change to supply the main striker, be it Moore or Beattie, with more goal-scoring opportunities. It's almost as if Swansea should play a 4-6-0 formation, with no striker, but all midfield players looking for goals.

Despite what I say about strategy, now is not the time to play around with mixing things up. It's best to stick with the tried and tested (4-5-1) for this match, then, if needs be, change things around afterwards. The most likely goals will come from a cross by Dyer or Sinclair, probably netted by Pratley. If I was a betting man (what am I saying? I AM a betting man!), I would put a few pounds on Swansea to win 1-0 with Pratley scoring the goal. At the moment that is a massive 45/1 (PaddyPower) and probably well worth at least a pound!

Cardiff won't be allowing this to happen easily though. They are hungry for this win. More so than Swansea I fear. They were embarrassed on their own turf back in November and now, sitting below the Swans, have less to lose. The problem Swansea face is that Cardiff have a great attack in Jay Bothroyd, Craig Bellamy, John Parkin and, of course, Michael “Dirty Bastard” Chopra. I'm almost jealous of the depth in attack Cardiff possess. Not to worry though: it's about the whole team on the day and if Swansea play like they did in November - keeping the ball and frustrating Cardiff - it's likely that the great attack will be quelled.

Defending will be trickier without Gary Monk, but the back four of Tate, Williams, Rangel and, probably, Edgar should be enough to stop most of the Cardiff attacking moves. If Cardiff are going to score it may come from a set piece like a corner, an area where the Swans have struggled in the past to defend. Stop corners going in and Swansea are probably the most solid defenders in the Championship! Oh, and let's not have any own goals either!

My team to face Cardiff: De Vries, Edgar, Tate, Williams, Rangel; Pratley, Allen, Dobbie, Sinclair, Dyer; Beattie. (Dobbie playing central attacking midfield role).

I am pretty positive that Swansea will go on to win this derby match in front of the home crowd. On the day, if they can supress nerves and emotions and deal with the immense pressure, Swansea are a better team than Cardiff. With both teams on the verge of getting into the Premier League, this could well be the most exciting derby match in history!

Let's do the double! Forza Swansea!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

With a bit of luck!

In case you somehow missed it, Swansea are out of the FA Cup after losing 2-1 to Leyton Orient. But what happened? I was at the match, throwing my hands into the air as Alan Tate's goal went in. It was an own goal though, and my hand throwing was not in celebration.

As has been the case for the last few games, optimism before the match was high, with my own prediction a comfortable 2-0 to the Swans, though many other fans had ideas of 4-0 or 5-0 victories. And why not? Swansea are around 30 or so places above Leyton Orient in the league (if the leagues all rolled into one), so it should be a straightforward victory. How wrong we were again.

Though many will argue the team Swansea played was essentially a second string side, it quite clearly wasn't. Williams, Tate, Allen, Moore, Sinclair, Orlandi – these are all first team players! The likes of Alfei, van der Gun and MaKalambay were the only real “second team” players on the pitch, with the rest making several league starts this season. Not reassuring.

Leyton Orient weren't that convincing either, and showed why they are a League One side, but they won because they were able to make something out of the few opportunities they had. Still, their counter-attack was slow and their defending allowed Swansea ample opportunity in front of goal. Unfortunately, as has been the running story, they couldn't do much with their time in the box. Swansea have been able to win games in the past, despite not taking all their opportunities, so what went so wrong on Saturday?

Orient's first goal was thanks to poor goalkeeping. MaKalambay doesn't ooze confidence, and this game showed why he will always be on the bench while De Vries is still capable. He looked nervous when it came to corners (the first goal proved this) and uncomfortable when dealing with some clearances. In my eyes he was the weakest link yesterday. Generally the rest of the team played fine for the most part, keeping possession and moving the ball well up the field.

So if they played well, why did they not win 4-0? Sadly, it's the same old story. They can string together fifty passes, but when it comes to shooting they just don't do it. Kemy Agustien tried to prove me wrong, with a number of shots, but when these are just drilled at the defence, there is little point to them. Luke Moore, again, didn't score, but its no wonder as he just seems so isolated at times. I don't think I clocked that he way playing until about half an hour into the match - very invisible.

Teams can play as well as they can, but without a little luck the result won't always favour their performance. It seems luck was not of the side of the Swans on Saturday. Darren Pratley's 'goal' was unlucky not to be given after being deemed offside, though was that bad luck? Did he actually need to be there? The goal may have gone in without his interception, but I guess he wasn't to know that. If that had been a goal, Orient would have been hard pushed to find an equaliser, so it was an unlucky moment in the match, which could have seen the Swans in the next round.

On the subject of luck, I will, naturally, have to mention Swansea's gift to Orient of an own-goal hand-delivered by Alan Tate. I've always thought Tate deserves his place in the squad but after yesterday... I still do! You can't really blame him as, though he did ultimately lose the match for the team, it was clearly an unlucky slice that went wrong. He doesn't score own goals that often so we can forgive him. Those who are unable to forgive him need to look at what he has done for the team in the past.

So all credit to Leyton Orient who deserved to win, despite being the poorer side. Swansea had their opportunities and didn't take them. Orient will now play Arsenal at home in the next round. Some may think: “bugger, that could've been Arsenal down the Liberty”, although, as many have pointed out, with Swansea's luck they probably would have drawn Crawley Town. Away.

So the Swans bow out of the second cup this season. I guess it's good because they can now concentrate on the league? Still, wouldn't it have been nice to see the Swans lift the Championship trophy and the FA Cup? Other teams have done the double before, why not Swansea? I guess we won't find out until next year if this is possible. Swansea winning the Premier League and the FA Cup next season! Now I wonder what the odds of that happening are if the original odds for Swansea to win the FA Cup this year were 150/1!

I guess a bit of good luck and it could happen.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Barnsley and Britton (a lazy title)

I hope the videos from my last blog were to everyone's liking, but now it's time to get some of my vague text-based thoughts back out there!

As many fans, I wasn't at the Barnsley game on Saturday, though I did listen online where it's sometimes hard to visualise the game. It was easy, though, to understand that Swansea were an immediate mess. I don't know if I am a jinx, but the moment I managed to finally tune into the radio coverage, Barnsley scored. I like to think this is a coincidence, but it's happened too many times for me to let it go unnoticed!

Anyway, Barnsley's early goal proved that the confidence of victory before the match was unrealistically high from the fans. Even I, a well known pessimist, predicted a comfortable 2-1 win to the Swans. Some were throwing 3 or 4 nil victories around, but were quickly realising their mistakes. We should all know by now: if Swansea have the chance to go joint top of the table, they won't take it!

This match was a good example of the games that they should be winning. Mid-table sides shouldn't really pose much of a threat to the potential champions of the league. Barnsley were 16th in the table where Swansea were just one from the top. Now the Swans have dropped back down to 4th. However I think it's safe to put this down to a one-off bad day. Alarm bells shouldn't be ringing because there's plenty of time to go until the final push, so 4th in the table is not that bad.

But it could have been so much better.

An inspired Stephen Dobbie was the saviour of Swansea, sparking some much needed creativity in that attacking midfield position, though it was Sinclair who eventually went down in the box and won the penalty. Though it did gloss the overall performance, the goal and the point were deserved of Swansea's last fifteen minute of football. I am speaking like the Swans lost, but it did feel like a bit of a loss, didn't it? As we've seen numerous times before they left it until the last few minutes to turn up the heat, where, had they done this twenty minutes earlier or, dare I say it, from the start of the game, it would have been a certain win. Disappointing, but true.

Putting that game aside, I haven't really commented on the Leon Britton situation. He obviously, as he admitted himself, made a mistake leaving the club, but the reasons were understandable (Sousa playing a big part). Britton is a fan favourite and a good midfielder, so the move isn't as odd as it first seemed. He did play on Saturday, but somehow I missed when he was subbed on and didn't hear much about him in the last fifteen minutes. He won't feature against Leyton Orient as he is cup tied, but it would be a good to see more of him against Bristol a few days later.

The only other issue to address is the signing of Ryan Harly. Initially I was dubious, thinking the signing of another midfielder was just adding unnecessary wage payouts to the side, but when I realised he was heading back to Exeter until the end of the season it seemed a better plan.

Though he doesn't have a great goal scoring record (22 in 118 appearances for Exeter) he is a creative play-maker, something Swansea always need plenty of. If he can create goals for the strikers that's all anyone should care about. I'd rather no midfielder ever score, but consistently set up goals for the strikers. Harley will be a good option if/when players like Pratley and Cotterill leave in the summer.

So a week off for the Swans before their home cup fixture against Leyton Orient on Saturday, before travelling to across the border for the Bristol City game the Tuesday after. Both important games, though victory in the League fixture is more vital than the cup match; that would just be a bonus. Neither games are as big as the one the week after: The South Wales derby Part II...

But that's another blog.