Tuesday 31 May 2011

"And now you're gonna believe us..."

Well it certainly lived up to the hype - a final to remember forever!

For those of you living under a Cardiff-shaped rock for the past 24-hours, Swansea City are in the Premier League after beating Reading 4-2 at Wembley on Monday!

As the teams took to a magnificent Wembley pitch, under the watchful eye of around 86,000 fanatics, everyone will admit that Swansea didn't get off the the dream start.

Reading outplayed them in many aspects, with Dyer and Sinclair struggling to get any meaningful time on the ball, while Alan Tate didn't apply enough pressure to attackers. However, after keeping things level, Swansea took the lead when Sinclair slotted in a penalty on the 21st minute, before adding another goal just a minute later. So after a shaky first quarter, Swansea were well ahead and looked comfortable, playing with their tails up like we have come to expect!

As many of you will know, the travelling supporters were encouraged to begin clapping throughout the 40th minute in memory of Besian Idrizaj. With that in mind it seemed destined that Swansea's third goal would fall on that special minute, thanks to a wonderful volley curled in by Stephan Dobbie – couldn't have written it better myself!

The scenes at half time at the bars were phenomenal; you'd swear Swansea had already lifted the trophy! I guess it was right for the Jacks to be full of confidence and euphoria while enjoying their half-time pint. However, as we took our seats for the second half, the confidence began to dwindle a little as Reading came out swinging.

Playing with a new vigour, they showed why they were also a team just 90 minutes from the Premier League. Their grit was rewarded with two goals in quick succession, both from corners. Joe Allen scored the first (an own goal, though unavoidable really) and the second from the head of Matt Mills.

Panic began to wave through the Swansea crowd, with a lot of the the first-half vocal support turning into silent desperation as the Swans looked to hang on to their once solid lead. Reading almost equalised when Karacan's shot hit the post; a moment where every heart stopped. Superb defending from Garry Monk ensured the resulting rebound was blocked and Alan Tate eventually cleared the ball away from the danger zone.

Had Reading scored then I fear they would've gone on to win it.

Thankfully Fabio Borini was brought down in the box with ten minutes to go, leaving Scott Sinclair to close the door with another well taken penalty.

That was it! Ten minutes later Swansea had won the game! They deserved it! Shouting, chanting, singing, clapping, a trophy, champagne and streamers all followed as Swansea sealed their 2011/12 season in the Premier League.

What a day.

I will have plenty of blogs with previews on next season, so I won't look too far ahead yet; instead I'll have a little look back over a few things that happened.

Credit must go to Reading: the team and the fans. It was a pleasure to enjoy friendly banter before the match with passing Reading fans, with many shaking hands and having photos with Swans supporters. This couldn't have happened if it was Cardiff, so thank you Reading.

The team were also full of quality and I am sure they will have another good chance of promotion next season. Not many teams would have the courage to come back at the Swans like Reading did, so kudos to the Royals.

Back to the Swans. I applaud every player; from Scott Sinclair and his hat-trick to Garry Monk and his game saving tackle. Alan Tate, who I cursed a few times in the opening stages for being too relaxed, made himself very useful throughout, setting up both Dyer and Borini for the penalties. He may not be able to cope as well in the Premier League, but he'll always go down as a Swansea legend no matter what. Thank you Alan Tate!

Stephan Dobbie was outstanding again, creating the second goal by outpacing Ian Harte (not that hard I guess) and also scoring a beautiful goal himself. Williams and Rangel were pretty solid too, with Britton, Allen, Borini, Gower, Dyer and Pratley giving their all. Even Luke Moore looked full of vigour when he came on!

Dorus de Vries couldn't have done much more than he did to stop the two goals going in, and he saved the Swans several more times throughout. What a keeper to have going into the Premier League.

Brendan Rodgers has turned the team around over the last ten months and has been as, if not more, crucial to promotion than the players. He'll be vital in keeping Swansea City up next season.

A final fact that some might have forgotten (thanks to regular reader Joe Tobin for reminding me); 4-2 was the scoreline that kept Swansea in the football league back in 2003 (beating Hull); a game that also saw a hat-trick and two Swansea penalties! Funny how these things all come together...

So that is officially the season over! Swansea City are back in the top tier! Dyer v Ferdinand, Sinclair v Terry, Allen v Gerrard and Tate v Rooney... it's all coming in the next few months!

I'll be back with more Swansea reaction, theories, news and previews very soon, and throughout the summer as things develop – stay tuned!

Forza Swansea!

Friday 27 May 2011


There is little more I can do to hype up Monday. It's a massive game for a team that can do little wrong at the moment!

Swansea City seem destined for the top tier. They've come a long way over the season and they deserve to play with the best. They're liked by all (apart from Cardiff) and play attractive football, with plenty of spirit and they've got to this point by not spending huge amounts on prima donnas and people who don't do anything (apart from Luke Moore...).

I'm very confident for victory on Monday, though I do realise the Swans are in no way invincible.

Despite the fast, possession based passing game, which is clearly working for them and has seen them compared, rightly so, to Barcelona, there are shortcomings. If they were perfect they'd have been automatically promoted weeks ago.

I guess the major problem in the past season was sometimes creating goals from the many, many opportunities they'd make. Thankfully, towards the later stages, with the appearance of Fabio Borini and re-emergence of Stephan Dobbie as a first team player, these opportunities have been converted into goals – the same goes from set pieces, again thanks to Borini and Dobbie's free-kick abilities and Sinclair's accuracy from the spot.

The only real issue Swansea have to deal with, is keeping composed. We've seen it many times: an early goal against them can lead to panic and hurried play, which piles the mistakes on heavier. To succeed they must ensure that the first ten minutes is solid. If it's 0-0 after ten minutes, with everyone getting a touch of the ball, it's Swansea's game to win.

Providing that there isn't a howling error, like an own goal (Williams... Tate...) or a red card (Tate...), I think Swansea have the skill, the will and the legs to win it. We know the pitch size is an advantage to the likes of Dyer and Sinclair, and Swansea will utilise it fully.

The team should pick itself, as usual, with the only uncertainty in the middle three. I think it's safe to say that Leon Britton should start as his performance in the last few games has been outstanding. Adds solidity to the back, very creative and, as we saw last week, can score goals! He's there for me.

Dobbie is next on my list, sitting in that attacking midfield role. We know he scores goals and we know he creates for others. He can take a mean free kick too, and has already won at Wembley with Blackpool last season, so the Scot's experience will be an added bonus.

The final midfield spot, in my opinion, should go to Tommy Butler. Just joking. Give it to Mark Gower, who has shown such an improvement this season, with some solid passing and goals to match. It was tough between Pratley and Gower as Pratley is always a goal threat, but he is a great impact sub to have I guess, when legs get tired. Joe Allen wouldn't make my starting line up – too many mistakes for me, and can get too heated – something the occasion doesn't really need more of. Another fine player for the bench though.

So, with that in mind, my starting line-up for Monday would be:

De Vries

What a team to put out, compared to one that we might have seen this time last year: containing Kuqi, Pintado and a chunky Lee Trundle.

Despite this being a final, where extra time and penalties would be an acceptable way to win, I feel Swansea will win it in normal time. My prediction is Swansea to win 2-1. Couldn't say who the scorers will be... have to fancy maybe a last goal for Borini, who may be leaving, and Sinclair is always a danger. However, with this current team, anyone is capable of scoring.

I could now move on to the 'what ifs', such as what if Swansea do get to the Premier League? What if they remain in the Championship? Who will leave? But I need topics to blog about for the long, dry summer months, so I'll leave it at that for now.

Credit to Reading, who I haven't yet mentioned. They put Cardiff to bed beautifully last week, and will be a threat all game. Although it would've created travelling issues (and mass violence and arrests), I probably would've preferred to face Cardiff in the final as they would not have been as threatening as Reading.

I'm leaving Swansea about 7:30am on Monday, on a bus with 16 others (split crowd of die-hard, season ticket holders and those who just want a piss-up in London).

Talking about that, I have noticed that, as expected, many people - those who would usually tell me to shut up about football - are clambering to jump on the Swansea City bandwagon. I have mixed feelings about this; in a way it's great that so many will get behind the boys on Monday, but where were these when we played Coventry City last year? Watching X Factor and other bollocks, that's where. Hopefully the Swans will give a good enough performance on Monday to create some more true supporters. It's great to support the team, but do so for every game, not just the big ones.

Check back next week for my reaction, good or bad, to the final and my thoughts on the future. I just want Monday to be over now, so we know one way or the other!

Best of luck to Brendan and his men. It's all come down to this one game and it is yours to win!

Saturday 21 May 2011

Swansea City – 2010/11 Season Review

Bar one very important game, Swansea City's incredibly entertaining Championship season has ended! The date with Reading in the Wembley final is booked for 30th May, where Swansea can seal their next season in the Premier League.

Before that though, it's nice to take a moment and look back on the season just gone - to remind ourselves of the journey the Swans took to get to where they are now: the ups, the downs, the ins and the outs. We may say "Ah yeah, I remember that game!" or "I'd rather forget that one happened..."

So enjoy the forzaswansea.com brief revisit of Swansea City's 2010/11 Season!

- July 2010 (Pre-season) -

After Paulo Sousa scuttles off to Leicester, Swansea City hunt for a new man in charge. Despite nobody knowing much about this chubby little Irishman, Brendan Rodgers is appointed manager.

- August -

Chelsea youngster Scott Sinclair signs for the Swans on a three-year deal.

The 2010/11 season begins and Brendan Rodgers sees his first league game in charge as a 2-0 loss away to Hull. Swans fans panic. The next two games deliver a 3-0 win and a 4-0 win. Panic over, Rodgers is a hero! Swans fans haven't seen this kind of score for too long, after the goal drought the previous season. The next game is an away loss, followed by another two home wins. A pattern is emerging...

End of month position in the table : 12th

- September -

The pattern continues with an away loss to Leeds and another consecutive two home wins. However, the league away curse is broken after a crazy 3-2 win against Watford.

Frank Nouble joins the Swans from West Ham on a three-month loan deal.

End of month position in the table : 8th

- October -

Marvin Emnes joins the Swans on a month's loan from Middlesbrough. Frank Nouble's loan is cut short after an injury, so he returns to West Ham after making little impact in South Wales. Another new(ish) face at the club this month is Kemy Agustien, who finally signed a two-year deal after impressing on trial in the summer.

In the Carling Cup, Swansea lose 2-0 away to Wigan in front of some disgruntled travelling supporters, unhappy with the weakened team Brendan Rodgers chose to field against Roberto Martinez's team.

End of month position in the table : 3rd

- November -

Swansea win the South Wales derby, beating Cardiff 1-0 away from the Liberty thanks to a goal from Marvin Emnes, who left the club later in the month.

Elsewhere Darren Pratley is booed by some Swans fans after refusing to sign a new contract and taking a massive dip in form. Jermaine Easter is signed on loan from MK Dons and is, too, booed by some fans who dislike his Cardiff connection. As you can see, a lot of unnecessary booing took place this month.

End of month position in the table : 3rd

- December -

Swansea go through a rough patch, with many results not going their way, including their biggest defeat of the season (losing 4-0 away to QPR). The booing continues into December.

Christmas time (everyone gets fat and drunk – especially Michael Chopra).

End of month position in the table : 3rd

- January 2011 -

The January transfer window saw plenty ins and outs for the Swans.

Outs: The ever likeable, but not so goal capable, Shefki Kuqi ended his contract by mutual consent, while Gorka Pintado left the club on loan to AEK Larnaca FC (Cyprus). Jermaine Easter returns to MK Dons at their request.

Ins: The departure of three strikers sees Luke Moore join the club, signing on a two-and-a-half year deal for an undisclosed fee (rumoured to be a free transfer). The biggest shock was the re-signing of Leon Britton, who returned to South Wales after leaving the club the previous year. Elsewhere attacking-midfielder Ryan Harley joined the club, though remained at Exeter (on loan) until the end of the season.

Swansea lose 2-1 at home to Leyton Orient, ending any hopes of further progression in the FA Cup.

Demolition on the Vetch field began in this month.

End of month position in the table : 3rd

- February -

David Edgar was apparently re-signed on-loan, though he never actually appeared at the club due to technicalities and little was mentioned of it again. Elsewhere, David Cotterill is sent on loan to Portsmouth, after a dip in form sees him struggle to make the starting line-up (the constant penalty misses didn't help his case).

Swansea were unable to do the league double over Cardiff for this first time, losing 1-0 at home after a late Craig Bellamy goal. February also saw the intense Middlesbrough game, where the Swans eventually came back from a 3-1 almost-certain loss by winning 4-3. Their away form peaked at this point, allowing four wins in a row (home and away) - the biggest winning run of their season.

End of month position in the table : 2nd

- March -

Brendan Rodgers swipes his Chelsea card again and claims Fabio Borini on loan for the remainder of the season. The Italian scores a brace on his debut, casting Luke Moore into the shadows. Tamas Priskin also joins the club on loan from Ipswich.

The international break halts play for a few weeks.

End of month position in the table : 3rd

- April -

A media ban on Swansea players is issued by Huw Jenkins, who wants to focus on winning games. However, Swansea continue with their bad away form, which begins to dent their hopes of automatic promotion – something that looked near certain earlier in the year. However the Swans go on to secure a place in the play-offs after beating Ipswich 4-1.

Tamas Priskin is injured and returns to Ipswich after scoring one goal for the club.

End of month position in the table : 4th

- May -

Swansea play their final league game at home: a routine 4-0 victory against Ipswich, ending the season in 3rd place in the Championship table.

Swansea face 6th place Nottingham Forest in the play-offs.

They draw the away leg 0-0, after Neil Taylor is sent off in the second minute.

The second leg sees a crazy game at the Liberty Stadium, full of entertainment. The Swans eventually beat Nottingham Forest 3-1, including a wonder strike from Leon Britton and a last-gasp goal from the halfway line by Darren Pratley.

Swansea go on to play Reading in the Championship play-off final in Wembley...

...(the Swans will write this next line on Monday 30th!)

Saturday 14 May 2011

Nightmare start, dream finish?

Firstly, thanks to my host, blogger.com, for scheduling maintenance during the first play-off date, allowing no new uploads – great timing. I had a match report for you but as it's now old news, I will instead give a few thoughts on the game before looking ahead to Monday's crucial second leg.

As you are aware, Swansea played out a well-fought draw on Thursday night; a positive result indeed, considering the circumstances.

It really was the nightmare start for the Swans. I just sat shaking my head as the flicker of red emerged from Mike Dean's pocket. In all fairness, it was a silly, poorly-timed tackle by Neil Taylor and he deserved to be punished, but the sending off seemed harsh considering it was just the second minute in and nerves were obviously high. Going by the book, the ref was right, though a little compassion could've been used. Meanwhile, despite the bad tackle, McGugan was caught out with his sneaky “have I done enough to get him punished” look to the bench instead of actually “being hurt” which understandably wound up quite a few!

As well as losing Taylor so early on, it was heartbreaking to see Stephan Dobbie make way for Garry Monk. He was truly missed. In a game where Swansea were dominating for quite a while, Dobbie's presence would've been a massive asset. He would've created even more opportunities and had some vital shots when shots were needed. It's just one of those things I guess. At least he is well rested for the second leg now!

It appears Swansea will, rightly, appeal this red card, with the hearing scheduled for Monday morning. It will be a big boost to have Taylor back in the squad, though praise does go to Monk, Tate and the rest of the defence – very solid throughout the match (though a few too many corners given away unnecessarily for my liking). Should the appeal not go Swansea's way however, a back four of Monk, Tate, Williams and Rangel is still one mean, experienced defence.

A further boost is the news of Fabio Borini being deemed playable for Monday. He left the field during the first leg thanks to a hamstring injury and though Moore did sufficient work to keep Swansea attacking, he isn't the man I want starting on Monday. The threat Borini provides via his speed, accuracy, flair and set-piece ability is something Moore can't currently contend with, so news of a fit Fabio is very palatable!

Monday will provide new challenges and, despite having the home advantage, Swansea can't begin to look ahead to Wembley. It's definitely on the cards with Swansea looking the better team in many aspects, though Forest aren't in the play-offs for no reason. They have plenty of attacking power, with McGugan and Earnshaw proving difficult to control at times. McGugan's 30-yard, blistering shot on Thursday is proof of this danger.

With this in mind I am still extremely confident that Brendan and his men can secure a spot in the final as long as they embrace the pressure and keep focused.

Win the next two games and it's into the Premier League. Simple!

Monday 9 May 2011

NEW PODCAST! - "It wouldn't happen in Swansea..." Episode 3

Matt returns to the studio after his heart operation to discuss the play-offs and more with Chris.

Just click play on the big orange button below and enjoy!

In this packed episode:

- Saturday's win against Sheffield
- Swansea's hopes in the play-offs
- The prospect of a Swansea vs Cardiff final
- "Plastic" fans
- Fabio Borini: will he stay?
- Matt tests Chris with "Who am I?"
- This season's heroes and zeros
- A very frantic Challenge Matt (with another format change)

...and much (well not that much) more!

Here are two photo's to look at while you listen. Don't know which one is which? Chris is the good looking one. Matt is the... the smaller thing with the odd hair.

It wouldn't happen in Swansea - Podcast - Episode 3 by ChrisCarra

Friday 6 May 2011

Bite-size Blog: Swansea vs Sheffield Utd

That went quick!

It seems like just last week that I, like supporters across the city, cried: "Brendan who?!" as Swansea City appointed their new manager. Cue a massive season of ups and downs, ins and outs, and wins and losses (...and draws).

Come early Saturday afternoon the 2010/11 Championship season will officially be over. The bulk of the season will be done and dusted, though the final promotion place will be decided a few weeks later after the play-offs. This is clearly where the fate of Swansea's 2011/12 season will lie.

Before jumping too far ahead, Saturday will see the Swans take on already-relegated Sheffield United at the Liberty Stadium where a win, for many reasons, is vital.

Naturally the QPR fiasco still hasn't been resolved, though I can't see points being docked in a way that would see them drop out of the promotion places. Swansea will still want to ensure they are sitting in 3rd to bump themselves up to 2nd should the unlikely actually happen. Failing this, a win is needed to end the season on a high and to give some momentum going into the play-offs.

A big boost will be the return of Garry Monk, who rejoins the team after a stomach bug last week. Thankfully, the rest of the squad are relatively fit and healthy (apart from Ferrie Bodde... obviously), which can only be a good thing.

What results mean:
Currently the unresolved QPR situation hangs over the top of the league (just one of the reasons I kept putting this blog post off as I, like every other football fan, am confused as to what's happening). If QPR don't get docked any meaningful points though, the season for Swansea will end like this:

A win would see them finish in 3rd position, providing Cardiff lose (or draw, but goal difference starts to play a role then). If Cardiff win, then Swansea will end the season in 4th.

A draw would also mean Swansea stay in 4th spot.

A loss may see Swansea drop to 5th if Reading win. If Reading lose though, a loss would mean Swansea would remain in 4th.

Betting on the game?
Swansea will definitely be aiming to go into the play-offs off the back of a good win, though Sheffield United will be playing for pride. Sometimes teams like this are dangerous as they have literally nothing to lose, so may go all out attack for a final hurrah in the Championship.

With this in mind I still see the Swans winning, so will say a comfortable 2-0 win at home. As for goal scorers? Alan Tate needs to get his goal this season – for all the money I've wasted on him getting a cheeky goal, he needs to score tomorrow... doesn't he?

Stay tuned for my end of season review coming very soon, with a new podcast hopefully being released on Monday!

Friday 29 April 2011

Bite-size Blog: Swansea vs Millwall

With a play-off place secure, Swansea can do two things.

They can start resting the Dyers, the Sinclairs and the Monks of the team to ensure that, come the emotionally and physically draining play-off games, these vital players are fit and ready, or they can go into the last two all guns blazing and look for two wins to give them the confidence and momentum they need for the play-offs.

I feel it'll probably be a mixture of both, with players like Nathan Dyer playing an hour of a game before being subbed to keep his stamina at peak levels, while giving the Swans a fighting chance at some confidence before the play-offs.

I keep forgetting that, mathematically, auto-promotion is still possible for the Swans, though if they were aiming for the auto spots, losing four away games in a row wasn't the best way to go about it. Still, if it's even slightly possible, they must play for a win.

Millwall are currently two points out of the play-off positions in 7th, which means they will be fighting and fighting for a win and a step closer to the Premier League. If Swansea have struggled on the road recently, they will find the game against Millwall very tough. A win for the Swans is not impossible, though away form seems to be saying it could well be...

What results mean:
The last few weeks of bite-size blogging has focussed strongly on this section, yet it's not as life changing now that we know Swansea will probably finish in 4th and face Reading in the play-offs. Remember, I said "probably".

A win would be ideal as they desperately need to show themselves and the supporters that it isn't impossible to win games away from the Liberty. A win wouldn't change anything in the table though: Swansea would remain in 4th as Cardiff are just out of reach in 3rd.

A draw would see things stay the same, but only if Reading lose. Should Reading win and Swansea draw, they would switch places with Swansea ending the day in 5th.

A loss would mean the same as a draw at this stage, but a loss would also damage the away confidence even further. Considering the next away game will be the 1st/2nd leg of the play-offs, a loss is not a great result to walk away with.

Betting on the game?
After thrashing Ipswich on Monday, Swansea have shown that they can come off periods of bad form and win games when they need to so, with that in mind, an outright win for the Swans against Millwall is currently 2/1 (PaddyPower.com) and worth a fiver at least!

Elsewhere, should he play and not rest, a few pounds on the unstoppable Fabio Borini to score first is a good bet.

As for predictions: if Swansea are going to win, it will be by one goal. 1-0 seems reasonable. I can't see an open, goals-galore game (watch now - it'll be 5-3 to Swansea after a hat-trick in the first five minutes...). I'd say 2-1 is also a possibility, but only if Swansea score first.