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.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Swansea City: Hope and expectation

Premier League, Europe and progression! In this packed blog post, ForzaSwansea's resident ex-Swan ALEC JOHNSON has outlined why he believes this will be a season of both hope and expectation for Swansea City.


By Alec Johnson

I have never wanted summer to end so quickly! For the first time in living memory, expectation exceeds hope in my mind, and winter replaces summer as my season of choice.

Premier League

Kicking off with the most important point - I expect us to survive in the Premier League, and comfortably so. Once the league shakes out in the autumn we should be happily sitting in the top half.

But there will be difficult moments. We could suffer a losing streak that may turn a handful of deluded newcomers to boo or criticise, but the incredible consistency that got us where we are should be maintained. Laudrup will not tolerate anything less and he has the squad to shake things up.
The opposition may consider the previous Everton or Norwich method of dominating us in our third as the best way to bully us into giving the ball away, and subsequent submission. I expect each of the newly promoted clubs together with most outside the top six to squeeze us as high as possible.

Despite losing to both Everton and Norwich with this tactic, I believe that we will be more adaptable this season with better players in the middle and more height up front. We are also more streetwise and alive to this high intensity.


Starting this week in Europe - yes, Europe! - I anticipate a fast start to the season and a two legged victory in the Europa League. I am old enough to remember European games at the Vetch and you almost watched through gaps in your fingers - hope didn’t even play a part. It was damage limitation. Barring a few games it was embarrassing.

However we are now Premier League and serious players within it. I’ll go for a comfortable home win and a draw away. Then onto the group stage and a real European tour.


The suggestion that we need to invest a few hundred million to reach the next level is accurate, but we won’t be doing that anytime soon under the prudent guidance of our brilliant board.

So have we peaked? Is this the best we can hope for?

I sense a slight progression this year. We are better equipped and should break the 50 point mark, taking us into the top eight. The only thing to top that would be winning the FA Cup, or maybe a successful defence of our League Cup. Laudrup certainly does enjoy a good cup run and takes the competitions very seriously. We certainly won’t be challenging the top four so I will take a few points more and a Wembley cup final, or even a Turin final. Why not? Fulham did it!

One area that would be richly deserved this season is for our players to be internationally recognised. There are several waving the flag and having the first Dutch internationals represent us raises the hope that both Spain and England could follow suit. Step up Chico, Michu, Routledge, Jonjo and even Nathan Dyer. Cups and caps are what makes history for a club so this would be a massive achievement to get our lads into these two squads.

Season prediction

As a prediction, I see the biggest oil fight since JR left Dallas at the top of the league with Man City and Chelsea taking it all the way to the title-deciding final games. A Chelsea win on the last day against Cardiff would be poetic to send them down, unless they are down by Christmas which is possible. At the bottom, I see the three promoted clubs going straight back down, this is expectation not hope as they are each absolutely average, at best.

After all that, May will return quicker than a Bony left footer, and we will face another summer of disharmony with the media, scraps with agents, construction of a new tier in the East and possibly a departure or two to help pay for it.

Whatever happens, with Swansea City we have a club to be proud of in every way. Our reputation will grow with our expectation as we start to feel at home at this level. Our third season should be our most enjoyable. Last year takes some beating but this season will see us turn more dominance into points, killing teams off and becoming more ruthless, therefore taking more points and prize money come May - we hope!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Jonjo: The man with the point to prove

The signing of Jonjo Shelvey was certainly unexpected and turned a few curious heads. However he has impressed at times during pre-season and there may be more to Shelvey than we first thought. In this blog post, MATTHEW JACOB explores the history of the deal and his chances of success at Swansea City.


By Matthew Jacob

When Jonjo Shelvey put pen to paper on July 3rd to seal a switch to Swansea from Liverpool, I - like many other Jacks - was completely underwhelmed.

Michael Laudrup's summer spending had brought much intrigue up to this point, yet this transfer didn't exactly fill me with the excitement that followed the acquisitions of Jose Canas, Jordi Amat and Alejandro Pozeulo.

What surprised me first of all was how quickly it all came about. I had not heard Shelvey's name in among all the others being linked with the club at the time, and not seen him linked with Swansea City since Brendan Rodgers offered the England U21 international as part of the deal for Joe Allen in August 2012. Nevertheless the Liverpool man signed for £6million and joined the team in Holland for pre-season.

The midfield was not an area I felt needed further reinforcements and, given that Shelvey hadn't exactly shone since his move from Charlton to Liverpool, I must admit I needed some convincing that he was right for Swansea City.

But there are qualities in his game that I admire. He's a combative player, not afraid to make a tackle, and certainly posses a range of passing skills that will suit our style. Yet my outstanding memory of Shelvey is his sending off against Manchester United for a two-footed challenge on Jonny Evans, and shouting at Ferguson as he went off!

Whether or not you put that down to 'youthful exuberance' or sheer arrogance, it's a part of his game he needs to work on.

I feel that's the key with Shelvey - he has many good qualities, but had perhaps lost his way at Liverpool with the likes of Gerrard and Lucas in front of him for selection.

Perhaps that's the reason there are those that have written him off in the past. He now has an opportunity to play first team football and hone his skills under the tutelage of a footballing legend.

The midfielder has already said he's hoping first team football will land him a seat on the plane to Brazil next summer with the England team and good performances for us will certainly boost his chances. Now is Jonjo Shelvey's chance to prove how good a footballer he is, and show his real qualities every week.

His route to the first team will not be a straightforward path - I'd argue it's now the strongest part of the squad. Shelvey will be competing with Canas, Pozeulo, Ki, De Guzman, Michu and Britton for a central berth in the starting eleven.

He has impressed during pre-season in a deeper lying role alongside Britton or Canas and getting forward to support Michu and now Bony in attack, culminating in a goal at the Madejski in the Swans final friendly before taking on Malmo in the Europa league.

Shelvey has real experience in Europe after games for Liverpool and can bring that knowledge to the squad as they prepare for their first journey into the competition.

What's exciting from a personal point of view is how Laudrup intends to use him in the system. He could be used in a holding role to support the likes of De Guzman and Pozuelo in attack or he could be pushed up alongside Michu to support Bony with Britton or Canas left to sit in front of the back four.

From what I've seen and heard it looks as though Jonjo is ready to prove the doubters wrong (me included!).

I'm really looking forward to seeing him in Europa League action on Thursday - super strikes, tough tackles, time to shine Jonjo!


Jonjo Shelvey's Career to date

He was born in Romford and began his career at Arsenal and West Ham as a youth player. He soon became Charlton Athletic's youngest ever outfield player in 2008 when he made his debut at 16 years and 59 days old.

A string of quality performances prompted Liverpool to stump up £1.7 million for his services in 2010, where he made a small number of Premier League appearances.

Shelvey moved on loan to Blackpool in September 2011 where he finally began to recapture some of his early form at Charlton, scoring six goals in ten appearances for the Seasiders before being recalled to Anfield due to an injury crisis.

Brendan Rodgers favoured the Romford born midfielder, and he made a number of appearances in the Europa league for the Reds before moving to Swansea this summer.

Monday, 22 July 2013

The new look Forza Swansea!

A new season is on the way and with it comes a new look for your favourite Swans blog (assuming it is Forza Swansea...)

Despite the lovely weather, we are all eager for autumn to kick in so Swansea City can kick off their third season in the Premier League.

That's right, the third season.

Time certainly has passed quickly since that day at Wembley. It got me thinking about how long I've been running ForzaSwansea - around three years, since September 2010.

While a lot has changed in that time (Swansea now have Michu and Bony instead of Pintado and Kuqi) the blog remained the same, so now seemed the perfect time for a little face lift. The navigation is pretty much the same, so if you are easily confused there shouldn't be much to get used to!

Let me know how you like the new design - either leave a comment below or via the contact form.

Summer silence

It's been a little quiet on the blog this summer. Despite loads of goings-on, from transfers to friendlies, myself and the bloggers have spent too much time relaxing and not enough time writing.

Rest assured, as the new season starts we'll have plenty to say and you'll have plenty to read! Which brings me onto...

New blogger wanted

If you have something to say about Swansea City, have some good ideas and - most importantly - can write, feel free to pitch me an article. If it's good I will upload it for the world to read and if you can produce a few of these blogs I will make you a regular contributor.

There's no payment (trust me, I've been doing this for three years and have made bugger all) but we don't do it for money. We do it for the love of Swansea City and the love of writing.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Bloggers Q&A: Swans' summer transfers

It's summer, it's sunny (for a change) and Swansea City have finally made some great (along with some "interesting") transfers.

So I decided to set myself and the bloggers three brief questions on Swansea City's recent signings and what is left to achieve in the transfer window. Have a read, share your thoughts, then get back outside to enjoy the weather!

Of all the new players, which one are you looking forward to seeing in action the most?

Alec Johnson: Shelvey - he brings something totally different and a degree of steel that is sometimes lacking in our middle third. Also it will be nice to see somebody having a shot from forty yards for a change - we have lacked this since Bodde.

Jules Price: Canas - I think he will be another great character on and off the pitch in Swansea. The YouTube videos Swansea City have uploaded this week are testament to that.

Jacob Cristobal: Jordi Amat - mostly the surprise that Swansea got him! A 21-year-old defender who could be on the rise for the national team if he has a good debut season. Also I can see a partnership forming with Ben Davies that could flourish!

Matt Jacob: Aside from Bony I think it has to be Shelvey - the man with a point to prove! Think he'll be an exciting edition for us and will prove the doubters wrong.

Chris Carra: I'm curious to see them all, but mostly Shelvey. It's a signing that confused me at first but - like Alec said - he will bring something different to the centre. Laudrup clearly has plans for him, so it'll be interesting to see how they unfold.

We've had a few good signings now, but what else is still needed?

AJ: A small, sharp forward - somebody that nobody has heard of, from a club that we've never watched.

JP: We need to trim the squad. Players like Lita need to go. Also is it time for Tate and Monk to depart?

JC: Another winger for depth purposes, but I don't have a particular name in mind.

MJ: I'd be looking at another centre forward, other than that I'd say we're covered all over the pitch. Vydra would be nice but Donnolly seems to be doing the business in pre-season so I hope we see more of him this year.

CC: Despite the signing of Bony, I'd say at least one more striker is needed, especially if Moore is leaving. Midfield is looking very healthy and there is enough cover for the wings at the moment. Maybe another centre-back, to relieve some of the pressure from Williams and Chico.

Money and realism aside, who would be your ideal summer signing?

AJ: Well, in April I wanted Bony and suggested him as a fantasy signing, so I better be careful what I wish for. Cesc Fabregas here we go!

JP: Fantasy signing would be Paul Gascoigne. I saw him play his first game for Spurs against the Swans in the Mike Hughes testimonial. He scored a 25 yard free kick. Pure talent. Of present players, David Luiz, for the same reason as Chico and Canas - strong characters that love the game, fans and team mates. Good players too.

JC: Thomas Muller (hey there's that winger!)

MJ: Falcao, had he not gone to Monaco. He's a goalscoring machine.

CC: It will have to be someone Italian... so let's say Emanuele Giaccherini. I didn't particularly rate him before this summer, but the Juve winger had a brilliant Confederations Cup with the Azzurri and would look good in a Swans shirt! Plus he's only £8m - bargain!


This ends the first Q&A! Keep in touch with all of us on Twitter (our handles are on the contributors page). Feel free to leave a comment or question below!

Friday, 28 June 2013

Jack to a King: Turning Hafod into Hollywood!

We all love movies about the sporting underdog - Moneyball, The Mighty Ducks, Rocky - and we all like movies about Swansea (mainly just Twin Town I guess?).

But now Hollywood are coming to town to combine the two and share Swansea City's emotional story with the world!

Jack to a King is a collaboration between an array of top movie makers including BAFTA award-winning director Marc Evans, Oscar-winning co-producer James Marsh and Swansea legend Mal Pope, who is an executive producer.

The producers are calling on ForzaSwansea readers to help them out and become part of this exciting project. Whether you live in Mumbles or Mumbai this is your chance to share your Swans stories and see your name on the credits of a major movie.

They are looking for photos, video clips and digital film that you may have taken at Swans matches, in any format, no matter how ancient. They need fan footage from the old days at the Vetch to the Liberty days, up to and including the day that Swansea made it into the Premier League.

But it's not just on-pitch action they're after. Send in photos and videos of:

  • banter and chanting in the crowd 
  • yourself meeting players 
  • you and your mates travelling to Swans games 
  • the open-top bus celebrations 
  • or recordings of old radio shows and phone-ins

Visit the official movie website to send in your pictures and footage, or (if you're in Swansea) drop items off in person at the main receptions of the Evening Post, the Liberty Stadium or Swansea Sound.

I'm sure you'll all agree this is a superb project so let's get behind it!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Angel Rangel and The Purple Jigsaw

I'm back from Portugal, full of port and cheese, and ready to share my views on the new Swansea City kit (from what we can make of it) and how it's been revealed!

While I was away I noticed a tweet with an attached photo of the new kit. When I clicked on it I believed my phone was playing up as I could only see Angel Rangel's head. However after reading the accompanying article I realised what was happening.

Via the official website, the club have been releasing the image of the new 2013/14 kit piece-by-piece in an attempt to build interest and create a buzz. The club announced on its website that they will be "revealing a section of both kits each day for the next week" with the full unveiling on Friday morning.

I could see this teaser method working to an extent, maybe over a day or two, but by Friday surely everyone will have figured out what the kit looks like? As one tweeter correctly pointed out, the patch on the arm suggests it is likely to be nothing but a slight variation on the new Stoke City away kit. This is because these days, unfortunately, kit designers tend to create a template and use it for a few clubs. (It's hard to criticise Adidas too much after they delivered the superb centenary kit last season).

I could be very wrong and the final square of the picture could shock us all (maybe a watermark of Alan Tate and the F**k Off Cardiff flag), but chances are it will be pretty much as expected.

Whatever happens this is unlikely to deter the army of Jacks from purchasing the new kit. Regardless of the way it's been revealed it is still likely to be well received and will probably sell out much like it did last year.

It just seems it would've been better to reveal the new kit as one massive firework instead of letting off loads of those little ones which everyone eventually gets bored with.

On the subject of kits - and as I've said before I'm no Gok Wan - I'm not sure about a purple Swans away kit. I'd still prefer a classic black kit, or even red like last year. However the purple move does hint that Infiniti, who use purple as their marketing colour, are more than likely the new sponsors. Whatever happens purple has got to be better than orange!