Thursday 15 August 2013

Swansea City vs Man United: The Beginning

Football is back!

I mean it never really left us, but... football is back!

And this could be the best season to date for Swansea City. Every year it seems to get better and better. Naturally it will plateau at some point, but I feel this season is another that will top the previous one.

Think about it: a European tour, the best squad ever, the South Wales derby... it's already panning out to be the most eventful one yet and we haven't even started!

There is no denying that the Swans third season in the top flight will begin with a tough test, but it's the perfect way to set the bar high - a win against the champions (KO Saturday, 5:30pm)!

Maybe a win is optimistic, but confidence is high among the squad and fans alike. Honestly, this is the best chance the new Swansea have ever had for a victory against Man United. Combine the fact that United aren't fully settled under their new manager, with the superb pre-season that Swansea have enjoyed and there is no better time to play them.

Swansea should start with pretty much the same eleven we saw line-up at the Malmo home game. Despite Gerhard Tremmel's near-perfect performances last season, it will be Michel Vorm in goal. In defence we should see Angel Rangel and Ben Davies alongside Ashley Williams and Chico Flores, who has a tough pre-season of injury and personal loss to put behind him.

There is no way Jonjo Shelvey will miss out as he was superb in the Malmo tie, so it will be him and Michu in the centre, along with Leon Britton to clean things up behind them. On the wings Wayne Routledge is now first choice with Nathan Dyer likely to start. And up front...? Thankfully there is no Itay Shechter anymore - we have Wilfried Bony to smash them in now!

Apart from the recruitment of David Moyes, not too much has changed with United, who won 2-0 against Wigan in the Community Shield match last weekend. The champions will certainly be less predictable at the start of this season.

I've asked Scott from one of the biggest Man United websites, The Republik of Mancunia, to give us his thoughts on the potential United line-up and that all important score prediction. Take it away Scott!

Predicting our line-up and formation was difficult enough last season with a manager we'd had for almost three decades picking the team. Trying to guess with a new manager is even more difficult!
Our starting team for the Community Shield is probably a good starting point though. It's a toss up between Zaha and Valencia on the right wing, although we did see a lot of the former in the pre-season. It's likely that Welbeck and Van Persie will start up front with Carrick and Cleverley in midfield. Rafael is ruled out for the first month of the season so it will be interesting to see whether Moyes fancies Jones or Smalling at right back. Jones was mainly used in midfield in the pre-season.

Last year we drew 1-1 at your place and I would have preferred an easier start to the season for Moyes. Maybe someone could buy Michu before the weekend to do us a favour!

I'll go 2-1 to United, but that's just because I tend to be fairly optimistic. Wouldn't be too surprised (or disappointed) with a draw.

So a cautious but optimistic prediction from Scott. Like most Swans fans, I am confident of at least a point for Swansea and maybe a win, providing the defence are as solid as they have been in pre-season and the attack keep linking up well. It's just a case of putting the chances they have been making into the back of the net (or at least across the line)!

My money would be on 1-1, but 2-1 to Swansea isn't too far fetched this year.

See you there!

Monday 12 August 2013

The left-back headache: Davies or Taylor?

It's been an ongoing point of conversation for many Swans fans - who should start at left-back next season: Ben Davies or Neil Taylor? However, making his ForzaSwansea debut, JAMES GILL highlights why he believes the decision isn't as complicated as it first seems.


By James Gill

Just three games into last season Neil Taylor suffered a horrific injury against Sunderland resulting in a dislocated fracture of his ankle. After the initial worry for the player, many of the fans attention switched to who would fill in for Taylor after his outstanding rise over the previous two seasons, especially in the step-up to the top flight.

As a nervous looking Ben Davies first ran out onto the field to make his Swans debut, I wondered whether this was a temporary replacement before we signed a free agent. But Davies immediately put any doubts to bed.

From his first game Davies showed his intent and, surprisingly, his confidence on the ball. He also showed an overlapping prowess that added an extra element to Swansea's attack, while he was technically good in defence.

He even bagged himself a goal against Stoke using his wing-back mentality. Within months of making his debut, he received a Wales call up and earned his first cap, again replacing Taylor in the left back position (he has since made five appearances).

As each game went by this 19-year-old looked more and more comfortable, as if he'd been playing Premier League football for years. When Neil Taylor announced he was hoping to return before the end of the season, I did wonder how he would get back into the side. Davies hadn't put a foot wrong all season! How can you drop a player who had done everything that had been asked of him?

In his first season (37 games) Davies contributed one goal and two assists whereas Taylor has never scored a goal for the Swans and only has one assist to his name since arriving from Wrexham in 2010.

Davies created 18 chances last season compared to Taylor's seven. However Taylor does have a slightly better pass rate at 88% compared to Davies 83%. And these stats continue to shine through when you look at how they play for Wales.

As the season approaches I believe it will be Ben Davies who will start in the left back position. Because of unfortunate events Michael Laudrup only had Taylor in his side for three games last season, meaning the rest of the season he worked with Davies week in week out. Managers tend to stick to what they know and, as I've said before, Davies doesn't deserve to be dropped at the moment.

It's up to Taylor to win his position back, which will only ensure Davies keeps on top of his game. Taylor would be a great asset for any team outside the top four to have and I think it shows how far as a club we've come when we have quality such as him sat on the bench every week.

And with a European campaign looming, the quality we have in the two of them will allow us to rotate if needed and that gives us a great advantage.

Either way you look at it, all Swans fans will agree that it's a nice headache to have!

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!