Friday 31 January 2014

ForzaSwansea - January Highlights

YES! January - the most depressing month - is finally over!

The first month of 2014 has been pretty busy on ForzaSwansea - the busiest in the history of the site in fact!

Below are a few of the articles I've singled out as highlights, in case you missed them the first time around:

  • My favourite piece of the month is our exclusive interview with Alan Curtis, where the Swansea City legend answered questions about the squad, expectations and what he likes to drink on his night off!

  • Matt wrote a brilliant tribute to our legendary captain Ashley Williams.

  • Gavin summed up the now infamous #Brickgate saga and profiled Chico as a player.

  • I gathered expert Sunderland opinion on how Ki Sung Yeung has been performing for the Black Cats - he's been doing brilliantly it seems, which may make for depressing reading knowing we won't get him back until the summer!

  • And, finally, I tried to beat the other Swansea City media by getting in my early predictions for who may be heading to the World Cup from the Swans squad this summer!

Check them out, leave some comments or have a chat by joining us on Twitter or Facebook. See you soon!

Tuesday 28 January 2014

It's in our hands! (Part 2): The next six games

In Part 1 Matt gave us his opinions on why Swansea City were wallowing in the relegation zone and what was needed to get us out of the rut.

He now runs us through the crucial next six games and gives us his predictions on how many points we can (and should!) get from each. Take it away Matt...


By Matthew Jacob

With players beginning to return from injury we now face the biggest run of games since promotion was secured. It's time for Swansea to rise and fight back.

There are 16 league games left to play, each one very significant. The next six, however, have the potential to make or break this season:

FULHAM - HOME (Tues, Jan 28th, 7:45pm) 
The perfect opportunity to get on the front foot in this sequence of games. Fulham were held to a draw on Sunday at Sheffield United and a replay is no good for them. When Berbatov doesn't play Fulham don't play, and the Bulgarian has been off form of late.

From a Swansea perspective De Guzman and Rangel should return to give the squad a timely refresher and with Bony firing I think we'll have too much for them. Our comeback against Birmingham was also a timely confidence boost.

Prediction: WIN

WEST HAM - AWAY (Sat, Feb 1st, 12:45pm)
As the Six Nations kicks off the Swans travel to East London to clash with Sam Allardyce's West Ham. The Hammers have been on the receiving end of some terrible results of late (although they have faced Manchester City's goal machines twice in that period).

Swansea lost at Upton Park last season thanks to a goal from Andy Carroll and they held us to a credible draw in October last year at the Liberty. Allardyce has added to his squad at a crucial period including the classy Italian pair Antonio Nocerino and Marco Borriello from Serie A. It'll be a tough place to go - I'd take a draw but I think they'll have the edge.

Prediction: LOSE

CARDIFF CITY - HOME (Sat, Feb 8th, 5:30pm) 
Boy to we owe them one. Malky Mackay finally made way for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the Norwegian wasted no time in proclaiming his desire to finish above Swansea and that they were the capital and therefore should be bigger than Swansea. Solskjaer hasn't impressed the Jack Army with his comments but he continues to say the things Cardiff fans want to hear, and he's making great strides in the transfer market signing a clutch of players from his former club Molde and making bold moves for Zaha and Fabio from Manchester United. He has also secured the services of former Swansea target Kenwynne Jones.

This game needs no introduction. I believe man for man we're a better side than them. It will take more grit and determination than was shown in the first derby, but I think a partisan Liberty Stadium crowd can see us to victory this time.

Prediction: WIN

STOKE CITY - AWAY (Wed, Feb 12th, 7:45pm)
To the Britannia, a ground where Swansea have previously struggled to cope with the aerial bombardment that Tony Pulis championed in the Potteries for a number of years - a style of play often criticised, yet it saw Stoke into the Europa League and has helped them become an established Premier League club.

However Stoke have a very different appearance now in the shape of Mark Hughes, who has made efforts to alter the style in favour of more passing, attractive play, which may have contributed to their league position. Having never been asked to play that way, Stoke have struggled to make the Britannia the fortress it has been in previous seasons. I expect us to go there and be positive, hopefully with an almost fit squad, and come away with a draw.

Prediction: DRAW

LIVERPOOL - AWAY (Sun, Feb 23rd, 1:30pm)
It will take a special effort to prise something away from Anfield as the business end of the season approaches, with the red men chasing a top four spot and Suarez and co playing some spectacular free flowing football. Swansea were demolished 5-0 at Anfield before the Capital One Cup final, so it's fair to say we owe them one.

Were it not for our own mistakes in the home fixture we could well have taken the spoils then and I expect us to put in a much better performance than last year. However I also expect us to get nothing from the game, but I am a natural pessimist. Perhaps Swansea will surprise me once again. Of the next six games this is the 'free' if you will, one where we will not be expected to get a result and many will have written off already.

Prediction: LOSE

CRYSTAL PALACE - HOME (Sun, March 2nd, 4:30pm) 
The last game of the next six that I've earmarked as crucial. I have a hunch we'll know what we have to do between this point and the end of the season. A few months ago I was saying we'd be the club to relegate Palace yet Tony Pulis, to his immense credit, has turned them around. However, struggling to add to a weak squad, they may slip into the bottom three again by the time we meet. I'm confident we'll put them to the sword.

Prediction: WIN

There you have it. 10 points from the next 15 on offer would see us up to 31 points and, with our bottom half rivals facing tough opposition in the coming games, this would make a massive difference.

Our FA Cup tie with Everton comes the weekend of February 15th and there's also the small matter of a Europa League tie in the middle of those games with Napoli coming to the Liberty Stadium on February 20th (not to mention the return leg in Italy on February 27th), but the league must be our focus now.

I still believe it's in our hands - win our games and we'll pull clear. We've got a good squad and a strong identity, so let's get behind the boys. Back the new arrivals (whoever they are), lift the players and let's make the Liberty a fortress again, together!

Monday 27 January 2014

Swans On Film: N'gog's N'skills

David N'gog is now officially an N'Swansea City N'player!

I had a browse to see if we should be getting excited and... well, there does seem to be some skill level there (more so than Vazquez I guess). Whether or not it will pay off for Swansea will need to be seen, but at least there has finally been some transfer window activity.

Below is a video which highlights an array of N'Gog's skills and a few goals. It's worth checking out if you haven't seen much of him before.

(Please note: I highly recommend you MUTE THE VIDEO - the soundtrack is absolutely terrible!)

Remember to like ForzaSwansea on Facebook for occasional updates. If you do I will think you are pretty cool!

It's in our hands! (Part 1)

In this special two-part article, ForzaSwansea blogger MATTHEW JACOB gives us his opinions on why Swansea City are wallowing in the relegation zone and what is needed to get us out of the rut. Then in Part 2 (scheduled for tomorrow morning) he'll give us a run down of the next six Swans games and how many points we can expect to take!


By Matthew Jacob

I think it's safe to say that there was a feeling throughout the summer among the Jack Army that this season always promised to push our club to the limit like never before.

As Michael Laudrup prepared to steer the Swansea City ship into the uncharted waters of the Europa League I admit to a having a strong feeling of trepidation - would the squad be strong enough to battle on four fronts? Will being in Europe take the focus away from the Premier League?

You could argue that we are suffering a similar fate to that of Newcastle United and Stoke City when faced with playing Sunday and Thursday and travelling all over the continent. It was never going to be a breeze for a club like Swansea.

Let's tackle one issue first of all. We're in a relegation battle, no question about it.

The Premier League is a cruel and unforgiving place for a team low on confidence, yet the way this season has taken shape every club from Cardiff in 20th to Aston Villa in 10th is battling to survive, and will be from now until May.

That's how tight it is, where a mere six points separates the bottom club from mid-table 'safety'. And good performances count for nothing. It's all about results now, and Swansea need to start getting them (though I do not believe it should come at the expense of our style, as Alan Hansen suggested a few weeks ago).

The tactical genius himself.

Issue two is expectation. Swansea City have had two heartily successful Premier League campaigns and secured the Capital One Cup while capturing the imagination of professional pundits who suggested we would be nothing but relegation fodder following our promotion. Our dip in form since that cup win is well documented and it has left journalists to suggest we're having a tragically poor season and that teams have 'found us out'.

"Found us out!"

That phrase always makes me smile - is it a major shock to teams now that we choose to pass the ball out from the back rather than hoof it forward? We've been doing it since 2007, so to those teams who have found us out, you took your time.

For the record, Southampton are only ten points ahead yet are being heralded as having a great season? They are, and I love the football they play, but three decent results for us and a couple of dodgy results for them would see us much closer. It's a tight league after all. What would the pundits say then?

Finally, the issue of reinforcements and adding to the side.

The squad needs new blood and the fans would welcome the lift. We've been linked with Anthony Pilkington who is a lovely footballer with a bit of grit about him and someone who would certainly add to our group. A centre forward to help Wilfried Bony in Michu's absence would certainly lift the mood (I'm not sure David N'gog would immediately settle nerves, but he does have a point to prove).

Meanwhile the bizarre issue of Ki Seung Yeung has everyone scratching their heads. Laudrup has been forced to utilise Jordi Amat in midfield yet the mercurial Korean is pulling up trees on Wearside! There were calls to get him back. Those calls were ignored, Ki stays with the Black Cats and we move on.

With the squad bare and a difficult run of games to come, we as fans need to get behind the boys more than ever, the time for moaning at not being mid-table is over. We're in a scrap and we need to pull together. Our destiny is still in our hands.


Check back tomorrow morning for Part 2, where Matt will profile the next six games and give his predictions on how many points we can hope for.

Friday 24 January 2014

Ashley Williams: From Stockport to Stamford Bridge

He puts his body on the line for Swansea City week-in, week out: Ashley Williams. While the captain of Wales has suffered periods of poor form in recent months, there are few others that make it onto the team sheet before he does. To celebrate our captain, ForzaSwansea blogger MATTHEW JACOB brings us a passionate tribute.


By Matthew Jacob

"Well done Ash!" - a sentiment echoed by Jacks everywhere time and again over the last six years since Ashley Williams joined Swansea City from Stockport County.

And back then, when the Swans were in League One, even the most optimistic fan could not have anticipated the player we had just acquired. It took £400,000 to bring him to South Wales - a club record fee at the time - yet Williams has repaid that sum ten times over.

Ashley Williams was born and bred in the West Midlands and began his career at West Bromwich Albion in the youth set up at the Hawthorns. Yet like so many footballers his age Williams was released at sixteen having failed to convince the hierarchy at Albion that he was worth a senior contract.

The defender slipped into non-league football, plying his trade at Hednesford Town and working part time at Drayton Manor theme park to make ends meet - humble beginnings for a man who now proudly wears the captain's armband for club and country.

He eventually moved on to play for Stockport in 2003 and made his international debut while captain there, finally moving to Swansea City in 2008 initially on loan. Then on clinching promotion to the Championship under the leadership of Roberto Martinez the move was made permanent.

Williams is an imposing figure. At six foot tall, his broad shoulders carry the hefty expectations of the Jack Army. My first impression was how mobile would he be? He stood enormous, even at 24-years-old when he first joined the club. Thankfully that concern was driven from my mind as Williams conquered all who came against him as Swansea took the League One title and then stood firm in their first foray into the Championship.

It's hard to nail down Williams 'strength' because he's such a complete all round defender. A strong mental attitude and bravery, coupled with pace, physical strength and tactical nous - Williams possesses all of these traits. Most importantly he's an excellent footballer in defence, but he also has an attacking attitude towards the game, namely his ability to play superb cross field passes to the wingers and the obvious threat he poses from set pieces.

Williams has courted the attention of top clubs since our arrival into the Premier League and following the end of the 12-13 season it seemed Arsenal would make a move for the Welsh international. To the delight of the Jack Army no offer materialised and Williams remained a Jack.

But it's not just on the pitch where he shows dedication and selflessness for the cause. He uses his status as a professional footballer for the benefit of others and is often commended for doing so. One example is WillsWorld, the charity he started to benefit under-privileged children with his wife Vanessa, along with his community soccer schools which are very popular with children in Swansea.

He commands the respect of the crowd and his team mates. When Williams is absent you cannot help but feel our cause is weakened. But with him Swansea always have a chance. With the current rough patch we are going through, the Swans will need the influence of Williams more than ever if they are to remain a Premier League side come May.

The story of Ashley Williams is one of a man cast into the football wilderness, rising to lead a club that were faced with bankruptcy and relegation into non-league a little over ten years ago. He now battles for Swansea at grounds like Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge and typifies our bold playing style and bravery against the odds.

Let us hope he continues to lead the club for many years to come.


You can pick up Ashley Williams' book, charting his first year in the Premier League. It's available in all good book shops and online.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

#Brickgate - The rise, fall and rise (and fall) of Chico Flores

We all cringed when we saw that Swansea City had made the back pages yesterday morning for the wrong reasons - all thanks to our hotheaded defender Chico Flores and 'the brick'.

ForzaSwansea's newest blogger GAVIN TUCKER takes a look at what happened, why it happened and tries to examine Chico's escalating unstable nature.


By Gavin Tucker

Every team has 'bust-ups' from time to time.

From infamous incidents involving Craig Bellamy, a sleeping John Arne Riise and a golf club; to player and manager coming to blows on the training ground (most notably Balotelli and Mancini).

The Daily Mail was the first to post the story of an altercation between Chico Flores and Garry Monk - an outlet that has a history when it comes to tales of unrest in the Swansea camp. But these stories don't get run without there being at least some truth in them. They will, however, sensationalise it and try to make it more than it may have been. After all, that's what sells.

Our fiery Spaniard in a moment of deserved glory

We as Swansea supporters are naturally sensitive to any negativity aimed at our club by national media. The fact remains though that an altercation did happen and (maybe unnecessarily) police were called to the scene. It was most likely an accumulation of little things that led to this point with neither party completely innocent.

If you look at the wording of the original Mail article they do not actually say Chico threatened to harm Monk with a brick - they leave the reader to assume that. The diablo is in the details. When Chico responded via Twitter I believe he was being truthful when he stated he did not threaten anyone with a brick.

So what happened with the brick? Where did this brick come from? What made him snap and want to brick things?

There are rumours strewn across the internet. There are allegations that it all started over physio comments on Chico's breakfast diet of Coco Pops and too much sugar in his OJ. It may have been property (i.e. Garry Monk's car) Chico threatened to damage with a brick? Or maybe he just snapped and had it in for that horrendous pink jeep somebody had parked in the space reserved for his Ferrari... who knows?

We'd rather have a bowl of Chico Pops!

Social media goes crazy with things like this - calls for him never to play for the club again, denial of any incident, a media conspiracy against Swansea, mixed in with a tidal wave of humour about building defensive walls, photoshopped Chico pictures, links to Pink Floyd songs and, of course, its own Twitter hashtag.

I like Chico and he has been a good player overall in his time at Swansea. He has has made some superb last ditch tackles and regular diving headed clearances millimetres off the floor more times than I can remember. Also not forgetting his almost unsurpassed ability of perfectly controlling a ball with his chest whatever speed it's falling through the air.

But, I never feel completely comfortable.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I'm praying there's not an unnecessary rash challenge around the corner, some slightly embarrassing play acting or a lapse in concentration that costs us a goal.

His form has notably dropped this season and if it wasn't for our current injury crisis in midfield then there is a fairly strong case to start with Jordi Amat at centreback given his pretty consistent form and reassuring performances.

What matters most now though is that whatever the finer details of the incident, it's best for players involved and supporters to move on. Whatever tensions and pressures that built up to the incident have hopefully been vented and any damage repaired because Swansea need the good side of Chico more than ever with some massive fixtures approaching.

We've had more than our fair share of negative press and pundit opinion since promotion to the Premier League. Our first season we were universally tagged as going straight back down. The following campaign losing our manager and some important players was only going to add to the mythical second season syndrome that we would apparently suffer from.

The media have seriously stepped up their soap opera narrative this week - an early relegation scrap, team bust-ups, manager and player falling-outs and Laudrup leaving whatever happens (okay, we kind of guessed that one anyway...).

Swansea can hopefully take this negativity and flip it into something positive. We do better when the world is against us. We need to get back to that siege mentality, back into underdog mode and prove to be as good as we know we can be.

Monday 20 January 2014

Swansea City: Who else has a rallying call?!

Today is the day dubbed 'Blue Monday' by the media - supposedly the most depressing day of the year for an array of reasons. And if you are a Swansea City fan you'd be inclined to agree!

It's a frustrating time for all Swans supporters: the club have been pulled into an early relegation scrap, 50% of the first team are out with injuries, Swansea have the worst home record in the Premier League this season (just two home wins), they've picked up just three points in the last eight games, Laudrup and the team are showing no fight and some fans are seriously questioning the manager's immediate future with the club... it makes for bleak reading, doesn't it?

Looking at the back pages of the Evening Post over the last few weeks there seems to have been a constant stream of "rallying calls" issued by the players, but no-one seems to be listening to these calls when on the pitch. The displays are dull, passionless and frustrating.

Although it's not the only problem, injuries aren't helping. Currently the first team looks like this:

Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies
Lamah, Amat, Britton, Pozuelo, Routledge

In fairness that wouldn't be so bad, but the fact that nobody is in form makes it painful to look at. In fact the only player who seems to have grown in confidence while the others have become shells of themselves is Wilfried Bony.

Many fans - myself included - are questioning why there has been no activity in the transfer window. There have barely been any rumours this Janurary, let alone fresh faces at the club. With the injury list growing by the day (with the current casualties being Michu, Shelvey, Vorm, Dyer, de Guzman, Hernandez and Canas) and defenders having to replace midfielders, it wouldn't be unrealistic to say Swansea need at least three new players to help out.

What this all means is Swansea are now 15th and three points from the bottom of the table. Yes, it's been a hard winter of tough fixtures and the injuries have made a serious impact, not to mention the extra games, but something has to change.

Before you start crying, what are the positives?

As I just mentioned, Bony is in great form. It seems he has found the spark that was missing earlier in the season. He almost looks like a £12million player. Maybe it's just because other players are feeding the ball to him more, but his shots are the only impressive thing in Swansea's game at the moment and it looks like he could score another ten this season.

It's a shame it's happening now when the rest of the team are so poor, but at least it is happening. 

Another positive is Swansea's defenders are all fit, even if they are out of form. Chico seems terrible at the moment and it's a shame Amat has to play in the midfield because I'd much prefer to see him start alongside Williams at the back. But this is good - at least defence is one of the areas we still have a choice in.

So looking on the bright side, we have defenders, we have Bony and it's also not just us who are looking poor - there are nine other teams all in this scrap for the Championship. But it's up to Swansea to start winning games and sending themselves up the table and the others down.

While it's a shame we didn't beat Man United or Spurs, the reality of it is that those games are much less important than the upcoming ones against Fulham, West Ham and Cardiff, which are all six pointers (apart from the Cardiff game which is a nine pointer!).

Forget about the FA Cup - put out a full team of reserves. I don't want to see Bony, Britton, Tremmel, Williams or Rangel near the midlands on the 25th! They all need time to rest and, hopefully, by the time the Fulham game comes around on January 28th we'll have a few of the other first team players back.

While this doesn't guarantee a win, it does give us more hope.

Then it's up to us as fans to support the team and make some noise. Three wins in three games is a big ask, but against equally poor opposition it's not impossible. An extra nine points would probably see us back in the top ten and give everyone a much needed boost of confidence.

The next three weeks and the action of the management, players and fans will all be vital in the survival of this fine football club.