Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Why losing to Liverpool really wasn't that bad.

Swansea were embarrassed last night by Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool at Anfield, deservedly losing 4-1 after a scrappy first half and a lacklustre second.

A couple of defensive mix-ups, a bizarre mistake from Lukasz Fabianski and an unfortunate own-goal from Jonjo Shelvey (who had an overall dreadful evening) saw the Swans pretty much dead and buried with over 20 minutes left to play.

It's annoying, but is it that bad?

In a 'grand scheme of things' kind of way, no - it's not that bad at all. Garry Monk - still only half-way through his first full season in charge - has navigated his team through a tough few months of fixtures and injuries, and is ending the year ninth in the Premier League.

Right on cue: Shelvey played his part in an awful game.

And having already played teams like Liverpool, Man United, Chelsea, Man City and West Ham away from home, the second half of the season should be a little smoother, fixtures-wise at least.

Of course, losing Wilfried Bony and Ki Sung Yeung to their nations for respective national competitions is a big blow considering the impact both those players have had; Bony with his creativity and goals, and Ki with his strength and composure in the middle of the pitch.

But their absence will allow Bafetimbi Gomis - who looked pretty good against Liverpool - some time in the spotlight, while midfield is deep enough to cope without Ki for a month (providing Shelvey pulls his finger out a bit). And of course we'll finally be able to see Nelson Oliveira in action.

So it's been a good year; certainly ending better than it started (I need not remind any Swansea fan of the way 2014 began, with Michael Laudrup slowly guiding the team towards relegation). In reflection, losing to Liverpool - and Brendan Rodgers - was in no way desirable, but it's not the end of the world.

All that's left to do is say Happy New Year and see you all in 2015! (And don't waste those Christmas vouchers on something boring - instead, buy your copy of Swansea City's Greatest Games today!).


Wednesday, 17 December 2014

'Tis the (middle of the) season - a festive blogger Q&A on the season so far!

It's been a while so, with a week to go until Christmas and very close to the mid-way point in the Premier League season, let's check in with some of the Forza Swansea bloggers to catch up on their highlights of the season so far:

Definitely some positives to smile about Garry!

Q1. Sum up Swansea's season so far in one word!

Alec Johnson: Rollercoaster!

Matthew Jacob: Positive. Some excellent results, interspersed with some superb football - a real positive start to Monk's first full season in charge.

Jules Price: Pleasing.

Jacob Cristobal: Top-half!

Chris Carra: Potential.


Q2. What's been your favourite game of the season to this point?

AJ: The big kick-off in Old Trafford. That set us off with the belief that we are ready to compete at the top table again.

MJ: Arsenal at home. Dug in when we needed to, played our game and were deserved winners.

JP: It has to be the win over Manchester United at Old Trafford. We crashed the van Gaal party when there was so much expectation around his appointment and his signings. It was a historic win too which makes it even more significant.

JC: The season opener against United, spoiling van Gaal's debut.

CC: The Arsenal one has probably been my favourite to this point - I was watching in Amsterdam in a bar full of Arsenal supporters who naturally went crazy when Arsenal scored. But the two quick goals from Swansea were superb and the small table of Swans fans made more noise than the entire pub. Great!

Fabianski is proving a hit this season.

Q3. Who has been your stand-out Swans player (and why)?

AJ: Gylfi. His feet are magical but his footballing mind is breathtaking. He sees passes that can only be spotted from the sofa in your lounge.

MJ: I'm sure many will say Bony, or perhaps Montero, and both are worthy candidates. For me though Sigurdsson has given us a real attacking edge, and the spark of creativity we'd perhaps lacked in recent years. Consistently brilliant.

JP: Fabianski. Very solid and commands his defenders well. Great shot stopper who has already shown that he has more quality than Vorm. Arsenal’s loss, Swansea’s gain. I would argue he is one of the top five keepers in the Premier League although he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves in the national media.

JC: Fabianski. He is proving he can handle his own when actually given matches and I do not miss Vorm. Still miss Ben, but that's something else.

CC: I'm going to be obvious and say Bony. Not just for his goals - without which the Swans would be much further down the table - but for his overall strength and class up front.


Q4. Who would be your ideal January transfer window signing (and why)?

AJ: Full backs. Both are currently decent, but a notch beneath the rest of the team.

MJ: A right back and a left back. Both positions need addressing. I quite like Kieran Trippier at Burnley. He's done well after stepping up to this level and has more to offer I think.

JP: Raul would have been a great signing however he signed for former Swansea City player Giovanni Saverese at the New York Cosmos just a few weeks ago. Realistically I would like to see Harry Kane at the Liberty. Not a guaranteed first team starter for Tottenham and he’s a good old-fashioned striker. Just look at Sunday’s performance.

JC: Podolski. He deserves better than being a sub off the bench.

CC: A solid wing-back who would challenge for a starting spot - can't put my finger on a name though.


Q5. Where are Swansea going to finish come May?

AJ: 9th. Above Liverpool and a whole league above our red, white or occasionally blue neighbours.

MJ: Mid-table, possibly 8th.

JP: Mid-table unless they fail to replace Bony sufficiently during the African Cup of Nations which could mean they struggle to score. Then again Gomis will get his opportunity so who knows!

JC: Somewhere in between 7th and 9th.

CC: Definitely in the top ten, perhaps 8th.


Thanks for reading. Make sure you order your copy of the best-selling Swansea City's Greatest Games in time for Christmas. It's now available at the club shop as well!

Friday, 21 November 2014

"We are nobody's whipping boys" - Exclusive interview with Kevin Johns!

He's one of the city's most recognisable faces, a film/theatre/radio star, and - most importantly - a lifelong Swans supporter... it's Kevin Johns of course!

And it was my great pleasure to catch up with Kev this week to chat about his involvement with Jack to a King, the Arsenal game, Swans managers, and his passion for the club.


Kev Johns - a true Jack through and through!

Chris: It took me long enough, but I finally saw Jack to a King in October. What a brilliant film! I know you've seen it a few times, so what are your thoughts now the dust has settled?

Kevin: I've seen the film five times and every time I watch it I see something different or I see somebody different. I can honestly tell you that I've not watched the film once without having tears in my eyes. And I often see people in there who are no longer with us. I saw the minister Caradog, who married my parents and did my Christening when I was a baby – he was a Swans fan and he sadly is no longer with us and there are others [who feature in the film] that have passed away. They would have all loved to see us where we are today. But I do see something different every time I watch it.

C: It's a great advert for Swansea City isn't it? Such a gripping, almost fictional storyline!

K: I think it's great for the club and introduces us to an international audience. It tells the story that shows that we have not forgotten those who are hugely responsible for saving this club. There were some ugly, dark moments during the Tony Petty period and we fought through. I also think it's a very funny film and very emotional. But the story hasn't finished yet – there's a greater story still to be told!

C: Sticking with film, you were part of Barclay's Spirit of the Game heroes and starred in your own short video for them last month. Tell us about that?
 
K: Well it's a bit embarrassing really. I was aware something was going on since last March. I had a few phone calls from Barclay's asking for an interview and we did that, then they asked if I would take part in their podcast - again something I happily did. But then I was getting more phone calls and more interviews, asking more questions, so I said to the guys at the Liberty “do you know anything about it?” but they said no. Then, after hearing Barclay's wanted to do some filming with me for the Stoke game, I had a phone call explaining what it was all about and that they were making four short films about passion in football. It was all very humbling - there are so many people who do so many things, but I am the guy the club suggested for it.

C: And that led onto the signs flashing around the sides of the stadium on match days that say 'Thank You Kevin Johns'?

K: (Laughing) A friend of mine who I've not seen for 30 years, who works in the British Embassy in Bucharest, sent me a screen shot of the television and said “I'm just watching the match in Bucharest, and look what I see!” Those signs are quite humbling and quite nice. My mum and dad were very proud, and I'm happy for them that these nice things happen.




C: You do have a reputation for being ultra passionate about the club, so you deserve it.

K: I'm just a Swansea City fan. I'm just a supporter of the club who's been given the opportunity to serve the club and do what I do. I still have a season ticket. I was actually asked a few years ago, when we were in the Championship, if I would be interested in doing what I do for a Premier League club. An agent rang me to see if I was interested but I said no I'm not, only because I think a real supporter needs to do that job. I have no second team, I am a Swans supporter – always have been, always will.

C: Moving onto what's been happening on the pitch and the Swans seem to be doing brilliantly at the moment. Garry Monk is clearly the right man for the job. What's gone right this season?

K: I think there seems to be a great team spirit there. In the Arsenal game – in an age where we talk about the salaries the players are on and some of the negative aspects of their lives – I watched a team play for the shirt. They were playing for the badge. And Garry Monk is a Swansea City man, and there are people like him – Alan Curtis and Kristian O'Leary – all in the dressing room, motivating the players. All are passionate about the Swans. I never doubted that one day Garry would be involved with coaching and management with the club. But I didn't think it would happen so soon.

C: I guess no-one expected it to happen that quickly did they? He was just thrown into it.

K: No, it happened much quicker than we thought, but I have no doubts that he's the right man for the job. And of all the managers we've had though the era of success, it's the new, young managers that have done the best job for us. Brendan Rodgers, Roberto Martinez, and now Garry - all are guys who have punched above their weight and succeeded.

C: I couldn't have put that better myself! Now, Man City on Saturday – do you think we'll come away from the Etihad with something?

K: Well I believe anything is possible now. To be honest with you I think why I get so disappointed when we lose is because I never actually think we are going to lose! I expect us to win every game. When we looked at the fixtures at the beginning of the season we kind of thought “oh we've got a run of easy games there,” but they're actually not easy games because teams like Stoke, Newcastle and Sunderland will all be saying “Swansea is a game that is winnable for us.” They have the same mentality as we do. I also thought “Everton, Arsenal and Man City – that's a tough run,” but we've picked up four points so far and I'm thinking now that if we only get four points from these three games I'm okay with that. But I also think that Man City have had better times, it's a different Premier League this year, so anything is possible. I don't think we are anybody's whipping boys. I think we'll come away with credit and the supporters will have seen a good game of football. There's a great team spirit, so there's no reason we can't beat Man City.

---

Make sure to get to this year's panto at Swansea Grand Theatre to catch Kev in action on stage! You can follow Kev on Twitter and keep up to date with all Forza Swansea news on my Twitter page.
 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Cawl, mining and dogs... Are YOU the average Swans fan?

Do you like cawl? Follow Jim Carey on Twitter? Drive a Nissan? Then, congratulations - you are the typical Swans fan!

The South Wales Evening Post published an article earlier today outlining the results of a YouGov survey, which essentially delivers a snapshot of what the typical Swans fan is like.

Which one of these drives a Nissan...?

Apparently, among other characteristics, the typical Swans fan - let's call him Jack - will be a male who is over sixty years old, works as a miner and likes to eat cawl. Jack will also be interested in personal finance, will be a customer of Swalec and would drive a Nissan.

Of all the Swans fans I've ever met it's safe to say that - like snowflakes - no two are exactly the same, but this may shed some light on what makes us tick.

Check out the full article on the Post's website, which gives the complete results and a little more about the survey. 

Go on, find out whether you are a typical Swans fan or - like me - not. Let us know in the comments box below or via Twitter!
 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Why external investment is a positive move for Swansea City

Every Swansea City fan has their opinions when it comes to foreign investors' interest in the club - "Yes it's a brilliant opportunity" or "No, not now, not ever". We're lucky to have Forza Swansea's ALEC JOHNSON - a man always in the know - here to explain why accepting the investors is actually a great move for the Swans.

---

By Alec Johnson

Most debates surrounding Swansea City right now all hover around the subject of international investors - do we stick or twist?

I'm definitely in the twist camp. Let me sell you the benefits of not just accepting the opportunity, but also embracing it as an exciting development.

Firstly, this cannot be compared to Cardiff or Birmingham takeovers, where complete control is handed over to a foreign loony and the board had no choice but to save their club.

Also, comparisons have been made to previous American ownership in the shape of Liverpool and Man United where the club has been used to saddle the debt of purchase within the football club. This practise is illegal in mainland Europe, so by nature this attracts foreign investors to our shores. This is because leveraged debt is legal in the UK and, despite decades of profit at these clubs, they carry the debt of their owner's loans.

Our position is entirely different, and while we don’t require external investment to survive we certainly need it to grow.

Big decisions for Huw.

There are also many benefits to a wide group of shareholders with minority interest in any business, particularly when the investors span different backgrounds and geography.

Tapping into the new circles of corporate America or China elevates us to a new league and securing our financial future in the process. Also, we are not talking about bankers or miners here - the Americans can teach us a thing or two about sports marketing and monetising the asset of sport in the business community. Having run big American sports club for long periods, there is an established depth of sponsorship history that can be exploited together with the brand building exercises for deeper fan bases.

The best and most difficult thing in any company structure is to achieve external investment without relinquishing control. Selling a successful business isn’t as difficult as you would think. The board are not going to do that at Swansea City. There is almost an infinite number of private equity groups and family estates that would buy a growing and successful company. The number of groups interested in large investment without control is tiny by proportion. If our board have unlocked that door then they’ve found a golden key for our club.

The challenge will be to value the business.

Typically a multiple of the recent trading year's profit is considered, with ten being the typical multiple to determine value. Given the published profits are around £15m per season, the club is worth approximately £150m. However a premium is placed on the growth potential and balance sheet.

I would argue that Swansea has enough bling and potential to attract a multiple exceeding ten but most investors want control to pay more. They won’t get control at Swansea. What they have is a route into the glamorous showcase of the Premier League.

This is what Usmanov has at Arsenal - trophy ownership and an investment in a club that he can attach himself to. Other investors merely want a return in dividends or future share sale. I suspect this would be the motivation of any minority investor in Swansea and that’s fine by me.

On an emotional level, the chips are high for our club. Four years of Premier League, profit, stability and debt free. This results in an all-time high for their relatively modest investment of £50k each to save our beloved club just over a decade ago. Who can begrudge them of a pay day that can help secure their personal future?

Yes they have a duty to the fans and have a social responsibility that they take very seriously. Diluting their personal shareholding is totally acceptable. They will not leave us exposed in any way - while money changes things, it won’t change their love for the club.

Meanwhile the tension between investment into the squad and the stadium is a healthy one. Both need constant investment and history suggests a budget of around £15m per season into the playing staff. This is the approximate budget required for the club to accommodate the next batch of fans waiting to join the Premier League bandwagon through expansion.

Are they glory hunters? Quite possibly. But Swansea need to invest in a whole generation of future fans, converted to the club for life, like ourselves. It’s an investment into the next few decades. The seats will sell out given the relatively modest addition to the capacity. The best players also want to play in the best stadiums. Our Liberty needs that third tier.

So fast forward nine months - the cranes are up, finishing off our shiny new East Stand but the squad hasn’t changed. Cue the calls for player investment, but the £15m has gone into the stadium. A few injuries and we slide down the table. Monk is under pressure and the board start taking a few bullets.

This scenario scares me a lot more than having some American billionaire investing into our club, making us stronger in every way. Every way besides the romantic notion of complete fan ownership, which is pretty much where we are today.

It’s served us very well for the past decade but we’re in a different universe now. Stick or twist?

Visitors to Swansea are welcomed by the message ‘Ambition is critical’ and we need to remind ourselves of this message.

This is a time for us all to let the head rule the heart!

---

Christmas is coming - now is the time to buy your copy of Swansea City's Greatest Games - out now worldwide on Amazon, or in Waterstones, WHSmiths, Tesco and other good bookshops.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

True Grit: The Alan Tate story

I was originally going to write a poem or something to express my admiration for one of my favourite Swansea City players, but I decided that poetry was not the right way to go about it...

However, I do feel it's time to write a little something on one man who truly embodies the spirit of Swansea City - Alan Tate.

We all dream...

That's right, it's sometimes easy to forget about Tate. And although we no longer see him on the field, on the bench or in the media, he is still a Swansea City player, on paper and in heart, as he has been for the past 12 years.

We can also forgive some of the newer Swans fans for not really knowing much about him as it's been some time since he last took to the pitch wearing the white shirt of Swansea City.

Born in County Durham in 1982, Tate joined Manchester United as a youngster, eventually finding himself on loan with Brian Flynn's struggling Swansea City in 2002. He played his part in the football league survival match against Hull City in May 2003 before rejoining the Swans permanently in February 2004 (after another successful loan spell in between).

A gritty, tough and versatile defender, Tate became a true fan favourite during his time with Swansea. From 2004 he was a staple of the first team, playing in his fair share of important games such as the Football League Trophy Final match against Carlisle in 2006. At the end of the game both him and Lee Trundle cemented their place in Swansea City folklore with the now iconic 'F**k off Cardiff' flag incident.

Forever loved in Swansea, forever hated in Cardiff

Tate also captained the team at times as the Swans made their way from League Two to the Championship and, even though he began featuring less and less under Brendan Rodgers, he was called into action for two of the Swans' most important ever games during the Championship play-off matches 2011 - solid against both Nottingham Forest in the semi and Reading in the glamorous Wembley final.

But his time in the Premier League never really came. Of course he played a handful of matches under Rodgers and was even given a brief cameo against his former side at Old Trafford in May 2012, but he was one player who - for all his grit, determination and club pride - could not make the step up.

After falling out with Michael Laudrup, Tate has since played out on loan at Leeds United, Yeovil Town, Aberdeen and Crewe Alexandra. But he remains a Swansea City player, for now at least.

So where does his future lie?

While it's a sad statement to make, it's safe to say that his playing days with Swansea are pretty much over. However, with his old mate Garry Monk currently steering the ship, Tate may find his way back to prominence with a coaching role. And I'm sure that would be a decision that 99% of Swans fans would be happy to back.

In 2013 the club planned a testimonial match against Manchester United to celebrate Tate's decade of hard work, but unfortunately this failed to materialise due to conflicting Premier League fixtures. The testimonial match is currently postponed, with no new date as yet.

Whatever happens, Tate deserves a testimonial, whether it's this year (his actual 10 year anniversary of joining Swansea permanently) or next. He definitely deserves it.

Once a Jack, always a Jack.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Battle of the centre-backs: Amat vs Fernandez

When it come to Swansea City defenders, Ashley Williams will always be the first name on the team sheet. But who should be lining up next to him in the centre? Forza Swansea's JUSTIN AGTAV shares his opinions on whether it should be Jordi Amat or Federico Fernandez.

---

By Justin Agtav

When Federico Fernandez first joined Swansea City back in August I actually didn't expect him to get a starting place immediately thanks to Jordi Amat, who had been outstanding for the Swans in the opening few matches.

However now, after his recent injury, it appears that Amat will have a big fight ahead of him to win his place back in the starting line-up.

Should it be Amat...?

After Chico Flores - someone who often went walkabout and picked up cards consistently - blocked Amat from breaking into the starting eleven last year, he will probably have to go through something similar this year.

And that’s a shame because, although many people - myself included - wanted Swansea to sign a new centre-back, Amat did nothing in the first few games to warrant losing his starting spot. And even though Fernandez hasn’t cost Swansea any games, he has made his share of mistakes. For Argentina at the World Cup he was considered one of their weaker defenders, and that led to him losing his place in their starting eleven.

...or Fernandez?

But I’m not saying Fernandez was a bad signing - far from it. I’m just saying that Amat on his form before the injury merits a starting spot.

And the stats show it as well, as Swansea have only conceded 2 goals in the 3 ½ games this season that Amat was on the pitch, while they have conceded 8 in 5 ½ games while Fernandez was on the field.

Fernandez is an excellent signing to have, but based on recent form, Amat should be starting until he no longer merits it.

---

Thanks to Justin for his opinions on Swansea's centre-back dilemma. You can follow him on Twitter and follow Forza Swansea for updates.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Here's what you may have missed on Forza Swansea last month!

With my recent book launch and everything surrounding that, the content output on ForzaSwansea over the past month or so has been a little patchy.

Therefore you may have missed some of the brilliant posts by the bloggers, on topics such as Angel Rangel, Lukasz Fabianski and an array of former players.

Alec Johnson's very popular post, 'BEWARE: Leave the Swans at your peril!', was a look at some of Swansea City's former players and where they are now after leaving the club for the allure of more money (the answer is almost always 'on the bench'!)

You may also want to check out Matthew Jacob's article called 'Rangel's last ride?'. In the article, Matt looks at Angel Rangel's role with the Swans and who can fill in for him if he's not up to the task any more.

And finally, back at the start of September, we had a short post from our newest blogger, Justin Agtav, who asked the question: 'Lukasz Fabianski - Has Swansea's gamble paid off?' (Of course, we all now know it certainly has!)

We'll be back very soon for more, stay tuned!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Swansea City's Greatest Games - Launch photos

Friday night saw the successful launch of my first book, Swansea City's Greatest Games, in Waterstones Swansea.

(Picture: South Wales Evening Post)

After some brilliant anecdotes and a wonderful introduction from Swansea legend Kevin Johns, I took to the stage to read the book's first chapter before talking about the writing process. I then signed copies, before heading off for a lovely pint of beer.

Here are a few photos from the event, taken by various people to hopefully give you a taste of what it was like.

You can buy your copy from Amazon (or the Kindle version for half-price) or Waterstones (in store and online). If you are currently reading it, please let me know how you are enjoying it. Cheers!

The legendary Kev Johns introducing me (Picture: Becci Thomas)

Me giving my speech (and not messing up too much...) (Picture: South Wales Evening Post)

  The crowd gather for the signing (Picture: Becci Thomas)

Another of the crowd as my hand began cramping up... (Picture: Becci Thomas)

It seems I wanted something over there... (Picture: Becci Thomas)

(Picture: Becci Thomas)

Friday, 3 October 2014

Swansea City vs Newcastle United: A Brief Preview

With the weekend approaching, Forza Swansea's newest blogger JUSTIN AGTAV shares some team news and thoughts ahead of Swansea City's Premier League clash against second-from-bottom Newcastle United.

---

By Justin Agtav

After three games without a win, Swansea City will be looking to return to their successful formula this weekend as they take on a struggling Newcastle side at the Liberty Stadium.

Immediately looking at the opposition and we can see that the Magpies have been pretty dire, with owner Mike Ashley reportedly saying before Newcastle’s 1-0 loss against Stoke City that Alan Pardew had one game to save his job.

While that may not have been the case, the side has picked up only three points so far this season and haven’t won a game yet. The pressure will be on for Pardew when they face one of the better teams in the Premier League this weekend, and a loss to Swansea could see him sacked.

The fans want him out! (Picture: SackPardew.com)

Meanwhile the Swans - who are comfortably sitting in 5th place with three wins under their belt - are pretty strong at the moment and don't have that many injury concerns to deal with.

Jordi Amat and Leon Britton are both still sidelined, but it's no longer a certainty that either would be automatic starters anyway. The one area of concern is who will fill in at right back. Angel Rangel is suspended due to the red card he picked up against Sunderland, while his replacement Dwight Tiendalli is fighting to be fit. This means Jazz Richards could well start.

For Newcastle Siem de Jong, 18-year-old Rolando Aarons and Davide Santon are all injured. Aarons started this season impressively, while de Jong - who was supposed to be a superstar for Newcastle - is sidelined for several weeks. Pardew hasn’t received much luck this season on or off the field, and likely won’t receive any favours when they visit Swansea.

The Swans, playing at home, won’t be forced into having to soak up the pressure like they did in their last two games. This may allow them to concentrate on the attack. Wilfried Bony should start ahead of Gomis, who I think has been disappointing so far this season, while Jonjo Shelvey will be boosted by having received an England call up.

Jazz Richards starting at right back may be a slight concern, but I don’t think he will be tested too much as Swansea should be on the front foot for most of this match. Hopefully Gylfi Sigurdsson can return to his start of season form, and Dyer and Routledge can be spurred on by the fact that they unjustly missed a call up to the England squad and continue in their excellent form.

---

Thanks to Justin for his preview. Meanwhile, my official prediction is... 1-1. Not sure why, but that's it. Otherwise Swansea will hammer them! Anyway remember to follow Forza Swansea on Twitter for updates.


Sunday, 28 September 2014

It's almost here... Swansea City's Greatest Games!

Hello there. Hope you're enjoying this fine Sunday.

Right, that's the pleasantries out of the way, let's move onto the main event!

As you may now know, Swansea City's Greatest Games will be available to purchase from this Wednesday (October 1st). The book is a 208-page thriller, charting 50 of the Swans' finest ever matches from their 102 year history.


The book is available to pre-order on Amazon and Waterstones and will be in shops next week. Thanks to the beauty of the internet the book is also available in countries across the world, so all you American, Italian, Spanish and Australian readers should be able to get your copies without having to fly to Swansea...

Meanwhile there will be a book launch this Friday, October 3rd at Swansea Waterstones. If you want to meet me, I want to meet you! Books will be available to purchase and you will get the price of your ticket back as a discount on the book.

More details about the launch can be found here, but there are limited tickets at £3 each, available from Waterstones.

For more details, please get in touch with Waterstones on 01792 463567 or give me a shout via the contact form.

I'd also love any feedback on the book, so feel free to get in touch after you've read it. Cheers!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Swansea City 3 - 0 Everton: A brief report

After Swansea finally saw off their bogey team Everton in last night's Capital One Cup match, Forza Swansea's newest blogger JUSTIN AGTAV briefly shares his opinions on the game with a focus on Jefferson Montero, Bafetimbi Gomis and Jazz Richards.


---

By Justin Agtav

Swansea City bounced back from their two Premier League defeats on Tuesday to beat Everton 3-0 at a rainy Liberty Stadium. The Swans made five changes to their starting eleven after the game against Southampton (with the inclusions of Gerhard Tremmel and Tom Carroll), while Everton made seven switches.

Nathan Dyer scored the first goal in the first half, before Gylfi Sigurdsson nabbed the second in the 64th minute, followed by a late goal by second-half substitute Marvin Emnes.

Montero of the match!

But the man of the match for me was speedy Jefferson Montero, who terrorized Everton’s right back Tony Hibbert throughout the game and set up Nathan Dyer's goal. The Ecuadorian winger has looked lively in every match he has played and it may not be too long before he finally gets a Premier League start. He hasn’t so far probably because the Swans have two excellent in-form wingers, Dyer and Routledge, but if either of them suffer a dip this season we know that the former Morelia player can step into their shoes perfectly.

Another player who performed really well in the cup match was Jazz Richards. Forza Swansea writer Matthew Jacob recently wrote a great article about how the only real cover Swansea have at right back is the 23-year-old local boy. In the match against Everton, Richards might not have been spectacular but put in a solid performance and was rarely caught out of position.

One player who also put in quite a good performance was Bafetembi Gomis. The Frenchman held the ball up well at times, but it would be nice to see him get on the score sheet soon. He has been excellent so far with his strength and speed, and bringing other players into play, but he is a forward and I want to see him score at some point!

At the back Swansea were pretty comfortable all night. Federico Fernandez was relatively untroubled but did misjudge tackles a couple of times. Thankfully whenever he did he was able to regain the ball. I may be being a little harsh on Fernandez as he is just getting used to playing with Swansea and he is already showing signs that, in time, he will be an excellent addition to the club.

Overall, the Swans were comfortable throughout the match so there’s not too much to dissect, which is always a good thing! I will say that Montero played outstandingly, and that Richards was solid - Monk may be wise to start giving him a little time in Premier League games. I'd also like to see a little more from Gomis - especially some goals!

---

Thanks to Justin for his opinions on the match. You can follow him on Twitter and follow Forza Swansea for updates.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

BEWARE: Leave the Swans at your peril!

After watching Michu getting hauled off for Napoli on Sunday, ALEC JOHNSON considers why any player that leaves Swansea with a greedy motive tends to end up sitting the rest of their career out on a bench.

---

By Alec Johnson

It’s Sunday, 21 September and our former glory boy Miguel Michu gets his first start in Serie A for the perennial underachievers, otherwise called Napoli.

Just over 8,000 people are there to watch Udinese beat Napoli 1-0, with a frustrated Michu and equally miffed Argentinian hitman Gonzalo Higuain shooting blanks once again. The truth is that neither has scored a league goal this season.

So why did Michu - once worshipped in this part of South Wales - force this move?

Yes, Naples is a nice place to live but he won’t win anything there unless Maradona comes out of retirement. The games are played out in front of half-empty stadiums which themselves are crumbling, none worse that the Stadio San Paolo, as the 900 over there with me last February will confirm.

But it's not just Michu's decision to move that's puzzling. We also have our Spanish-now-Arabian brothers... what's all that about? Moving to a start-up football club in a league with average crowds less than Ashleigh Road on a Sunday morning. It's cash and lifestyle over club and country. That essentially finishes the careers of Pablo Hernandez and Chico Flores.

Add Ben Davies and Michel Vorm to the ever-growing list of evacuees and you start to see a pattern developing. While Ben is at least getting some Thursday football over at Spurs, Michel hasn’t put his gloves on yet. One year ago he was the Netherlands’ number one, now he is Spurs’ third choice. While accepting that Vorm actually didn’t choose to leave, he did choose the destination and clearly hadn’t considered the options fully.

Nice hat Danny - shame about the bench.

Roll back a few more years and it’s Darren Pratley, Dorus de Vries, Sam Ricketts and Danny Graham all scrapping around in the Championship having, in their own small-minded way, forced through exits from our club. Nobody on this list bettered themselves and none of them would find a place in our squad today. No doubt we have become a stronger club, but have they all gone backwards?

I believe so.

The greatest disappointment of the lot was our hero Scott Sinclair. In his final match for us he scored a stunner in a 5-0 win at Loftus Road, before leaving for a club where he played 78 minutes in the whole next season. What a waste of a raw talent that would have continued to improve within our environment.

Sinclair on the bench - a familiar sight.
Swansea City give players the freedom to express themselves, playing with confidence that forces technical improvement. This is also not a club that carries the weight of great expectation so the fans don’t turn on you with every mistake.

We feel that we are on the journey together and Saturday’s awesome spirit through the stadium as everybody sang for the entire second half confirms this. We barely touched the ball yet the attitude was one of togetherness. That itself is very rare in football.

So, the loyalty is reciprocal, as is the success of the players and the club. Nobody needs to leave for a few pieces of extra silver or an opportunity to play for their country (unless you’re English of course) as the land of opportunity is right here. The club now compete on salary in the richest league in the world, the city provides a fabulous lifestyle and the management encourage players to play. What more would you want in a football career?

Welcome to the most successful football in Wales, and the best run club in football.


Saturday, 13 September 2014

Swansea City 2 - 4 Chelsea: "We are the Swans and the Swans sometimes lose."

...and we are back down to earth!

It's good to get a bit of a reality check now and again and it happened today when Swansea lost 4-2 at Stamford Bridge.

In fairness the Swans began superbly, passing it around with comfort and playing with speed, power and flair. They rightly scored the first goal (even though it was an own goal from John Terry) but then allowed Chelsea into the game.

And into the game they came, with Diego Costa scoring one goal a few moments before the half-time whistle before grabbing another two, with Loic Remy scoring the last. Swansea's defence fell apart and Chelsea were clinical with their finishing, deservedly winning and showing why they are top of the league (as their Premiership odds suggest, they are likely to win the league come May anyway!).

It tastes a little sour after the last day or so. After the hype and praise over the Jack to a King film and Garry Monk winning the Manager of the Month award, it would have been a bit too perfect for Swansea to go on and win the game against Chelsea and become outright leaders of the Premier League! It just would have been... well, it wouldn't have been very Swansea.

So a pretty crushing defeat, but no-one can really complain.

In general it wasn't a terrible performance by the Swans. There was a time in the first half pretty much 99 percent of Swans fans would have believed a win was imminent.

The Swans are still sitting second in the Premier League table with nine points. The team is full of solid players, with no-one really just there for the ride. The manager is working hard and clearly working for the team. And there are few complaints among Swans fans.

All in all this makes for pretty good reading. Just avoid the rest of the match reports and enjoy the remainder of your weekend!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Rangel's last ride?

After giving a quick round-up of the summer's main business dealings at Swansea City, MATTHEW JACOB discusses Angel Rangel's role with the club and who is around to cover him if he is no longer up for the task.

---

By Matthew Jacob

Now that the dust has settled on another summer of transfer dealings at Swansea City, we have the opportunity to reflect on what has actually been achieved.

First and foremost we kept our goalscorer, Wilfried Bony. Some may say against the odds, given that the big Ivorian is considered to be one of the hottest strikers available in the market place, who won't be cup tied in a European competition come January.

Allegedly carrying a release clause in his contract I, along with the rest of the Jack Army, held my breath as the deadline day clock ticked down to 11pm. Would anyone test our resolve with a bid in excess of £20 million? (Think about that for a second, twenty million pounds for a Swansea City forward... how times have changed!). Thankfully that bid didn't come. He remains our number ten, and personally, I believe that to be our best bit of business.

Additions have come all over the pitch though, and have significantly improved the squad. Lukasz Fabianski looks to be an absolute steal, while Gylfi Sigurdsson has given our midfield not only additional flair but a focal point to channel all our good play through.

The jet-heeled Jefferson Montero offers another option in the wide areas, while we also sorted a new deal for Ki Sung Yueng, and recruited Bafetimbi Gomis, again on a free - more shrewd business by the club.

However, despite all this success, there were areas that, for me at least, were not addressed. Hands up if you honestly feel we have competition for Angel Rangel in that squad?

Still a crucial part of Swansea City?

The Spaniard is arguably the club's most loyal servant following the likes of Leon Britton, Alan Tate, and the boss himself, Garry Monk. It is almost certain that he has given us the best years of his career and at 32 it wouldn't be unfair to suggest that this season may be his last as a real quality option at right back.

That is not to suggest that Rangel hasn't been a superb servant for the club, and the way he has started this season has more than confirmed he still has what it takes to compete effectively at the top.

The question still remains though: where do Swansea City go when Rangel cannot bomb on past the winger and put a cross in? Or when he can't beat a winger for pace and cover?

This leads me back to the transfer window, and probably the only disappointment for me was the club failing to land a right back to first and foremost challenge Rangel for that spot, but also to provide effective cover for the former Terrassa man.

Dwight Tiendalli could be forced into action should the need arise but is naturally a left sided defender, while another summer recruit in Stephen Kingsley has also been earmarked for left back, and is seen as a firm development player for the time being.

Neil Taylor, who has shown signs of getting back to his best following his start to the season, has played at right back for Team GB but again is a more natural left sided player. For me, this leaves us with Jazz Richards as our only solid right back after Rangel.


Does Jazz have what it takes?

Jazz Richards has been at Swansea City a considerable time. Following his professional debut in 2009 he's had loan spells with Huddersfield and Crystal Palace before signing a new contract with the Swans last year (one which will take him up to June 2016).

The local boy is seen as a brilliant deputy right back and nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see him step up and become first choice in that role once Rangel eventually starts to wane. Having players come through our youth system and into the first team is something Swansea City have had considerable success with in years past, namely Joe Allen and Ben Davies who both moved on to bigger clubs, while Josh Sheehan is slowly breaking into the first team.

Now is the time for Richards to really push on. If he is to be Rangel's successor, it has to happen soon or it won't happen at all.

For me, this season and next could see Rangel's time as a first team player come to an end, but for the time being I see no better option. Frankly, we're very lucky to have a player of Rangel's considerable talent in our team already, and I hope he continues those overlapping runs for a little while yet.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Lukasz Fabianski - Has Swansea's gamble paid off?

Three games down and just one goal conceded, with Lukasz Fabianski deserving much of the praise for Swansea City's solid defensive performances. But as JUSTIN AGTAV discusses, signing the mistake-prone Pole was a bit of a gamble. So has it paid off?

---

By Justin Agtav

When Swansea sold Michel Vorm in the summer and were left with new recruit Lukasz Fabianski as his replacement, I was a little nervous.

I had seen Fabianski play almost every season during his spell with Arsenal and in that time I noticed that he was constantly misjudging crosses and had certain problems catching the ball. He even made a mistake in the FA Cup final last year which almost cost Arsenal the trophy.

But it seems he is not making any of those errors with the Swans and has been one of their best players over the three games so far this season.


The key man for Swansea this season?

Considering that Swansea got him for nothing he is the very definition of a bargain signing. Arsenal shelled out around £3 million just to get backup goalkeeper David Ospina, while Southampton spent £10 million to get Fraser Forster.

Based on past performances one may have said that Fabianski may not be as good as these two keepers, but after seeing him with the Swans we now know he is certainly capable of becoming a Premier League star.

In the first three games he was outstanding, keeping a clean sheet against plucky Burnley and West Brom and conceding just one against Man United. Of course every time the ball came towards him I still had the lingering feeling that he was about to make a mistake, but he actually dealt with cross after cross superbly.

Meanwhile, his height (6ft 2in) makes him a much better aerial presence for Swansea than Michel Vorm (just on 6ft). His distribution was excellent as well which suits Swansea's game perfectly. And he communicated well and looked generally very confident.

And confidence is why I think Fabianski will be a star for Swansea this season.

He always made excellent breakaway saves and was excellent at shot stopping for Arsenal, but at the same time he always looked nervous. He may have been afraid to make mistakes, because it was likely that he wanted to be Arsenal's number one keeper so much.

But now that the Pole is the undisputed number one at Swansea, he should have no problem with confidence and could end up being one of the goalkeepers of the season.

Monday, 18 August 2014

The Swans' first game: a brief chat between Chris and Alec

After the first game of the season producing three fantastic points for Swansea City, I thought it would be a good idea to have a chat with ForzaSwansea's resident former Swan and football agent Alec Johnson for his reaction and to see what we can expect from the season ahead.

---

Chris Carra: So, a 2-1 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford... I can't say I knew of anyone who thought that was very likely to happen, especially after the poor showing against Villarreal the week before. Was it a shock three points for you?

Alec Johnson: Well I wasn't confident until I saw the team sheets, then it all changed. I actually tweeted that we would score a late winner, believing that Gomis would get the important goal. United were also very poor and lacked movement and pace, which helped our cause. We caught them at the right moment in the season.

CC: Yeah, United were quite ordinary on Saturday, although I don't want to sound like I'm taking anything away from the Swans' performance. What do you think we did right against van Gaal's men?

AJ: It was our shape. We were back to our solid best. Protect the back four, get the wingers working within ten yards of the fullbacks and be patient. It paid off in the end!

CC: It certainly did. It wasn't a flawless performance though, especially the opening ten minutes where nerves seemed to play a part. But I guess that was to be expected. What do you feel could have been improved on?

AJ: Our ball retention. We certainly panicked for patches and kept giving it back to United, which is understandable for the season kick-off. Plus I felt our wingers didn't have a go at their vulnerable full backs when given the chance, especially Nathan Dyer against young Tyler Blackett.

CC: On to next week where Swansea will take on the 'new boys' Burnley at the Liberty Stadium. After the first game do you reckon this will be an easier three points?

AJ: Not necessarily - it will still be a very difficult game and they will be right up for it. Sean Dyche will allow no easy ride. However if we approach the game with the right attitude we could get a decent win.

CC: Can we get an early score prediction? 

AJ: I'll say 2-1 or 3-1 to Swansea.

CC: That sounds about right. I'm going to say 2-0 to Swansea. Now, more generally speaking, let's look at our key players this season. I'm enjoying Montero from what I've seen of him - the kind of kick and chase player I've always loved to watch. He'll be very important I feel. What about you?

AJ: The most important for me will be Siggi, as Michu was in previous seasons. Playing the system we play relies so heavily on the 'ten' floating between the lines and he can do just that. As for the player I'll enjoy watching the most, I'd say Gomis edges this over Siggi, simply because we haven't had pace up top for two decades. Suddenly we have speed, which will force teams to sit deeper against us, opening up pockets of space around the park.

CC: Taking a great leap nine months into the future and the season is coming to an end. Where are Swansea City in the Premier League table?

AJ: I believe we will be in our usual spot of top of the middle bag, hovering around mid-table all season. We'll be safe by Easter. If I'm being more specific we'll be 8th with 49 points by the end, beating our best finish and points tally in the Premier League. I also fancy an FA Cup run - that trophy is a missing piece for us and I'd love us to have a right go at it.

CC: I think most Swans fans would happily take that! I'm going to say we'll be around mid-table too - these days that is the safest bet! I think I learnt my lesson when I had a fiver on Swansea to finish in the top six last season... 

---

Thanks to Alec for having this little chat - make sure to follow him on Twitter. We'll be catching up again very soon. For now get in touch with your season predictions via Twitter or on our Facebook page!


Friday, 15 August 2014

Swansea City's Greatest Games: The Book

It is with great pleasure that I can finally announce that my upcoming book, Swansea City's Greatest Games, is available to pre-order from outlets such as Amazon and Waterstones!

"...essential reading for the Jack Army, of all ages and generations!" - Kevin Johns, Swansea City club chaplain


The 208-page hardback book brings to life fifty of the Swans' most intense, emotional and thrilling games from across their 102 year history.

The book starts with the very first game in 1912 before moving through the decades right up to the current day. As you can imagine, there are plenty from the Toshack years and the Premier League era to get your teeth into.

There are fresh interviews with former players and a brilliant picture section, while Swans legend Alan Curtis has provided the foreword.

For someone like me who is a stringent perfectionist, I can say I am very happy with how it's all come together and I'm sure any true Swans fan will love it!

The book will be in stores from 1st October 2014, but is available to pre-order now.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the book! If you have any questions please get in touch via the contact form or on Twitter, or leave a comment below.


Monday, 11 August 2014

Swansea City: The Season Preview

Is it just me or was that a short summer?

In less than a week Swansea City will be back up and running, kicking off their fourth Premier League campaign with an away trip to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United (Saturday, 12.45pm).

We've seen / heard / read about the Swans pre-season friendlies (make sure to read my full round-up) - some of them were pretty convincing wins, but other games made for much less comfortable watching.

Unfortunately when Swansea played Villarreal on Saturday at the Liberty they looked to pick up where they left off last season - a little clueless and disorganised. What is worrying is that the players on the pitch were essentially Garry Monk's first team (excluding the injured Leon Britton and Wayne Routledge).

However, despite looking very uninspiring, the 3-0 loss perhaps proved to Monk that whatever he was trying out didn't work. Set up the same way against Man United and it's pretty much the first loss of the season guaranteed.

What went wrong in that game? Well the formation seemed non-existent. Were they playing a 4-4-2? Or a 3-5-2? Or a 4-5-1? Whatever they were trying it wasn't working and they looked very unbalanced. Naturally without Britton soaking up the pressure in the middle and another dedicated winger out wide there was always going to be some unbalance.


Hopefully a key player again this season

So how will Swansea fare this season? It's really hard to predict! To many pundits, the Swans are relegation fodder, but I still can't see it. If they keep hold of Wilfried Bony and he links up well with the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jefferson Montero, Jonjo Shelvey and Bafetimbi Gomis, the attack could be one of the best outside the top four.

With midfield possibly the strongest it has ever been, the main area of worry seems to be in defence - an area that has not been much of an issue in recent years. With the departure of Ben Davies and Chico Flores, this crucial part of the team is looking a little threadbare.

Angel Rangel - though still one of my favourite players - is not as sharp as he once was, while Kyle Bartley looks a little suspect at times. However the club are making a move for Napoli's Argentinian centre-back Federico Fernandez, while Nice's left/centre-back Timothee Kolodziejczak (looking forward to Kevin Johns saying that over the Liberty loudspeakers!) has also been linked with the club.

Whatever happens, fans and the board will be more sympathetic of Monk than they would another manager. But he's not invincible and if we start to see poor results there will certainly be unrest among those who wanted Monk as permanent manager and those who thought it was too soon.

The fixtures are pretty balanced throughout the season, with two highly winnable games to begin (after United of course) - Burnley and West Brom at the Liberty Stadium. I guess it would be worth reassessing after those games. Pick up six points by the end of the month and everything is fine. Anything less and questions will be asked.

But let's end this on a positive - Swansea are an established top flight side entering their fourth year in probably the greatest league in the world. With solid goalscorers, electric pace, longstanding stalwarts and a midfield with plenty of depth there's no reason we should be worried.

(Unless Bony leaves...)


Monday, 4 August 2014

Swansea City Summary: A month of pre-season friendlies

For those who didn't see them or who haven't been keeping an eye on the scores, here's a recap of how the Swans have fared in their pre-season friendlies:


vs. Chivas Guadalajara (16 July) - Drew 1-1
Many first-team players were involved in the opening friendly against the Mexicans in America, including Angel Rangel (captain), Leon Britton, Bafetimbi Gomis, Jonjo Shelvey and Nathan Dyer, who scored Swansea's only goal in the 57th minute. Chivas proved tricky opponents and found an equaliser through a last-minute penalty. There were two red cards in this game, including one for Neil Taylor.

vs. Minnesota United (19 July) - Lost 2-0
The first loss of the season, courtesy of two first-half goals from Justin Davis and Greg Jordan. Again the Swans showed off several first-team players including Chico Flores, Gerhard Tremmel, Bafetimbi Gomis, Neil Taylor and Angel Rangel. Swansea enjoyed most of the possession, but failed to turn it into anything worth celebrating.

vs. Plymouth Argyle (27 July) - Won 4-0
Back in Britain following their short American tour, Swansea finally claimed a victory in their pre-season campaign. The game saw the return of Ki Sung-Yueng to the team. Rory Donnelly scored first within ten minutes, followed by a rare goal from Jordi Amat in the second-half. Then came two goals for Gylfi Sigurdsson on his return to the club. A very comfortable afternoon for Garry Monk and the travelling Swans fans.

vs. Exeter City (29 July) - Won 2-0
Another comfortable game for the Swans against League Two opposition, which saw a number of first-team players out with injury. New striker Bafetimbi Gomis scored his first goal for the club in the first half, before Josh Sheehan made it two in the 78th minute. Wilfried Bony made his first appearance following his World Cup campaign, and set up Sheehan's goal.

vs. Bournemouth (1 August) - Lost 3-1
Garry Monk started with quite a young and inexperienced team, which probably explains the 3-1 loss to Championship side Bournemouth. The most experienced players to start for the Swans were Gerhard Tremmel, Nathan Dyer and Angel Rangel. Swansea's speedy new winger Jefferson Montero grabbed the only goal for his new side.

vs. Reading (2 August) - Won 3-1
The Swans second game in two days saw a much more experienced starting eleven and it showed with a convincing 3-1 victory against Reading. Wayne Routledge was in great form and scored two of Swansea's goals in the first-half, before Bafetimbi Gomis made it three in the second-half with a nice chip. Wilfried Bony also missed a penalty (but we'll forgive him this once).

vs. Villareal (9 August, 3pm) - Lost 3-0
A pretty poor return to the Liberty Stadium for Swansea who looked pretty clueless in their set-up against the Spaniards. Monk selected pretty much his complete first-team, but they were torn apart by an average Villarreal. A little worrying a week before the season kicks-off, but at least it's exposed some problems before it's too late.


Friday, 25 July 2014

Summer silence on Forza Swansea

Just a note to acknowledge the lack of blog updates recently. From February to the end of June I spent nearly every day researching and writing about the Swans for my upcoming book, Swansea City's Greatest Games, so this summer I've taken a bit of a break.

I mean, I am usually pretty lazy over the summer anyway, but at least this year I have a bit more of an excuse... (do I?).

Rest assured, as the new season dawns there will be more fresh content from myself and the contributors (who also seem to have taken a bit of a summer break).

Meanwhile, as soon as the book is available for pre-ordering I will write a big article about what's in it and what you can expect. It's looking good though!

Anyway, that's it for now, keep checking back and see you soon!

"Good goal Messi son - done exactly what I taught you."

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Swansea City: "Paella and chips please mate"

"Un San Miguel por favor Pedro."

Like the majority of British holidaymakers, I only really know one or two Spanish phrases. And - with most of Swansea City's Spanish contingent making a moody exit this summer - it's probably for the best that I didn't make the effort to learn much more.

Joking aside, it is looking more and more likely that when the 2014/15 season arrives we will probably not see the likes of Alejandro Pozuelo, Jose Canas, Pablo Hernandez and Michu at the Liberty Stadium.

Rewind to 19 September 2013, when Swansea demolished Valencia in the Mestalla. The Swans fielded a starting eleven featuring six Spanish players - more than their hosts! But, once the heart of the team, time seems to be up for the Spaniards.

So what went wrong?

Towards the end of the season, after Michael Laudrup's departure, there appeared to be a rift forming between the Spaniards and the rest of the team (Angel Rangel excluded perhaps). We heard of no less than two separate training ground bust-ups, including the notorious #Brickgate incident in April 2014.
 
But on the field the Spaniards did have some brilliant moments in the spotlight. Against QPR in 2012, Chico was described by the Daily Mail as 'composure and comfort on the ball personified', while Michu was the poster boy for Swansea's centenary season - and rightly so after his 22 goals and the incredible passion he showed for his new club.



Alejando Pozuelo - on his way out.

The others showed potential at times. Hernandez had moments of genius - look at his blistering performance against West Brom in 2012. He was like a player possessed. It's just a shame he couldn't keep those intense periods of wonder football at a consistent level. Chico too had his moments, but they were watched tentatively, knowing he was only ever a few minutes away from doing something ridiculous.

Meanwhile, Pozuelo - while raw - showed glimmers of what he may be capable of in the future and Canas tried to emulate the Leon Britton pit-bull role in the centre, though was nowhere near as composed as he should have been.

The only one I haven't mentioned is Alvaro Vazquez, but there really is no need to mention him...

In all - as I've suggested - consistency and the lack of it was the problem. For every one game of brilliance and excitement, there were two or three of confusion and boredom. Naturally it was not just the Spanish players at fault, but their attitudes didn't seem to help.

We'll never fully know what goes on behind closed training ground doors, but it is clear that the majority of the Spaniards are not part of Garry Monk's 'get back to basics' plans.

Monk has hinted he wants to keep hold of Michu - who has been tipped to go to Napoli or even West Ham - but the midfielder just doesn't look like he wants to stay with the Swans. Hernandez, meanhwhile, has been linked with Qatari outfit Lekhwiya SC (no coincidence that a certain Michael Laudrup has recently taken over there).

Whatever happens these Spanish players need to be replaced if they do go, otherwise the squad will be left looking a little bare. 

It's unrealistic to say 'let's just use homegrown talent' or 'let's not have any more Spanish players' because - as we all know - the Spaniards have generally been crucial in Swansea's rise and establishment in the Premier League. But maybe next time the club should go for quality over quantity.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Swansea City: A Midsummer Night's Update!

Firstly, I'm very sorry for the relative silence on the blog. This is partly down to it being the summer and not having loads of material to write about, while I've also spent so much of my time finishing off my new book, Swansea City's Greatest Games (more details on this in the coming week or so)!

But for now, let's have a brief catch-up!

(Free) Transfers

Garry Monk and Huw Jenkins have been uncharacteristically busy in the transfer market this summer and have accrued four new players already, paying next to nothing for some top talent (nothing new there then!).

At the start of June we saw the applauded arrival of Lucasz Fabianski. The Polish keeper joined from Arsenal on a free transfer for four years which was great business. Then came the most exciting addition in Baf├ętimbi Gomis from Lyon. A long-standing target for the Swans, the 28-year-old formidable French international striker was out-of-contract and is another to arrive in South Wales on a free transfer. He'll make for exciting watching next season, hopefully pairing up well with Wilfried Bony (if the big man is still around!)

Gomis!

Marvin Emnes has also joined the club for the third time - this time a permanent fixture! He wasn't free (although we don't know the price) but we don't mind splashing out a little on an attacker who knows the club and can score/create enough from the bench to make it worthwhile.

Then comes the signing of young left-back Stephen Kingsley from Falkirk (another undisclosed fee... if they don't want to tell us let's assume it was £35million!). The 19-year-old is probably another one for the future, but may make more of an impact if Ben Davies does leave.


Toffee throwing and spoiled bets

"I prefer Werther's Originals"

Ki Sung-Yeung and his South Korean team-mates were pelted with toffees thrown by angry fans when they arrived back home after their disappointing World Cup group stage exit (the video of this incident is here). Harsh on Ki, who actually played some brilliant football throughout his games.

Wilfried Bony, meanwhile is also back home following Ivory Coast's failure to make it out of the group stages. Bony scored two goals, but their early exit from the tournament means my bet on 'Bony to be top Premier League goalscorer' at 50/1 was essentially spoiled there and then! Gutted.

From a Swansea perspective both Jonathan de Guzman and Michel Vorm are still in the cup with Holland, who face Costa Rica in the quarter-final on Saturday at 9pm. I expect de Guzman to feature again in the tournament, especially with Nigel de Jong ruled out, but seeing Vorm may be limited to quick flashes of him on the bench.


Back to the action

Swansea are back in training which means the new season is just around the corner! Not before the team head off to America first for a series of friendlies. On Wednesday, 16 July they'll take on Mexican Lega MX side Chivas Guadalajara, then will travel north to face Minnesota United (North American Soccer League) on Saturday, 19 July.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Swansea City: New fixtures, World Cup watch and transfers round-up!

Another week or so has passed - the World Cup is in full swing, the transfer market has seen some movement and Cardiff are still in the Championship. So let's see how the summer is treating Swansea City!


Fixtures

The Premier League fixtures for the 2014/15 season were released today. Rumors of playing West Brom at home for the first game were false - instead Swansea will play Man United again for their opening fixture, albeit at Old Trafford this time around (this will be on 16th August).

The rest of August, September and October are all pretty winnable and should give us some nice points to take into November which looks like a bit of a tough month (with games against Everton, Arsenal and Man City).

The season overall is pretty well balanced between tough and not-so-tough teams. Hopefully survival in the Premier League will be sorted before May as the Swans will face both Arsenal (away) and Man City (home) in that month. The final game is on 24th May with an away trip to face Crystal Palace. The full list can be found on the Evening Post's website.


Emnes during his first stint with the club in 2010/11

Transfers

There's not been much in the way of transfer activity over the past week. At the moment the biggest news is that the Swans are pretty close to signing an old face - Marvin Emnes - for around £1million. The 26-year-old has been with the club on loan twice over the past few years and, although he's nothing groundbreaking, he offers another decent option up front and is already a firm fan favourite. And, let's be honest, £1million is a bargain!

Wilfried Bony has said he will only leave Swansea for a top six club, which - I guess - is fair enough, even though we hope it doesn't happen this summer. It may/will definitely be difficult for the club to keep hold of the star striker in the long term, but if he does go it will be better to see him with Arsenal or Chelsea, not Stoke or Sunderland.

Meanwhile the question mark still hangs over Ashley Williams' head, but all this talk from his agent smells too much like a tactic to increase his wages rather than an actual threat to go elsewhere. Another 'watch this space'!


World Cup watch

The World Cup is only a week old, but it's already been a fascinating tournament. And Brazil - home to the Copacabana, the Rio Carnival and the BSOP - is the temporary home to some of Swansea City's stars.

Wilfried Bony popped up to score Ivory Coast's first goal in the 2-1 turnaround against Japan, with a glancing header after latching on to Serge Aurier's cross in the second half.

Meanwhile Jonathan de Guzman played around an hour of Holland's thrilling 5-1 hammering of Spain (even if he looked a little out of his depth at times). Michel Vorm was on the bench for the Dutch for that game, but with Holland having no set number one, don't be surprised if we see him at some stage in the tournament.

In South Korea's 1-1 draw with Russia last night, Ki Sung Yueng showed the kind of midfield passing and domination that, had he shown more of in his first season with Swansea, may have seen him avoiding that loan spell at Sunderland. Either way, he looks like a player Garry Monk - and the Swans fans - will want to keep hold of.

More from all these players in the next few days (including de Guzman tonight hopefully)!


Shirt sponsors

Finally, the Swans look to have agreed a new shirt sponsorship deal with the company with the almost unreadable logo, GWFX (the Goldenway Global Group).

It turns out to be the biggest shirt sponsorship deal in Swansea City's history, supposedly worth more than £4 million to the club. Good business there, even if I do hate that logo!