Sunday, 4 August 2013
Well, now, here I go again.
I've been blogging about the Swans for some years now.
I started doing occasional pieces back in 2007 when we were in League 1 and so I've seen the recent upturn in our fortunes. However, prior to the shrieks of Jonny-come-lately that you may want to throw in here, I saw my first game in 1963 (Ipswich, at the Vetch, since you ask), so no j-c-l tag please.
Using modern parlance, it would be fair to say that it's "been some Journey" - perhaps a litle more interesting than its Big Brother/ X-Factor/IACGMOOH equivalent, though no less emotional for all that. Hey, maybe there really are some better days to come.
I'll take it as read that you know just as well as I (and possibly better) how we got here, and say only that most Swans fans I meet are like the proverbial "dog with two tails" in that we're inordinately happy, so this will be a piece that comes from a member of the glass-half-full fraternity, and a fully signed up one at that.
Never mind Better Days, how about Glory Days ? We'll see.
During our first Season in the Premier League, I wrote regularly both previewing and reviewing Matches and planned to do the same for our second, but a bout of ill health meant that I suffered from second season syndrome and was unable to keep up to the pace at quite the same level. Get a taste of the previous efforts here....
The fact that our Second season in this most bizarre of Leagues outdid our first in achievement is by the by. This is where we are. And where we intend to remain.
As we clapped off both Players and Staff after that disappointing 3-0 reverse to Fulham at the Liberty last May, were we really prepared for such a tumultuous Summer? I'd suggest not - along with the caveat that our Board and Chairman's assertions that we will grow both progressively and incrementally have a deal more credence after their handling of transfers (particularly) in this close season.
So - we get to the purpose of this piece .
Let's have a look at our playing staff, and what it may mean to us in this upcoming season.
Those readers who've missed the sublime Ferrie Bodde, who was forced to retire this summer as a result of his knee injury whilst playing for us against Birmingham ( I can see it now, along with Kevin Phillips' theft of two goals to win.) may find some new heroes amongst the gems, especially if this season we shoot as much as he used to. Ferrie had a great knack of ripping in some snorting shots, and lots of us will hope that Ki and Shelvey, particularly, can take us back to that.
So :- let's have a look at our current team.
In goal we have the fantastic Michel Vorm, currently Holland's no 2 but given Maarten Stekleenburg's transfer to Fulham this season we might well see Vorm overtake him as the Dutch no 1. Direct comparisons within a League are valid. Vorm remains an excellently athletic Keeper who is in the top 10 keepers of the EPL, and his stature and ability is covered by Gerhard Tremmel who has proved to be a capable deputy.
Some of us initial doubters, circa Stoke City away 2-0, have learned that the Carling Cup and steady League performances when Vorm was injured have had those early doubts quelled, and I feel quite comfortable in our set up nowadays.
David Cornell will spend the season on loan in Scotland.
Further, the Club have shown foresight in signing the exciting Slovenian Gregor Zabret, at 17 yrs old a highly rated future star.
At RB, the established and ever reliable Angel Rangel will be covered this year by the developing Jazz Richards. Just ask yourself this - if Michael laudrup and staff are happy with that, are you?Then so am I. Jazz's spell on loan last year will have done him well, and we forget how briefly effective he was before going when he appeared in the first team. I like to think he's made the "Joe Allen step" - as when that particulaar £15m magnet made the transition to first team regular after his brief loan to Wrexham.
At LB we have Wales' first choice LB in Neil Taylor. We also have Wales' first choice LB (when Neil Taylor's injured) in Ben Davies. I see no problems there, and am even aware of Davies' ability to play at CB long term - a future treat, no doubt.
At CB we are blessed. Ash Williams has, arguably, been in the PL's top 10 CB's for 2 seasons now. Last year, Chico Flores had a strong argument to join him in those upper echelons. You will know as well as I that his grasp of the "Swansea Lifestyle" is the equivalent of Magic Daps' and Tatey's grasp of the same, and he will go on to have the same regard. Legend.
Whilst Garry Monk's classy ceding of the First Team (but NOT Club) Captaincy to Ash Williams has bolstered the solidity of the team we shouldn't ignore the signing of Jordi Amat, a genuine Coup. This is a first rank CB brought up in La Liga and capable of goals like this, amongst other things.
Over and above that, Amat will provide a genuine third choice at CB, and he can play. GM, of course, remains available to play too.
We have, understandably, a genuine surfeit of talent in MF. I'm salivating thinking about them.
In Football generally, MF is where the greatest change has taken place in the last 10 yrs.
Think about Man Utd's team back in their treble winning year.
With Beckham and Giggs wide, and with Keane and Scholes central, they were the epitome of the 4-4-2 with Yorke and Cole scavenging up front. That 4-4-2 has mutated into a 4-3-3 in much of British football nowadays, and our pattern reflects that change.
It's come about partly because even then, down in South Wales, a change was afoot.
When Robbie Martinez first asked Leon Britton to come inside from his right wing placement, and to do what he had done, it's fair to say that Leon found it strange, to say the least. Still, he found that he got a lot more ball and was "IN" the game for more influential periods.
There's an argument to be made here that Britton has been "THE" most influential MF'er in the past 10 yrs of British Football.
Claude Makelele, Cesc Fabregas and a few others might dispute it, but I wouldn't. He has been integral to the development of the Swansea City style in which ball retention and passing are the key elements, and he will remain an influence in the coming season, but for the first time in years ML has seen the need for a top class replacement for the coming seasons - and acted.
In Jose Canas we may well see this year another deal of the value that Miguel Michu brought us last year - ie = a "bargain of the season type" - NOT in terms of goals, but in terms of influence and control. He, Canas, is a defensive MF'er from the top drawer, - of superb technical ability allied with a passing/ball retention ethic, and topped off by a desire and passion to obtain, dominate and develop the ball and play. Add to that a "combative temperament" and biting tackling prowess and you have a blueprint for what most good teams would give their eye-teeth for = a snarling, inflential and smiling defensive MF'er.
Think Daniele de Rossi rather than Michael Carrick ; prepare to admire a real coup. Despite the lack of fee, let me be the first to suggest that here's our most important signing of the upcoming season - that's how highly I rate the ex-Celta Vigo Captain who's at the peak of his game.
The rest of the MF has been upgraded too.
Jon Jo Shelvey, the young Full England International was secured at a bargain fee, some £5/6m being the reported fee and has impressed in each of the pre season games. Jonathan de Guzman and Ki Seung Yung we know well from last here and both look likely to continue the superb development they showed in last season's triumphs.
Alejandro Pozuelo, the 19yr old Andalucian signed on a free at the end of his contract shows the advantages of the Modern PL over La Liga in terms of attraction for the modern player. 5 yrs ago, this type of talent would have stayed in Spain, but the PL's and ML's cachet attracted him instead to us.
We're in for a treat over the next few years. Along with the measured (and successful looking) development of Rory Donnelly, these are 2 future prospects who may entertain us royally. Let's hope so, it'll certainly be interesting to watch.
Our 4 wingers already entertain us and I can't be the only one to be convinced that Pablo Hernandez, Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer and Roland Lamah wil do more than just that this year - they'll make us even more exciting than last year. All four are players of outstanding technical ability, and each brings a slightly different and subtle style to the team. In terms of selection, along with other areas on the pitch, it'll be horses for
(tactical) courses methinks.
This brief summation can do no more than whet our appetites for the coming season - but it really wouldn't
be fair to not mention two of our genuinely thrilling signings - one, our absolute gem from last year, Miguel Michu - and the other our statement of intent from this year , last year's Eredivisee Player of the Year, Wilfried Bony, acquired from Vitesse Arnhem at an eye watering £11/£12m fee. As has been said many times on various outlets - it shows how far we've come.
It was a real priviledge to see the Spaniard's growing influence last season, and whilst we'd be foolish perhaps to expect the same phenomenal rate of scoring this year, Daddy Kool's recruitment promises to release some of that incessant reliance we had on MM being almost expected to score each game. Bony's hopeful prowess will allow Michu to play more often in his preferred role - as a 10 rather than a 9 - even if
they wear the opposite numbers.
This is our full squad list with the relevant numbering for the coming season............
1 Michel VORM, 2 Jordi AMAT, 3 Neil TAYLOR, 4 Chico FLORES, 5 Alan TATE, 6 Ashley WILLIAMS, 7 Leon BRITTON, 8 Jonjo SHELVEY, 9 MICHU, 10 Wilfried BONY, 11 Pablo H., 12 Nathan DYER, 13 David CORNELL, 14 Roland LAMAH, 15 Wayne ROUTLEDGE, 16 Garry MONK, 17 Ki.S.Y , 18 Leroy LITA, 19 Luke MOORE, 20 Jonathan DE GUZMAN, 21 Jose CANAS, 22 Angel RANGEL, 23 Darnel SITU, 24 Alejandro POZUELO, 25 Gerhard TREMMEL, 26 Kemy AGUSTIEN, 27 Kyle BARTLEY, 28 Curtis OBENG, 29 Jazz RICHARDS, 30 Joshua SHEEHAN, 31 Lee LUCAS, 32 Liam SHEPHARD, 33 Ben DAVIES, 34 Henry JONES, 35 Daniel ALFEI, 36 James LOVERIDGE, 37 Scott TANCOCK, 38 Gwion EDWARDS, 39 Kurtis MARCH, 40 NUMBER RETIRED, 41 Rory DONNELLY, 42 Oliver DAVIES, 43 Alex BRAY, 44 Samuel EVANS, 45 Gregor ZABRET, 46 Kenji GORRE, 47 Alexander GOGIC, 48 Jernade MEADE
(Names in bold will appear on the back of players' shirts)
Of course the piece above looks but briefly at the prospects for the coming year, but looking at the full squad list at least we can see that the Club has made genuine progress with regard to developing the squad, but we won't truly get a realistic picture until we're some way into the season.
We can at least be encouraged by our pre-season form, which reads Played 7, Won 7, Goals for 28, Goals against 1. Now I know that these are just "Friendlies" but at the end of the day we can only beat what's put in front of us.
All the reports of the games so far I've read, both from journalists and fans, confirm we appear to be doing so. The goals shown, both on the OS and You Tube look pleasing too.
We saw last year that ML had moved us on as a team and club, both tactically and structurally, and with our European adventure starting on the 2nd August with a difficult qualifying Tie against Malmo, one of the better of the unseeded teams we could have been drawn against, we'll soon get a realistic test of our worth.
WooHoo - I can't wait - I'm really looking forward to another wonderfully rewarding season following our Super Swans.
If it's anything like as rewarding as our progress over the last 10 years , it promises to be a thrilling ride.
All aboard, and..........
Onward, Swansea City.
Since this was written, not only have we seen off Reading 3-0, but even beaten Malmo in a satisfying 4-0 Home Tie. Things are, indeed, looking good.