Archive for May, 2012

Reading Between the Lines…….

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Brendan Rodgers was the man Liverpool’s American owners wanted all along. It transpires that Wigan’s manager Roberto Martinez was merely a smokescreen aided and abetted by his verbose Chairman Dave Whelan who was claiming this time last week that Martinez was Liverpool’s new manager subject to crossing the “T’s” and dotting the “I’s”.

The one obstacle I believed may have prevented Rodgers from accepting the job was quietly removed during the last forty eight hours. They were keen to appoint Luis Van Gaal as Director of Football with responsibilities for signing players and monitoring transfers. Rodgers insisted on total control and The American owners happily agreed.

The national press has irritated me to distraction by concentrating on what Rodgers has to do to return Liverpool to former glories and completely ignoring the predicament that faces Swans Chairman Huw Jenkins. Jenkins has revealed great skill in plucking managers from obscurity only to experience the exit door slammed in his face as they leave for greater reward in pastures new. Ironically Roberto Martinez walked out in 2009 to take the reins at Wigan having previously pledged his loyalty to the club who gave him his first opportunity in management.

Souza succeeded him for one season before leaving for a king’s ransom at Leicester City which proved to be his poisoned chalice. In 2010, Brendan Rodgers was unemployed having been unceremoniously sacked by Reading. Jenkins gave him a second chance which he gratefully and successfully accepted. But one wonders if Swansea is used as a nursery for developing young managers who believe the grass is always greener on the other side. It was only in February that Rodgers signed a 31/2 year contract, but a five million pound compensation clause was included if he chose to walk  to help compensate the blow of his potential departure to another club.

It is only a couple of months since Rodgers was the bookies’ favorite to succeed Harry Redknapp at Spurs when everyone except the FA assumed that Del Boy Harry would replace Fabio Capello as England manager. Swansea fans breathed a sigh of relief when Roy Hodgson was appointed, but Rodgers was also in the frame for the vacant Chelsea hot seat.

Rodgers is taking his backroom staff with him to help implant his intricate passing style on some very cynical and egotistical Liverpool professionals. One wonders how Steve Gerrard will react to a more technical approach which may negate his customary free role. Can Andy Carroll’s old fashioned center forward style be adapted to Rodgers’s requirements?  Will expensive misfits Charlie Adam, Stuart Downing and Jordan Henderson fit the Rodgers mantra? Quite frankly I don’t care a jot on whether Rodgers is the second coming since Shankly.

My thoughts and concerns are with Swansea City. Quality managers suitable for the premiership are not easy to find, and one can only hope that Huw Jenkins and his board can pluck another rabbit from the hat. I’m also worried that Rodgers may poach a few of his former players. The Swans have just agreed a club record fee for the Iceman, but it will surprise nobody if he follows Rodgers to Liverpool.

In mitigation, Rodgers behaved impeccably during the negotiations with Liverpool which is more than can be said for Norwich manager Paul Lambert who walked out on his club to pursue the vacancy at Aston Villa. I don’t quite know what to believe with Roberto Martinez. According to reports he was the favorite for the Aston Villa and Liverpool jobs, but supposedly is returning to Wigan looking like a hapless loser.

Rodgers’ motto at Swansea was “Per Ardua Ad Astra,” a Latin phrase which means “through adversity to the stars.” The only thing shining in Rodgers eyes right now are dollar signs proffered by Liverpool’s American owners.

 The new season will be the club’s centenary and Swansea have dealt with more adversity than most during their checkered past. Let’s hope they can rise again from this latest setback.



Elvis is Alive and Kicking at The Liberty

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

The premiership has come to an exciting climax (pardon the unintentional pun) and the Swans ended the season by defeating once mighty Liverpool in the final home game of the season. At the beginning of the Premiership campaign, way back in August of last year, bookmakers had made newly promoted Swansea City favorites to be relegated in their first season in the top flight since 1981.

One sporting hack, probably an erstwhile employee of the Sun newspaper, had predicted there was more chance of spotting Elvis than the Swans avoiding relegation. Thankfully, the moron was forced to eat his words and the Swans finished in a creditable 11th position.

Brendan Rodgers, revealing his Irish wit and charm, suggested that fans should turn up for the final game of the season with Liverpool decked in Elvis costumes, and many of the faithful duly obliged.  Elvis was probably sitting on his porch back in Tupelo Mississippi with one ear glued to his transistor radio listening to the scores while eating a peanut butter/banana sandwich; toasted of course.

He was at the Liberty in spirit if not in heavenly body, and continuing the theme, a selection of his hits flow seamlessly into reviewing the Swans memorable season:

  • My Way, King Creole-Brendan Rodgers who remained loyal to his principles for persevering with the passing game.
  • American Trilogy– the midfield trio Britton, Allen and the Iceman
  • Don’t Be Cruel-Ashley Williams roughing up over priced cry baby Andy Carroll
  • All Shook Up-British tabloids for writing off the Swans before a ball was kicked
  • Hound Dog– a tribute to Swansea Jacks worldwide
  • Love me Tender– we need to give some love to Dutch midfielder Ferde Bodde who has suffered horrendous knee injuries, and unsuccessfully attempted several comebacks
  • Suspicious Minds-Cardiff City supporters who could not believe they were being upstaged by their nemesis.
  • Peace in the Valley- time to relax in the off season before another premiership campaign comes around in a blink of an eye.
  • In the Ghetto-apologies to three Blaenymaes. When was the last time Blaenymaes got a mention on a blog?
  • Heartbreak Hotel-spending a night before the game in one of the salubrious guest houses along Oystermouth Road. They have that distinctive smell of burnt chip pan oil.
  • Jailhouse Rock- in memory of the Swansea prison inmates who enjoyed a bird’s eye view of Swans games played at the old Vetch Field.
  • It’s Now or Never- last season’s playoff win over Reading.
  • Are you Lonesome Tonight-don’t be; haul yourself down to the Liberty for an evening game and a couple of beverages.
  • The Wonder of You-congratulations to the supporters for giving the team wonderful support and never losing faith in the manager.
  • Good Luck Charm and the bargain buy of the season; goalkeeper Michael Vorm.
  • Return to Sender-unfortunately this applies to two loan signings who made enormous contributions to the season and may or may not return: Steven Caulker and The Iceman.

Finally the writer offers his sincere congratulations and admiration to Team Swansea. I just didn’t appreciate unrealistic comparisons with Barcelona which were mindlessly out of the ball park. Forty five goals is a meager total from 38 games for all their progressive play. May they add a cutting edge to their passing game next season.

PS: Elvis has left the building.

Swans in a daze at Theatre of Dreams

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Roberto Mancini, manager of premiership contenders Man City, predicted that his fierce rivals Man United would have an easy game with opponents Swansea City. Okay he was playing mind games with Alex Ferguson, but he was absolutely right. I was hoping that the Swans would stuff his words down his throat and achieve at least a draw with United, but it was not to be.  It was the biggest capitulation since the Germans walked around France’s supposedly impenetrable Maginot Line at the beginning of World War 2.

I have been a Swans supporter since 1961 when I accompanied my dad to watch my first game on the North Bank at the Vetch Field.  I have witnessed some great games and incomparable players over the years, and also suffered through some heart breaking losses; none more so than the 1-6 drubbing at home to Workington Town and a 0-5 home defeat to Middlesbrough in the FA Cup. Nevertheless the 0-2 loss to Man Utd was embarrassing.  The Swans weren’t looking for a result, but were hell bent on damage limitation.

Man City had beaten Newcastle earlier in the day, and a United win against the Swans would leave them level on points, but with a vastly inferior goal difference compared to City’s.  The talking heads suggested that United needed a hatful of goals against the Swans and were quite capable of getting them. From the kick off, the Swans’ mindset was to keep the score down to reasonable proportions. I don’t believe they had a decent shot on goal until well into the second half.

Swans manager Brendan Rodgers has had a great season keeping his team in the premiership with limited resources, but his tactics were completely wrong for this match. Gower in a pivotal central midfield was playing his first game in 2012, and was unsurprisingly way off the pace which led to his merciful substitution at half time. Two or three others could have followed him because they were chasing shadows; making a mediocre United team look like world beaters.

Fullbacks Rangel and Taylor were continually exposed by the guile and pace of Valencia and Young, and some of their challenges were naïve. Only central defenders Williams, Caulker, goalkeeper Michael Vorm and to a lesser extent Nathan Dyer are absolved from any criticism.

The team and manager deserve plaudits for retaining their premiership status, but they were clearly intimidated by United and Old Trafford when there was really no need to be. United had lost 1-6 at home to City earlier in the season and more recently 0-1 to their arch rivals. The Swans recorded an unforgettable victory as recently as last month against champions elect Manchester City which should have sufficiently lifted the team to greater heights against their illustrious opponents.

Okay, let’s regroup for next season, and end on a positive note with a decisive win over visitors Liverpool in the final game of the season. In 1961, the Swans also played Liverpool in the final match of the season. Liverpool had just gained promotion to the top flight as champions of the division but were soundly beaten 4-2 by a rampaging Swans. A similar result on Saturday would not go amiss.

Tap Dancing with Wolves

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Last Saturday Swansea City gained a point against Wolverhampton Wanderers which ensured they are mathematically safe from relegation. However, the manner of achieving the point leaves a lot to be desired. Wolves were already relegated and therefore were playing for their professional pride.

The Swans were leading 3-0 after 16 minutes and 4-1 at halftime. By the final whistle they were clinging onto a 4-4 score line having inexplicably conceded three goals in the second half. It could be construed that Wolves have some kind of Indian sign on the Swans when one examines the two premiership games played between the two teams this season.

In the away fixture, the Swans were comfortably leading 2-0 with 10 minutes to go when Wolves managed to get a goal back against the run of play. The Swans decided to defend their lead handing the initiative to Wolves who equalized late in the game to earn a 2-2 draw.

Realistically, the Swans have needlessly dropped 4 points in the two games against Wolves which would have placed them in the top 10 of the premiership. Brendan Rodgers changed his usual line up and formation which gave them additional attacking options while leaving them vulnerable at the back.

 Club captain Gary Monk confirmed once again he is totally out of his depth at this level and it is time that he and Alan Tate were awarded their gold watches for loyal service and put out to pasture. Signing Steven Caulker on another loan deal or even better a permanent transfer should be a number one priority. Unfortunately Spurs have defensive problems of their own with the continual deterioration of Ledley King suffering from increasingly debilitating knee injuries, and they may wise up and decide Caulker could solve their defensive frailties’.

I sincerely hope that the Swans learned an invaluable lesson from their meltdown against Wolves; the lesson  according to Brian Clough and Bob Paisley is that you cannot afford to take your foot off the throttle against any premiership team. Manchester Utd will attest to the theory having recently blown a 4-2 lead to Everton which also concluded 4-4, and may even cost them the title.

Speaking of United, Swansea’s match at Old Trafford on Sunday has great significance on which Manchester team wins the title. The two Manchester teams are now level on points with City’s better goal difference placing them in top spot with two games remaining.

City travel to Newcastle who are revitalized this season despite last week’s 0-4 drubbing at lowly Wigan. Roberto Mancini, City’s erudite Italian manager claims that United have an “easy” game against Swansea compared to their monumental encounter in the North East. I appreciate Mancini is playing mind games with the past master Alex Ferguson, but I would dearly love the Swans to take Old Trafford by storm and show the greasy Italian and the world they can truly compete with the big boys.