Monthly Archives: May 2013

Mission Impossible: Wembley

Supporters Not Customers

Have you ever had an idea so crazy that you thought it might just work?

As I searched for a Champions League Final ticket and was quoted prices between £800 and £3000, I began to think of alternative ways I could get inside the stadium. After contemplating how much I could get for one of my kidneys or whether any of my female friends would consider being sold to an Arabian prince (definitely Clare, if you were wondering), I had a flash of inspiration. Aside from the fans, who else would be in a football stadium? The players themselves of course, and hundreds, if not thousands, of fluorescent jacket wearing stewards.

As I was probably not German enough and definitely not athletic enough to pass myself off as a professional footballer, this option was out of the question. However, a quick search on eBay revealed a number of people offering…

View original post 879 more words

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Gibraltar become the 54th member of UEFA

It was announced that the small British Overseas Territory attached to Spain are now officially the 54th member of UEFA. It has a population of around 28,000. It will now also be the smallest nation within FIFA, behind San Marino, Faroe Islands & Liechtenstein.

The Gibraltar Football Association was formed way back in 1895 and have applied numerous times to FIFA to become a full member, they were rejected. In 1997 the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ordered UEFA to admit them as a provisional member.

Since 1993 the Gibraltar National team has played in the ‘Island Games’ competing against the likes of Jersey, Shetland, Minorca & Ynys Mon (Anglesey). They have won it once, in 1997, beating Rhodes 4-0.

Currently managed by Allen Bula, their biggest win is a 19-0 win against Sark in 2003. They have one player who currently plays in the Football League, his name is Liam Walker and he plays for Portsmouth. Their national stadium is called Victoria Stadium and the capacity is 5000 and probably one of the nicest settings in Europe too.

98279_ori_victoria_stadiumVictoria Stadium, Gibraltar.

Spain have been the main opposition to the introduction of Gibraltar to UEFA, as they don’t accept Gibraltar as being a separate Nation. Most of their reasons are obviously political and UEFA has announced that Spain & Gibraltar will be kept apart in any forthcoming qualifying group draws. The same as what happens with Armenia & Azerbaijan at present.

Spain have previously said they would stop competing in the same competitions as Gibraltar at International and club level should they be allowed in, but I can’t see that happen personally.

The plus points to Gibraltar being allowed into UEFA are it would be a great place to visit as an away fan, minus the monkeys and a possibility of another team in Europe that Wales would have a chance of beating (I say optimistically!).

WalkerPortsmouth’s  Liam Walker after realising he’ll be facing Germany instead of Ynys Mon

Does this now set a precedence? UEFA say no, as their rule (which I don’t understand if I’m honest), restricts countries that aren’t recognised by the United Nations from becoming members of UEFA. The likes of Basque, Monaco, Kosovo & the Channel Islands to name a few – Gibraltar were accepted provisionally before the rule changed happened.

There are loads of nations In the CONCACAF confederation however that are not recognised by the United Nations, such as Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands – which have the same political state as Gibraltar.

As well as US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are which are politically part of the United States. Whilst looking on Google, the next new member of UEFA could be Greenland. They also play in the Island Games but are planning on building stadia that meet the requirements set by FIFA (Though they could play in the CONCACAF region too, despite being part of Denmark.

There are already many ‘minnows’ within UEFA. San Marino, Liechtenstein, Faroe Islands & Andorra are some; it will be interesting to see how Gibraltar fare in the Euro 2016 Qualifiers, they did recently beat the Faroe Islands 3-0 in a friendly but becoming a UEFA Nation could help them. Fair to say it will be a massive step up from playing Sark, Guernsey & Anglesey, to possibly playing Germany, France & Italy.

Also from the 2014/15 season the club sides from Gibraltar, such as Glacis FC, Lincoln FC & Manchester United FC (yes really) are now able to compete in European Competition. They’ll probably get further than the Welsh Premier League sides!

How long before the usual clichés from the usual people come out, such as ‘Gibraltar is a tough place to go’ and ‘There are no easy games in International football’?

But welcome to UEFA Gibraltar, anyway!

Did you know that Estonia were the only UEFA Nation to play all the other UEFA Nations (52) at International level? They’ll be wanting a friendly with Gibraltar soon! (Wales now have 5 Nations to face – Andorra, Gibraltar, Kazakhstan, Lithuania & Macedonia).

Confederations Cup and Tahiti

On the 15th June 2013 the FIFA Confederations Cup begins, a tournament that, since 2001, has acted as the World Cup rehearsal tournament. A way of testing the new stadia, facilities, security etc. Brazil are the hosts this year and for the World Cup next year.

The Confederations Cup invites winners of each FIFA confederation from Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia & Oceania, along with a few other nations including the hosts and the World Cup holders. (Some nations have chosen not to participate some years).

Classed as a ‘major’ tournament by FIFA, but many would be hard pushed to remember who won the 2009 competition. Better than the U23 Olympic tournament last year though (Don’t mention GB). Still it will be some football to watch during the summer.

The Confederations Cup was originally called the ‘King Fahd Cup’ (changed to the present name in 1997 after 2 tournaments) which started in 1992. Only 4 teams entered the first tournament (8 enter now) in which Argentina beat hosts Saudi Arabia 3-1.

Euro 92 winners Denmark won the ‘King Fahd Cup’ in 1995. Swansea manager Michael Laudrup scored one of the goals for the Danes in a 2-0 win against Argentina (again in Sauda Arabia).

See the goals here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6620r3jrn9s

Brazil hammered Australia 6-0 in 1997 with hatricks from Ronaldo and Romario, again in the hotbed of football that is Saudi Arabia. Mexico are the only hosts to win this cup when they beat Brazil 4-3 in 1999. France then won the next two Confederations Cup finals 1-0 in 2001 & 2003 beating Japan & Cameroon respectively.

sp3

France celebrate their 2003 win, along with a tribute for ex Manchester City player

Marc Vivien Foe who sadly died at the tournament

In 2005 in Germany, Brazil thrashed fellow South Americans Argentina 4-1 with goals from Adriano (2), Kaka & Ronaldinho and won the 2009 tournament in South Africa by beating surprise finalists USA 3-2.

Brazil have featured in the most Confederations Cups (6 out of 8) and are looking to win their 4th title and their 3rd successive Confederations Cup.

Robinho Ronaldinho 2005Robinho & Ronaldinho celebrating their 2005 Confederations Cup success

The teams in this year’s Confederations Cup are Brazil (hosts), Spain (World Cup & European Cup winners), Japan (Asia Cup winners), Mexico (CONCACAF Gold Cup winner), Uruguay (Copa America winner), Nigeria (African Cup of Nations winner), Italy (Euro 2012 runner up) & Tahiti (Oceania Cup winner).

Yes you did read that last part right, Tahiti are going to be playing in the Confederations Cup! They are in the same group as Spain, Uruguay & Nigeria. Here are a few facts about Tahiti, the National team and how they got there in the first place:

Tahiti is the highest and largest island in French Polynesia in the South Pacific, located 3500 miles from Australia and has a population of around 180,000 and the capital city is called Papeete. I was also told on Twitter the other day that David Essex once sang a song about them, I will not link it as it really not worth listening to – Don’t say I didn’t warn you if you’re curiosity gets the better of you!

The National football team played their first match back in 1952, their current FIFA ranking is: 135 (out of 207), just below Belize, Vietnam & Turkmenistan. The highest they have ever been in the FIFA Rankings is 111 – in 2002. They did win 18-0 once against American Samoa in 2000 in an OFC Qualifier.

They are currently managed by Eddy Etaeta and their current top goal scorer is Teaonui Tehau who has 8 goals for Tahiti, he plays for club team AS Dragon

EddyEddy Etaeta’s barmy army!

Teaonui Tehau

Teaonui Tehau of Tahiti

The 2012 OFC Nations Cup was played in the Solomon Islands, they were hosts for the 1st time. 8 teams entered altogether, the likes of Fiji, Samoa & Vanuatu – I’m guessing my favourite country Tuvalu failed to qualify or failed to get a team together……..

Tahiti won their 1st group game 10-1 against Samoa and won their group with maximum points, New Caledonia (Don’t know what happened to the old one) also qualified for the Semi Finals. In Group B, New Zealand won their group a little unconvincingly with 2 wins and 1 draw and just 4 goals scored.

New Zealand, with the likes of Chris Wood (Leicester), Tommy Smith (Ipswich), Leo Bertos (ex Rochdale) & Rory Fallon (Aberdeen & ex Swan) surprisingly lost 2-0 to New Caledonia in the Semi Final.

Tahiti beat the hosts the Solomon Islands 1-0 to progress to the final, there would be a new winner of the OFC Cup. Australia had won it 4 times and New Zealand 4 times.

In the final Chong Hue of Tahiti scored the winning goal on 10 minutes to win the OFC Cup for the 1st time, see the goals here: (I’m loving the stadium surrounding if I’m honest).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61laxNc_frw

For those of you who don’t know, Australia now play in Asia rather than Oceania as they wanted to play games that were more ‘challenging’. (I do wonder whether Wales could ask FIFA to play in Oceania as we find Europe too challenging)  This has made winning the OFC a little easier of course, but still a great achievement for Tahiti to win and face the big Nations of World football.

Now I personally love an underdog in most sports, I loved the fact that Greece won Euro 2000 at the time, beating the so called ‘better nations’ along the way. On reflection though their football was pretty boring to watch, sending the opposition to sleep was one of their tactics. Their supporters probably didn’t care though.

Tahiti have no chance of winning the Confederations Cup, they’ll probably be lucky to have a shot on target, never mind a goal but it will be a great experience for the players, coaches and the supporters in Brazil. I can’t imagine many of them have played outside of Oceania before or at such great stadia before.

flag-world-tahitiThe National flag of Tahiti

It may not be the World Cup and many people are probably not that concerned who wins it, but for Tahiti it will probably be the closest they will ever get. I will be watching this year’s Confederations Cup to see how Tahiti do, I hope they don’t get humiliated by the teams they play in the group.

Now where can I buy a Tahiti football shirt?

Tahiti will be the 30th different Nation to compete in the Confederations Cup, other nations who have played in it that may surprise you are: Canada (2001), Iraq (2009) & the United Arab Emirates (1997).

 

Tahiti’s Fixtures

Monday 17th June 2013 – Tahiti v Nigeria – 20:00

Thursday 20th June – Tahiti v Spain – 20:00

Sunday 23rd June – Tahiti v Uruguay – 20:00

Swansea Away support – Figure comparison

Last season (11-12 season) in the Premier League, there was a big scramble for tickets for away games. Many, me included, thought we may only last a season so wanted to go to as many as we could. The club had no ‘loyalty scheme’ set up at the time though, meaning it was a free for all at first.

Especially when the fixture computer gave us Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea & Liverpool in 4 of our first 5 games. An away ticket scheme was set up too, to guarantee Swans away fans a ticket for every match where most of the money was paid for in advance.

Out of interest (and because I’m a little bit sad like this) I thought I’d compare the away followings from last season to this one. In the 11-12 season Swansea averaged 2360 away fans, in the season just gone (12-13) we averaged 1623.

727 less a game on average. Obviously a few factors come into pay, the main one being finance. It costs a hell of a lot to travel up and down the country, especially if you have a family too.

Other factors include the fact we had a League Cup final at Wembley a week after we visited Anfield in the league. We took 877 fans in 12-13 & 3100 in 11-12. Plus it was also our second visit of the season (We took 3198 in the League Cup midweek away game).

SkySports showed us live in our 2 midweek away matches against Wigan & Sunderland, this obviously affects numbers too. But in short I’d say the novelty of Premier League away games has worn off slightly, most can get a ticket for an away game without many problems (but the ticket system does cause problems!). But the numbers are still decent when you consider the time it takes to get to most away games from Swansea (Reading was our ‘closest’ game geographically.

If any of you are interested, the breakdown of the figures are below.

2012-13 season away support figures

Arsenal – 3000
Aston Villa – 2600
Chelsea – 1498
Everton – 955
Fulham – 2221
Liverpool – 877
Manchester City (ESPN) – 1890
Manchester United (Sky) – 1868
Newcastle – 1001
Norwich – 698
QPR – 2400
Reading – 2109
Southampton – 2799
Stoke – 1270
Sunderland (midweek – Sky) – 404
Tottenham (Sky) – 1379
West Brom – 1433
West Ham – 1895
Wigan (midweek – Sky) – 541

Average – 1623

2011-12 season away support figures

Arsenal – 2914
Aston Villa – 3011
Blackburn – 2577
Bolton – 2799
Chelsea – 3173
Everton (midweek) – 2210
Fulham – 2350
Liverpool – 3100
Manchester City (Sky – Monday Night) – 2698
Manchester United (Sky) – 3083
Newcastle – 1501
Norwich – 1197
QPR (Sky – midweek) – 1404
Stoke – 2038
Sunderland – 1010
Tottenham (Sky) – 2999
West Brom – 2506
Wigan – 2184
Wolves (Sky) – 2102

Average – 2360

(Figures taken from the programme)

Swansea City – 2012-13 Season Review

What a superb season this has been for the Swans, statically the 2nd best ever. In 1981/82 we finished 6th (after leading the league until March). Here are my thoughts of the 12-13 season month by month.

Football legend Michael (not Brian) Laudrup was appointed as Swansea manager on 15th June 2012 becoming the 2nd Danish manager at the Swans after Jan Molby. He had previously managed Brondby, Getafe, Mallorca & Spartak Moscow.

He got Getafe, a relatively small club,  to the Spanish cup final and the Quarter Finals of the UEFA Cup – where they lost to Bayern Munich. He won trophies at Brondby and did well to keep Mallorca up in La Liga for the short time he was there.

In came Miguel Perez Cuesta (better known as Michu) from Rayo Vallencano, Jose Manuel Flores (better known as Chico) from Genoa in Italy, Jonathan de Guzman on loan from Villereal & Isreali ‘sensational super striker’ Itay Shechter on loan (thankfully) from Kaiserslautern before the season started.

August

We (Swansea) usually start our league campaign away and this one was no different, away to QPR, who stayed up on the last day the previous season. It hadn’t been the best of hunting grounds for us in our history, but this season was about making history and we comfortably won 5-0. Michu had the accolade of being the first player to score in the 12-13 Premier League season.

Michu added another, along with two from Dyer and one from Scott Sinclair (remember him?) as Swans went 2nd in the league alphabetically behind Fulham who also won 5-0 against Norwich that day. Most fans were saying Brendan who as the full time whistle blew.

Swans briefly went top of the league after another convincing win against newly promoted West Ham, with help from James Collins, in a 3-0 win. Scott Sinclair had left for £?m…. to Champions Man City and Swansea signed midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung from Celtic for £5m and Pablo Hernandez from Valencia for £5.5m (who is now our record transfer transfer)……

August ended with a 3-1 win in the League Cup 2nd round against Barnsley, which was an improvement on the previous season when Shrewsbury knocked us out. Maybe Swans could go all the way to Wembley this season? (Find out later!)

QPRAll smiles on the bench after Swans hammer QPR 5-0

September

An exciting 2-2 draw with Sunderland at the start of this month meant Swansea were unbeaten after 3 matches. Young Welshman Ben Davies made his debut for the injured Neil Taylor who would be out for 7 months in total. Then 3 straight league defeats, to Aston Villa, Everton & Stoke, followed (all without scoring too).

A 3-2 League Cup win against Crawley was the only win this month. Garry Monk’s 90th minute header from a corner (yes from a corner) set up an intriguing tie against the holders Liverpool at Anfield.

Some fans then raised concerns that maybe the new style wasn’t working, even though no-one had complained a month previously. I personally wasn’t worried and was confident we could turn it around.

October

We won our first league match since August, at the 6th time of asking, with a 2-1 win over Wigan at home, Hernandez and Michu with the goals. A narrow 1-0 defeat away to the Champions Man City followed – which ended up being the longest Premier League match in history with 12 minutes of additional time being played in the 2nd half. Michel Vorm would be out for at least 8 weeks, so German Gerhard Tremmel would take his place.

A 3-1 League Cup win away to the holders Liverpool was a great night, when the Swans totally outplayed them. Chico, Dyer and de Guzman scoring the goals and we progressed through to the Quarter Finals for the first time ever.

Swansea City's Chico Flores, No 4, scores against Liverpool

Chico heads Swansea ahead from a corner at Anfield

November

November saw the Swans go unbeaten in the 5 league matches they played, 3 draws and 2 wins. Pablo Hernandez and Nathan Dyer equalised late on against Chelsea at home and Southampton away respectively in two 1-1 draws , a 0-0 draw with Liverpool was sandwiched in-between a 2-1 away win at Newcastle and probably the best 45 minutes ever played at the Liberty with a 3-1 win over the much improved West Brom.

The Swans ended the month in 8th position with 20 points.

December

Swans started the month as we ended it, with another impressive performance and win. This time against Arsenal at the Emirates, Michu – who else? – scoring two goals very late on. Swans actually went above Arsenal briefly in the league table after this win.

We did lose our annual match to Norwich City, who went 10 games unbeaten after their 4-3 win at the Liberty. Swans then progressed through to the semi finals of the League Cup after a 1-0 win at home to Middlesbrough at home, even though it wasn’t the best of performances, we would go onto face Chelsea over 2 legs.

Spurs beat the Swans 1-0 in a disappointing performance live on Sky, where we failed to muster a shot on target.  A 1-1 draw against eventual Champions Man Utd, with Vorm making his comeback from injury, was a ‘bonus’ point gained. Alex Ferguson claimed striker Robin van Persie could’ve been killed by Ashley Williams, as he kicked the ball at his head. That must go down as one of the silliest comments of the season.

A drab 0-0 draw away to Reading and a 2-1 win away to Fulham – where Danny Graham scored his first goal since September – finished off the year well. Swansea sat in 9th place with 28 points.

Arsenal - Michu - December

Michu scores against Arsenal to give Swans a memorable win

January

Two entertaining 2-2 home draws against Aston Villa in the league and Arsenal in the FA Cup started off the year pretty well. Danny Graham scored his 4th goal in 4 successive matches as the Swans won 2-0 in the 1st leg against Chelsea in the League Cup semi final. It was a fantastic defensive display where Chelsea (we know what they were) had 27 attempts on Gerhard Tremmel’s goal but failed to score.

The next 5 matches in January saw just 3 goals being scored, in just 1 game (a 3-1 home win against Stoke). Three 0-0 draws occurred against Everton & Sunderland away in the league and Chelsea at home in the 2nd leg of the League Cup. Though that did see us progress to the final at Wembley against League 2 Bradford City.

Danny Graham then left for Sunderland on transfer deadline day for £5 million leaving us without a real striker for the remaining months of the season.

DGraham - JanuaryDanny Graham’s scores against Chelsea after an Ivanovic error

February

The month started with a 1-0 away defeat to West Ham, this was another disappointing display where Swans had all the possession but no goals, or many shots on target. A 4-1 win QPR brought Swansea’s first double of the season and 9 goals to 1 on aggregate.

Every teams seems to have a hammering in a season, ours came in the away game at Anfield, a 5-0 loss to Liverpool and in fairness it could have been much more had Vorm not been in great form in goal.

What a difference a week made though as we lifted the League Cup for the first time in our history, beating Bradford 5-0 in a professional performance where the gulf in class did show. You can read about my thoughts on this game in full here: http://mtj86.tumblr.com/post/44010750106/league-cup-thoughts

Winning the League Cup meant Swans would be venturing into European competition for the first time since 1991. Laudrup showed that he likes to take the cup competitions seriously, we had a bit of luck along the way, but not many managers win a major domestic trophy in their first 6 months in a job.

League Cup winners = Feb

Swans win the League Cup – Europe look out!

March

We reached the 40 point mark, the usual target needed for safety in the Premier League, with a win against Newcastle at the beginning of the month. Luke (always believe in) Moore coming off the bench to score in a 1-0 win.

3 straight defeats followed to West Brom (2-1) away and Arsenal (2-0) and Tottenham (2-1) at home. The performances weren’t the best in these matches either, we were good for a brief spell in all of them. No shots on target against Arsenal either, it did look that a lot of the players had already finished their seasons and were thinking about beaches and relaxing.

April

Swans played just 3 games in April, but still no wins. A 2-2 draw against Norwich in a match that could’ve gone either way was followed by another drab 0-0 draw at home to Southampton, where Vorm was lucky to be given a foul when it looked like he dropped the ball.

Chelsea got their ‘revenge’ at Stamford Bridge in a 2-0 league win. Neil Taylor made a welcome return after a long injury lay off. We looked devoid of confidence up front and the lack of a proper striker showed at times, again it did look at times that some players were going through the motions as Premier League survival was secured.

May

Swansea won their first match in 8 matches when we beat Wigan 3-2 at the DW Stadium, it was also the first time we had one a league match under Michael Laudrup after going behind (we went behind twice too). Itay Shechter also scored his 1st Swans goal at the 18th time of asking (causing a lot of Swans fans to rub their eyes in disbelief). This result effectively relegated Wigan to the Championship for the first time in 8 seasons.

Swansea were the opponents for Sir Alex Ferguson’s last home match as Manchester United’s manager (I know his retirement wasn’t mentioned much on the news in the lead up to the game……). We did almost spoil the party, Rio Ferdinand scored the winner 3 minutes from time after Michu equalised early in the second half.

Swans ended the season disappointingly with a 3-0 home defeat to Fulham. It was slightly flattering to the away side, but again the lack of a quality striker did show at times.

Shechter - May

Itay Shechter celebrates after scoring against Wigan – his 1st goal for 2 years

Conclusion

So overall it has probably been one of the best seasons as a Swans fan. We finished two places higher this season (9th) than last season (11th) and we never went below 11th place in the league all season. As well as a League Cup win, it couldn’t have gone much better really.

We looked much more an attacking threat than last season, though we did go off for boil slightly after our League Cup Final win, for whatever reason. Beating Arsenal, Liverpool & Chelsea (deservedly) on their own grounds was brilliant to see and raised our profile a little further. Hammering QPR on the opening day was one of my personal highlights, no surprise that they ended up finishing bottom of the league.

We won more away league matches than last season (5) but lost more home league matches this season (5) than last season (4). So good and bad I guess, for me personally the priority was staying up. And we did that with ease and no relegation fear throughout.

There is still room for improvement, of course our midfield players at times do look too afraid to shoot. That was one thing I liked about Gylfi Sigurdsson, he liked to shoot from distance – and was usually quite accurate as well.

When Danny Graham left it did leave us very short up front, we had the non scoring Itay Shechter and the not very prolific Luke Moore. Michu was played up front on his own and to me he never looked as effective as he was in his normal role of playing just behind the striker.

I’m sure the £5m we received for Danny Graham will be well invested in the summer. Lukaku and Iago Aspas have both been rumoured, from what I have seen of Lukaku he would be excellent for us I think, so fingers crossed on that one.

I am proud to say I went to all 47 matches this season, some were great & some were bad but considering not many ‘experts’ gave us a chance and said we’d get 2nd season syndrome, I don’t think anyone can complain too much. I just got frustrated with our lack of shots on goals and urgency at times.

We also tended to be a ‘second half team’ the majority of all of our goals this season were scored in the 2nd half. Again I’m sure Laudrup will do something to change this next season.

Michael Laudrup has already stated he wants 7 players for next season. With European football to play as well next season, it could be another exciting season in Swansea! I for one am looking forward to it already.

‘Once again all Europe will hear the Swansea City sound’

LaudrupMichael Laudrup. An excellent first season at the Liberty

——————————————————————————————————————————

Goal of the season – Jonathan de Guzman’s 2nd against Stoke. The sort of goal that epitomises our style, a quick attack from our own half with great link up play between Routledge & Rangel and a good pass by Graham.

Best match – Swansea 3-1 West Brom – 27th November 2012 – Probably the best 1st half of football the Liberty has ever seen, West Brom were on a great run of form themselves, but were chasing shadows for the whole half. Goals from Routledge (2) & Michu sealed the win that night.

Worst match – Has to be Liverpool 5-0 Swansea, a week before the League Cup Final but it was an awful performance all round, the only good thing was that Liverpool only scored 5. Michel Vorm was our MOTM that day, definitely one to forget.

Best chant – My favourite was ‘Boring boring Swansea’ as the goals flew in at Loftus Road on opening day. ‘I was there was Shechter scored’ came a close second.

Player of the season – For me it has to be Michu. For the amount of goals he scored and the amount of money he cost must be up there for the bargain of the season. Didn’t look like he needed any time to settle into the British game at all. Good in the air & great at making late runs into the box hopefully he’ll be here for at least another season.

Michu - SwanseaMichu (with his trademark celebration) 22 goals this season.

Special mentions – Most of the squad have all done very well this season. Chico started life at Swansea a little dodgy, but he is now aggressive in the tackle without being looking like he is going to be sent off and has now become a bit of a cult figure at the Liberty.

Ben Davies has come from nowhere to become a first team regular at the age of 19, he didn’t look out of place in an unforgiving league. Gerhard Tremmel came in for Vorm when he was injured and was superb, I must admit I was wary about this prospect but he proved me wrong.

Ben DaviesBen Davies – been excellent in his first season

Leon Britton superb as he has been for the last 10 seasons and Wayne Routledge has had a new lease of life under Laudrup. The slightly tinkered style suited Routledge superbly and was definitely one of our most consistent player

The record in full:

P – 38 W – 11 D – 13 L – 14 F – 47 A – 51 GD – -4. Position – 9th

Top goal scorer – Michu – 22 goals (18 in the league)

Top assister – Wayne Routledge, Pablo Hernandez & Jonathan de Guzman – 10 assists

Happy Darren Pratley Day

16th of May 2011. Swansea played Nottingham Forest in the Championship Play Off Semi Final at the Liberty. The score was 0-0 from the first leg (Neil Taylor was sent off inside a minute too). We were 90 minutes from Wembley, where we’d face either Reading or Cardiff

I was nervous the whole day, couldn’t concentrate in work, I just wanted to get the game over with.

Forest’s Lewis McGugan hit the bar as Swansea started off a little nervously, but Leon Britton scored from a short corner after 28 minutes. I still don’t know what is stranger. Leon Britton scoring a goal or Swansea scoring from a short corner.

The night got better as 5 minutes later Stephen (not Scott) Dobbie scored to put the Swans further ahead after a good one two from Nathan Dyer and nutmegging a Forest defender. No way back now for Forest surely?

Swansea never do things the easy way, a few misses from Pratley and Borini and Forest piled on the pressure in the 2nd half, a wave of attacks before eventually scoring from ex Cardiff striker Rob Earnshaw (his mother washes elephants apparently) on 80 minutes.

Again Forest attacked, Rodgers took off Sinclair and brought on the (un)reliable Albert Serran to try and hold onto the lead. Forest had a claim for a handball, but got a corner. Goalkeeper Lee Camp came up as it was the last minute. He wouldn’t score, surely?

The ball came in, Dorus ‘now in League One’ de Vries punched clear, Lewis McGugan kicked, but missed the ball, it fell to Darren Pratley who ran and ran to the touchline. ‘SHOOT’ the crowd shouted, he listened. Swans fans held their breath and when the ball hit the net total euphoria followed.

The Swans were on the way to Wem-ber-ley

This moment has to be the best I have ever experienced at the Liberty, if it had a roof it would have been blown off. I think I felt all of the emotions possible all at the same time. Absolutely amazing. And as we know the rest is history.

Re-live the great moment here

Happy Darren Pratley Day everyone

My Bucket List

Lots of people have them, for various different reasons. But I thought I would make a ‘bucket list’ for myself, things to aim for in my life, will mostly be related to football and travel. Hopefully I’ll have plenty of time yet to complete it!

My list below is not taking into account the money aspect and some may be unachieveable due to this,  maybe my first ‘bucket list’ entry should be ‘win £1 million on the lottery’……

1. Go to a World Cup match & venue

2. Go Great White Shark cage diving

3. Climb Mount Kilimanjaro

4. Go skiing in the Alps

5. Travel by train through the Rockies

6. Go Zorbing

7. Go to the Galapagos Islands

8. See the Great Wall of China

9. Complete the ’92’ football grounds. (Already started. See here)

10. See Wales qualify for a major football tournament

I realise number 10 is the one that would probably let me down and impossible for me to control, but here’s hoping anyway!

Things I have done:

Skydived from 15000 foot – watch here

Scuba-dived in the Coral Barrier Reef, held a Koala bear and gone white water rafting (I could never get to grips with the paddle though!)

I realise mine aren’t really that dangerous though (apart from the shark cage diving). Does anyone have any other suggestions or a bucket list of their own?

A season of success for Welsh football

The 2012-13 season has been a great one for Welsh football. You all know already but I thought I’d talk through the best moments from every Welsh club who had won something. I’ll start with the current best club in Wales, which of course is Swansea City.

Swansea City

Celebrating our centenary year, securing a top 10 place in the Premier League and a League Cup win back in February. It couldn’t have really gone much better. It is definitely mine and most Swans fans best season as a fan.

10 seasons ago I was watching us struggle at the bottom of League 2; thankfully we survived the drop to the Conference in the end, but could have been so different. It has been such an incredible rise since, where we have more or less improved every single season.

No Swans fan really knew how well we would cope after Brendan Rodgers left for Liverpool, I was confident we would stay up under Laudrup (It is on my Twitter honest!) Even with the loss of Joe Allen and the failure to sign Sigurdsson. We were a good team last season, just sometimes lacked the attacking flare we now have under Laudrup.

Michu has been the signing of the season for sure, £2m from Spanish club Rayo Vallecano. The midfielder has 22 goals (with 1 game left at the time of writing), it does make you wonder how so many of the other top clubs didn’t sign him for themselves. Their loss was definitely our gain, as much as he has been influential this season. We have proved that we can win without him too though with wins against Fulham & Wigan, both away.

The league table proves that we did better than last year and we did win away against some top clubs this season as well (Chelsea, Arsenal & Liverpool), we also looked better going forward, whilst still playing ‘easy on the eye’ football.

I’ll be the first to admit that I had never really been one for winning a cup, the main reason for me being that I had never seen Swansea progress to even a quarter final stage before, so never really felt any excitement of a cup run. I remember us going quite far in the League Cup under both Martinez and Rodgers, against Watford & Wigan respectively but weakened teams were fielded in both, disappointingly.

Thankfully Laudrup is a cup man, he proved that with Getafe when he got them to the Spanish Cup Final in 2007 and the UEFA Cup Quarter Final in 2008. A pretty strong Swans team played throughout the 7 games against Barnsley (h), Crawley (a), Liverpool (holders – a), Middlesbrough (h), Chelsea (home and away) and Bradford in the Final at Wembley. Bradford were convincingly beaten 5-0 in a professional team performance. It was also the highest ever League Cup Final winning margin.

Goals from Dyer (2), Michu, de Guzman (2, 1 pen) clinched an easy victory. You can read my thoughts about our cup run in full here

http://mtj86.tumblr.com/post/43764061642/the-league-cup-journey

A place in the Europa League 3rd Qualifying Round now awaits at the start of August (draw the 19th July). Exciting times ahead for us next season, with a few additions (up front especially) we could go on to have an even better season next season. I can’t wait! Did someone say Second Season Syndrome?

Cardiff City

Cardiff City won the Championship this season with 87 points, 10 points more than 3rd place Watford, who missed out on the final day. They will now join Swansea – who have been waiting for them for 3 years – in the Premier League. Their Malaysian owner Vincent Tan, controversially changed Cardiff’s traditional home colours of blue to red at the start of the season – mainly to appeal to the Malaysian public. Red is also seen as a lucky colour there.

He also changed the club badge, which included a big red dragon. This move did split a lot of the Cardiff fan base. Some turning their back on the club completely, some reluctantly supporting the team but not liking the colour/badge change and others just going with whatever Vincent Tan does.

It’s difficult for me to say what I would do should it ever happen at Swansea and I do empathise with the Cardiff fan friends I know, don’t think there is a right or wrong answer, just personal preference and opinion. Looking from the outside I couldn’t understand why Cardiff fans  abused each other just because they agreed/disagreed with the colour change.

On the pitch though they were definitely the most consistent team in the Championship, winning 25 games and losing just 9. I didn’t watch them play at all this season, so not going to give an opinion either way on whether they’ll struggle next season. Many said Swansea would struggle and we proved them wrong. So we’ll just have to wait and see.

The Welsh derby in the Premier League should be exciting though, the 1st time it will ever be played the top level. Bring them on I say!

Newport County

Newport County were promoted to the Football League after a 25 year absence by beating Wrexham in the all Welsh Play Off Final at Wembley in May. A fairytale story really, reformed in 1989 after being wound up by the High Court. Newport had been in the League since the 1920/21 season.

Newport moved grounds to Rodney Parade at the start of the season and led by manager Justin Edinburgh they were not out of the Play Offs all season, being top of the table for a fair few months too before finally finishing 3rd behind winners Mansfield and 2nd place Kidderminster Harriers.

They overcame Grimsby Town over 2 legs (1-0 in both) in the Play Off Semi Final to meet with Wrexham. I went to the game at Wembley and it was a shame that both clubs couldn’t get promoted, but hopefully next season Wrexham will.

Christian Jolley and Aaron O’Connor scored the 2 late goals after Wrexham had the better chances in the game. Good to have another South Wales club in the League, it will be interesting to see how they will fare. Teams generally do well after getting promoted, Dagenham & Redbridge, Stevenage, Crawley & Fleetwood to name a few.

I did watch Newport twice at home last season, they won one and drew one and the atmosphere is pretty good at times. I will be honest and say the games weren’t the best but then again I am no non league expert. O’Connor has been the player to impress me the most when I’ve seen them.

Wrexham

Wrexham won the FA Trophy at Wembley in March, by beating Grimsby Town 4-1 in a penalty shoot out (1-1 AET) it was the first time they had played at Wembley in their entire history. To get to the Final Wrexham played Rushall Olympic, Solihull Motors, Sutton United, Southport & Gainsborough Trinity.

Unfortunately I was flying back from Scotland that day or I would have gone, I didn’t even get to watch it on S4C either. But I watched the highlights on Sgorio and it seemed like they did thoroughly deserved it, with Adrian Cieslewicz (yes I Google it) impressing.

Like buses, a 2nd Wembley appearance arrived just 6 weeks later when Wrexham faced Newport in the Play Off Final (see above). Wrexham overcame Kidderminster Harriers, who were unlucky to miss out of winning the league themselves, 5-2 on aggregate.

Wrexham themselves had been unlucky last season, amassing 98 points only to finish 2nd. This was their 3rd successive year in the Play Offs but unfortunately it was 3rd time unlucky for Andy Morrell’s men. They had the better chances in the final, Brett Ormerod probably should have done better with his chances, but it just wasn’t to be.

I watched them play Newport in the league game at Rodney Parade in January and they impressed me, they scored a good counter attacking goal and they like to play football on the floor, which is good to see at any level. Surely next season will be the one. Hopefully anyway.

Other Welsh clubs

In the Conference North, Colwyn Bay – people always seem to forget about Colwyn Bay when mentioning Welsh clubs – just survived relegation by finishing in 18th place, winning their last 6 matches. They are now managed by ex footballer Frank Sinclair.

Merthyr Town, now also reformed but play in the English League system, lost to Hungerford in the Play Off Final in the Southern Football League.

Welsh Premier League

In the Welsh Premier League, The New Saints (TNS) won their 7th league title. 22 points ahead of 2nd place Airbus UK Broughton (strange, name but great nickname) and Prestatyn Town won the Welsh Cup for the first time in their 103 year history by beating Bangor 3-1 at the Racecourse. Ex Swan player Jason Price scoring twice. They will now play in the Europa League 1st Qualifying Round, they could meet Swansea later on!

Sadly it wasn’t all rosy for Welsh football clubs, Llanelli were wound up by the High Court in April 2013 and were relegated. The fans may work together to reform the club in a different guise, but bad ownership has sadly cost them. Hopefully they’ll be back one day.

Gareth Bale

An article about Wales and football can’t be said without Gareth Bale getting a mention. What a season he has had for Tottenham Hotspur and Wales. He has scored 30 goals for club and country this season and he is still only 23.

He won the PFA Player of the Year, the PFA Young Player of the Year and the Football Writer’s Player of the Year. I maybe biased, but I do think he is the best player in the Prem, I do love watching him play. Whenever he gets the ball, you feel like he is going to do something special, so exciting and pacy. I’m glad he is Welsh!

The Swansea defence did manage to keep him fairly quiet, yet he still scored and assisted a goal when Spurs beat us 2-1. My favourite goal from him this season, and there’s been a few, has to be his last minute winner for Wales against Scotland in Cardiff. It’s not often you can get excited as a Wales fan, but this was one of these moments. A superb run and goal right in the top corner, with a despairing Charlie Adam looking on as he have heartedly tried to tackle.

Watch the goal here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gq0obYuAbc

Wales National Team

The season didn’t start well for Wales, a 2-0 loss at home with 10 men to an impressive Belgium side, with Hazard, Vertonghen, Fellaini, Kompany and erm company. A 6-1 away defeat to a struggling Serbia team was absolutely awful, the only positive was I got myself and my Swansea flag on the TV!

A 2-1 home win over fellow strugglers Scotland was welcome and back to normal with a disappointing performance away to Croatia in Osijek. Wales were much improved in the home friendly win against Austria and the away Qualifier to Scotland, without the injured Bale too.

Manager Chris Coleman has slowly seemed to get Wales to improve the performances, Even though Wales lost 2-1 at home to Croatia at the Liberty in March. The performance was excellent, Bale running things again of course, but it was good to see improvement. Crystal Palace’s Jonathan Williams made his 1st start for his country and also impressed – he is definitely one for the future.

It is such a shame that Wales don’t have a quality striker (I’m not counting Steve Morison as quality or a striker), as the nucleus of team is good. A mix of youngsters and experience along with desire and commitment. We say this every year, but should the likes of Ramsey, Bale, Allen, Hennessey all stay fit then Wales will have a chance of qualifying. Euro 2016 will have 24 teams from Europe in it, so you never know!

Hope you enjoyed reading my run through of the success of football in Wales this year. Let’s hope for a similar one in the 2013-14 season. Good luck to all.

Look out Europe! The Swans are coming (along with TNS, Prestatyn and either Port Talbot or Bala!)