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!)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s