Category Archives: Football

A football trip to Spain

Yes, it’s a blog written by me. A rarity I know, sometimes I always feel like writing one, but I have a busy life sometimes and the moment has gone by the time I remember again! So here goes, my first (hopefully of many) football blog in 2017.

Recently I went to three football games in four days in Spain, this time I went with my good friend Emily. A recent suffering supporter of the 1939 & 2008 FA Cup winners Portsmouth FC. She was employed by me, for a yet to be determined fee, as an official photographer and observer/navigator. It helps she likes watching random football games too I guess.

The first game of the three was the Europa League Last 32 game between Villarreal and Italian team Roma. Now anyone who knows me, knows I am pretty organised when I travel. I like things to go without a hitch, so rewind a few weeks ago and I thought I’d purchase tickets for this game online, you’d think it would be easy but it was definitely not. UK Bank cards are not accepted on their website, only Spanish ones (for ‘security reasons’ apparently). I even rang them up, but was told I would have to buy on the day of the game.

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                                                     A view of Valencia from the Cathedral

Luckily, with the help of Twitter, a Swans fans I know, Tim, contacted his Spanish friend Claudio who bought two tickets for the game, so save me stressing on the day. Phew! Thanks again Claudio, bravo!

I also went against my normal principles and booked my flights with Ryanair, it sounds slightly snobbish I know, but for £40 return from Stansted it was very difficult to refuse. In fairness there were no issues at all with Ryanair. We flew into Valencia, which is about a one hour train journey from Vila-real.

Valencia has some great memories for me and lots of other Swans fans I’m sure, back in September 2013 (when the Swans were actually good), we beat Valencia at the Mestalla 3-0 in our first Europa League Group game. It was one of those rare games when everything was perfect. The weather was glorious, the performance was excellent and we topped it off with a win. Okay they had 10 men for most of the game, but I try to forget that bit!

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                            The Mestalla, home of Valencia and scene of the 3-0 away win

After dropping our bags off at the hotel, Emily and I went for a bit of sightseeing and I reminisced when I saw the Mestalla again (it looks different from before though).  A long day of walking around the lovely town of Valencia, before settling down in an Irish bar to watch the Champions League football on that evening. Arsenal lost 5-1 to Bayern (again) and in the other Spain v Italy European clash, Real Madrid beat Napoli 3-1.

The next day saw us catch a train to Castellon, which is an extremely quiet town just outside Vila-real. There were hardly any people out and about, even after siesta time. After a few pre-match coca colas we caught the train to Vila-real. Again, hardly any sign of any other people or any noisy Roma fans on the 20 minute walk from the train station to the ground.

Villarreal’s ground changed the name of their ground just a month ago. Formally Estadio El Madrigal, it is now called Estadio de la Cerámica (Ceramic Stadium). The capacity is almost 25,000 and has been the home of Villarreal since 1923.

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I quite liked the ground, the pitch is pretty close to the stands and there is one massive stand behind the goal where the Roma fans were situated. We seemed to be in the minority of ‘tourist’ football fans at the game. With a fair few Villarreal fans bringing their own picnic and blankets for the game ahead (it wasn’t that cold really). We were definitely keeping the average age of the stand down, the eldery Spanish ladies didn’t look impressed with the Roma fan’s pyro either. It was quite a slow start to the game, with neither side having real good chances until around the 30 minute mark when Emerson of Roma curled in a wonderful goal to put Roma ahead.

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                                 The obligatory ‘Me at a football stadium really early’ photo

In the second half Roma looked much the better team, with El Shaarawy pulling the strings in midfield. Bosnia and Ex Man City striker Edin Dzeko scored a hatrick and Roma won the game 4-0 in an enjoyable, but one sided game for a neutral. And the kid behind finally stopped kicking my seat and ended up playing a handheld computer game.

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An elderly Spanish lady tried to converse with us, but she couldn’t speak any English and we couldn’t speak any Spanish. A guy in front translated ‘Do you support Villarreal or Roma?’ ‘Tourists or Students?’ But it doesn’t seem the concept of groundhopping has caught on in this part of Spain yet. The guy had heard of Swansea City but not Portsmouth! but they were nice enough. After a short train journey back to Castellon it was onto Barcelona the following morning.

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                                              Villarreal 0-4 AS Roma (Emerson, Dzeko 3)

The train journey to Barcelona takes about 3 hours, but what is good about the trains in Spain (and France when I went to the Euros) is that every person who has bought a ticket is allocated a seat, so no scrambling to get onto an already cramped train (take note Arriva Trains Wales). At least the long journey gave me time to keep up to date with my football podcasts. (The Guardian and the Football Ramble are good podcasts if you’re interested!).

I have been to Barcelona before, when Wales played Andorra away in 2014, I stayed a few days in Barcelona as Andorra has no Airport. It is easy to navigate the Metro system there and with the help of an app and Google Maps we found our Hostel. A lot of people seem to not want to stay in hostels, but personally I don’t see a problem. I have stayed in some nicer hostels for half the price than a bang average hotel in the past.

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                                                 A view from Park Guell, Barcelona

The staff at the ‘Yeah’ Hostel in Barcelona were very friendly and welcoming, the room was a 4 bed dorm which was very clean and spacious, along with secure places to put your personal belongings. For around 15 Euros a night, no-one can complain!

Staying in hostels is a good chance to meet other fellow travellers, I have made some good friends over the years through staying in the same hostel as them. When you’re travelling alone it can help to talk to others for tips and to cure the boredom you sometimes get.

The weather so far had been sunny and around 15-20 degrees, I was happy walking around in shorts and a t-shirt whilst splashing on the sunscreen, yet the locals were wrapped up in their coats and scarves! I get strange looks normally, so nothing unusual there!

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With the rest of the day to spare it was a good chance to do a bit of sightseeing, The Sagrada Familia was a pretty close walk. A Roman Catholic Church designed by the famous Antoni Gaudi, which started being built in 1882 and is due to be finished in 2026 (Which maybe the date the Liberty Stadium will be expanded. Maybe).

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                                                          The Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

The reason I picked to go to Barcelona was I had never seen a game at the Nou Camp before and I had never personally seen Lionel Messi score a goal. I had seen Lionel Messi play on two previous occasions – The 2014 World Cup Final and the 2015 Champions League Final. I was hoping it would be third time lucky. Barcelona’s game against newly promoted Leganés wasn’t to be played until the Sunday though, so me not being a person to settle for no Saturday game I saw that Gimnástic were playing Numancia in the Segunda Division – both teams have been in La Liga recently.

The other people sharing our hostel room were a husband and wife who lived in Austria, Heidi and Jose, they were also going to the Barcelona game on the Sunday. Heidi seemed to be a big Messi and Barcelona fan and seemed fascinated with the fact I had seen so many games, the Barcelona game would be her first ever live game. It was nice to see someone so excited about going to a football game (I remember those days!).

Saturday arrived and it was off to Tarragona, unfortunately with the train times it wasn’t really possible to have a look around Tarragona, as I’ve heard it’s a lovely place. I think it may have been easier to hire a car and drive, but I have never driven outside of Wales before, so this always seems a daunting task for me, even though I have travelled around Brazil on my own!

There are two train stations in Tarragona, one journey that takes 30 minutes but is a bit out of the way, the other is closer to the town centre but takes one hour and a half. I went for the former, but it was definitely more complicated, as a bus was needed to be caught from the station to the centre then a local bus was then need to be caught to get to the ground.

Emily and I were looking confused at a bus stop and a Spanish guy asked us in broken English where we wanted to go. I said ‘football’ and ‘Gimnastic Tarragona’ and he understood, pointing us to a timetable. By total luck, at this moment a car turned up and the helpful Spanish guy got in, he then asked us if we wanted a lift to the ground. The car had a Gimnastic football scarf on the dashboard, so I took a gamble they weren’t murderers and we both got into the car. Gracias to the two Spanish guys, I did not know their names, but it was a very nice gesture.

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Gimanástic Tarragona’s ground is called the Nou Estadi and parts of the ground are currently being developed for the 2018 Mediterranean Games. Tickets were €30 for a view from the side of the pitch or €15 for behind the goal. We chose to go behind the goal, it’s a quaint little ground and it’s possible to get a view of the game for free from the above motorway (but that does not count as a proper groundhop!)

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                                   The Nou Estadi. Home of Gimnástic Tarragona

Gimnástic are struggling this season in the Segunda Division, after being relegated from La Liga last season. So it was poised to be a good game ahead. Numancia were the better team but for some lacklustre finishing it remained goal-less until a few minutes after the break and Gimnástic scored a great headed goal after great move. The final score was 2-0 and the fans were great in fairness, they even taunted the players after mis-placed passes, which – maybe I’m wrong – but that doesn’t seem to happen outside of Britain too much. Or at least not known in Spanish football culture.

After the game we had to navigate our way back to the centre without hitch-hiking and then onto the train station in the middle of nowhere. We managed to do this, but more by luck really than any actual know-how. If you’re going to go to Tarragona, then hire a car. It’s much easier and definitely less stressful.

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Gimastix 2-0 Numancia – Segunda Division

Sunday arrived and it was the day I may finally get to see Lionel Messi score a goal. The game wasn’t until 20:45, so another day of sightseeing was on the cards. Again it was a lovely, sunny day in Barcelona and I do sometimes think I’d like to live somewhere like this, but I can’t speak Spanish so I’ll have to think of another location. We went to Parc de Montjuic, which I would highly recommend going to. You get wonderful views of Barcelona and some nice walks in the park, if you like that type of thing. Emily was doing well with her photography work, as I do sometimes hate asking random people to take my photo and I don’t really do ‘selfies’.

So onto the final game of our trip to Spain. The Nou Camp would be ground 207 for me, I had been on the tour of it before, but had never watched a game there. I bought tickets very easily through their website, our seats weren’t too high or too low, the cost was – what I thought – was a reasonable €60. The free wifi at the ground was also very good and I really think more stadia should make this available to fans.

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                                             The Nou Camp, home of FC Barcelona

The thing that was very prominent at the Nou Camp was the amount of football tourists there, I get that I am probably in this bracket too. But it is very similar to what you see at Anfield, Old Trafford, The Emirates and Stamford Bridge. I always feel it has a big impact on the atmosphere in the ground, the Barca fans behind the ground that were waving the flags were very good. Singing throughout and I wanted to be standing where they were! I wouldn’t personally be happy if Swansea started becoming a club where most of the ground were not really interested in the game.

Lionel Messi scored after 3 minutes, so I can now finally add him to my list of top players I have seen score a goal live. Bale, Ronaldo, Neymar, Ibrahimovic and Itay Shechter are included. Now if only I could see a goalkeeper score a goal, my football ambitions are nearly complete!

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                                                   Happy with the photography here

At this point I was wanting Barcelona to put a hatful on Leganés, especially after their terrible performance in the 4-0 defeat to PSG the previous Tuesday. It didn’t materialise and Leganés were much the better team, creating the better chances. Messi was the only player looking sharp.

On 71 minutes Leganés scored a deserved equaliser and their fans about 2 miles up in the away end started to make some noise. Barcelona invariably scored again after a definite foul on Neymar in the box. Messi duly dispatched the penalty and Barcelona luckily won 2-1 in the end. It was a very uninspiring performance from the home side against a relegation threatened team, Neymar and Suarez were very quiet.

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                             Barcelona 2-1 Leganés – La Liga. Attendance: 63,378

It was easy to get away after the game via the metro, I almost had my phone stolen by a not so discreet pickpocket. Luckily I tend to have my wits about me and automatically, subconsciously had my hand in my pocket when he invaded my personal space and then eventually ran away.

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                        A view from Parc de Montjuic on a glorious day in Barcelona

All in all a great trip, great weather, three new grounds ticked off, no nil-nils and no hitches. Thanks to Emily for being my official photographer on a voluntary basis and putting up with my inane conversations all week. I will be at more random grounds this coming weekend when I travel to Scotland – not for the rugby – to watch the Scottish Messi play for Queen of the South. No cap or sunscreen needed there! Maybe I’ll even write another blog about it.

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                   Me and and a photograph of my photographer Emily Smith (@emilysmithpfc)

A trip to Guernsey

Most people spend their Valentine’s weekend in fancy restaurants, I am not most people so as the Swans were out of the FA Cup I went to Guernsey in the Channel Islands for a very random trip – with football included of course. There is a back story to why I chose Guernsey, during my trip to the World Cup in Brazil last year (Have I not mentioned it before?) I met a guy called Phill in the hostel in Brasilia. He is a Southampton fan who lives in Guernsey and it was a perfect opportunity to meet up, as I said I would visit one day – and I am a Man of my word.

These days I like to combine my travelling with a football game if I can. Guernsey FC have a team who play in the Ryman South, despite not actually being located in England. I’m sure you can think of a few other teams who are similar……

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St Peter Port, Guernsey

I caught a flight from Birmingham Airport on the Thursday after being in the city for the West Brom away game the day previous (I have told you before that my middle name is ‘organised’). After a short delay and a very bumpy landing on one of those propeller planes I had arrived. Phill was there to pick me up and I stayed with him and his parents in their lovely house right on the coast.

Exploring Guernsey

Friday was my day to explore the wonders of Guernsey, Guernsey is located inbetween France and the U.K. along with some other Islands in the Channel – Jersey, Alderney and Sark to name a few. They are a British Crown Dependency with their own Government, currency etc. A long history and wars with France and Spain in the past and they are the only British Territory to be occupied by Germany during the War. Many people think Guernsey part of Britian, but it isn’t. They are their own seperate Nation with a population of around 65,000 but part of the British Commonwealth.

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Castle Cornet

I caught a bus into the town centre, the journey only cost £1 – take note First Cymru! After the rain had subsided slightly I just went for a wander around the marina, took some photos and just went for a long walk for some more photos of breathtaking views as well as almost being blown over several times.

Guernsey on the whole I thought was an interesting place, I did notice some subtle differences to back home though. Most of the street signs are in French, but everyone speaks English. The pavements are almost non-existent and the roads are narrow, the Post Office boxes are blue and they have £1 notes instead of £1 coins. Which you are unable to spend over in the U.K. but it is possible to spend our money over in Guernsey.

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A blue Post Office Box

So Saturday approached and I thankfully noticed that the kick off time for the Guernsey game was 1pm (I’m sure I checked this before I left). Before the game Phill drove me to this very nice and Chapel, which is said to be the smallest functioning chapel in the World (according to Wikipedia) and is called ‘The Little Chapel’.  Just 16 foot by 9 foot (but has two floors). It is decorated by seashells, pebbles and broken China.

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The Little Chapel

Guernsey FC and football in the Channel Islands

Guernsey FC were only formed back in 2011 and became the first team from the Channel Islands to play Mainland Britain. (Jersey and Guernsey Rugby teams play in Britain too). They have won 2 promotions since starting out in the Combined Counties League Division One. They currently play in the Isthmian League Division One and to get there they had to play 16 games in 30 days (someone tell Sam Allardyce!). Last season they reached the Play Offs but lost to Leatherhead.

The Guernsey FA was established way back in 1893 and a few players from Guernsey have played in the top flight in England. Obviously Matt Le Tissier being the most famous (who is Guernsey’s club President). Guernsey do play football at the Island games every other year and have won it twice – beating Isle of Man and Ynys Môn (also known as Anglesey).

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More Guernsey coastline

Regarding Channel Island footballers, my favourite and maybe unknown fact is that any person born in the Channel Islands is eligible to play for any of the Home Nations that they choose (this is true, unlike when people say Januzaj could play for England when he couldn’t). The only two that have played Internationally are Graeme le Saux (from Jersey) and Matt Le Tissier.  There are three footballers born in the Channel Islands who play in the Football League at present (that I know of). Brett Pitman (AFC Bournemouth), Peter Vincenti (Rochdale) and James Hamon (Exeter). Whether they want to play for Wales is another matter though!

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Footes Lane

Guernsey play at Footes Lane, capacity of 5000, which they rent off the local Government. (The Guernsey Rugby team also play here) It has an Athletics track around the pitch and the ground has just one stand, they average crowds of around 800. Another reason why I wanted to watch Guernsey FC play, apart from trying to get up the ‘Football Hipster’ ladder is that Guernsey FC pay for all the opposition players and directors to travel over, as well as putting them up in a hotel. I am not sure how long they will be able to sustain that for. Not forgetting that they have to pay for their own players to go to the away games in England.

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Another ground to tick off (my 160th)

Guernsey don’t pay their players and are one of only two amateur teams in the Ryman South. Burgess Hill Town are currently top of the league, also in the league are South Park, Corinthian Casuals and my favourite named team – Three Bridges. Before the game I met up with Nick Legg,  Guernsey FC’s Communication Manager, who wanted to take Phill and I’s photo. Apparently it will be in the next programme (fame at last!).

Guernsey’s opponents were Horsham FC, which ironically I had seen play twice before. In the 2007/08 season Swansea were drawn away to them in the FA Cup 2nd round. We drew 1-1 away on a wet and muddy Friday night and then beat them 6-2 in the replay. (Horsham have the accolade of being our first ever FA Cup opponents at the Liberty Stadium). I spoke to one Horsham fan in the club house before the game who had been to both of those games, he only had nice things to say about the Liberty. I ‘Havant’ got a clue who knocked us out of the next round that season though (sorry!).

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Phill (@Phill_Loveridge) and I

Horsham brought around 50 away fans to Guernsey, including one from Malaga. (I was disappointed I hadn’t travelled the furthest). Personally if Guernsey were in our league, I would think it would be the most appealing to travelling fans. And from what I was told, Horsham brought the biggest following of away fans to Footes Lane so far this season.

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The matchday programme

Horsham were bottom of the league, but after appointing two people to become a joint management team (yes that’s right TWO people!). They have been on a recent resurgence.

The Game

I’m not very good at writing match reports and I find it even more difficult when I don’t really know who is who. Guernsey did score through Mark McGrath- after just 15 seconds – his 20th goal of the season with a shot from outside the area. Roary the Lion was entertaining the crowd and did accidentally slipped whilst jumping the hoardings – much to the amusement of the Green Lions faithful. There weren’t that many chances in the first half and Guernsey were 1-0 up at half time and looked comfortable.

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McGrath scores for Guernsey

The 2nd half started in almost the same fashion as the first, with Guernsey going 2-0 up through Dave Rihoy on the 50 minute mark. I was getting more amused with the home fans getting annoyed with the officials. No matter what level you are at, it’s always the same. Though ‘You must’ve come on the same plane’ rarely gets said at Non League matches I would guess.

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Horsham’s away following

Personally I didn’t think the officials did much wrong, sad as I am in this regard I did notice that the assistants switched sides in the 2nd half. But I don’t think any others noticed as the 2nd half assistant on the stand side was getting grief for things his colleague had done in the 1st!

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Roary the Lion

A few half chances for both teams before Horsham had a glimmer of hope when they were awarded a penalty a few minutes from the end. A silly challenge from the keeper (Chris Tardif, ex Portsmouth) as the player was going away from goal, they duly scored. About 2 minutes after this though, Horsham were denied what looked like a clear penalty. Everyone around me were saying they were lucky to get away with that one.

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Tony Nwachukwu scores for Horsham from the penalty spot

The final score was 2-1 to Guernsey and that win moved them up to 10th in the table,  10 points off the Play Offs positions with 11 games to go, so a tough ask but I hope they can do it. Guernsey FC are now my adopted non league club and I do like the colour green!

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Channeling my thoughts

I’d like to thank Phill and his parents for putting me up, I do really appreciate the hospitality. I would urge any groundhoppers to go and watch Guernsey if they can, the boat takes 7 hours from Portsmouth if that’s your kind of thing! Everyone was really friendly and it’s a little bit different in the sense that it is not in the U.K. I’d love to see them get as high as they can, but it will be very difficult. Seeing them in the Conference one day would be a great achievement.

Visting Guernsey has made me want to visit the other islands in the Channel, so hopefully one day I will be able to go back. Now anyone want some £1 notes……?

Football is back

That time is open us when the Premier League season starts once again, I’d never have thought that the Swans would be going into a fourth successive season in this division, I would’ve personally been happy with just the one. I’m not sure when the cut off point of becoming an established Premier League team is, maybe we’ve reached that already?

As is the case with most of the Premier teams, bar the top 5 or 6, no team is ever really safe from relegation from one season to the next. Look at Newcastle and Bolton in recent years, both were rarely ever in relegation trouble for years and years until one really bad season (Appointing Shearer and Owen Coyle were factors too of course.

Personally being in the Premier League isn’t the be all and end all for me, like it might be to other people. Yes the are pros and cons like with anything, but for me long as the games are enjoyable, as in trying to score goals/win games and we aren’t in any financial trouble, then I’m happy.

Last season I had some stick, maybe rightly, about the way we were playing under Laudrup from about October onwards. Thankfully in the end we sacked him and stayed up under the guidance of Monk. Objective achieved. All that’s in the past, hopefully we can get back to playing attacking football this season.

If I had to make a very early prediction I do think the Swans will stay up again this season – in mid-table as usual probably. I think the additions of Gomis, Sigurdsson and Montero will worry defences and that’s always important in any team. They are upgrades on Vazquez and Lamah anyway. We also have Ki Sung-Yeung back (who I never thought should’ve gone anyway) after a successful loan spell at Sunderland last season.

Perhaps our defence is our weak link currently as Ben Davies and Chico have departed, but there are still 3 weeks until the transfer window shuts, so I don’t think it’s time to panic just yet. I haven’t seen any of the pre-season games, mainly because they are pointless and have no bearing on the forthcoming season at all. (Despite what a few people on Twitter said after the Villarreal game on Saturday). And people call me negative!? I thought we became the first club to be relegated before the season had started.

Garry Monk has done well to get rid of the ‘deadwood’ , as they say, but I would say our squad does lack a little bit of strength in depth. The youngsters like Fulton and Kingsley are unknowns, Tiendalli and Tremmel are dodgy. I still feel perhaps we need another striker, a defensive midfielder and a full back. Happy with our first XI though, hopefully we won’t get as many long term injuries like last season.

I don’t have many wishes for this coming season. My main one would be to beat a top team at home. Our better results in recent seasons have mainly been away (Valencia, Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool & Arsenal). Our last win over a ‘big’ team was probably against Man City under Brendan Rodgers, hopefully that’ll change this season.

The other would be to beat Everton – the only team out of the 92 we have played, that we have never beaten. They seem to have a hoodoo on us.

I look forward to going up and down the country once again this season. Who are we!?

International Swans

Friday 11th October and Swansea City had their first player ever to represent Spain at International level. That player, as we all know, was Michu. Michu became the 94th Swansea player to represent their country whilst at the Swans. 67 of the 94 have represented Wales.

WilliamsAshley Williams – Captain of Wales

Michu amazingly started the game for the World and European Champions against Belarus, he was substituted in the 57th minute for Alvaro Negredo of Man City. I didn’t watch the game as I was in Cardiff watching Wales beat Macedonia, so you’ll have to ask someone else how he played!

Who would have thought we would ever have a player who would go onto represent the World and European Champions? Beats Tom Williams’s cap for Cyprus against Romania in 2006 I guess!

I am so pleased for Michu, he deserved his call up and hopefully he’ll impress and will go to Brazil next year, at least it gives me an excuse to support Spain too. It’s also good to know that even though we aren’t seen as a big club, we have a player good enough to get in their team.

MichuMichu – The Spanish International

I don’t care about England personally, but I don’t think players like Leon Britton should be overlooked, maybe Shelvey will get more recognition with him playing more regular. Hopefully a few more Swans players will represent their country in years to come.

I know many people don’t really like International football, but as a player it must be a dream to represent your country.

Below is a list of every player who has played for their country whilst being at the Swans. (International level only, not counting Youth or Olympic level).

Congo DR –Yves Makabu-Makalambay

Cyprus – Tom Williams

England – Jonjo Shelvey

Finland – Shefki Kuqi

Ghana – Andre Ayew

Hungary – Tamas Priskin

Iceland – Gylfi Sigurdsson

Israel – Itay Shechter

Ivory Coast – Wilfried Bony Bony

Jamaica – Walter Boyd

Netherlands

Dwight Tiendalli
Jonathan de Guzman
Michel Vorm

Nigeria – Rueben Agboola

Northern Ireland

Hugh Blair
Jim Feeney
Jim McLaughlin
Ronnie Briggs
Warren Feeney
Willie Humphries

Poland – Lukasz Fabianski

Republic of Ireland

Jack O’Driscoll (Played for Northern Ireland too)
Kevin Clarke
Noel Dwyer
Rory Keane (Played for Northern Ireland too)

South Korea – Ki Sung-Yeung

Spain – Miguel Perez Cuesta (Michu)

Trinidad & Tobago

Dennis Lawrence
Jason Scotland

Venezuela – Giovanni Savarese

Wales

Alan Curtis
Alan Davies
Alan Knill
Andy Melville
Ashley Richards
Ashley Williams
Barrie Hole
Barrie Jones
Ben Davies
Ben Williams
Billy Hole
Billy Lucas
Brian Evans
Chris Marustik
Christian Edwards
Cliff Jones
Colin Pascoe
Dai Davies
Dai Nicholas
David Cotterill
David Giles
David Thomas
Des Palmer
Dudley Lewis
Ernie Jones
Ernie Morley
Frank Scrine
Graham Williams
Harry Griffiths
Harry Hanford
Herbie Williams
Ian Walsh
Ivor Allchurch
Ivor Jones
Jack Fowler
Jack Parry
Jack Warner
Jason Bowen
Jeremy Charles
Joe Allen
John Cornforth
John King
John Mahoney
John Toshack
Leighton James
Leighton Phillips
Len Allchurch
Mel Charles
Mel Nurse
Mike Johnson
Neil Taylor
Nigel Stevenson
Owain Tudur Jones
Richard Duffy
Robbie James
Roger Freestone
Roy Evans
Roy John
Roy Paul
Sam Ricketts
Shaun MacDonald
Sid Lawrence
Steve Jenkins
Terry Medwin
Trevor Ford
Wilf Lewis
Willie Davies

One quirky fact, just to finish, is that both Dudley Lewis and Roger Freestone played just once for Wales, both against Brazil!

Perspective and expectation

Rewind to this time last year and we had just drawn 2-2 with Reading at home, after being 2-0 down with 20 minutes to go. It meant it was our 5th game without a win in the league and many comments from social media and the message boards were of a negative nature. Sound familiar?

In that game against Reading the Swans had actually played very well, showing a good fight to come back from 2-0 down but also probably deserved the win. Would our luck change? As it turned out it did, Swans then won the 1st game back after the International break – 2-1 at home to Wigan – lost 1-0 away to Man City but then went on a 6 match unbeaten run.

No more talk of a dressing room bust up, Laudrup’s system being wrong and whatever else was said during that time. All was forgotten.

Fast forward to the present day and it’s like going back in time a little.

Perspective

At Southampton I thought the Swans played very well for the majority of the game, a culmination of bad luck and some cracking saves from Boruc prevented the Swans from scoring. We all have different opinions of course, but personally I will never criticise a team if they try to attack and try to score goals.

Against Arsenal at home in the previous league game I thought we cancelled each other out, but Arsenal had a decent 10 minute spell in which they punished us. Though personally I was more disappointed  by the lack of attempts at goal. For me there is no point trying to play football unless you try to score goals.

Without wanting to sound like Martinez and Rodgers, to me if the team performs well then in the end you will get your rewards – as the past few seasons have proved. It’s always disappointing to lose games, especially if you didn’t deserve to, but I guess it all depends on your expectations sometimes.

Expectations

Cast your mind back to pre-season, 7 games and 7 wins with 28 goals scored and 1 conceded. Talk of a top 6 finish this season and how we would thrash Man Utd in the opening game. The latter didn’t happen of course (we still may get top 6, though I’m more realistic).

My expectations at the start of the season were to survive in the Premier League and to do well in the group stage of the Europa League and hopefully beating a ‘big’ club in the league along the way.

Now if that is negative, then I am negative (I’m not). I’m just wondering what your personal expectations are/were?

I just think this current squad is the best we have probably ever had, we all like a whinge and a moan at times but listening to some people’s comments in the game you would think we were struggling in League 1.

Comments

It’s never good to read comments after a defeat on all the various websites, but yesterday on the coach I made that mistake. Yes some I’d agree with saying we need to take our chances, but some were saying that we’re going down to others saying that Europe was affecting us.

Now I asked this question yesterday. After the Swans beat Valencia in the Metsalla on that fantastic night a few weeks back, did anyone say or think ‘Hope we get knocked out of Europe soon’? My guess would be no.

We all dreamt of nights like that, the Valencia away game was my all time favourite and people will be talking about that one for years to come. Why would we want to get knocked out. Our squad is big enough to cope playing in both.

We also, if you can’t remember, convincingly beat Crystal Palace away the following Sunday 2-0. After our other away game in Europe (in Ploiesti) the Swans then won 2-0 away to West Brom, where 5 of that starting line up started at the Hawthorns. Europe a hindrance? Not for me. Just a knee jerk comment from some fans after the disappointment of losing.

If we hadn’t played well then maybe there would be some substance, but on another day Swans would’ve won at St Mary’s comfortably.

Other comments I’ve read since is that Laudrup is only playing his better team in the Europa League, because he is looking for a better move away from Swansea, so it looks good on his CV. As well as Sunderland at home is now a ‘must win’ game. in October? (Maybe a clear out on Twitter will be a good thing).

If we lost to Sunderland then there would only be 90 Premier League points available to play for until the season finishes next May. Disaster!

Chill

I don’t really like using that word, but as Michael Laudrup pointed out yesterday we are only 1 point worse off than last season and have already played the bigger teams. I agree with him, we have a good squad of players who all work hard. A few wins and we’ll be all smiles again.

We may not beat Sunderland, but the season ends in May not October.  All teams go through good spells and bad spells. Looks at West Brom a few weeks back, hadn’t scored a goal in the league for 3 games, fans twitching. They then beat Sunderland and 4 points from Man Utd and Arsenal and their fans are happy once again forgetting the slow start to the season they had.

Michu

Congratulations to Miguel Perez Cuesta, better known as Michu, for his call up to the Spain National squad. Amazing to think that Swansea City have a player that the World and European Champions want in their team. It will be a great few days for him to teach Xavi and Iniesta what he knows. Hope he gets to feature for them.

Some facts and videos about Swansea’s previous games in Europe

On Thursday night the Liberty Stadium will host the Europa League 3rd Round tie between Swansea City and Swedish club Malmö FF. It will be the 2nd European men’s football match there. The first being Llanelli’s 5-1 defeat to Danish club Odense back in 2006 – How many of you knew that!? (Sadly, I was there).

Another fact for you – Swansea were the first Welsh team to play in European competition, this was back in 1961. They played East German team SC Motor Jena, drawing 2-2 at home but losing 5-1 away. Thursday night’s tie with Malmö will be the club’s 19th European match. But the previous times we have represented Wales, on Thursday we will represent England.

Malmo                                 Swans face Swedish club Malmö FF on Thursday

The last time Swansea City played in Europe was back in October 1991, after winning the Welsh Cup the previous season. We entered into the first round of the now defunct European Cup Winner’s Cup. We were drawn against AS Monaco, who were in the top flight of French football and we were plying our trade in Division 3 (League One as it is now).

After looking on Youtube I found ‘highlights’ (and I use that term very very lightly) of that game on there, if you are of a nervous disposition, then please do not click the link below. You may notice a very young looking Arsene Wenger on the Monaco bench.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mz38-csCgJg

The result was 8-0 to Monaco (10-1 on aggregate), Swansea also not being helped with the UEFA rule at the time only allowing so many ‘foreigners’ to play at one time. As Swansea were representing Wales in Europe, we were forced to play Welsh players, most of them young and inexperienced. They did only lose 2-1 at the Vetch though – Where the Prince of Monaco watched from the Centre Stand. Bet he hardly noticed the difference to back home……….

WeahGeorge Weah scored 2 goals in the 8-0 win, was named World Player of the Year in 1995

The Swans’s record in Europe isn’t the best, out of our 18 previous European matches we have only won 3 of them (all 3 wins were in the same season). One of them was a club record score of 12-0 against Sliema Wanders of Malta, who we beat 17-0 on aggregate. One reason for our poor record is probably due to the fact that the Swans have been languishing in the bottom tiers for a lot of the time we have been in Europe.

Sliema WanderersSwansea scoring one of their 12 goals at the Vetch in 1982

Also until this season Swansea had never made it past the 2nd Rd in European Competiton, so playing in the 3rd Rd on Thursday is another bit of history. However small it might seem. The results from our previous European ties are below:

1961-62 – 1st Rd (1st Leg)  – Swansea Town 2-2 SC Motor Jena

1961-62 – 1st Rd (2nd Leg) – SC Motor Jena 5-1 Swansea Town

1966-67 – 1st Rd (1st Leg) – Swansea Town 1-1 Slavia Sofia

1966-67 – 1st Rd (2nd Leg) – Slavia Sofia 4-0 Swansea Town

1981-82 – 1st Rd (1st Leg) – Swansea City 0-1 Lokomotiv Leipzig

1981-82 – 1st Rd (2nd Leg) – Lokomotiv Leipzig 2-1 Swansea City

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTlJZRrKPF0

1982-83 – 1st Rd Preliminary (1st Leg) – Swansea City 3-0 Sporting Braga

1982-83 – 1st Rd Preliminary (2nd Leg) – Sporting Braga 1-0 Swansea City

1982-83 – 1st Rd (1st Leg) – Swansea City 12-0 Sliema Wanderers

1982-83 – 1st Rd (2nd Leg) – Sliema Wanderers 0-5 Swansea City

1982-83 – 2nd Rd (1st Leg) – Swansea City 0-1 Paris Saint-Germain

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jKfcq9865c

1982-83 – 2nd Rd (2nd Leg) – Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 Swansea City

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdcPeqrE9z0

1983-84 – 1st Rd Preliminary (1st Leg) – Swansea City 1-1 FC Magdeburg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HROzbIq7swo

1983-84 – 1st Rd Preliminary (2nd Leg) – FC Magdeburg 1-0 Swansea City

1989-90 – 1st Rd (1st Leg) – Panathinaikos 3-2 Swansea City

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYMj57WafVg

1989-90 – 1st Rd (2nd Leg) – Swansea City 3-3 Panathinaikos

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0CcM45sdbQ

1991-92 – 1st Rd (1st Leg) – Swansea City 1-2 AS Monaco

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0ntIBtkGOM

1991-92 – 1st Rd (2nd Leg) – AS Monaco 8-0 Swansea City

Scorers

Ian Walsh – 4

Jeremy Charles – 4

Alan Curtis – 2

Andy Melville – 2

B Reynolds – 2

D Gale – 2

Jimmy Loveridge – 2

Andy Legg * – 1

Ante Rajkovic – 1

Bob Latchford – 1

Colin Irwin – 1

Dzemal Hadziabdic – 1

John Solako – 1

John Toshack – 1

K Todd – 1

Mel Nurse – 1

Nigel Stevenson – 1

Own Goal – 1

Paul Raynor – 1

Robbie James – 1

*Andy Legg was the last player to score a European goal for the Swans.

I am looking forward to seeing the Swans in Europe; it will be a first for me and many others at the Liberty. I would love to make it to the group stages, even though my bank balance will be really low if we do. Laudrup did well with Getafe when he guided them into Europe, so hopefully he can help us do the same.

Hope you enjoyed reading this. As the song goes…….

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

Swansea City – previous pre-seasons

As many of you know I am not a fan of watching pre-season matches, don’t get me wrong I have been to them in the past. I always go to the home games if I am in the country and I have been away to the odd few local games, like Neath, Llanelli and Port Talbot. Even went to Chester on a Tuesday night once!

For me pre season games are for the new players to bed in and for the squad to gain match fitness in readiness for the new season. With the amount of substitutes allowed in friendly matches for both teams it must be difficult for the players to keep the rhythm and tempo up for the whole game too.

I’ve had a look back through the archives and looked at our previous friendly scores and scorers (some games maybe missing).

2006: Carmarthen 3-3 Swansea (Trundle, McLeod, Knight).

Swansea 1-1 Wolves (Fallon)

Weston Super Mare 1-3 Swansea (Knight, Akinfenwa, Willie Boland)

Exeter 1-3 Swansea (Knight (2), Iriekpen)

Port Talbot 0-2 Swansea (Robinson, Chris Jones)

No defeats in the 5 pre-season games we played under Kenny Jackett, but he left in February 2007 before Martinez took over and we eventually finished 7th in League One. Lee Trundle, who scored just 1 goal in pre-season was our top goalscorer in the 06-07 season with 20 goals.

2007: Ostersund 2-5 Swansea (Pratley, D Duffy, Bodde, Anderson (2)

Neath 1-5 Swansea (Austin, Trundle, D Duffy (2), Anderson)

Llanelli 0-3 Swansea (O’Leary, Ibrahim Thiam, Robinson (pen))

Port Talbot 1-1 Swansea (Watt)

Stormvogels Telstar 2-1 Swansea (O’Leary)

Schipluiden 0-2 Swansea (D Duffy, Britton)

Alphenese Boys 2-5 Swansea (Bauza (2, 1 pen), Scotland, M Collins, Anderson)

S Rotterdam 2-2 Swansea (D Duffy, Britton)

Swansea 2-0 Levante (Robinson, Scotland)

Just 1 defeat in the 9 friendly matches played by the Swans. We won League One by 10 points in the 07-08 season by playing free flowing football under Roberto Martinez. I actually put money on us to win the league that season (won £200).

Darryl Duffy scored 5 goals in the pre season games and in the season only scored 1 league goal after impressing on loan the previous season. Jason Scotland scored 29 goals and was our and the league’s top goalscorer.

2008: Ostersund 0-6 Swansea (Pintado (3), Bauza (2), Gower)

Neath 0-5 Swansea (Bauza (2), Bodde (pen), van der Heijden, S Morrison)

Espanyol 4-0 Swansea

CF Peralada 0-2 Swansea (Butler, Bauza)

Palamos 0-1 Swansea (Orlandi)

Barcelona Athletic 3-3 Swansea (Bauza (2), Brandy)

Chester 2-3 Swansea (Pratley, Morrison, Painter)

Swansea 0-0 West Brom

Swansea 1-0 Den Haag (Orlandi)

Swansea finished 8th in the Championship under Martinez after decent results in pre-season. Spaniard Guillem Bauza scored 7 goals in the pre-season games, Scotland none (think he was injured for a large part). Many fans predicted that Bauza would be our main striker when it came to the league, it wasn’t the case. Bauza hardly played just 21 games and scored 3 goals. Jason Scotland was again our top goalscorer with 24 goals.

2009: Swansea 3-1 Twente (Pintado 2, 1 pen, Casey Thomas)

Neath 1-6 Swansea (Dobbie (2), Orlandi, Chad Bond, Bauza, M Collins)

Espanyol B 2-0 Swansea

Palamos 0-2 Swansea (Bauza (pen), Gower)

Gimnastic 0-0 Swansea

Sabadell 1-2 Swansea (Dobbie (2))

Swansea 4-1 Kilmarnock (Gower (3, 1 pen), Chad Bond)

Martinez had left for Wigan and Portuguese Paulo Sousa had taken over and again the pre-season results were decent. More memorable for Mark Gower who scored 4 goals in pre-season who was a little unlucky to not score any goals the previous season. Again people predicted that his goal return would be much again, you could argue they were right. He ended up scoring 1 goal in the 09-10 season. Which for a team that only scored 42 league goals that season, wasn’t so bad!

2010: Port Talbot 1-2 Swansea (Kerry Morgan, Njazi Kuqi)

Llanelli 5-1 (Casey Thomas, S Kuqi (2, 1 pen), van der Gun, N Kuqi)

Hereford 2-0 Swansea

Neath 0-2 Swansea (Scott Donnelly, S Kuqi)

Yeovil 0-1 Swansea (Cotterill)

Swansea 1-0 Cheltenham (Dobbie)

Haaglandia 1-4 Swansea (Dyer, Cotterill, Pintado (2))

VCS 1-9 Swansea (Pintado (2), Serran, S Donnelly, Pratley (2) Agustien, Dyer, Kuqi)

Den Haag 1-0 Swansea

Swansea started their pre-season without a manager, as Paulo Sousa had thankfully left for Leicester. Rodgers took over mid July and his first game in charge was against Cheltenham at home. Looking at the scorers in the above pre-season games, hardly any made an impact on the 10/11 season.

Van der Gun, Donnelly, Pintado, Cotterill and Shefki Kuqi either left soon after or rarely played. Kuqi’s brother who scored twice was a trialist who wasn’t offered a deal and Scott Sinclair, who was our top goal scorer didn’t sign from Chelsea until mid August.

As we all know Swansea won promotion to the Premier League in the 2010/11 season!

2011: Neath 1-0 Swansea

Port Talbot 1-3 Swansea (Beattie, Rangel, Kurtis March)

*Swansea 3-1 Inter Baku (Dyer, Sinclair, Moore)

*Swansea 0-1 UAE U21s

Afan Lido 0-2 Swansea (Beattie, Lucas)

Swansea 2-0 Celtic (Rangel, Dobbie)

Swansea 1-0 Real Betis (Graham)

*In Germany

A mixed bag of results for Swansea in this pre-season, it started with a 1-0 loss to Neath where many fans moaned afterwards that we’d be relegated. We did beat Port Talbot 3-1 three hours later with a totally different team of players.

As we all know, the Swans did stay up (finished 11th) and Danny Graham, who scored one goal in pre-season, was our top goal scorer with 13 goals.

2012: Colorado Rapids 2-1 Swansea (de Guzman)

Ventura County Fusion 0-1 Swansea (Moore)

San Jose Earthquakes 2-2 Swansea (Chico, Graham)

Swansea 4-2 Blackpool (Graham (3), Michu)

Swansea 3-3 Stuttgart (Graham 2, 1 pen, Dyer)

Michael Laudrup had replaced Brendan Rodgers who went to Liverpool and again this pre-season, results wise was probably not the best. A 1-0 win against a team of amateurs in the USA and 7 goals scored and 5 conceded in the two home games. Danny Graham had scored 6 goals in pre-season but ended up featuring on the bench more than the pitch. Then he ended up signing for Sunderland in January.

Swans finished 9th, won the League Cup and Michu was our top goalscorer with 22 goals.

Conclusion

What the 2013-14 season will bring nobody knows, scoring 28 goals and conceding just 1 in this season’s pre-season is impressive on paper. I can’t comment on any of the performances as I haven’t seen any of the games.

I am glad we do play two Europa League games before the Premier League season starts, as they are ‘proper’ games and we should be a little more match fit than Man Utd on August 17th. I hope anyway!

I just thought it may be interesting to see our previous pre-season results in previous seasons.

Daft, over-used and silly football phrases

In football there many clichés and common phrases are said by fans, players, managers and commentators. Below is a list of a lot of them which I thought of earlier, with their own specific meanings (hopefully humorous in parts to keep you reading). A sort of a football dictionary if you like, I understand some may come across as being cynical, but none are to be taken that seriously.

Journalists often ask stupid questions to managers and players. Gordon Strachan’s replies to them always make me laugh. Which can be seen on youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfEV0iO0iCw

I especially like the first one ‘Are you the right man for the job?’ Answer: ‘No’. Brilliant

I am going to add more and more to this list as the season goes on, you are welcome to tweet me your own common, over-used and daft phrases – which you will get credit for. Enjoy!

ClichyDoes this count as a football cliché? (cliché/clichy get it?)

Now if you’re still reading after that awful joke, then I applaud you. At the top of this list has to be my only hated one:

A tough place to go – Probably the most commonly used phrase of them all throughout the football World. Whether a team is playing away at Dagenham & Redbridge or Barcelona you will hear it being said about the ground, even though the former may not have won there for 20 games on the trot*

Andre Villas-Boas said on the day of the fixture list announcement that “Selhurst Park is always a difficult stadium to go to” See the full story here:  http://www.guardian-series.co.uk/sport/10497868.AVB_admits__tough_start__for_Spurs/

*Sorry Dagenham & Redbridge fans, was using your team as an example, I enjoyed my time there last season.

Nou CampDagenham               The Nou Camp and Victoria Road – Both tough places to go!

Now we can concentrate on the league – A phrase that gets used by fans after the team they support gets knocked out of a cup competition, usually unexpectedly. A good way of hiding the disappointment (not something I said when the Swans lost 4-2 to Havant & Waterlooville in 2008).

‘Have you ever played football?’ – A question that gets asked by some fans who think that because they have played football at some of level & the person with a differing view hasn’t, then their opinion is invalid.

Jose Mourinho, Arrigo Sacchi & Carlos Alberto Parreira have all managed at the top level of the game, (the latter pointed out to me by people on Twitter) but never played football at the top level, if at all. They would laugh at you if you questioned their footballing knowledge.

*For the record I played 5 a side football 15 years old

(Mark Lawrenson, Paul Merson & Garth Crooks have all played football at the top level and not many agree or accept what they say about the game. The last 2 are barely able to pronounce player’s names)

No easy games in International football – Similar to the first phrase on this list, usually said by a manager or players to try and relieve pressure in a game they are expected to win by the fans and media. Maybe in some aspects this is true, as many teams are much improved. It is not always the case, take San Marino, for example, who have a playing record of:

P118 W – 1 D – 3 L – 114 F – 16 A – 482

And they have been playing International football since 1990. Speaking of San Marino, I am able to say ‘I have seen San Marino score’ in a 2-1 defeat to Wales. Almost as rare as seeing Itay Shechter score a goal (I was there for that too!).

‘But we’re (insert league position of your team here) in the league’ – If a team hasn’t won for a long period of time and aren’t playing well. Some fans (usually of the blinkered kind) will state the league position of their team (if it’s quite high) to others fan who dare state their opinion of disappointment/unhappiness. Despite the fact the season finishes in May (See Swansea’s season 09/10 for details).

 ‘Could they do it on a wet, windy night at Stoke?’ (recommended by @heidi_wba) – Another over-used phrase said by commentators, pundits and fans alike when a highly rated player, usually from a foreign country, signs for a new team in the Premier League and is used as a criticism for when they don’t score/play well at Stoke

StokeStoke at night-time, Swans won there once on a Tuesday night in 2001. We still got relegated

A point’s a point (recommended by @Paul_Stanley77) – This is true of course, but only generally said after a team has thrown away a 2+ goal lead in a game that your team looked certainties to win. Also used if your team has played badly and managed to scrape a point and a way of forgetting an abject performance.

Second season syndrome – A personal favourite and for other Swansea fans (I’m guessing Norwich too). This comment is usually said by ignorant journalists and pundits to put down a team who did fantastically the previous season. Fortunately it is only a myth (despite what Mark Lawrenson says on the Swans season review).

But he plays International football – When fans debate a player’s ability (usually average), the word ‘International’ gets emphasised to try and make the player sound better than he actually is, just to try and make your debate sound better. Below is a list of some footballers who have played/play International football.

Jay Bothroyd – One substitute appearance for England

David Nugent – One cap and one goal for England (from a yard against Andorra, but remember there are no easy games in International football……..)

Steve Morison – 22 appearances for Wales. But he did score once (somehow)

Itay Shechter – 18 appearances for the mighty Israel, rate him at your peril

Rory Fallon –New Zealand ‘striker’ and played at the 2010 World Cup

There are many more, but I think you get my point!

FallonInternational footballer Rory Fallon celebrates a goal for his country

We had a bad day/off day (recommended by @swansforever) – Usually said by opposition managers when their team has been beaten by the Swans. Sven Goran Erikson, Harry Redknapp and even, most surprisingly, Tony (my baseball hat is stuck to my head) Pulis have bucked this trend and did actually praise us after their side didn’t win.

‘As long as we finish above them I’ll be happy’ – Said by fans at the start of the season as they want to finish above their rivals. Though should both teams finish in the relegation zone I can’t see anyone being happy with that.

He isn’t that good anyway – Usually said by fans when a star player leaves their club or after a team miss out on signing a certain player. Weeks previous, none of these criticisms were ever heard.

He only scores penalties – Another phrase usually used to criticise a certain player to fit an argument.

Recently added:

We need a ‘no-nonsense’ defender (recommended by @petersaint76) Generally said by fans who want their team to concede less goals. How many ‘nonsense’ defenders do you know? (Apart from James Collins and Titus Bramble)