Ian Davies is known to everyone as Ianto and has supported the Swans since 1978 the age of 13. For five long years he lived behind enemy lines in Roath Park, Cardiff.
He works for a global marketing agency and is married to the long-suffering current Mrs Davies (Karen). They have two young sons, James and Daniel.
Dreamland. There really is no other single word to describe how we all still feel at the moment. In the 31 years I’ve been watching the Swans there have been those memorable matches and fantastic memories; Preston ’81, Leeds ’81 and Hull ’05 are the obvious stand-out games but we will still be talking about the events of Monday May 30th 2011 when we are in our 90s and are sat out on the verandah reminiscing with the grandchildren as Rick Astley is belting out Never Gonna Give You Up in the background.
To go 3-0 up in a £90 million match was absolutely beyond belief but when Reading scored their second I genuinely feared the worst. Thank heavens for the left-hand post and Garry Monk’s body because if they had equalised God knows what would have happened next. The game itself was no classic in terms of the quality of football on show and unfortunately didn’t reflect our season but for high drama it was absolutely superb. Scott Sinclair is second only to Bjorn Borg in the iceman stakes but what about the strike from Stephen Dobbie? What a finish. Who would have thought the events of the semi-final against Forest would be eclipsed by the final itself? Incredible.
So, are we equipped for Premier League football? Well, we obviously need to further strengthen in key areas but I believe we are stronger as a squad than Blackpool were a year ago. When you look at some of the recent ridiculous transfer fees the capture of Danny Graham for just £3.5m is an absolute steal in my opinion and I think he’ll continue to score goals in the Premier League. Steven Caulker looks another great acquisition (if only for a season) and it’ll be interesting to see what happens at the end of his loan period. I’m not sure about the Portuguese ‘keeper, Moreira, especially as he hasn’t been granted the No. 1 shirt vacated by the sneaky, money-grabbing Dorus de Fleece, though, at the time of writing, it appears we may be recruiting either Lee Camp or some dodgy Brazilian shot-stopper.
It also appears that we are still looking to recruit the Middlesbrough pair of Leroy Lita and Marvin Emnes and (again, at the time of writing) it appears a £1.75m deal for Lita has been struck. I think the jury is very much out with Leroy. He plundered plenty of goals early on in his career and made a couple of big-money moves but seems to have been treading water at Boro. Let’s hope that Brendan can help him recapture his previous form. As for Marvellous Marvin, he showed glimpses of class during his loan spell last season crowned by that goal at Legoland. For me, he’s a more important target than Lita as he can play anywhere along the front line – either as a lone ranger, in the hole or out wide.
Despite the apparent wealth of options in the middle of the park I still believe there is a requirement to replace Darren Pratley. Even though Prats wasn’t starting games towards the end of the season he was unique at the club as the only genuine box-to-box midfielder and his inevitable departure leaves a hole. As for his acrimonious exit itself, you can choose to believe his side of the story or Huw Jenkins’ but the whole episode underlines the necessity to tie down our better players before they enter the final shaky, vulnerable year of a contract. It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of reception Prats will receive from the Swans fans next season.
The Neil Taylor saga gripped us all at the start of the summer and it was great to eventually see him pen a new contract at the club amid interest from Newcastle, who had apparently tabled a £1m bid. Yes, Neil may well have asked for permission to speak to the Toon but do you blame the lad for having his head turned with the opportunity of playing in front of 55,000 every week and doubling his wages at least? He obviously listened to Brendan’s advice on his return from holiday which also sent out an important signal to his team-mates and to the Swans’ transfer targets.
I’ve always believed that, even though a footballer’s career is a short one, the balance between a decent wage and actually playing week-in, week-out is key. For example, a wage of £14,000 per week on a four-year contract is worth almost £3m. Anyone who desires more than that when not guaranteed a place in the starting XI at the buying club is, in my opinion, just greedy. Dorus de Fleece is a perfect example. For him to claim he didn’t leave for money is ludicrous. He will, in all probability, be third-choice at the Wolfs and must surely realise what a fool he has been to swap beautiful Swansea Bay for the dark and gloomy Black Country. As good as a shot-stopper he was and even taking into account his ball-playing ability, he was like Dracula on crosses. As a great example check out the footage of Shane Long’s glorious chance during the latter stages of the first half at Wembley – de Fleece was like a lamb thinking about crossing the Heart of Wales line at Craven Arms. He was immediately berated by a yelling Garry Monk and rightly so. Imagine our former Dutch hero under a predictable aerial bombardment at Stoke? I’m shuddering just thinking about it. Blessing in disguise.
When the fixtures for the new Premier League season were announced there were a few collective groans after we pulled Manchester City away in our opening game followed closely by trips to Chelsea and Arsenal then found ourselves facing both Liverpool and Manchester United right at the end of the campaign. I personally believe playing Man City early doors is positive for two reasons; firstly, they will expect an easy three points even though they don’t really know what to expect so we’re on a hiding to nothing against the richest club in the world and secondly, they are a squad of over-expensive individuals, some of which won’t have played a competitive match together whereas, under Brendan, we are a tightly-knit unit which knows how to play as a team. Don’t rule out a shock result. As for the fixtures at Chelsea and Arsenal, they may well be damage limitation exercises but let’s just see what happens. Give me Danny Graham ahead of Torres any day and looking at what;’s happening in north London we may well be lining up against Arsenal stiffs. I believe a Premier League club’s destiny is determined between October & March and I think we have a genuine chance of staying up.
It’s been often stated recently that you see more and more Swans shirts around the city as less youngsters wear the colours of Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal and Chelsea which is, of course, great to see. This brings me to the interesting debate of mistress v wife – the Swans or your “other” team. Now, I have actually followed Arsenal since 1971 when my first real hero Charlie George scored the winner in the FA Cup Final and lay on his back on the Wembley turf. Unlike many fans of Man United, etc. I have been to both Highbury and the Emirates on several occasions, watched two FA Cup finals and travelled to two European finals (in Copenhagen & Paris, respectively). Despite all this, in 1981 when the Swans finally squared up against the Gooners my heart belonged to my home town even though it was strange celebrating our goals (we did the double over Arsenal that season). However, not everyone thinks like this. I know of family and friends in Swansea who still place Liverpool or Chelsea above the Swans. While we may find this strange I recall something said to me recently by a Liverpool fan in the Plough & Harrow in Brynhyfryd: “Of course I follow the Swans but when I was young they were crap. My dad told me to pick a team and I chose Liverpool. Why would I chuck them into touch because the Swans are in the Premier League?”. Fair point and respect.
I still can’t believe we’re actually there. In my wildest dreams did I ever think or believe that day in Preston back in 1981 would not only be matched but eclipsed in my lifetime. In an era where money talks and the gulf between the elite & the rest is bigger than ever what club has achieved is the stuff of Hollywood movies.
Brendan Rodgers has shown how a brilliant manager can make a massive difference to a very good Championship team.
Whatever happens next season we should all make the very most of what could be a rare opportunity and just enjoy every second of it.