At the end of our first PL Season, now that we can draw breath, it seems like a fine time to have a look backward, and to try to put some perspective on what’s been, by any measurement, a fantastic ride.
The fabulous feeling from the first half was something we both experienced and took in, and had almost started to confirm our belief that we could not only survive, but thrive a little.
As we turned to a second half that if replicated, or at least came close to that start, would leave us still rampantly incumbent in this hardest of Divisions, we started to not only continue the enjoyment, but leave a mark too.
Hey, this is after all the Barclays Premier League, and it is generally considered to be the hardest League in World Football, particularly for competitiveness. Coincidentally, if you doubt that competitiveness, UEFA has today published it’s Co-Efficients for all nations, and it confirms that the Premier League is still on top – just – with Spain’s La Liga marginally just behind over the 5 year cycle period. Full rankings here.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to remind yourself of that first half tale of the Season with regard to us you can get it right here.
So this article will concern itself with the second period, and just like all good plays and films, music pieces, anything that raises the human spirit really, this turned out to complete the compelling narrative, coming to a fitting climax with the last day defeat of another of the Division’s iconic Clubs in Liverpool FC – a game, moreover, where a defeat to Swansea cost yet another Manager his job.
We do have a habit of doing that, and whilst I don’t want to seem to be glorying in someone else’s misfortune, long may that be the case.
There was no doubt that this second half would be harder, but what we’d seen thus far more than compensated for any out and out fears – it was the case that the way we were playing meant that we were genuinely one of the better teams in the Division, and the key now was to make our results reflect the ever growing recognition of our talent and performances.
Could we do this? We’d get to see, for sure.
The win at Aston Villa had almost broken a lazy journalistic hoodoo that we were not good enough to win Away from the Liberty, whilst the performance merely confirmed for us Swans that we were really in decent form – certainly capable enough to win at a Club that was stumbling and grumbling its way through the season under the much derided Big ‘Eck, and they came a great deal closer of slipping through the trapdoor than we.
Coming off that hugely energizing first win Away from Home at Aston Villa, the Swans were drawn Away to Barnsley in January’s first exploitation of the FA Cup, the 3rd Round, and returned the victors of a 4-2 game which saw BR flix and fritillate his first choice XI, the better to rest some stalwarts we thought.
Who remembers now that whilst Danny Graham scored a screamer, one of the opposition scoresters was Ricardo Vaz Te, who’s just been involved in the Play Off Final v Blackpool for WHU. He was to score there too, and thus we get to face the Hammers next year, along with our old friends from Reading, and Southampton’s youngsters as well.
That success at Barnsley led us into a string of important PL games, and January proved to be an influential month.
Just a week after seeing off Barnsley, we faced Arsenal at the Liberty, and I think it’s fair to say that this was our key performance and result from all of our PL games thus far.
Had we lost, we would have slipped into the clutches of the bottom few who were concerned mainly with their performances against each other. As it happened, our 3-2 win sent us toward looking upward, and it was a justifiable day of pride.
From seeing the PL’s golden boot, Robin van Persie, show Football how to “thieve” a goal, the response from the team when it went to a 2-2 level after Walcott’s goal was similarly stunning. From a move on the right, Danny Graham slotted a 3-2 winner, and the Liberty rocked again. It just seemed louder than ever before.
This was genuinely a keystone moment and result. It was the first time we had beaten one of the “big beasts” of this Division. We’d also done it by outplaying Arsenal – the finest exponent of pass and move football in the English game for about the last 10yrs.
I can’t imagine the psychological effect on the collective morale of our team – but I guess it might have been spectacular.
The pride and delight amongst us fans wasn’t half bad either.
Nationally, amongst pundits generally, we’d slipped from being “certainties to be relegated” to “well, maybe they might hang on”, although people were by now talking about our style – not before time I may add.
It was as if, as BR has said, some journalists had hardly got the names of our squad right, and were equally clueless about the way we played.
MoTD (not MoTD2), I’m looking at you, Shearer and Hansen particularly. I remember feeling as smug as a bug in a rug to read yet another Newspaper report about Swansea City’s flowing football.
Still, as we all know, ups and downs, that’s what being a Swansea fan is about, because then we followed it by going on to 2 disappointing results.
We went on a visit to the North East’s Estadio de Luiz, and, on a horribly windy day next to the North Sea, Sunderland scored two wonder goals to see us off.
There were large chunks of the game where we were the better side, but any team managed by Martin O’Neil was always going to be street-savvy. They were, and won.
Meanwhile next up at ultimately relegated Bolton in the FA Cup, both teams just seemed to go through the motions – and we simply weren’t at the game, and slipped out on the back of a 2-1 defeat.
To make things worse, Bolton’s Darren Pratley, the ex-Swan, was a scorer against us, although he had the good grace not to celebrate too much, thereby rubbing it in our faces.
Whatever, really, it was one of the few occasions where we’ve come off second best by a street. There was a need to pick ourselves up – and some.
The dual losses had been disappointing, but more than that, what was more worrying had been the performances-lite, where we’d struggled to even get into the game, so Chelsea, next up at Home, was a big one.
We faced them, unusually, on a floodlit Tuesday Night, and the game turned out to be another fizz-bang cracker.
The Liberty rocked to a decent performance from us – btw, is it just me that gets severely enthused by a wintry floodlit cut and thrust encounter that makes football (unbelievably) more exciting again?
As it turned out, the performance more than matched the result – a 1-1 draw where Scott Sinclair’s blistering goal against his former club was only matched by a late late equalising own goal from Neil Taylor’s shuffle to a Bosingwa cross that got Chelsea out of jail.
There were long patches again where we Swans were the dominant side, and yet another “top 4 giant” found out that coming to the Lib is never ever easy. However, Chelsea do fight to the death – just ask Bayern Munich amongst others.
In a contest where we Swans performed to our best, Chelsea were forever playing catch up, and where the late goal got them a draw, the positives for us were incumbent in the performance – this was another occasion where we were the better team.
It was a game we deserved to win, but it at least got our spirits up, and I specifically remember coming away from the game almost bursting with pride, and listening to Stan Collymore on talkSport take several calls from passionate Swans and dejected Chelsea-ites that confirmed the tale. Lovely.
We immediately followed that up with a trip to our nearest PL neighbours, WBA at the Hawthorns, and, on a snowbound swirling wintry day saw further confirmation of Gylfi Sigurdsson’s enduring class and importance.
In a wonderfully controlled performance, City dominated Away again, and Siggi’s goal and assist in the snow will live long in my memory, and did much to mitigate a dizzying journey home in the Wintry conditions.
Swansea’s delightful football drew applause again from an Away crowd, and now the Media generally were giving us the praise we deserved.
I’m told the Tabloids are not quite so fickle abroad – only in Britain, eh? Whatever.
On the back of this terrific performance, the next two games, results wise, again swung into the disappointing category, but as I’ve quoted of the great Lord Ferg before “Football, eh, bloody hell”.
Facing our fellow promotees Norwich City, at the Liberty, was it ever such a frustrating game!
Despite taking a deserved lead from a Danny Graham goal, Paul Lambert’s tactically restructured Norwich roared back to take a 3-1 lead, only for Graham to pull another back, and at the end of the game you’d say we were a little unlucky to not equalise and claim a share of the spoils. Worst of all, we had to suffer the awful Grant Holt’s triumphant Tweets on Twitter (he had played well). I bit my tongue, and poured myself another large scotch.
Even worse, we went to the Northern off-shoot of Harlequins RFC ( Stoke City) the following weekend and saw Michel Vorm’s omission due to a virus throw Gerhard Tremmel into goal at short notice.
Stoke did what Stoke do. Hoof, charge, throw, charge, kick, snarl, narrow the pitch, hoof again. Yes, I know I’m exaggerating, but not by much.
The most enlightening and accurate comments came from their own fans – I talked to lots – and they almost all said they’d like their team to play like us. One even said he’d take relegation from the Prem to get Pulis’s style out the door! Wow.
Both goals, btw, would have been saved by Vorm. Sorry Gerhard, but it’s probably true.
It was at this game that I met several more travelling fellow JackArmy members that I’d only corresponded with previously. Kudos @epaul and lots of others – you know who you are – Tom, Gareth, Hayley and others, too. Respect.
The following week saw us go to Wigan, to meet the brown shoe’d one, and beating his Cloob saw me for the first real time convinced that we’d now stay in this Division.
In a game that saw Nathan Dyer absurdly sent off primarily for a spectacular fall from the eternally cute Jordi Gomez (as we know), the Swans dominated the game, and Gylfi Sigurdsson’s double elicited the classic “Is this a Fire Drill?” chant from the stupendous JackArmy as the Home Crowd (sic) streamed for the exits well before the finish. The game left us on 33pts, 11pts clear of the bottom 3 with just 11 games to play. Now, we can do it, I thought.
The psychological boost must have been huge, because the next 2 games saw us turn in, for me, our season defining performances and results.
The ultimate Champions, Citeh, came to visit the Liberty, and the place is still rocking, I reckon, from an historic and fabulous day.
It was a privilege to see our team take on a side that contained the wonderful Sergio Aguerro, who sent the commentators everywhere into ecstasy last week in scoring the goal that made for a fantastic title, and the sublime David Silva, arguably the Prem’s most talented player. Couple this with their top class Manager, and the talent at their disposal, and you have an occasion I’ll never forget, for all the right reasons.
In a blistering performance, Swansea stood toe to toe with these Superstars, and came out on top. There are two key moments I can still see in my internal video memory.
The first is when Routledge’s cross eluded all but Luke Moore, and as his header hit the net I swear the Liberty measured on the Richter scale. We went doo-lally.
The other was when the divine Sian Massey stood proud and raised her flag, rightly, to rule out Micah Richards header and sent Man City fans to give us one of the season’s enduring images – the Man City cryer.
God bless Sian Massey, the best Lines Person in the Prem.
The following weekend, both my sons and I made our way to Craven Cottage, to see a Swans performance that’s the best I’ve ever seen.
In a match of total and utter dominance, the Swans played their opponents off the park, with another 2 Sigurdsson goals and the applause of the Fulham fans ringing in their ears. A truly divine, sublime performance. I was there, and I also have the game recorded. I will never, ever, erase it. It remains, without a doubt, my favourite ever football match, and it involved us, too.
It had been preceded the night before by the Swans Trust holding a receptive evening for all London Jacks and others at the London Welsh Club, an excellent evening attended by our Chairman, our Manager, and Wales Manager Chris Coleman in a very interesting Q&A and social session. Lovely.
But, as we know as long suffering Jacks- the ridiculous often follows the sublime, as we went on to record our only truly poor spell in a fantastic and rewarding year.
The first of this period, Everton at the Lib, was understandable, coming as it did against a truly permanent member of the PL, and a Manager in David Moyes who has few equals in motivational and tactical prowess. He has been performing miracles at the perennially cash-strapped Everton for 10yrs, and his side “did a number” on us, negating our fluent game, and nicking a 1-0 that they’re often good for Away from Home.
Don’t forget, they did much the same to screw up Man Utd’s season in the 4-4 draw at Old Trafford that ultimately cost SAF’s men the title.
Further frustrations were to come against Tottenham and Newcastle.
Away at the Lane, we were missing, of course, our Tottenham loanee Steven Caulker, who had been so important to us. I maintain that Emanuel Adebayor, who got 2 that day in our 3-1 defeat, would not have had such a profitable time if young SC had been giving him a hard time. Whatever, over all we couldn’t argue about the injustice of defeat, we were bettered by a truly decent side. Take your medicine, and move on.
This was also the game when I passed on my ticket to a fellow fan who was subsequently refused admission because he wasn’t me. Shame on that officious jobsworth of a Steward at THFC and apologies to my good friend RG. It will not ever happen again.
Newcastle at the Liberty were a different animal. You’ll remember that Away we’d ground out a 0-0 draw, and this game could have gone the same way were it not for Papis Demba Cisse. Signed in the January window, he has scored worldy after worldy, as Merse would say, and here he got another couple.
The first felt like theft, of the Van Persie or Hernandez order, the second would have a claim for goal of the season had he not scored at least another 3 better in the latter stages of the season. Both were really breathtaking, so to slump to a 2-0 besting was miserable, but explainable.
What wasn’t was the next game – Away to those West London arrivistes, QPR, with the ever gracious Joey Barton, he of the caustic gob, and all. Despite an early Scott Sinclair chance that might have perked us up, to go down 3-0, as we ultimately did, was mortifying.
In our previous 3 game defeated run (our worst of the season), at least we’d been in the game. At this one, we were not. I was miserable, moribund, defeatist – call it what you will, as we travelled back to South Wales with our tails between our legs from a whupping. Ouch.
We simply had to bounce back, surely ? Thank Brendan, we did.
I recognise now that I’d slipped into that complacent compartment almost guaranteed to claim one when taking teams for granted in this League. Because we’d been doing reasonably well, I’d assumed it would continue. The 4 game losing streak put me out of that.
Thankfully, the team mirrored my mantra – enough, was indeed enough.
We had 4 games to go, and sat in 14th place on 39pts – surely enough to keep us up ? Especially as we were still 10pts clear of the bottom 3. However, we were not mathematically safe, and as many will know, I’m a believer in the concept of karma, so you’ll understand my reluctance to take things for granted.
Fortunately, next up were the doomed Blackburn at the Liberty, and, as we’d seen in the Steve KEAN-OUT snarling of their fans at Ewood Park, they were not happy pixies. The game reflected this, and the Swans 3-0 success both got them back on track, and helped grind the other strugglers down.
The performance was decent too, and if BR had given the players the hair-dryer, it had worked. We were genuinely good to watch, again, and feasted on a festival of football fun.
From that comfortable cruise against a North West relegatee, we went to what turned out to be another team who ultimately slipped the leash, and yet again a comfortable and superior performance in the 1-1 draw away at Bolton Wdrs Reebok Stadium.
As unlike our earlier FA Cup defeat to the Trotters as could be possible, this was complete game control, to be fair, and a performance that really could have brought us a win but for some bad luck and obdurate Bolton defending.
At home to Wolves, we got one of the most bizarre games of this ever surprising season, when BR’s decision to experiment with a 3-4-3 led not only to a wildly open and fluctuating game, but the point that made us mathematically safe, despite whatever happened elsewhere or to us in the 2 remaining games, which just happened to be against Man Utd and Liverpool.
The Wolves fixture was a wild card – a game where we went 3-0 up and could have made it 4-0, only to see Wolves pull a goal back, then for us to go 4-1 ahead against them. When they came back to 4-2 we had two great Sigurdsson efforts to make it 5-2, only to see Dorus de Vries, our ex- keeper, pull off 2 fantastic saves, and Wolves storm back to 4-4. An out and out thriller, a roller coaster ride.
It felt almost half hearted to be going to Old Trafford on the back of that, for an ultimate 2-0 defeat, but at least we made ourselves felt in the second half, and performed proudly. I paid my first visit to Old Trafford for 26 yrs and I like to think it won’t be my last either. It would be nice to think I’ve got a few more visits there yet to come. I think I have.
Which left us, of course, with that tremendous day at home to Liverpool, and another victory against a giant club, 1-0, with all the trimmings of the Elvis Mania, the dismissal of King Kenny, and a finish on a creditable 47pts in 11th position.
The last game of this fabulous season saw the team yet again perform admirably, as they’ve done throughout the year, and as is reflected in the table you see below. I took many photos on this excellent day, and if you want a feel of the atmosphere, you might get a hint of the flavour of the day here.
Here’s the Premier League final table, in full.
When you look at the breakdown of our record, it’s as follows.
At Home we went 8-7-4 with 27 for and 18 against. Away was less successful with a 4-4-11 and 17 v 33 goals. However you look at it, for our first season in this vicious Division, that’s a pretty good effort. Those are the simple stats – so how did it feel?
Well the first thing to say is that it felt pretty damn good. I’ve been a Swansea City fan for many years, as have many, and I can honestly say that this is for me our best season yet. We have a proud past, that’s fast being matched by an equally proud present.
I’ll inject here the moment that I’m writing this – I’ve just watched Chelsea claim the Champions League trophy against Bayern in their own stadium, and I imagine they feel much as I do about our fantastic performance in our first season. Genuine joy, pride, pleasure and a feeling that was one of the highlights of my watching football life. So, so, rewarding. Hey, and there’s more to come.
I remember, pre-season, agreeing with Jimmy, my Liberty companion, that if we finished in 17th place after a dog fight to stay away from the dreaded drop zone, that would represent a somewhat satisfactory season. How wrong I was.
As it turned out, we played the best football I’ve ever seen from a Swansea City side, and yes, I was around in the 80’s too. From the sublime to the ridiculous- who now remembers the last day of 1985, when we were here. Shudder.
What was better this year was the way that our team ethic became not only personally satisfactory, but was strong enough to lay influence on our League performance, not only winning fans over and becoming for many their “secondary team” but proving in performance that we were good enough to both survive and thrive. We did both.
As I write this approbation, our manager, the excellent Brendan Rodgers, is flavour of the month, with a link to both the Aston Villa and Liverpool vacancies, but has indicated that he’s not minded to be a part of some sort of Managers Parade to get the Pool vacancy. Well done him.
He will, undoubtedly, leave us one day, and he’ll go with my best wishes, as that move is likely to be to a club of both Villa and Pool’s stature, but, that will be ’cause he’s wanted, not just available. There’s a marked difference.
Whatever, he’s given us a wonderful season, along with our high achieving team.
I’ve found the most pleasant memories to be seeing us play at a level that I’d been doubtful we Swans were capable of. Say what you like about the Premier League, what I’ve understood immediately was the quality involved. We are witnessing competition in the most exciting competition in World Football in my eyes. It makes a Season Ticket a must-have, and hopefully Club developments will mean that it’s available to many more (young, perhaps) Swans fans of the future. Bloody hell, they’ll enjoy.
Here’s 5 favourite moments from the season, some mentioned already :
1) That Lita goal at Ewood Park at the end of a fantastic period of possession
2) Siggi’s goal at Fulham, again from an epic move
3) And again the Iceman, in the snow at West Brom
4) RVP, conjuring, stealing even, a goal from nothing at the Lib
5) Giggs intercepting, 35yds out- 10 secs later Hernandez had “stolen” a goal too.
There are hundreds more memories, All of them searing brightly in my mind’s eye. I’m addicted – to love the Swans.
The technical and tactical ability extant in almost every team is truly stunning. Football League Good : Premier League Better.
I wish all of our people the best wishes – and that’s each and every one – Staff, Management, Team and all involved, JackArmy included, my thank you for a super season.
I happen to think next year can be equally as good, maybe better.
For myself, I’ve really enjoyed blogging on behalf of, and in reflection of our team – and I’m minded to do it all again next year, since it promises to be so attractive.
Have a great Summer, and let’s look forward to saying, once more,
ONWARD, AND UPWARD, SWANSEA CITY.