With the Swans about to start their competitive season in the next few days Paul Ashley-Jones takes a look at everything that has happened since the final whistle blew on last season.
Is there such a thing as a close season these days? I know that fixtures stop and players go on holiday but football still seems to dominate all press coverage despite the best efforts of the Lions; Ashes and Andy Murray. I remember the days as a Swans fan when you would hear virtually nothing from the end of the season when the retained list was announced until the League Cup draw was made, closely followed by the publication of the League fixtures themselves.
News of potential new signings only broke when the Evening Post published photos of the players back in pre-season training. Photos which would inevitably include one or two trialists pounding up and down the beaches of Swansea with the rest of their potential new teammates.
Not these days however, with global 24 hour football coverage, a Premier League place, and of course the internet all combining to ensure that we were never far from a breaking Swansea City story – real or imagined. For me it can all be summed up under the three headlines below:
THE AGENT; THE MANAGER AND THE CHAIRMAN
If there was one story that dominated our local newspaper headlines in the early weeks it was Swansea’s seeming inability to sign the players Michael Laudrup wanted and the deterioration in the relationship between his agent, Bayram Tutumlu and the Club. It got so bad that there seemed real fears that Laudrup would leave and we would be left having to replace another manager.
I’m not going to rake it all up again but it was all very unpleasant and the aftertaste is still there. Tutumlu may have been put in his place and Laudrup has honoured his pledge to stay but you do wonder how it got to that stage in the first place. Tutumlu is what he is and good riddance to him. I’m slightly disappointed in Laudrup if I’m honest – despite his attempts to steer clear of the argument and I suspect this will be his final season at the Club. I hope I’m wrong however and at least he can’t say that he hasn’t been backed by the board regarding player recruitment this summer.
OFF THE FIELD
We have a new shirt sponsor and there’s a rumour that we might even have some shirts to sell and a Club Shop to open in the near future. I don’t think the shirts are the Club’s fault however as it looks like Adidas cocked up big time on this and I’m sure the expanded Club Shop will be very welcome on a match day when people were almost queuing out of the door to give us their money. We’ve come a very long way from the days of Myra and Marlene at the Vetch.
I don’t want to be negative given there is so much to be positive about but I have to lay my cards on the table here. I am really, really, frustrated that we are entering our third season in the Premier League and there has not been any stadium expansion or even any definite dates for that expansion to take place. I’m fully aware of the planning permission and cost issues but I would have hoped that we would have increased capacity to at least 25,000 by now. We could and would fill it and I feel it is a lost opportunity to convert more fans for the future and get more kids involved.
An additional 1,000 seats in the West Stand would have been something but even that was subsequently abandoned leaving a lot of new season ticket applicants frustrated. I have two already (although I applied for one more and realise I’m in a far better position than others. I don’t want this to seem like I’m criticising the club as I have nothing but admiration for the people who run it. I’m just frustrated that’s all and I hope we won’t be in the same position next summer.
THE PLAYERS – OLD AND NEW
Our retained list seemed to read very simply “everyone but Gower” which seemed a little harsh on Mark but we all wished him well and he has since signed permanently for Charlton. We also said goodbye to Itay Schechter which frankly wasn’t a difficult parting.
And then we went a little bit mad! By my reckoning the Club has signed 10 players in the last few weeks. Okay I think it’s fair to say that we can discount a couple of them who have clearly been brought in to bolster our Under 21 team but by my count we have signed 7 or 8 players who will be pushing for a place in the match day squad. With one more striker due to be signed surely players will now have to leave.
Three have already gone on loan and another five seem to have been identified in Augustien; Lita; Moore, Obeng and of course Alan Tate, all of whom weren’t taken on the Holland tour. Tate has two years left on his current deal and will have a testimonial at some stage but I hope that he will resist the temptation to sit tight. Not because he doesn’t deserve to after all his service to the Swans but because he is a good player and someone who can comfortably play at Championship level. You’re a long time retired Alan, get another Club if only on loan. I’m sure you will be back at the club in some capacity again in the future. Obeng apart, who I don’t think has ever played for the first team, the others all flattered to deceive and I’m happy that they have been replaced by better players and there is no doubt that the overall strength of the squad has improved dramatically.
I still can’t get my head round a £12M player at Swansea. I was blown away when we paid what we did for Ki and Hernandez last season but I’m struggling with this to be honest. I heard Leighton James on the BBC saying we were now “living with the big boys”. That’s one way to describe it I suppose although I thought we were doing pretty well previously. It doesn’t feel right though – it’s not the Swansea way of doing things. I hope we haven’t got carried away due to a combination of extra TV money; wanting to placate Laudrup and sticking two fingers up to his agent at the same time. Time will tell of course and I hope the fans give Bony time to settle. There are great expectations weighing on those broad shoulders.
There is no doubt we have the strongest squad we have ever had and will go into the new season more confident thean ever before. However my gut feeling is that we will see one high profile departure before the end of the transfer window. We have a habit of selling one of our “stars” in the majority of seasons – think Trundle to Bristol City; Scotland to Wigan and of course Joe Allen to Liverpool. If the right offer comes from the right club (right for the player that is) then I think we might bite and either Ash or Michu could be on their way. The deal may already be close to completion which would explain why we have felt so relaxed in spending on players so far. I hope not but time will tell.
So here we have it and we’re ready for another nine months of drama. I’m knackered already just watching from the sidelines. God knows how Huw Jenkins is feeling!