If somebody had made us an offer at the start of the season to finish 12th in the Premier League, reach the last 32 of the Europa, bag 74 million quid in TV revenue, beat Cardiff 3-0 and also celebrate their relegation, we would have said “Yes please”. In a nutshell, that is what the 2013-14 campaign served up, however as ever, beneath the headlines it was a bit more dramatic than that, though what diehard Jack would have expected anything less?
The season started earlier than usual with a third round qualifier in the Europa League against Swedish giants Malmo at the Liberty on 1st August. For those with a good memory, the score was 4-0 to the Swans with goals from Big Wilfried Bony (2), Michu and Pozeulu. Further success in the next round against FC Petrolul Ploiesti, saw us progress to the group stages, culminating of course in a momentous night in Spain when 1800 Jacks saw their team batter Valencia, with a large section of the home fans walking out of the ground in the second half. I didn’t make the trip myself due to work commitments, but those that did, especially the ones staying in Benidorm are still talking about it.
Our Premier League season did not start as well as we lost our opening two games 4-1 and 1-0 to Manchester United and Spurs respectively. Fortunately, two away wins against West Brom and Palace and a draw against Liverpool at home meant that by late September we were in mid table. The game against the Scousers of course stands out, as it was most definitely the Jonjo Shelvey show as he scored one, made one, gave a couple away and got booked.
However, in truth as the season progressed, the extra pressure of playing twice a week took its toll. We seemed to lack sharpness and fluency in a number of games and also lost key players to injury, namely Michu, Hernandez and Dyer. Furthermore, as the games totted up, so did maverick central defender Chico Flores’ kamikaze moments as he seemed to give a goal away every other game, get booked or sent off. Our form in December and January was particularly miserable. We slumped to 15th in the Premier League and despite a bright start to the group stage of the Europa, we just about stuttered through to the last 32.
It all came to a head following a defeat to Sam Allardyce’s Happy Hammers (Hoofers more like) on the 1st February. We were so bad that day that despite Chico managing to get Andy Carroll sent off with a theatrical performance that would have done any West End auditorium proud, we still lost 2-0 and barely managed a shot. The result didn’t stop Manager Laudrup shooting off to Paris after the game and giving the players the Monday off though.
It was all too much for Huw “the terminator” Jenkins and Leigh “did you spill my pint” Dineen and by the Tuesday, the Dane was gone and the Monk aka Ginger Mourinho was in charge! Swansea legends Alan Curtis and Kris O’Leary also took on extra responsibilities as Laudrup’s backroom team left the club. Chairman Jenkins referred to our principles being eroded and the need to get back to basics as to the outsider it looked like Laudrup was losing interest and was missing the Spanish sunshine.
In fairness to Monk, he took on a tough task. Still to finish his coaching badges and despite a few scary moments towards the end of the season, he steered us to a very respectable 12th place in the league. I know there have been a few doubters in the press and on the internet forums, but he is Swansea through and through and works like a dog. He’ll do for me!
So what were the highlights in 2013-14? In no particular order, my top ten were:
- Finishing a credible 12th in the League and reaching the last 32 of the Europa.
- Beating Cardiff 3-0 in Monk’s first game as interim Swansea Manager.
- Beating Valencia 3-0 at the Mestalla
- Drawing 0-0 at home to Napoli and experiencing a nutty trip to Italy for the second leg. As my mate said, it was like going to Millwall again.
- Seeing Cardiff get relegated after just one season in the top flight, with a goal difference of minus 42 and listening to the Liberty faithful singing “We’re laughing at you” in response to
- Redbird’s Captain Mark Hudson and their fans’ taunts of “We’re coming for you” when they were promoted.
- Jonjo Shelvey’s wonder goal from the half way line against Aston Villa.
- Wilfried Bony’s 25 goals in his first season at the Liberty. Not only that, but the guy seems to be a true gentleman on and off the pitch.
- A last gasp “own goal” equaliser against Arsenal away from home at the Emirates in March when we needed a result. The tube was lovely and quiet afterwards!
- Chico’s George Michael (in his Wham days) new haircut.
- The chips, rissole and curry sauce in Rossis. OK, I was struggling bit for a number 10, but if anyone from Rossis is reading this, offers of sponsorship are more than welcome!
I think it is important to say thank you to Michael Laudrup for his time at our club. Things came to a head this term, but we should not forget that he took over at a tricky time last season when Brendan Rogers left for Liverpool. He steered us to a 9th place Premier League finish, a historic win at Wembley in the Capital One Cup and the last 32 in Europe.
So what happens next? Monk has already cleared a few out, with Lita, Ngog, Lamah and Alvaro all gone, together with a few of the youngsters like Situ. It looks like more will follow with Taylor, Canas and Pozeulu being some of the likely candidates. The Poz has not played since February and there is clearly an issue there. The boy has ability, but he lacks discipline on the pitch and is rarely in the position he is asked to play in. The loss of Taylor would be a blow as Ben Davies is still learning his trade and is has bags of quality.
No doubt the press will try to unsettle us again during pre-season. Last year, they spent the whole Summer proclaiming that Huw Jenkins and Laudrup had fallen out and he was on his way. This time, they are sure to focus on numerous clubs wanting to sign star striker Wilfried Bony. Even Everton are being linked with him and there is no way they have the sort of money it would take to sign.
We need a few strikers ourselves, especially given that Michu’s future still appears uncertain and Rory Donnelly has failed to break through. I’ve heard on the grapevine that a few of our targets (not just strikers) are well progressed and should be tied up by mid June if all goes well – can’t say anymore I’m afraid! More young hungry players like Fulton by the sound of it.
Here’s to a good Summer and a chance to calm down a bit before another season of madness next year. Jackarmy!
This article was written by the Big Match Pundit