The Bellamy Gamble? By Jim White
I read with interest last week to see our neighbours Cardiff City signing Craig
Bellamy from Manchester City.
It made me think about business, football and the gamble that every organisation
takes to grow and move forward. Should you gamble to achieve (and if so how much)
or live within your means?
Cardiff have been trying for the last 6 years to get into Premiership to benefit
from the estimated£90m a year of revenue it offers and as a result have built up
a huge debt with a range of creditors including the Inland Revenue, local suppliers
and other football clubs . Depending on who you speak to their current debts range
from £25m to £35m and there is no doubt that their cost's outstrip their revenue
by some margin.
Although the club tries hard to grow its revenue's each year (through season ticket
sales and off the field income) that revenue can get eaten up very quickly when
you sign players on £45,000 a week (as they have just done with Bellamy)
It led me to think about the general gamble every business takes to grow their revenue
and for how long should you continue to gamble?
I know for a fact as the owner of a Web based software company that you need to
invest (gamble?) up front to build something in order to see revenue in the future.
We had to (and continue to) invest in our company and product to ensure we can provide
the best service possible but it also made me think 'when do you stop the investment/gamble'
and focus on ensuring your revenues match your cost base (or hopefully surpass it!!)
It is a difficult decision for any business to take and there will always be those
who gamble the house in the hope of the mansion but in the current economic climate,
how much gambling should be done?
As a business you should always be looking to take some form of risk. It’s one of
the joys of running something when you see something take off that you invested
in. There is also the old adage of 'speculate to accumulate' which is good advice
in this fast moving world when companies can move from nothing to massive multi
nationals in just a few years (Twitter and Facebook are 2 of the biggest examples
of this!) Very few successful businesses have been created without some form of
initial gamble or risk I would suggest.
However, the gamble also needs to have a bit of caution thrown in. What is the backup
plan if things don't turn out as expected? Will the gamble put at risk the whole
business and so put people out of jobs and customers without a supplier? In the
football world that means ‘could we put the whole future of this club at risk with
what were doing? What are the revenue scenarios with and without the gamble? Is
the gamble physically affordable within the coming 3, 6 and 12 months? By considering
these options, any business can look to take a reasoned view on the gamble and decide
whether it’s the right thing to do. Maybe there is the option to gamble for a limited
period of time in order to minimise the potential impact if things do go wrong?
Maybe part of me is a little miffed that our nearest rivals have just brought on
board a quality new player who will no doubt help them win more football games!
However, part of me also believes that the additional gamble they have taken (adding
an additional £3m a year to their cost base with no guarantee of extra income) is
nothing more than reckless and just shows an organisation that wants to play at
the high risk poker table.
In the end, the gamble could pay off for them and if it does then good on them.
It could come off if EVERYTHING else goes their way. However, football and business
is generally not like this. There are more often than not problems on the path which
need to be resolved and the question will be 'does the gamble take into account
these problems' (such as a player injury in this case)
If they don't and the extent of the gamble is so big that it cause's the whole club
to go under, will they then look back and say 'if only we have lived a little more
within our means'...
Everyone will have a different view and that's what makes some big winners and other
Let’s see what the signing of Craig Bellamy does for Cardiff City! My bet is massive
losers but there again I would say that!
The cost of promotion?
Richard of Warwick was flabbergasted when he read reports that one our opponents
next season, Newcastle, were paying over £70m in wages.
Others on the message board, like Jamie, have been complaining that we have not
spent enough to compete, and if we did, we would have won promotion.
I guess the fact that Newcastle have spent that much and not been successful kind
of sinks the boat Jamie wants to sail in, but how much really does it cost to establish
your self in the top League?
Premier League clubs spent over £1bn in wages last year! That’s 75 per cent more
than La Liga clubs spend, and double the German, French and Italian leagues.
The Bundesliga however is the most profitable, mainly down to the fact that their
wages-turnover ratio is about 45 per cent.
Most Premier League clubs are operating on a wage/turnover ration of 70 per cent,
which just sounds crazy to me, when 55 per cent is considered a safe level.
As a result of this, in 2006/7 only 8 clubs made a profit – that’s EIGHT!
And this is despite the fact that their revenues now exceed £75m for each club.
During the same period, the Championship sides shared a pot of £329m, that’s just
over £13m each.
Five of those eight were the big four, plus Spurs. The other three were relegated
– Reading, Sheffield United and Watford. Ominous!
So if we want to compete at the top table, what sort of wage budget do we need to
Man United is surprisingly not the biggest payer, £121m, despite having easily the
It’s Chelsea that have that honour, paying an estimated £150m - their bill was £133m
in 2006/7, but since then they have signed Lampard, Terry, Essien, Cech on fat,
When I say fat, I mean Lampard’s weekly wage would pay for 300 nurses for a week,
finance 340 factory workers on an average wage of 23 grand a year, or add an extra
500 soldiers to the battalions who risk their lives for us every day.
Not to be flippant, but Lampard hasn't played at Ninian Park this year, so hasn't
been in any danger on the field!
Arsenal’s outlay is £ 101.3m, added to a service debt for their stadium £ 20m. Their
turnover has grown to £ 223m though! Arsenal message boards are filled with stories
suggesting that while Fabregas is on £100k per week, the ‘kids’ like Jack Wiltshire,
who can’t get into the first team, are on £15k/week. And we wonder why the likes
of Jason Scotland, Dorus, and even Andy Robinson are tempted to look elsewhere.
Liverpool's are not far behind in wages, and the club that caused Richard such bewilderment,
Newcastle were the fifth best payers in 2006/7 and their wages have increased 16
per cent since then.
The average wage bill in the Premiership was £50m in 2006/7.
The next question is what size of squad will we need?
Liverpool is the biggest team with an incredible 62 players. Arsenal has 59, Manure
51and Chelski 46.
The average squad size is 40 though, though Bolton has the smallest in number –
27. Our squad currently numbers 31.
We are debt free, but what happens if we get promoted?
Would we allow ourselves to take on debt to stay in the Promised Land, and risk
going into freefall like Charlton and as we did in the 80s.
Or should we play a long game like West Brom, seesawing between the top two leagues,
using the TV money to build a robust business that can eventually sustain itself
in the Premier division?
Equifax, the online credit rating company has stated that ten of this season’s Premier
League clubs would struggle to repay their debts. These include next year’s opponents,
Middlesbrough and Newcastle, but more indicative of where we are right now, Hull
and Stoke had ratings of 1/100 and 17/100 respectively.
WBA (71/100) were 3rd in the list, behind Arsenal (98/100) and Man United (93/100),
and look to be the best model for sides in the Championship in my opinion.
The level of debt in the Premiership is however is quite frightening. Here’s the
league table of debt:
1. Chelsea - (£620m)
2. Manchester United (£605m)
3. Arsenal - (£268m)
4. Fulham - (£182m)
5. West Ham United (£142m)
The top two clubs owe more that the entire Championship debt, which just exceeds
Arsenal’s deficit at £289m.
Jamie may have had a point when it comes to splashing the cash though.
The four biggest spenders in the Championship in 2006/7 were the three promoted
to the Premiership that season, Birmingham, Sunderland and Derby, while WBA were
the fourth, and were promoted the following year, though all three have suffered
relegation since too.
Anyone else not bored by stats, and wanting to get an idea of what we face in the
Premiership, and how wise we are building this club slowly, you can take a look
at this club-by-club outline from Deloittes review for 2006/7.
by Magnus Myhre
He is thought to be the most talented manager outside The Premiership, and he is
constantly linked to bigger clubs. The club has progressed under his leadership,
and it is perhaps the biggest coup the club has ever done, when they signed a Chester-player,
and put him in the manager chair.
The year is 2007, and a Swansea team with ambitions of The Championship are struggling
in the middle of the table in League One. Their manager Kenny Jackett, who took
the team up from League Two, and nearly led them to the Championship season after,
seems to be stuck for ideas. The man had given Swansea team much, but now it was
stopping, and the English manager pulled out 15 February.
The summer before, he had sold Roberto Martinez to Chester. The Spanish midfield
man did not figure in his plans anymore, plus, the midfielder began to grow old.
Just seven months later Roberto Martinez took place in the Swansea manager chair,
after Jackett. Some fans were perhaps a bit skeptical of this solution, the Spaniard
had given the club a lot, but he lacked experience as a manager, and it could soon
be labeled as the club played in England's third top division. But Martinez fulfillment,
from a place in no-man's land was almost to the play-off, only for slipping the
place at the last day of the season, when Blackpool beat Swansea 6-3 at the Liberty
Stadium. The disappointment was great, but Martinez said that Swansea was to be
stronger next season.
In contrast to his predecessor was Martinez a little more careful in the transfer
market - that is, he did not use large amounts on players. Kenny Jackett had received
£ 1 000 000 to act for the preceding seasons, and he had spent money on players
that did not the amount of success the price would indicate. Martinez on his side,
just use little money on foreign players. The first rumors that the result was on
the way in, was a Dutch midfielder. A sum of £ 70 000 was mentioned, and most fans
believed him to be a back-up solution. It should he not prove to be, for Ferries
Bodde was a key player, so to speak, from the first match. Now, is the incredible
to think that Bodde cost no more than £ 70 000, how much the actor had for the money.
The situation today is the following; Swansea are in line for promotion to the Premier
League, have spent very little money on new players, and soccer player adventure,
even against stronger teams expected. The appointment was perhaps a smart one after
As a player, he started his career in Real Zaragoza, but was eventually sold to
the club he had played in their younger days, CF Balaguer. He was educated well
in the Spannish club, but he played "Futbol Sala", futsal, as well as football.
Here he learned much of what were his hallmarks as a football player, technique
and a sharp football mind. Futsal paths is smaller and tighter, and requires technical
attributes as well as quick thinking if you want to succeed, and there are a lot
of these qualities that made Martinez a so good player as he actually was. In 1995
it opened a new sports shop in Zaragoza and the owner of this sport shop would prove
to be the owner of the English football club Wigan Athletic. Martinez had, together
with two other Spaniards, Jesus Seba and Isidro Diaz been offered to try their luck
in Wigan. They accepted, and all had some years in the club. Martinez played the
longest, until 2001. He remembers that the three amigos as their first match of
the team they would eventually sign for:
- The first time we saw Wigan play was in a friendly somewhere up north. Taking
the kick-off, they passed it back and then just kicked it long, behind the full-back's
head – just to kick it out of play, and then the whole team squeezed up. We
said: 'Hey, what's this? That's a rugby movement.' We'd never seen that in Spain;
you would get told off if you gave the ball away. So we thought: 'Wow, this is going
to be interesting.
Even today there are differences between English and Spanish football, the differences
are perhaps far greater down in the systems division, but the difference between
the Premier League and Division Primiera is, if anything noticeable. Also the player
culture in England was shocking for the young Spaniard:
- Now that I was here, I was going to make the most of the experience. Beans on
toast as a pre-match meal – that was a big shock. And coming back from a long
trip, Plymouth or wherever, the boys were allowed to have a drink on the bus and
some had to leave their cars when we got back because they were drunk. That was
a big 'no' in Spain. Here, at 18, someone tells a young player who's professional,
who's not. They don't have to fight any more. In Spain, 18 is when you really need
to make the point, whether you want to be a professional or not
The differences in the player culture in the different countries has become less
and less. The teams have hired experts on diet, alcohol intake is largely moderated
by the clubs. Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger should probably have a major part of
the credit for the great revolution the English football has gone through, and Roberto
Martinez has followed the footsteps of Wenger on this site. Nothing left to coincidences.
He stressed the importance of a healthy diet and enough sleep, and has hired a psychologist.
There's even a hypnotist in Swansea payrolls.
Roberto Martinez is a man who lives for football. For him a day with football is
a day off, at least he claims so. His good friend, and son of a legend ii football,
Jordi Cruyff, has the following to say about the Spanish manager:
- Football is Roberto's life. When I have a day off, I must admit, I take the whole
day off away from the game. Roberto on the other hand is still living and breathing
football on his free day. As a player he would spend it running and training in
the gym. Since taking his new life in management, his summer time has reduced to
four days and he will still make time to phone his chairman and keep in touch with
what is happening at the club
The commitment for football Martinez shows exceeds the average manager. According
to rumors, he spends the Sunday in front of the TV, watching football. In addition,
he is more or less permanent in the Sky Sports coverage of Spanish football. As
a person Martinez is very dedicated and loyal. His involvement in football, and
in Swansea proves that. It took no more than a little over year before rumors began
to flourish, Newcastle had Martinez on the list of appropriate candidates, the same
had Wigan. Sir Alex Ferguson wanted him allegedly as assistant when the position
was vacant at Old Trafford. Martinez, however, denied that he is interested to take
over a club in the higher divisions, most recently in connection with a link to
Portsmouth. The Spanish manager has a different agenda in his football life than
just to win football matches:
- It's the challenge I've had in my life. I've had a continental upbringing that
I developed while I was at Zaragoza, but those beliefs get challenged on a daily
basis in the British game. I was never a physical player in my time, I had to be
effective on the football pitch with my arguments. I had to learn how to be effective
in the British game. For me it's always been about fighting the idea that you cannot
be successful in the British lower leagues by playing football. That was my challenge
when I took the manager's job - to be succesful playing football - and that's why
I have so much pride with Swansea City, the way we achieved promotion playing in
a different way.
A large part of why Martinez then categorically denies interest for positions, that
can give him a push in the right direction in relation to the training of a team
at the very highest level can be located here. If Martinez wins a match, only half
of the job is done. It is to be made by playing football. To be on the defensive,
let the other team control the match and hope to make a goal or two on the counter
seems not to be an option for Martinez. He wants to prove that it is possible to
get some way, even not by playing defensive and cynical football, and prove the
ones who claims otherwise. As a player he would have to weigh up what he lacked
on the physical when he came to English football. He was never a "box to box player”
who ran tirelessly, but a playing midfielder, if anything. As he says he had to
learn to be effective, how to work in English football as a somewhat nontraditional
central midfielder in English context, if one takes the time Martinez came to England,
and that he has kept to the lower divisions into account. In principle, one can
say that to bring Martinez to the football was a bad idea if you look at the way
the team played at the time. But he adapted, and he worked. In fact, he is said
to have been a success. He received a total of 363 games in the English league system.
Now he is trying again to break a barrier, and to prove the critics who claim that
they do not come any way in the English system of playing football wrong. So far
it looks good, but it is still a long way to go to the goal of establishing Swansea
among the 15 best clubs in England.
Although there is some way to go, it is unlikely many people is critical to whether
Martinez is the man to bring Swansea to the Premier League. The gaffer does, however,
seem to be quite calm, despite the fact that it has built up great expectations
for Swansea record progress. Already in November, some began to launch Swansea as
a clear candidate for the Premier League next season. Martinez on his side claimed
that the goal of the season first and foremost was to remain in The Championship.
He hoped Swansea would remain in the Championship a few years before they scrambled
up, it was at least the goal. As approached March Swansea is still a clear candidate
to move up, and Martinez has hinted that the ambitions have changed over the season.
If the club should get on, you can not hold it back when it undoubtedly possesses
a greater potential than first thought.
Some might say that Swansea do not have a sufficient foundation to build on to establish
themselves in the Premier League. This season is the first in 24 years at the club
is in the country's second highest division, and it has not been something that
has indicated that Swansea was able to establish themselves in the Premier League
in recent years. Swansea is now closer than ever in a long time, but after having
experienced success so quickly, many will argue that Swansea is a team that has
achieved success too soon, that is lightweight compared to the teams who have played
at higher level over several years, and that Premier League football next year will
be too early for them. Martinez on his side believes that these theories do not
hold water. He believes that there is something called too early in this context:
- Look at the benefits of reaching the Premier League. You have to be very sensible,
but there are many positives about getting there and you can never have too many
positives. What I would say is that you cannot go overboard and you must not overspend.
The short-term plan would obviously be to compete in the Premier League, but you
have to plan long term to make sure you end up with a stronger football club, even
if you don't get enough points to stay in the division.I think we've showed as a
club — the chairman, the board and myself — that we will not put ourselves
in a tricky position. Any club getting to the Premier League should build on the
positives and that means using the huge financial boost to improve facilities and
to bring in players for the future who will be good assets.
Many believe that Swansea should build itself up as a club in The Championship before
they aim for Premier League, but Martinez sees no automatics in that. If the club
is getting up to the Premier League next season, and getting down again, they play
another season in The Championship as a stronger team, and thus does Swansea not
necessarily have any advantage to be in the league system second top division. Then
they'll have better basis to develop the players, and maybe add more young talents
than they would have if they invest in numerous players who still would not prove
to be good enough to keep the team Premier League after all.
It is perhaps this setting that can be critical for Swansea. Should Swansea move
up this season, it will not be a big defeat if dropping down. Roberto Martinez and
the Board of Swansea parts ambitions and ideas. The best way to become a better
team is, if necessary, slowly, but most importantly securely progress. As Martinez
said, is not a man who leaves things to chance, the team's position should not depend
on a single player's performance. It should not be purchased in a big star, that
will drive the team. It is the team as a team who is going to win the matches, and
to form a team, he must find the right players, or if necessary, bring them up himself.
It takes time, and it seems like he is getting the time to do that in Swansea.
So much suggests that the Swansea-fans can feel confident that Martinez does not
jump on the first and best offer from a big club, if there should emerge. There
are currently, a little over two years ago midfield player Roberto Martinez was
purchased from Chester, and put in the manager chair. Two years have passed, but
hopefully it is just two of many. Martinez has accomplished much in the club, but
still have much to accomplish.
The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2008/nov/14/swansea-roberto-martinez-championship
The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/roberto-martinez-the-spanish-swan-901729.html
Is the Realist living in Reality?
An argument has kicked off on the message boards started by "the Realist" who has
question our supporter base - our average crowds of 15k+ and he/she claims that's
Many observers have mentioned the fact that there is an economic downturn and money
is tight right now.
Others have reasoned that we have support equal to that of some of the clubs dining
at the top table.
The Realist countered that the likes of Fulham, Wigan and Blackburn are backed by
So the question is are they backed, or backed into a corner? Are we better off growing
the club slowly, that's gates, supporter base and commercial activity, or should
we gamble a bit, or find a rich owner?
How better off are these clubs the Realist mentions?
Well Fulham have been bankrolled by interest-free loans by Mohammed Al Fayed over
the years, and according to The Independent, he is owed 165m.
That's ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY FIVE MILLION!!!
What happens when he decides he's had enough, becomes ill, dies - he's 76.
Wigan are over 45 million in the red and Whelan, who until recently owned the towns
Rugby League side as well, is looking for investment.
Despite having sold JJB for a reported 150m, in 2005 Whelan bought Orrell's home,
Edge Hall Road, then sold it to developers. The rugby club play their games at a
local university now. That sounds like a man counting the pennies to me.
And what happens when he pops his clogs (he's in his 70s too)? The same as Blackburn
Blackburn are over 20m in hock, with a wage budget of 40m.
A reflection of their tight finances was seen last November when they went chasing
43 grand from Livingstone (another club in financial ruin) - profits of Dave McNamee's
sale to Coventry (a player Blackburn gave to Livi for free, and a share of any profits
should he be sold).
The club is currently 69 per cent owned by the Jack Walker Trust (who are looking
to sell) and only pump money in from the trust coffers when they are in desperate
need. 15 per cent is owned by BA - who in a downturn sees airlines losing money
like luggage, won't be putting in any cash. The rest is held by an employees share
Walker believed that the clubs could become self-financing with an investment of
30m. How wrong could he be?
Walker and the Trust had pumped over 97m into the club by the end of 2007, though
the Trust has ONLY been giving the club 3m a year since 2002.
The 2007 accounts for the club stated 'the trustees "see no immediate requirement
to invest further"'. They have also instructed Rothschild's to find a buyer for
So I would hardly hold those clubs as examples of where we are - in much better
long term shape in my opinion.
A steady growth is what is needed, because a salary cap is coming in some shape
or form if UEFA President Michel Platini has his way, and a number of chairman like
Reading's Majeski think it is the only way smaller clubs can compete fairly against
the Manure's of this world.
The Football League are examining a way of implementing one, and even the likes
of moneybags Adam Pearson backs the idea.
"The game is close to meltdown at all levels," he told the Guardian. "Club boards
are under pressure to gain success and that leads to them paying ridiculous wages.
It cannot carry on or it will end in disaster. There is a growing feeling now that
some sort of wage cap has to come in."
Rupert Lowe agrees (well he would)."Boards should keep wages below 60% of turnover",
is his view.
Ray Ransom thinks, "restraining wages to a proportion of turnover would be a good
thing and in today's climate, people should think seriously about it."
Even Premiership Chairman now see the value in halting the spiraling debt.
Phil Gartside (whose club in reportedly only 4m in debt) suggested it in October
2008, and his views were backed by Lord Triesman, the FA Chairman.
Dave Whelan has been saying this for over 4 years.
Al Fayed recently agreed to one when Manchester City were looking to spend over
100m on Kaka.
Blackburn's John WIlliams said,"The idea of capping to make everything equal in
football really excites me..."
So despite the billion dollar deal the Premiership rights have just realised, the
football hierarchy are of the opinion that clubs will be forced to be change their
operating budgets if they like it or not.
Whether they can force through legislation which would affect the likes Liverpool,
Manure, Chelski and Arsenal more than most is open to question.
But according to Deloittes, the Premier league's clubs owe a total of 3 billion
between them, so something will have to give.
by Clive Alabaster
“Swansea City is way bigger than (arbitrary large town/small city) FC”, “Swansea
is a massive club”, we’ve heard them all. The my-football-club-is-bigger-than-your-football-club
boast is about as popular as the playground my-Dad-is-bigger-than-your-Dad taunt
and perhaps about as mature, too. It seems to be equally popular with fans and players.
If we were talking about our cars we could be accused of regarding the car as an
extension to one’s… erm… manhood! Quite clearly, when it comes to football clubs;
This leads me to question two points; how does one measure the size of a football
club and should it really matter, anyway? Actually, I derive no satisfaction from
the notion that Swansea City FC is a bigger club than, say, Yeovil Town. Likewise,
I am not consumed with shame to admit that Swansea City FC is smaller than Liverpool
FC. If Swansea City is indeed a massive club then how would Manchester Utd be described?
Red Giants? Bigger does not necessarily mean better; a point we hammered into Leeds
Utd and Nottingham Forest last season.
Similarly, from the perspective of the fans of Leeds Utd or Nottingham Forest, there
seemed to be some consolation that in spite of their defeats to Swansea City they
were nevertheless bigger clubs than us. I’ll concede that point every time we play
them if we get the three points. In actual fact, we all have an intuitive idea of
the relative size of a club but it is difficult to quantify; we all know a big club
when we see one.
In recent times I have read that the following metrics may be used to determine
the size of a club:
• Position in the league structure,
• Honours & titles,
• Stadium capacity,
• Average home gate,
• Number of world-wide fans,
• Some vague notion of the status of a club,
• Value of club.
Doubtless, there are many more factors that could be listed, however, the 10 points
listed will suffice. Some of these points have some merit and some are red-herrings.
Let’s have a closer look. The league position of a club has some merit but clearly
is inadequate on its own.
Is Doncaster Rovers really bigger than Leicester City? My intuition says not but
their league position would suggest so. As for honours and titles, these, too, have
some merit but are inadequate on their own. It occurs to me that honours and titles
have a certain shelf life beyond which their relevance diminishes. Nottingham Forest
make a deal of noise about their double European Cup titles, but is there any member
of their current playing/coaching staff who was involved in these title winning
If not, how relevant are these titles to the current squad? The next three points
relate to the club’s level of support. Now this certainly has merit although even
here you will find anomalies. My issue is with the size of the stadium.
Did Swansea City suddenly become a bigger club the day it locked up the Vetch and
moved into the Liberty Stadium? Well, actually, I think it did. But then does Darlington’s
25 000 capacity Arena stadium make them a big club even though their average home
league attendance this season is only 3061.
The anomaly is even stronger if you consider Scottish league 2 side Queens Park,
whose home ground is Hampden Park. It is often claimed that Manchester Utd are the
world’s biggest club by virtue of their world-wide support. Again, this has some
merit. Their support cannot be measured in terms of average attendances because
every game is a sell-out.
So the attendance metric is saturated at the capacity of their stadium; clearly
many more would attend if the stadium could accommodate them. However, for clubs
who do not regularly sell-out, home attendance is a fair indicator of size. My next
point concerns the club’s status.
This is another immeasurable quantity. Actually, it is a quality of a club which
hinges on factors like international representation, stardom and appeal of the club
(often outside its catchment area), level of press coverage and the influence the
club has on footballing matters.
If one could measure status one might also have a measure of size. My last four
points are all related to the club’s financial position. The turnover of a business
is often used as a metric to judge its size and applies equally to a football club
but otherwise I think that financial matters are in the red-herring category.
I certainly regard the expense of transfer fees to be somewhat irrelevant, even
misleading. Nottingham Forest’s £4.5 million summer spending spree certainly makes
them big spenders.
Swansea City’s prudence over the summer suggests we are a far smaller club. Some
are concerned that we are trying to compete on the cheap. Do you really get what
you pay for, is there really no such thing as a bargain? It’s early days yet but
I am beginning to believe that (a) you can get ripped-off and (b) there are bargains
to be had if you shop wisely. The debt of a club was a serious suggestion but a
The truth is that a club’s size is a combination of all these factors, red-herrings
aside. We tend to give them differing priorities when we weigh them all up in our
minds. As in the nature of football, it gives rise to endless debate, which may
be enjoyable but is ultimately pointless.
Clive Alabaster (Wiltshire Jack)
“A phoneme”, I explain to my two teenagers, “is a group of words, spelt differently
but which are all pronounced the same way, such as draft and draught. Can you give
me any more examples?” Eventually, we come up with draw and drawer.
My 14 year old daughter pipes up “But draw has got lots of meanings: draw as in
to sketch, draw as in ‘the half-time flyer draw’, draw as in ‘another draw for the
Swans’ and draw as in ‘to draw fire’. Does that have a special word?”
“Er, no, at least I don’t think so. Do your school teachers ever question why your
examples are always drawn from Swansea City FC?”
She sees my pun, ignores it and continues regardless “In fact it goes even further
because there’s drawer as in ‘a chest of drawers’ and drawer as in someone who draws.”
“There’s also drawers as in trousers”, chips in her 16 year old brother. Typical!
“OK, here endeth today’s English lesson”, I pronounce.
I was mulling this over as I made the two hour drive home to Wiltshire after the
Sheffield United match. I imagined half the Swansea City squad in their English
language lessons getting to grips with phonemes, I contemplated how we had now drawn
11 of our 23 league games and yet, by common consensus we had been playing some
of the best football many of us had ever witnessed from a Swansea team. This has
been both breathtaking and exasperating.
By the time we got to the Severn Bridge I finally blurted that I felt frustrated
over the drawn match against Sheffield United, particularly as we played against
10 men for the entire second half. It was Cardiff City re-visited; we played a fair
proportion of that match against 10 men, too. On both occasions we totally dominated
possession, managed a single goal in this period of dominance but failed to get
the crucial second and winning goal that our performance deserved. Then there was
QPR, Ipswich (away) and Sheffield Wednesday (what is it about that city?). “OK,
what exactly is it that prevents us from converting our winning performances into
winning results?” I ask.
By the time we got to our exit off the M4 near Chippenham we had formulated the
following theory…here it is for what it is worth.
We do not sustain any pace in attack. By this I don’t mean that we have forwards
who are not very quick, I mean we do not attack teams quickly. We all love to see
the neat passing game which has become our style – no complaints there –
but all too often we fail to exploit a 2-on-2 situation, or a breakaway counter-attack.
This is not a criticism of individual players or of our forwards, it is a feature
of the style of play of the whole team. When the opposition defence is stretched
we revert to a neat passing move from our defence, through the midfield and forward.
This gives the opposition ample time to re-group, get men behind the ball and organise
their defence. Is it possible then to have too much of a good thing? Top teams such
as Manchester United can also pass the ball to death and draw teams out (oh, here
I go with the draw words again, sorry) and hit them on the break. We, on the other
hand, lay siege to the opposition penalty box and patiently try to create an opening.
I mention this merely as an observation, not as a complaint.
However, there may be some truth in the notion that we do not have a lightning fast
forward (Brandy being the exception) and hence do not have the players to launch
a quick counter-attack. Even when we have a man advantage, we will normally leave
two defenders (plus goalkeeper) back, whereas the opposition may have all but one
guy behind the ball. Hence we attack with 8 players and they defend with 10, or
9 if they’ve had a man sent off; we do not have any advantage in those situations.
In the league game against Cardiff, I noticed how Cardiff defended the penalty area.
Clearly, 9 players defending such a small area have it pretty well covered and it
takes an intricate piece of close control to forge an opening in such circumstances.
Unfortunately, our shooting from outside the box was a little wayward that day and
we could not capitalise. I feel that this is an aspect of Bodde’s game that we have
missed terribly since his injury.
I also suspect that many teams are happy to concede possession to us with an attitude
of ‘I don’t care how much of the ball you have, it’s what you do with it that counts’.
Possession denies the opposition the chance to score but it does not guarantee you
goals. Several opposition managers have remarked that whilst Swansea had a load
of possession, they did not hurt us with it. I think they have a valid point. Have
we been sussed?
I find it interesting to realise that the military appreciate this point; the pace
of attack has to be maintained at an appropriate level to be most effective. Too
slow and the enemy can re-group, resist and launch a counter-attack. Too fast and
lines of supply become horribly stretched and your men become knackered. One needs
to sustain an intensity and pace which keeps the opposition on the ropes but may
also be interspersed with short periods of rest/recovery and short periods of lightning
fast, highly potent attacks. I think this could have analogies to football tactics.
In my opinion, it is also one of the strengths of the Welsh rugby team.
Anyway, returning to the football…I have a nagging doubt that what I am about to
say could undermine much of my own argument. Throughout many of these frustrating
draws we have actually created several scoring opportunities. We’ve had the chance
to turn these draws into wins many times over. So perhaps there is nothing wrong
with our tactics, simply a failure to bury chances.
So, I’ve had my say, put the world to rights and embarrassed myself in front of
you all over my lack of tactical nous. However, it has been a therapeutic exercise
and I am at peace with the idea that we, Swansea City FC, are indeed a top drawer
team, in every sense of the word.
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