Our Championship Return

I again appreciate that it’s been a long time since I last wrote this column so apologies to those of you who enjoy reading it and who look forward to the rare occasions when I update it. Work and family commitments leave me with precious little time but I’m proud to say that I’ve missed only one Swans home fixture this season (don’t ask) – and what an incredible season it was.

Who would have predicted at the start of the season that we’d win the league at a canter and after selling our star striker in the summer? What was his name, now? Lee who?? Even with the recent mini-slump we still reached the promised land called the Championship in pole position and it’s an incredible achievement for a rookie Spanish manager in his first full season.

Roberto’s signings have, on the whole, been a collection of masterstrokes and the way they have instantly settled at the club is not only a credit to the manager but to the other players who seem to have just welcomed the new lads and rolled up their sleeves. Now I know we conceded some gut-wrenching last-minute goals last season but there have been far more high points and memorable experiences. For me, the home game against Leeds was right up there with my personal pantheon of great Swans memories. The atmosphere, the collective performance, the manner of the victory, the quality of goals – it really had it all. However, the most important point of all is that at the time they were flying and we beat them with ten men. Big moment? Absolutely. Now there are some people within my inner circle who dared to suggest even then that we were promoted and although I didn’t share that sentiment you could fully understand why they were so optimistic.

Not since 1981 have I watched such swashbuckling, attacking football and Roberto’s style of football has been a breath of fresh air. What I also like about everyone’s favourite Spaniard is that he’s not afraid to make difficult decisions, whether regarding team selection, formation or whether to don his double-breasted grey overcoat at pitchside.

Our squad has proved to be the best in League 1. Everyone has their opinions on every player and I’d like to take this opportunity to provide my quick synopsis on the regulars last season.

Dorus de Vries
Overall, a great ‘keeper and a fantastic shot-stopper. For me, he’s like Dracula on crosses so really needs some competition next season.

Angel Rangel
The most consistent performer last season. His form only dipped towards the latter stages but who can blame him? He must have been knackered.

Marcos Painter
With all respect to Kevin Austin, only when Marcus was injured did we realise how good he really is.

Garry Monk
As with Marcus Painter, he was sorely missed when out injured. He can form a great central defensive partnership with Ashley Williams next season.

Dennis Lawrence
So laid back at times you’d think he was playing in a training session or practice match. He has his fierce critics but I’m not one of them.

Paul Anderson
Speed merchant, flying machine, the new Ianto, call him whatever you like – the lad has pace to burn and terrifies full backs. He still has a lot to learn and I hope he continues his schooling back at the Liberty next season.

Leon Britton
Another fantastic season full of consistency. Leon adapted to the five-man midfield better than anyone and his performances were a major factor in our success.

Darren Pratley
The burden of captaincy had previously seemed to affect his game but he’s had a great season and should continue his great form in the Championship.

Andy Robinson
Is it only me who thought he wasn’t the same player after his mate showboated across the Severn Bridge? The best comment on Robbo was from someone who said “Enjoy running round in little circles at Elland Road in League 1”. My only regret is we won’t be able to slaughter him next season. Good riddance.

Jason Scotland
Has had his critics (including myself at one stage) but what an absolutely unbelievable season. Lazy at times he may appear but the lad can score goals. I just hope Derby or Zenit St Petersburg don’t come in for him.

Guillem Bauza
Bussy was the fall guy in Roberto’s 4-5-1 formation and consequently didn’t really enjoy a run in the team, which was somewhat unfortunate. It’ll be interesting to see how he figures next term.

Andrea Orlandi
Now if I was on the other bus this fella would be on the top of my list. He was unfortunate last season but expect him to directly replace Robbo wide on the left. He will be more suited to the style of football in the Championship and could surprise us all.

Kris O’Leary
Great servant but surely he will struggle to even find himself on the bench next season. I’m still very surprised that Kris didn’t accept Cheltenham’s offer a year ago.

Kevin Austin
Probably played more games than even he expected last season due to Marcus Painter’s injury. Like Kris O’Leary will surely struggle to appear next term.

Tommy Butler
Arguably has the best feet at the club but lacks Paul Anderson’s pace and therefore doesn’t hurt teams as much. However, came in for Ando last season and did a great job.

Alan Tate
He still divides opinion but despite the inevitable one mistake per game he has again come into the side and not really let anyone down.

Ashley Williams
We’ve only really seen glimpses of the lad but he did enough to convince both Roberto and myself.

Darryl Duffy
Showed great promise when he was here on loan but as soon as the permanent transfer was sealed the goals dried up. It’s best for all parties if a move to Bristol Rovers is engineered as soon as possible.

Fabian Brandy
Used as an impact player by Roberto to a degree of success but consistently failed the test when handed a starting slot. Leave him at Old Trafford, Robbie.

And finally……

Ferrie Bodde
All I’ll say is anyone who doesn’t want to play for Swansea City shouldn’t. Huw Jenkins has said the club will only sell him for at least £2M. Make that £1M, Huw.

At the time of writing the club is poised to sign another two virtually unknown Spaniards which will increase the complement to five. Here are my thoughts while we seriously consider purchasing sombreros and 12-packs of San Miguel this summer.

Jordi Gomez
Described as a “highly-regarded playmaker” so comparisons will inevitably be made with the departing Dutchman. He has played for Barcelona and has just been awarded a three-year contract at Espanyol so surely he’s quality, right?

Gorka Pintado

Revered in the city of Granada and my mole on the Iberian peninsula informs me that the lad is not, as I suggested, a big Spanish carthorse who ploughs a lone furrow up front.

Missing it already? I think it’s going to be a long summer……

In Roberto we trust.