Ian ‘Ianto’ Davies has supported the Swans since 1978 the age of 13 and for five long years he lived and worked behind enemy lines in Roath Park, Cardiff.
He works for a global marketing agency and is married to Karen. They have two young sons, James and Daniel.
After a summer of big spending we recently found ourselves in a semi-precarious 15th position after the defeat at Southampton and we went into the long international break with a degree of trepidation. The Saints result apart, the outcome of all our Premier League fixtures to date have been unpredictably true to form with away defeats to Man United and Spurs, a home reverse against high-flying Arsenal the two wins at West Brom and Palace either side of the Jonjo Shelvey show. The recent win over the Black Cats was not only very welcome but vitally important as we had not triumphed in the league at the Liberty since March. Saturday’s draw against the Hammers brought another welcome point towards where we want to be which sets up nicely for the first-ever top flight South Wales derby on Sunday.
So, has the Europa League been a distraction? This question pops up regularly and although I’m sure it can have a negative affect on certain teams who are competing on several fronts I think we’ve coped with it quite well. We’re still unbeaten in Europe with that famous win in Valencia the obvious highlight and, at the time of writing, 9th in the Premier League which is encouraging given our tricky start to the season. A key factor here, of course, is our current squad. Not only do we now possess the depth required for the volume of games coming thick and fast but we now have quality all over the pitch. Suddenly, our second XI could potentially compete in the Championship which is remarkable and Michael Laudrup should be rightly applauded for his astute transfer dealings in the summer and for the way he is utilising the squad. Keeping everyone happy is a difficult job and, at the moment, the entire camp seems unified and content.
When we examine our summer signings I have to be honest and say I’m still not convinced. When I heard we were signing Jonjo Shelvey for £5m I stormed into the garden to scream “Why, why?!” and pumped a volley of bullets into the Killay air but I have to admit, a few loose passes and mistakes apart, that I may have been wrong as the he has impressed me and, as Laudrup quite rightly stated, he has certainly brought something to the team that I don’t think we’ve possessed since the popular Darren Pratley left for Bolton – in other words, a genuine box-to-box powerhouse midfielder.
Jose Canas, for me, has been exactly what I had heard about and expected – a raw, younger, tougher Leon Britton and I think it’s good that Canas is around to share the defensive midfield duties when required though Leon is still the master. Alejandro Pozuelo looks a star in the making though seems to be more effective coming off the bench in a central attacking role. Jordi Amat has recently enjoyed an extended run in the side due to Ash’s injury and seems to be improving game on game. Alvaro Vazquez hasn’t enjoyed much game time though was handed a rare start last Saturday and had an absolute shocker. Let’s hope this was a one-off.
Then we come to our summer marquee signing, Wilfried Bony. He’s certainly splitting opinion amongst fans with some believing he will come good while others are dismissing him as absolute rubbish and one of my mates even labelling him a £12m carthorse. He isn’t rubbish, of course but I think we all expected a very special player with such a hefty price tag. Like Jonjo, Wilfried is learning to adapt to the Swansea way and it’s unfortunately taking a bit longer than we’d all hoped. He seems to prefer a more classic 4-4-2 formation where the wide men take on the opposing full backs and whip crosses into the box to playing with his back to goal so let’s see if we start to sometimes play to his strengths, particularly when a Plan B is required. Then again, he would instantly win the hearts of us all if he goes and bangs in a hat-trick on Sunday which brings us nicely to “the biggest South Wales Derby in history”.
I’ve been scratching the days onto my West Wing bedroom wall since the fixtures were announced and now it’s almost upon us – Cardiff away. I can’t say I’ve really missed this fixture but it’s crept up on us like the inevitability of that unwanted guest who is due to arrive at your party. As this week has progressed I’m experiencing more and more butterflies in my stomach and the restless nights have returned but I can’t decide whether all this is good or bad. Actually, I don’t think derby matches are supposed to be enjoyable, are they? You certainly can’t predict the outcome of these games and this one will be no different.
Looking back on all the derby matches I’ve experienced, throughout the extreme highs and lows, although it’s difficult to name one which stands out among them all it has to be, for me, the infamous FA Cup tie in December 1991. It was the Saturday before Christmas and the fixture was incredibly allowed to go ahead at 3:00pm. This was before the “bubble” matches were introduced and 1,200 or so Cardiff fans were all fuelled up and entered the seething cauldron of the Vetch Field. I remember Cardiff taking an early lead and their lot making a right racket. There was a high level of abuse aimed at former Cardiff favourite Jimmy Gilligan who had recently joined the Swans from Portsmouth and he was roundly booed and jeered every time he touched the ball. Then came the moment. The big number 9 picked up the ball from a deep position and in one movement turned and fired a 25 yard screamer past the Cardiff ‘keeper at the end occupied by the away fans before sliding on his knees in front of the North Bank. In all the years I’ve watched football I haven’t celebrated a goal as much. We went on to win the game 2-1.
However, it was the events which followed the match which made all the wrong headlines as the Cardiff fans rampaged through town and totally wrecked the buses they were being shuttled in. Many people still say that revenge was on the minds of Swans fans when the two teams then met at Ninian Park in the league but the South Wales Constabulary and CCFC scored a spectacular own goal when they decided to locate the 1,000 or so Swans fans in the corner of the old wooden “grandstand”, separated from the home supporters by a flimsy line of police officers. Cardiff took the lead and all hell broke loose. I’m not condoning the Swans fans who threw seats (I was there and struggled to even lift one, it was so heavy) but to have Cardiff fans taunt you from only a few feet away was totally unbearable. There was a pitch invasion by Cardiff fans from the Bob Bank, the game was stopped, mounted police were suddenly on the pitch before the match eventually restarted. For the record, we lost 1-0.
During the aftermath and inquest which followed, away fans were banned for the foreseeable future which, from memory, lasted two seasons before the introduction of the bubble match which exists to this day. Watching the away fixture is now an extremely dry nightmare of a long day but is, of course, well worth it if we secure any kind of result. The biggest positive to come out of the dark old days is that now not even a punch is thrown between the two sets of fans, which itself is a huge positive.
I really don’t want to predict Sunday’s result in fear of jinxing us but wouldn’t it be sweet to go there, blow them away with our beautiful passing game and win in style – in front of the global audience; I can dream (if I sleep between now and then).