Good Luck Swansea
Like many, I had Swansea down as relegation fodder this year, and until very recently I still expected them to drop down the league. Yet, on a quietly impressive nine-game unbeaten run which has included no less than 7 clean sheets, the Jacks must go into tomorrow’s Welsh derby against their Big City cousins as slight favourites. Hyperbolic the media may be, but this meeting is one of the few that actually warrants such relentless amplification.
Besides having the better of last season’s three games, the Swans go into the contest with a near-fully fit squad, whereas Cardiff’s well publicized problems are numerous. A long-term injury to Ferrie Bodde aside, the Libertarians have all their key players available and the re-emergence of Darren Pratley and Joe Allen, two players that would have last season been mentioned in a Two Unfortunates rising star post if the blog had then existed, has coincided with the extension of their promising run. They are so comfortable that manager Paulo Sousa will probably keep another of last season’s star performers, Nathan Dyer, on the bench.
A big part of me admires how the club, always a little rough around the edges, has pretty much reinvented itself since leaving the Vetch, managing to make strides even after Roberto Martinez’s summer departure. Resplendent in tight white and boasting Rangels and Van Der Guns in their starting XI, the Swans have retained a continental feel, yet a defensive record such as theirs doesn’t come without a little spit and sawdust. Evidenced in Ian Holloway’s post-match rant on the Swan’s dubious moral code after a scrappy 0-0, it seems that they’ve gained a streetwise edge, something that certainly wasn’t apparent when I saw them in a 4 goal defeat at Reading. Tempered, though, with quick two-touch football and a tricky winger or two, this approach could really come off in a season where at least two of the top 6 might well be dark horses.
My only trip to Swansea to date came four seasons ago when I joined a Tangerine friend in witnessing a slightly unjust 3-2 win for the home side in which the Swans clearly benefited from an offside goal. This in mind, I didn’t think that it’d be a problem to carelessly stroll out of the away end, but lo and behold we had to strictly come dance through a volley of angry shouts and flying mudballs extracted from the nascent shrubberies littered around their new stadium. That would usually be enough to put me off a club for life, but there’s something about the Swans that makes me forget. Maybe it’s because I see a bit of Plymouth in them, and a bit of Swansea in us, I don’t know, but I’ll be rooting for them in tomorrow’s should-see clash. Even if it does mean acknowledging that there’s have one less club we’re going to finish above.