Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Investment: An Expert View

Andrew McGlashan takes a quick look at what investment could mean for the Swans

It’s been a far from quiet January for us Swansea City fans and today has been just as busy with the news that an investment from US businessmen John Moores and Charles Noell may be close. The recent reports are that perhaps 30% of the shares in the club will be sold for around £30 million. As I have a corporate background I thought I would give my initial thoughts on this to shed some light on the impact of such an investment. 

1. Why are the board considering such an investment?

I’ve dealt with a variety of different investment types in the past few years and they do come in a variety of shapes and sizes and for a variety of reasons. Typically, an investment into a company that is doing well happens for one, or a combination of, these reasons:

(i) The board running the company know that in order to kick on and take the company to the next level, they require a significant injection of cash to develop and carry out their bigger ideas;
(ii) It is decided that in order for the company to continue growing, certain expertise and experience are required and in order to get this, a piece of the company has to be offered to incentivise such persons to join (think Dragons’ Den); or
(iii) Those who set up the company want to realise some of their initial investment into the company by selling some of their shares at a much higher price than they purchased them for. 

Now looking at the situation with the Swans and the board / shareholders, it could be that the reason for such an investment is in fact all of the above. Huw and the boys may well think that in order to avoid stagnating and running the risk of relegation, an injection of cash is needed to kick us on player wise as well as infrastructure and stadium wise. Further, the board may have realised the potential for commercial opportunities in the US given the popular rise of “soccer” over there in the past few years. These potential investors do have experience of running American sports teams and so could offer expertise, experience and connections in relation to this. 

Finally, the shareholders (save for the Trust whose position has been well documented) may want to extract some of the value that they hold in their shares. The £50,000 they initially invested is now worth a huge amount more if the club is valued at £100 million as reports suggest. This investment would allow them to sell some of their shares at a massive premium and that money will go straight into their bank accounts. 

2. What would be the impact?

Without being party to the negotiations it is difficult to comment accurately on this so I will have to comment on what happens typically. The first thing to understand would be that the £30 million paid by the investors doesn’t go to the club but to the shareholders selling their shares. So the existing shareholders (save for the Trust who are reluctant to sell) will sell a proportion of their shares for a proportion of the £30 million. This dilutes their influence re voting rights as they own less shares but is very good for their bank balance.

Any money to be injected into the squad, facilities etc is likely to come from loans from the US investors. This could be for significant amounts but obviously the investors are going to want some sort of security / protection for their loans. This security could well be that the loans are not repaid but the investors get issued more shares instead, meaning that everyone else’s shareholding, including the Trust, gets diluted. The impact is that the new investors have more sway and the rest of the shareholders have less. This is obviously just one option and it could well be the loans are secured over the training ground / other assets of the club.

Further, the investors are likely to each be nominated to the board, meaning that they have influence over the board’s decisions. In addition, if they were to hold 30% of the shares, they could block any “special resolutions” which the shareholders want to carry out as these require 75% agreement between the shareholders. These will be the more important decisions which gives the investors protection by restricting what the other shareholders can do. It does also mean that, with only 30% of the shares, they cannot vote things through so they won’t be calling the shots.

It may also be that the shareholders, once the investors are on board, will enter into a separate agreement between themselves and alter the “articles of association” of the Swans. These “articles” basically set out how the Swans is governed, how decisions are made, how many directors you need for a meeting to be held etc. The new investors, through this agreement and a new set of articles, will be able to insert special provisions which basically mean that nothing big happens without their consent. Again this provides them with some protection so that they have a say on all the big decisions the Swans board makes and nothing goes on behind their back.

3. What happens now

Well from what I can gather talks are ongoing and board meetings will undoubtedly be being held regularly to discuss this. Should the investment go through, a good indication of the changes can be found out at Companies House as the Swans will have to register any changes to their shareholdings and their articles. This will indicate the extent of power that the new investors will have and how much of the club’s shares they own. What these will say we cannot be sure of until / if the investment is confirmed.

Until then, we can be sure that the fans will be voicing their opinion and the Trust will be at the front of that. Everyone will have different views on whether such an investment is needed but hopefully this article has given a brief insight into the potential deal that is before the club.

Once we have more information, and I have more time, I’ll go through this in more detail and give me views on whether this deal is needed but hopefully this brief review has been helpful!

Thanks to Andrew (@ajmcglashan) for taking the time to put together this piece, which is a more analytical, and a lot less partisan than mine (link). Without knowing details it's hard to know what to think, and hopefully we'll know more in the near future.

No To External Investment

I may be living in an idealistic world, but why on earth do we need investment?

Swansea City. Regarded the world over as "The Supporters' Club". A club which has even had a film made about it (which I'm still yet to see, granted), and one which has risen from - literally - the very bottom of the football league to sit proudly amongst it's most glamorous names.

All of this could change though. Ongoing talk of investment from third parties has me, and I'm sure many other fans, very, very concerned.  I appreciate that everyone needs money. Of course I do - I'm almost perennially skint. I am so, so uneasy with this talk of investment though that I feel it's worth explaining why.

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” ― Alexander Pope

We are built on the basis that hard work and patience will overcome big money and impulse spending. What's more, we are living, breathing proof that this works. Why change now? Because we've stood still for a year or two? It was inevitable that once we reached the coattails of football's high society that we would have to become more patient, so why do we suddenly need a cash injection?

"The directors want a payday"

This is one possibility. If so, then there's little we can do about it and we just have to like it and lump it - sad as that is. I'd be very disappointed though that if it is purely financial, the club would allow 30% of it's shares to be transferred to a previously unknown party, whose sole interest in the club - despite what he and his club-shop-bought baseball cap may say - is financial. 

"The Swans need to expand"

Why? We're fine as we are. Growth at this point will slow down, and that is only natural. We've catapulted ourselves up the leagues in almost unheralded fashion, and the idea that we can continue this growth curve is ludicrous. Previously we were waltzing past fallen greats and clubs around our own size; now the only teams left above us are massive, massive clubs with long established fanbases, all of which dwarf our own. 

A slow-down in financial, and all other growth is natural. However, we will continue to grow with every year we spend in the Premier League and the benefits of this won't disappear overnight. Key should be building slowly and organically - making a financial grab for glory is almost always rewarded with failure.

The extra cash will allow us to compete

Again, why? Why do we suddenly need to be competing at the top level? Do we deserve it? Personally, I'd say it's massively deluded to think we're in a position where we should be challenging the top clubs. We should be happy where we are, as - in my opinion - another five years at Premier League level would bring year-on-year growth, in terms of online fanbase, commercial revenue and much more. If we can get the expansion sorted in that timeframe too I'm confident we'd see our average gate rise. 

There have been issues with ticketing in the past but these seem to have been addressed, and if there are seats available there are a million different ways of incentivising local people to attend. Once there is a capacity for these fans they will start to attend, I'm sure, and to me the idea we need to "compete" to keep fans interested, or to keep moving forward as a club, is massively shortsighted.

There is still plenty of organic growth left to be had. We have by no means maximised the opportunities afforded us by our geographical location, and that is yet another reason I find the idea of investment scary. It's simply unnecessary.

Now that I've talked it through, there appear to be two possible reasons why we could be looking to sell a sizeable stake in our club.

Firstly, it could be purely financial, The directors who are to sell their stakes want some money. As I say, we can't do much about that.

The second reason is some kind of expansion. Be it in marketing, infrastructure (training centres etc) or on the field, if the reason for seeking, or entertaining the idea of investment is down to this second option I want absolutely no part of it. I can't claim to be an economics expert, but I've watched my fair share of football. Investment into a club looking to expand, in all but the few most money-fuelled of cases (Chelsea, Man City, PSG) has failed. Countless clubs have been ruined by short-sighted planning, and I simply can't bear the thought of this happening to our club.

The more I think about this, the more the "why" becomes the crucial factor. If people want money back for their work over the years for the Swans we'd have to accept. They're their shares, so that's their decision. If it's because the club feel the money is necessary for advancement, something has gone wrong at Swansea City. We do not need a sudden monetary push, be it up the league or anywhere else. We need, want, and have a sustainable football club. 

And that's all we should want.

A Few Swan Theories

Warren Smith gives us some theories of his own...

An essayist named Nassim Nicholas Taleb once developed a theory called Black Swan Theory, which is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.

This detail serves no purpose for my post other than the fact that I thought it allowed me a very small correlation to my proposed “Swan Theory.” Swan Theory is the compilation of theories developed by the fans of our lovely Swansea City to explain some of the decisions that the football club makes that will later prove to be fruitful and full of wonderful foresight (or, at least, that seems to be Huw Jenkins’ track record thus far).

These theories in no way can be claimed as perfectly credible, but can offer our fans a few ideas that may allow them to be at peace while we wait for the final result to be displayed.

Some examples in the past could be that we made the Sigurdsson trade because he is just THAT good or the Danny Graham sale because he is NOT so good (and came at a wonderful price). Both of these theories if made by one of us fans would have proved to be legitimate.

So anyways, as we approach the middle of the season with many recent controversies and events to speak of, I thought I would weigh in with a few Swan Theories of my own. We shall see if any of them ring true down the road.

We are not appealing the Sigurdsson red card in order to allow him to rest.

The current most popular theory about this decision is due to the price of appealing, which could be true, but with our performances this season and our current economical welfare I cannot imagine this is the full story. Monk mentioned the fact that Sigurdsson had been playing with a bruised foot, and I believe that this event simply gives him an excuse to allow Siggy a well-deserved break.

Don’t get me wrong, Gylfi has still been one of our best players despite this injury nuisance (if not the best, I mean that last goal was superb!), but considering how we are almost guaranteed safety, I believe it is a way for Monk to not feel pressured into pushing Sigurdsson through more pain and allow him to take a few weeks to recover, so that he may come back stronger and better than before.

The Bony money is to save for spending in the summer.

Let me preface this theory by saying I do not believe that we will throw money around this summer and I do believe a large portion of this sale is for development of facilities and the stadium as Monk has said. However, the main purpose behind this theory is to remind fans that Huw Jenkins and the board have always been focused on building for the future.

Although we started strong this year, the club knows how we can build towards consistently competing for the top half of the table, and if we do not happen to reach this goal this year, we have still reached safety for another season, which is the ultimate goal. I believe Jenkins is focused for the years to come, even though he would surely enjoy immediate success.

Our U21s are building to compete with the likes of Southampton.

After reading Scott’s recent report on the youth team, constantly hearing about Garry Monk’s willingness to play youngsters, and consistently following the U21 matches through my twitter feed with the expectation of a victory, I would like to theorize that our board is truly working towards building a youth program that is comparable to teams such as Southampton.

There have been many subtle buys in the youth department (not to mention a few decent products already here), and that leads me to think that Jenkins and the board are working towards building this strong foundation that can either lead to great products for our team or possible future revenue streams. From my impressions, Llewellyn seems like a very strong youth coach and I believe there is a great future for our youth program, which has already brought out a few solid products (Ben Davies specifically).

We keep buying from Spurs because they have solid players that are not used properly.

Recently, Jenkins and Levy seem to be having some fun trading players back and forth, and thus far Jenkins has appeared to have the upper hand as Carroll and Sigurdsson have each had a positive impact. I must admit that I was not exactly ecstatic to sign Kyle Naughton for 5 million pounds after everything I had heard and seen of him. However, I believe Jenkins and Monk know something that we may not about Tottenham.

It has been often mentioned by Kevin DeVries on the EPL Roundtable podcast that the Spurs have a litany of good players, but a lack of many exceptional, “Big 6” type players. I think that Monk and Jenkins recognize the fact that there remain many talented players at Spurs that may be hurt by the over-sized dressing room and lack of consistent game time. A player like Naughton who is constantly rotating in and out of the 18 during his time there may be soured due to the constant competition for game time, shots to his footballing ego, and inability to truly prove his worth. Monk and Jenkins see this opportunity to benefit from his ambitions to once again prove himself and use this tactic to bring out an even better player than before.

In conclusion, these theories are simply educated conjecture, but I do hope you enjoy them and throw out a few of your own as I still cannot decide what to make behind the brilliance Jenkins will prove to be displaying in the handling of Gomis. Either way, as we move through the rest of the season and on to the next summer, surely some of these theories will prove right or wrong.

Thanks to Warren for his latest piece - follow him on Twitter @WarrenSmith21

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Youth the way to go

Monday night saw our Under 21s extend their unbeaten run to 12, and they’re still to lose at home this season. Josh Kilmister looks at why we should possibly be looking to involve more of our development squad in the first team

I’m not suggesting we take four or five of our youngsters and shove them in at the deep end, that would be silly. That said, I don’t see any harm in giving a few more of our development side a chance to grab an opportunity at the big time before they reach the standard of our first team regulars. 

Reading this, I know people will be thinking, “What’s he talking about? Hasn’t he seen Mo Barrow this season?!”, but although he still has his best years to come, Barrow isn’t quite as young as everybody thinks. Listening to TalkSport on the way home from the Arsenal game (when Barrow came on to make his professional debut), the presenter and those calling in to represent The Swans seemed to think he was nineteen years old; he isn’t, he’s twenty-two. Now I’m not saying twenty-two is old, but I think at that age Barrow would almost be expected to push for a place in the first team. 

As most of you will know, our youth systems apply the same tactics to their games as Monk and Co. do to the first team, meaning that if disaster strikes and we have an injury crisis, we’ve got backup from the younger sides. This for me is fantastic, and it obviously optimises our chances of getting younger players to break through to the first team, and it’s definitely something we should look to take advantage of. 

Watching Liverpool and Man United’s U21s on Sky last night (I definitely think more youth games should be televised), Gary Neville said that one of the best experiences for a young player is for them to experience the build up to a first-team match. Talking about Liverpool’s seventeen-year-old midfielder Sheyi Ojo - who has been named on the bench for the Merseyside team a few times this season - Neville complimented Rodgers’ style of management, allowing young players to make their mark in the first team before they become a regular. 

Understandably, our youth system isn’t as good as the likes of Liverpool and United’s [Yet - Ed], but I think the same concept should apply. Players like new signing Matt Grimes, Aussie Gincarlo Gallifuoco and even goalkeepers Dai Cornell, Gregor Zabret and Oliver Davies should, in my opinion, be making appearances on the first team bench, even if it’s just for experience. 

Zabret and Davies both have, from what I’ve seen and read, potential to be first team goalkeepers for us in the future, so why not start them off early? Of course we need to respect Gerhard Tremmel as he’s been a good servant for us, but from seeing his shambolic performances in the cup this season, he can’t be much better than our young ‘keepers. 

Matty Grimes has only joined us this month so I fully expect him to play a part in the first team before the end of the season, while other midfielders such as Adam King, Josh Sheehan and Jay Fulton have already been given chances to mix it with the first team - though these chances have been limited. 

How I see it is we have seven places on the bench, three of which can be used. Unlike the days when Alan Tate was seen as an acceptable backup goalkeeper, one of those spaces needs to be taken by someone who could step in should Fabianski get injured or sent off.  As unpredictable as football is, I think there are games where Monk can afford to use at least one of those spaces on the bench to give one of the younger players some valuable match day experience. 

From being part of a Premier League team talk to just having a kick about with the other subs at half-time, the chance to give the future a chance to become familiar with the atmosphere in and around a Premier League game from a players perspective is one that cannot be passed up, and while our squad is the sixth youngest in the Premier League with an average age of twenty-six (taken from October 1st), maybe dropping that number a little would benefit all parties involved. 

Thanks to Josh for this latest piece - give him a follow on Twitter @JoshKilmister. I'm a big fan of involving youth in the first-team, and with Monk having already blooded several youngsters it's clear our manager is too. 

Swans U21s 2-1 QPR U21s - Kenji Gorre brace secures fine victory

A cold clear night at Landore saw Swansea's young side run out winners thanks to a brace from Kenji Gorre

A lovely night for football. Cold and crisp, tonight I made my first trip to see the U21 Development side at their Landore home, and I have to say it was a really good experience. The facilities look great, and it's a great way to spend a few hours on a weeknight.

The teamsheet from tonight
The Swans fielded a side with some fairly familiar names, as well as some we haven't heard mentioned too often. New signing Matt Grimes was there, as was Kenji Gorre (who always seems to pop up on the scoresheet for the U21's), while some names I didn't readily recognise were Connor Roberts at right-back and Joseph Jones alongside him at centre-back. Good Welsh names those. Giancarlo Gallifuoco was alongside him - not quite so Gallic...

The game started and the first bit of action was James Loveridge almost being snapped in half by Rangers' left-back Olamide Shodipo. It really was a shocking challenge, and one which Loveridge felt, but the referee felt only a talking to was necessary. In a week where refereeing decisions have once again risen to the fore, I was amazed that - at a minimum - a yellow card wasn't given. 

We didn't have too long to wait for the Swans to take the lead. Gorre latched on to a poor QPR pass in the 12th minute before going a fine run, which was matched by the quality of the finish. He tied the defence in knots running at speed with the ball, before hitting a right-footed finish which clipped the inside of the post on it's way into the net.

QPR were threatening from set pieces, but barring a few half chances from tidy through balls they struggled to create anything of note. Their equaliser came, predictably, from a second-half corner (they caused us no end of problems all night) and Cole Kpekawa nodded home. We've seen the first-team struggle to deal with big men at set pieces recently, though as it was my first time n attendance I'm in no position to say whether that's something that happens regularly to our development side.

This was the Swans' night though, and I think on the balance of play we were worth the victory. Picking up on a loose ball in midfield the Swans broke, and Grimes burst down the left. He crossed for Gorre, who'd switched to the right wing by this point, who had the simplest of finishes. Two goals for Gorre, who was replaced by Henry Jones late on, and a promising display from the former Man Utd trainee.

I thought Gorre looked a very gifted footballer, but on numerous occasions he would have benefited from taking a more simple option, and if he'd looked for the one-two more often after beating a first man he could have had even more than the two goals he managed. There's no doubting the technique, and purely basing it on that he can't be far off the first team, but a little bit more awareness in the open and he could be a really, really good prospect.

I was thinking about about mentioning a few other players but then I thought it would be much better to do a quick run-through of what I thought of the players, as a lot of readers won't have seen our youth side before, or read much about them.

GK - David Cornell

Solid. Did nothing wrong all night, though perhaps could have tried to dominate from corners a bit more. If Cornell is rated as our top youth 'keeper I'd prefer to see him now given games as opposed to Tremmel, and I saw nothing tonight to persuade me otherwise.

RB - Connor Roberts

Again, solid. Always offered an option in attack, and cool on the ball. He seemed a tidy footballer and made a couple of good tackles to boot. Kyle Naughton watch out...

LB - Stephen Kingsley 

The first time I've seen Kingsley since his move from Scotland, he looked very good. Big and athletic but also very good on the ball, he made a couple of overlapping runs as well as winning his fair share of headers. Expect him to be challenging for the first-team before the end of the season.

CB - Joseph Jones

Didn't have a huge amount to do but found his man in defensive midfield with cushioned headers on a few occasions which is always encouraging. 

CB - Giancarlo Gallifuoco

Looked slightly more assured than his centre-back partner (Gallifuoco is twenty-one, Jones eighteen), the ex-Spurs centre-back was solid and appeared comfortable on the ball. 

CM - Matty Grimes

Baller. Composed, cool, and excellent in the build-up to Gorre's second goal. Showed a couple of really nice touches out on the touchline near the home fans, which went down very well. As with Kingsley, you could tell he's already played senior football.

CM - Josh Sheehan (C)

As with Grimes, very composed. Seemed to be operating beside him in a shared defensive-midfield role but with license to roam he spent his evening pinging five to twenty-yard passes to anyone who wanted it, and every time I see Sheehan I like him more.

AM - Adam King

King seemed to be having a fairly quiet night, and just as I made that remark he played a wonderful through ball for Samuel, splitting the QPR defence completely. Summed up his night - quiet for spells before something a bit special. Still only nineteen, King is known to be highly regarded and he showed a couple of really nice touches tonight, but as mentioned his vision was what impressed me.

FW - Kenji Gorre

Very lively. Got both the Swansea goals, but will have been frustrated not to have made more of other opportunities. 

FW - James Loveridge

Almost snapped in half within a few minutes of kickoff, but recovered well. Definitely busier in the first-half as opposed to the second, he showed he had a really, really good first touch on more than one occasion.

FW - Alex Samuel

My favourite guy of the night. He's clearly watched a lot of Bony, and he scrapped for every ball all night. While he didn't have any real joy in front of goal he was brilliant everywhere else, and he managed to retain possession against the odds on many an occasion, allowing us to build from a solid base high up the field.

SUB - Henry Jones

Came on for Gorre late on, and didn't have too much time to make an impression. That said he showed a few nice touches, and I heard the Swansea coaching team shouting that "he's playing number ten" - which I liked. 

All in all I had a great time tonight. I'll definitely be making more of an effort to get to development games in the future, and I can't recommend it enough. The team seem to be doing great work, and it's now 12 games unbeaten for the young Swans who went back to the top of their league with this victory.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Former referee: "Lack of consistency from match officials"

Former referee Mark Halsey disagreed with both Swansea red cards at Blackburn

In my alter ego as online journalist/social media dude for a group of football websites, I spoke with former referee Mark Halsey about the Swans' recent game at Blackburn - and in particular the two red cards which saw our tally rise to eight for the season. 

“The first sending-off [Bartley] – it’s clear that he didn’t see it as a Blackburn player was obstructing his view. He must have had advice from the assistant referee. I’d have let play go on personally, but once the referee has given a foul it has to be a red. In my opinion though it was six of one and half a dozen of the other”

 On the second red card (for Sigurdsson):

“I thought it was a yellow. He was unlucky. Craig Pawson saw it as a red for endangering the player's safety”

I've spoken with Keith Hackett (former referee's cheif) on two occasions now, and on both occasions he's been critical of the current standard of refereeing. Mark Halsey also feels there's a lack of consistency in decision making, leading to confusion as to what is and what isn't a red card offence:

“The recognition of what constitutes excessive force is all over the place due to the conditions the referees are working under. Just look at the tackle by Leicester’s Jamie Vardy on Ashley Westwood before Christmas – only a yellow card was given but the Villa player ended up missing a spell through injury. In my opinion that was a definite red card.”

As mentioned, we spoke with Keith Hackett on The Jackcast (use the player below to listen), and he explained that under his watch there regular reviews where officials would get together and discuss decisions that had been made in the previous week's matches. If this is still going on you can only guess what it is they are discussing, as it's quite clear nothing is being done in terms of standardising the decision-making process.

Hopefully with increasing pressure from the section of football lobbying for the use of technology, we see an improvement in the near future. Nobody expects referee's to be perfect, though I appreciate that they do strive to be as good as they can. To err is human. Just be consistent.

FA Cup gone, but top ten still the goal

Eric Imhof takes a reflective look back at a weekend which saw an FA Cup exit, two red cards and a whole load of frustration

I would write "this is the winter of our discontent," but of course that's a misquote (of "thus the winter of our discontent is made spring by the Son of York,” or something similar), and besides, discontent is the wrong word to begin with. “Disappointment” would be more accurate, considering the huge individual and collective opportunities that have been simultaneously squandered in the most frustrating way imaginable. 

Bartley, Gomis, and Carroll all lost chances to impress (with Bartley owing Carroll a pint or two), while the Swans lost a chance to survey a remaining FA-Cup field without City, Chelsea, and Southampton. With Europe out of reach, that limits Monk’s goals to finishing in the top ten and, in my view, winning rubber matches against Stoke and Liverpool, admittedly just to satisfy a self-righteousness and vindicate Monk’s Serpico approach to the game as a whole. 

And speaking of self-righteousness, there have been more than a few asterisks this season, which only highlight the job Monk’s doing in his first year at the helm. In the case of Bartley, I’m of the opinion that yes, by the letter of the law, a red could be shown there, but the dozens of other similar instances that didn’t even produce a yellow card this season—let alone the instances of clear-cut reds the Swans’ opponents have avoided—further highlights the demonstrable inconsistency that more and more, it has to be said, seems to slant consistently against Monk’s side. Ask yourself if, in a million years, the Swans would ever get that call if the roles were reversed. 

Actually, it’s worth mentioning that while the Swans now have eight red cards on the books, some of their opponents miraculously have none to speak of. It simply can’t be the case, if the refs are consistently following the letter of the law, that this statistic should exist, especially considering that many teams go in with a gameplan that revolves around monkeywrenching Swansea’s passing game; i.e. fouling at will. It’s also worth mentioning that Monk has successfully appealed two of those cards, meaning at least 25% of them were patently incorrect. 

For all the talk of points lost from a winning position, Monk has arguably lost 10 points from red cards this season to go along with two cup exits. And that’s just counting if the Swans don’t pick up questionable reds; there are of course the equally important cases where other teams have avoided them (Costa, Yoshida, Alcaraz, Chamakh and Green come to mind, without doing any research). I don’t mean to make excuses, but the pattern at this point is unavoidable. 

Onward, then, to the next three games without Siggy, in which I think Monk will be happy to finish with three points. The Swans are not going to beat Southampton, if I may be blunt, but a win at home against Sunderland is surely not only achievable but likely. That fast start must now look like a godsend to Monk, who can now do some more long-range planning with the knowledge that three or so wins will just about do it. Still, a top-ten finish should be the goal. 

Thanks to Eric for his weekly contribution - follow him on Twiter @AustinJackArmy