Thursday, 28 August 2014

Utrecht continue to moan about Vorm deal

Dutch club "confident of positive verdict from FIFA"



There we were thinking this one had gone away. Well, maybe not seeing as Utrecht had already complained to FIFA, but I (along with, I'm assuming, most Swansea fans) had taken on a kind of "no news is good news" attitude, having been placated by Huw's words on the matter at the recent fan's forum. He said the club are 100% happy with how they conducted the transfer, it had been properly ratified by the relevant authorities, and if they've taken this stance they must be confident that, legally, we're on a sound footing.

That hasn't stopped Utrecht continuing to moan though. It even appears that they've been gossiping around Europe canvassing opinion, which - even if we haven't done anything wrong - is hardly going to show us in a positive light. I do worry about that a bit to be honest. Here are the latest comments from the excellently-named Utrecht Chief Executive Wilco van Schaik:
"It remains to be seen, but we are very positive about the verdict. Everyone that we speak to in the international football world recognises that this thing stinks. If this is not corrected, there is no end, and the whole system with resale rates comes on the shovel.” 
I think the last idiom is lost in translation, but he seems pretty miffed still. All we can do is wait and see what happens. I'm confident we won't face any official sanction from football's governing body, but I can't help but feel we've damaged our reputation somewhat with this deal. We want to be known as a club who uphold all the right values and morals, and I like to think we do, so this is why these accusations sit so uneasily. I hate the idea of people looking on us as a club who try to do the dirty in transfer deals, and even if untrue that could still become the case if Utrecht moan long and hard enough.

Let's hope this story disappears for good in the near future. 

Swansea v Everton - The glamour tie in the League Cup 3rd Round?

Everton to head to Liberty for third round showdown



It shows how far we've come that when I scanned the Third Round fixtures announced last night Swansea vs Everton appeared, to me at least, to be the "biggest" game of the round. At least until I re-read it more thoroughly and noticed Arsenal vs Southampton anyway.

Either way, it's hard to argue that Swansea v Everton isn't that much less of an intriguing fixture. The jury is still out on Southampton following their summer fire-sale, while Arsenal look bereft of attacking options, so seeing Martinez's increasingly confident Everton take on a Swansea side who, to some, are still an unknown quantity under Monk is, in my opinion, just an attractive a televisual option.

Monk has already said he's taking every competition seriously this season, so whether we see wholesale changes in the next round of the cup (as we did against Rotherham) is unclear, but when you look at the calibre of some of the players who came in we can clearly change things up without removing quality. In most positions anyway. I can't say I know whether Martinez will put out a second team but I doubt he'll want to give Monk an easy opportunity to get one over on him. 

It remains to be seen which match(es) the broadcasting powers that be deem fit to be shown across the nation, but it wouldn't surprise me if our tie got the nod. Considering 13,000 came to see us defeat Rotherham, it's realisitic to expect this wouldn't affect the attendance too much, and I'm sure we would come close to, if not selling out even if people did have the option of watching from home. These ties are handy cash boosts for the club, though they'll undoubtedly already be planning the ticketing system given the delays last time out.

One things for sure - I'm pre-booking my ticket this time!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Why Swansea vs Rotherham shows how far football has come

Fourteen years ago we were playing each other for the Third Division title - football has changed a lot since then



I seem to remember Rotherham's last stint in the Championship vividly. It all started when Jonny Hollins' Swansea played a title-decider at Millmoor in Division Three - a match made almost inconsequential following the death of Swansea fan Terry Coles. The Swans won the title, but it almost felt like a hollow victory given the tragic events that unfolded that day.

As for Rotherham? They went up as runners-up and they found themselves embarking upon a purple patch which would see them, firstly, promoted for the second consecutive season as runners up, and secondly hold their place in the Championship for three seasons before their fourth became a stretch too far. They finished bottom the next season and this was around the time things things started to fall apart for the Millers.

There followed a very scary few years, more than a touch reminiscent of the Swans during the Tony Petty era. Relegation back to League One coincided with serious financial trouble, and the prior sale of their ground to clear £3million worth of debt left them without assets, and unable to go into administration. Fans and other football clubs campaigned to find the £2million believed to be necessary save the club, but it took a last minute intervention by a consortium of local businessmen (sound familiar?) to save the ailing club. 

They started their second season in League One with a ten point deficit due to the ongoing financial problems, and despite briefly looking good (and possibly because they sold their two best players) they ended up getting relegated again to League Two. There followed a crazy period which saw more administration, more points deductions, but ultimately they've come good. New chairman Tony Stewart has built them a stadium, overseen two consecutive promotions, and Rotherham came to the Liberty very much a team in with a shout of maintaining their Championship status.

The reason I've given this abbreviated history is because, for the first few years of their rise, everything seemed to be going really well, and I as a young fan was very jealous. All of a sudden though they were losing £140k per month and the wheels came off - around the time we were starting our own sudden climb through the leagues. The difference is we started out having to build from financial prudence, because we'd already seen what happens when all the money has been paid out and people are still crying for more. Quite simply, we're just a few years ahead of where they could be with a bit of luck and a lot of hard work.

I can't say I know too much about financial management at professional football clubs, but having a funding gap of £140k per month at Championship level, to me, indicates perhaps you'd agreed to certain contracts you shouldn't have. If that's the case, our rise to the Premier League ahead of Rotherham's recent rise through the divisions just serves to emphasise how important proper financial management and planning can prove to be.

Something else which struck me at the game yesterday is just how far both our football clubs have come, and how much football has changed in general. When we played at Millmoor on that tragic day in 2000 there were ten arrests and twenty fans of both teams were charged with public order offences, amid scenes which fans will certainly never want to see repeated. Thankfully, football is a much safer environment these days - you just have to look at the lack of trouble at recent South Wales derbies for proof of that. While I often lambast many modernisations of the game I love, ensuring the safety of fans is something which is absolutely paramount, and thankfully we've seen football move in a safer, more family-friendly direction.

This might grate on some fans who long for terraces, smoking, and drinking in the stadium proper, but it's a tiny - absolutely tiny -  price to pay if it means we can guarantee the safety of every football fan who comes to see Swansea City.

Just don't get me started on naff pop music blaring over the loudspeakers...


Swansea's ticketing teething problems continue

Many fans, myself included, experienced delays in entering the stadium - the club asked fans to come early but many paid the price for not heeding this advice (or being unable to)



Yesterday the Swans played Rotherham, and thankfully the only goal of the game came twenty-two minutes in. If it had come in the first ten minutes, a sizeable portion of the Swans fanbase would have missed it owing to not being able to get into the stadium in time for kickoff.

I heard around seven o'clock (when I finish work) that there was a queue going to the club shop, but that didn't sound too bad. By the time I made it to the stadium, however, the queue stretched the entire length of the West Stand. After a while waiting an announcement was made over tannoys stating kickoff would be delayed ten minutes, but it was fairly obvious to most queueing that this wouldn't be enough to stop us missing the start of the match.

As people continued to arrive this meant the queue didn't seem to go down for a while, and my friend has a timestamped photo from 7:52 showing the queue still stretching past the West Stand reception. Hardly ideal! I am firmly aware that the club have continued to implore people to get down to the stadium early, but the problem didn't seem to be the new ticketing system, it seemed to be the ticket office's ability to cope with the amount of tickets being demanded.

Whether this was an oversight on behalf of the ticket office supremo we can't say, but if they didn't anticipate a rush in the buildup to kickoff that does seem a little naive. Especially if there'd been a queue for a good while leading up to the game. It wasn't until Leigh Dineen - our Vice Chairman - got on the case that things got sorted. The collections pickup point - a little demountable opposite the ticket office which was doing very little as people seemed to have foregone the option of pre-booking - became a cash sale point, and all of a sudden the queue was moving briskly. 

My main question would be why did Leigh Dineen have to get involved? Surely that's the job of whoever is running the ticket office, and letting it get to that stage is unacceptable? Don't get me wrong I think it's brilliant that our board are this involved (and that Leigh's initiative got me into the ground a lot quicker than I otherwise would have!), but realistically that's not his job and I'm sure that the club are were as unhappy as the fans about the delays in entry to the stadium.

I'm sure this weekend will run even more smoothly than the Burnley game, as most people have season tickets. Like the Villarreal game, it appears the all-ticket nature of the game was the problem last night, and this is something we now have a while to work on to put it right. As I've said before, I have every confidence in the board and you can bet your bottom dollar that this'll be top of the agenda when they sit down to discuss things which need sorting until the system is running better than ever.

Swansea 1 - 0 Rotherham - 2014/15? Easy!

Gomis' first Swansea goal enough to see off the Millers



This 2014/15 lark is going pretty well eh? Wins over Manchester United and Burnley were tonight followed up by another victory for the Swans in a match where - as against Burnley - we won without really performing to our best for ninety minutes. That's not to say we didn't play well tonight, and I thought we were definitely worth the victory, but the obvious encouraging factor is that there's still obviously lots of room to improve. 

We lined up with a very, very youthful central midfield of Josh Sheehan, Jay Fulton & Tom Carroll, while Jazz came in at left-back, with the defence reading Bartley, Fernandez & Tiendalli to the right of him. On the wings we had Montero & Dyer, while Gomis & Tremmel completed the side. It meant Monk made ten changes to the side which had beaten Burnley, so I'm sure everyone else shared my curiosity to see how we'd perform with such a different looking lineup.

Early signs were...well I wouldn't know because I missed the first fifteen minutes getting into the ground (I'll do a separate blog about the delays in entry to the stadium later), but when I did get in we were obviously in the driving seat. We were finding our wingers regularly, and one of the first players who impressed me was Jazz, who was solid in the tackle (as is to be expected from him) but also always offered himself in attack. I also stumbled upon something I can't believe I hadn't noticed before - he was playing behind Montero which makes them the "Jazz & Jeff" partnership. All a bit Fresh Prince, but most definitely awesome.

Gomis looked very tidy, and I hadn't been in my seat that long when he opened the scoring on twenty two minutes. Picking up a pass from the right by Dyer, he let it roll across his body, took one touch and buried a left-footed finish into the bottom right corner of the Rotherham net. That was us in front, and to be honest we never really looked like losing our lead. There were a couple of hairy moments towards the end but generally a big Kyle Bartley sliding tackle came to the rescue. Not great we put ourselves in those positions, but at least we dealt with it.

Looking at my scribbled notes from the match, something curious was at one point Jeff passed Fernandez a note, which he read before tucking it into his sock. Get us with the tactics! If Freddy (I've decided I'm going to call him that because it's easier than Federico) isn't fluent in English it's possibly a way to get tactical instructions across, so keep your eyes out for that. 

Another note I made is that we should have tried to get the young midfielders on the ball more. In the first half this wasn't so much of an issue but once Fulton had gone off at half time for Shelvey I thought it got a little more stretched. Jonjo was guilty of trying to force the issue, as was the case against Burnley, and when he calmed things down later on in the match the effect was obvious. Whether this was because of Sigurdsson's introduction on the hour mark we can't say, but in the closing stages of the match we definitely took more and more of a stranglehold on the game - much to Rotherham boss Steve Evans' chagrin. He could be seen growing more and more frustrated as the game went on, but he can't really have had any complaints about the final result.

So, three wins from three this season and with WBA to come at home this weekend we could realistically make it four from four. How many of tonight's team will be retained for the weekend is doubtful, but players like Dyer, Montero, Fernandez & Gomis did their chances no harm whatsoever. Jazz also gave a timely reminder of his qualities, and I do hope he can force his way into the team at some point.

An encouraging night for the Swans, and as I've said, there's plenty of room for improvement. Hopefully we'll see that starting Saturday. That being said, if we keep picking wins up at this rate I'll probably stop caring how we play...

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Swansea v Rotherham - Preview, team news, predicted lineups, stats, prior form, quotes & analysis



The Match


Swansea have won five of their last six Premier League games, and will be about as confident as we have been since our arrival at football's top table. What's more, after recent good memories in this competition The Monk will be keen to do better than last year, where we fell at the first hurdle in our attempt to retain our first ever major trophy. There'll definitely be a raft of changes in terms of how the team lines up, but we'll still have every intention of winning this game. Of that you can be sure.

Rotherham are currently enjoying life after gaining their second consecutive promotion, and find themselves sitting proudly in mid-table in the Championship - not bad for a team who didn't have a stadium for four years, and only moved into their new purpose-built home two seasons ago. Like ourselves they have benefited from a philanthropic local (Chairman Tony Stewart), who most definitely has the club's best interests at heart, but whether that'll be any help against the Swans is debatable. This'll be a stress-free night where fans of the Millers can relax, enjoy themselves, and take stock of how far they've come in such a short space of time. Sound familiar?

If anyone wants to read about Rotherham's dramatic rise check out this excellent piece on the BBC from earlier this summer: link

Prior Form (Most recent at top)



Premier LeagueSwansea1-0Burnley
Premier LeagueMan Utd1-2Swansea
FriendlySwansea0-3Villarreal
FriendlyReading1-3Swansea
FriendlyBournemouth3-1Swansea




ChampionshipMillwall0-1Rotherham Utd
ChampionshipRotherham0-2Watford
ChampionshipRotherham1-0Wolves
League CupRotherham1-0Fleetwood Town
ChampionshipDerby County 1-0Rotherham Utd
 

Team News



Swansea look set to ring the changes. The Monk looks likely to include summer signings Federico Fernandez & Jefferson Montero from the start, while recent loan acquisition Tom Carroll could come in following his move from Spurs. Rory Donnelly remains sidelined, while Leon Britton is out for longer than first feared after it was revealed he's got a hairline fracture of the knee. Emnes remains out, but otherwise Monk has lots of options to choose from. It's more than possible some youth products will get a chance - Josh Sheehan & Alex Bray both missed the U21 game last night so I'd wager both will feature tonight, and I'm looking forward to seeing young jacks getting a chance in competitive games.

For Rotherham, Steve Evans has said he will make changes for this game and it is likely that Scott Loach will come in for Adam Collin and Richard Brindley could also start. There could also be places for John Swift, on loan from Chelsea with Matt Derbyshire and Jordan Bowery pairing up front. Richard Wood, who came off the subs bench for the injured Joe Skarz at Millwall and Michael Tidser could also play some part in the game. Febian Brandy could also make his first appearance in a Millers shirt after coming back from injury. Rob Milsom, Frazer Richardson and Paul Green are all out with injuries.

 

Completely guessed lineups








Statistics & Trivia


  • Swansea have failed to win any of their last three home games against Rotherham (D2, L1).
  • Rotherham have lost just one of their last seven games against the Swans in all competitions.
  • Swansea's only major trophy is their League Cup triumph in 2013, when they beat Bradford 5-0 at Wembley.
  • Swansea's last five League Cup matches have featured just one or neither side scoring.
  • The Swans have earned two victories from their opening two Premier League fixtures.
  • Rotherham's last League Cup victory over a Premier League side was in September 1992, when they beat Everton 1-0 before losing the second leg 3-0. They have lost six and drawn one of seven games against top-flight opposition since then.
  • Rotherham were the League Cup runners-up in 1961, losing to Aston Villa - who also beat them at this stage last season.
  • Four of their five matches this season have ended 1-0 (W3, L1).
  • Swansea have scored first in 45% of their last 20 home games.
  • In their last 20 home games, Swansea have scored the first goal 9 times and conceded the first goal 10 times.
  • In their last 20 home games against teams positioned below them in the table, Swansea have scored the first goal 12 times and conceded the first goal 5 times.
  • Rotherham have scored first in 70% of their last 20 away games.
  • In their last 20 away games, Rotherham have scored the first goal 14 times and conceded the first goal 5 times.
  • In their last 20 away games against teams positioned above them in the table, Rotherham have scored the first goal 6 times and conceded the first goal 14 times.
Stats sourced from bbc.co.uk & kickoff.co.uk

Straight from the horse's mouth

 


Garry Monk is taking the Capital One Cup seriously:

"Of course I want to do well in this competition. It's been a great cup for us. I want us to do well again and when you've won two league games in a row you want to keep that momentum going, and this is the next game for us.

"A cup run gives everyone confidence and we don't want to give anything up easily.

"We want to fight for everything — every cup game and every league game."

http://www.southwales-eveningpost.co.uk/Swansea-City-boss-Garry-Monk-hungry-Capital-Cup/story-22819357-detail/story.html?#ixzz3BV2bdLhk

Rotherham boss Steve Evans knows (partially) what to expect from Garry Monk::

"It`s going to be tough and I've no doubt that Garry Monk will make changes but, on the other hand, he`ll want the continuity after two great wins. Gary Monk is someone who, not long ago, was playing against my teams and he still looks young, fit and agile and the lads in his dressing room love him. I think he will be a very good top flight manager.

http://www.rotherham.vitalfootball.co.uk/matchprere.asp?a=368302#ixzz3BUqKIfeB

Analysis


There was a time when I was envious of Rotherham's lofty Championship status. How times have changed! We head into this match as firm favourites, despite almost undoubtedly going with a changed team, and realistically it's hard to argue with that.

For Rotherham ex-Crawley boss Steve Evans isn't afraid of pulling any punches, and he's also looking to rotate. We're likely to see ex-Swans loanee Febian Brandy, who recently signed for Rotherham, and beyond that I don't know much about their side. Matt Derbyshire I've seen over the years and if you give him space and time he'll be a threat, while I always thought Scott Loach wasn't a terrible 'keeper. Whether we'll see these players is anyone's guess, mind. The only other player whose name I recognise is Richard Wood, and that's only from Football Manager (and having a friend with the same name) so I'm really not reading anything into that.

I firmly expect Josh Sheehan & Alex Bray to feature - the latter looked tidy enough against Villarreal and Sheehan has been knocking on the door of the first-team for a while. This is the perfect opportunity to give them a start and we'll probably see other full debutants too - Fernandez is in line to start and I'd imagine Jeff will get a run out too, given he's only featured from the bench so far. We could also see Tremmel's first start of the season, while it remains to be seen what we do at fullback.

Whoever starts, it'll be a strong team. I'd argue the strongest "second team" we've ever put out. While we should afford Rotherham all the respect they deserve, we should be winning games of this nature now and the longer we stay in the Premier League, improving the overall calibre of the squad, the more we'll progress past the opening stages of the League & FA Cups. There's a reason big teams do well in these competitions - it's the ability to rotate without significantly weakening your team.

As for tonight, I'm pretty confident. We should win, but beyond that my lack of knowledge regarding our opponents and the topsy-turvy nature of cup football means it's pointless over-analysing things. A night to sit back, enjoy the cheap ticket prices, and learn a thing or two about some of our fringe players.

Sounds good to me!

Swansea in race with Freiburg for French striker

Sochaux's Cedric Bakambu confirms the Swans' interest



Another one from left-field. Breaking news from France has getfootballnewsfrance.com reporting that Sochaux striker Cedric Bakambu (who I've never heard of - a job for this evening methinks) has said he has offers from the Swans, amongst other suitors.

“I have offers, notably from Fribourg in Germany and in England from Swansea. I am hesitating between the two. Reims and Lorient, I heard they were interested, but they did not contact me. Maybe they contacted Sochaux, but I don’t know about that. I am giving myself two-three days to decide no more. I know that at Swansea I might not be first choice striker. 
"There are several things to consider, not just the prestige of the club. But I am flattered. I’m at an age where I need to play. Crystal Palace are also interested, I think it will be between those 3 [Swansea, Palace & Freiburg].” 
http://www.getfootballnewsfrance.com/2014/cedric-bakambu-to-choose-between-fribourg-and-swansea/?

I don't think anyone expected that! Let's hope if he's planning on coming for talks he can figure out that Swansea is in Wales, eh. In the meantime let's use the power of Youtube to do our own scouting.



He looks tidy enough - I'll endeavour to do a bit more research on him later, and if anything more develops of this we'll keep you up to date. Until then.