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Why I Believe Swansea Will Prove the Critics Wrong and Stay Up This Season

The thing about soccer, and sports in general, is that you never know. You never know who is going to win or score that equalizer in the last minute. You never know who is going to get yellow carded, or what decision a referee will make during a controversial incident. Everything is in the heat of the moment. It’s why we love the game of soccer so dearly because anything can happen.

Staring reality in the face, Swansea City — the club I’ve supported since I was a boy — have already been relegated from the Premier League before they’ve even kicked a ball. Most of my readers think so. Sixty six percent of The Guardian’s writers surveyed predicted the Swans will go down. Even my own readers predicted that Swansea are the most likely to be relegated out of the three promoted teams. It appears that Swansea is doomed.

However, contrary to almost everyone else’s opinion, I believe they’ll exceed everyone’s expectations. I don’t think this is going to happen on Monday evening against Manchester City at Etihad Stadium, although I would love it. But the hard work from Swansea’s players and wisdom from manager Brendan Rodgers will pay off during the course of the season.

Swansea couldn’t have picked a harder club to play against in their first match of the 2011-12 Premier League season. Norwich got Wigan, while Queens Park Rangers got Bolton. But Swansea have never had it easy. This is a club who has had to fight its way throughout its history. Nestled along the coast of South Wales, in one of the poorest regions of Europe, the club has persevered. Swansea City were almost liquidated in 1985. Then in 2003, the club were one game away from being relegated to the Football Conference. They won 4-2 against Hull City, and have never looked back.

Many of you may think I’m blinded by my love for the club. You may be right, but here are the reasons why I’m not only confident they’ll escape relegation but will exceed expectations this season:

(1) they have a tremendous team spirit,

(2) they have one of the brightest young managers in Brendan Rodgers, who is destined for success in his career (first with Swansea, but eventually with a bigger club), and

(3) they’re filled with a very talented squad.

Swansea may not have the superstars that Manchester City has, but they can play football exceedingly well. Combined with the team spirit and intelligent manager, they have the formula needed to shock a lot of the teams in the Premier League. Again, I’m not expecting Swansea to beat Manchester City today, but they definitely will give them a few frights especially with their pace down the wings. On the left, Scott Sinclair is dangerous, while on the right wing, either Wayne Routledge or Nathan Dyer (depending who gets the nod to play) should cause Kolarov (or Clichy) some headaches.

The Swans don’t have the big name players that many other Premier League clubs have. But what the Welsh club does have is a philosophy of playing football. They’ve been compared to Barcelona in the past, so the Swansealona nickname isn’t surprising. They like to play the ball on the ground. Instead of kicking it down the pitch, the goalkeeper starts the distribution in the back and you’ll see the team trying to pass the ball around the pitch and look for that forward pass to either Danny Graham (signed from Watford) or Stephen Dobbie (the player who helped get Blackpool promoted to the Premier League). Swansea also has Leroy Lita (from Reading and Middlesbrough) as added firepower.

Swansea’s brand of attractive attacking style football should win a lot of admirers this season. There is still a question mark about the squad though. They just signed the Dutch national team’s number two goalkeeper Michel Vorm from Utrecht. His first game for Swansea will be today, so it’ll be a tall order to expect him to adapt so quickly against Manchester City. Talk about being thrown in the deep end for your debut.

Other than that, Swansea should be able to choose from a full team squad except for captain Garry Monk who is out injured.

Expect Swansea to start central defenders Steven Caulker (on loan from Tottenham) and Ashley Williams (Wales captain), while Alan Tate and Angel Rangel will play left back and right back respectively. The engine of the team will be diminutive holding midfielder Leon Britton (who used to play for West Ham United), who will be supplying the ball to Dobbie and Welsh youngster Joe Allen. Wingers Sinclair and Dyer will probably start, while Graham up front will create many of Swansea’s goalscoring chances.

Today’s match for Swansea is the first of 38 Cup finals the club will play this season in the Premier League. While almost everyone is writing them off, I’m a strong believer in team spirit and talent. And this is a team that is overflowing with both. I’ll be the first to admit that some clubs can look amazing when they play in the Championship but look like they’re in a different class when they play in the Premier League. But I’m confident that Swansea is no Derby County who only won one match during the 2007-08 season in the top flight.

We’ve seen so many teams in the past who have had tremendous talent, but just couldn’t hold it together as a team. West Ham last season was a good example. So too was Liverpool in the early part of last season. You can see what a tremendous difference team spirit and confidence has. Swansea exude confidence. Many of their players may not have Premier League experience, but they believe in themselves, the club and their teammates. They’ll be confident that their system of playing soccer will work well in the Premier League.

I encourage you to have an open mind when it comes to the Swans and to give them a chance. If you’ve never seen them play before, this season is a wonderful opportunity to see what all of the fuss is about. They’re an entertaining team to watch and they’ll be backed by some of the most passionate fans across the league, many of whom will be at Etihad Stadium today.

They may not win today, but hopefully Swansea will show enough glimmers of hope to convince you to keep on watching them throughout the season.

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  1. Aurelien Windenberger

    August 17, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    I thought Swansea looked quite decent against my club ManC on Monday. I love Scott Sinclair and Vorm was probably the most impressive goalie this weekend. They won’t have to face the ManCity D every week and I can see their frontline scoring some goals and then their D and possession abilities will close things up for the other teams. I’m looking forward to watching them play against opponents that aren’t title contenders.

    I see them safely stay up, might even end up in the 12-14th positions if they get some breaks.

  2. G

    August 16, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    “Why? Not sure about the Joy Division song, sorry” – it’s very apt, song used by the Barmy Army in Oz “Swann, Swann will tear you apart…again”

    One of the poorest regions of Europe, really?

    Hope they make a good fist of staying up.

  3. Scrumper

    August 16, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    I can remember watching Swansea come to Brentford and playing in the old Fourth Division. So I’m glad to see a small club scale the heights of football and good luck to them. It’s very good for football. But you cannot compete (or survive) in the Premier League unless you bring in some new talent capable of performing at that level. I know it’s great to have a few players who are still there from the days when the prospect of dropping out of the league altogether was very real, but they won’t keep the team up. Last night I think Man City were way to cautious in the first half and allowed Swansea to much possession. Once they stepped up a gear in the second half it was all over.

    • The Gaffer

      August 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm

      Which players should we sign? We’ve already picked up Wayne Routledge (Newcastle), Leroy Lita (Middlesbrough), Michel Vorm (Utrecht) and Danny Graham (Watford).

      Yesterday’s performance by Swansea isn’t one to judge them on. It’s almost impossible for a club their size to compete against Manchester City. The true test comes this weekend against Wigan at home. Then we can see if they need more players.

      The Gaffer

      • Why?

        August 16, 2011 at 3:35 pm

        I know that this is massively unlikely but Barton would be kind of cheapish maybe you’d get lucky with a £2-3m bid he’s a free next year but large wages indeed, or more likely Michael Brown from Leeds he’s old but has what Swansea need or take a chance on Owen Hargreaves on a pay as you play deal he still hasn’t got a club and would have to lower his wages a lot to play in the prem, still big wages though. Then go for John Guidetti from city on loan before he signs for QPR he is decent and I think he will Shine this year. Reo Coker would have been good but to late. They need strength as they don’t seem to have anyone who can boss the midfield or a commanding centre half like Upson who also went on a free but still wants to prove he can play for England these players are expensive wages wise I know but that’s the Premier league for you.

  4. Why?

    August 16, 2011 at 7:41 am

    I think that Swansea kept the ball well and passed it around well at times they started with confidence and were not phased by the occasion at all. The team has great pace a must for the prem but I’m not so sure they will still be in the top flight come May.
    They do not have much strength at all. They need a couple of more powerful players to compliment what they already have. Their final ball was poor all night they didn’t look like scoring but then again they were playing against the best defence in the league. People have pointed out that they have a good defence I didn’t see the evidence of this last night. City went through them at will in fact I can’t remember the last time I had seen a keeper make so many saves. He was a massive highlight for Swansea last night and by far Swansea’s best player. Sinclair looked decent as well and maybe they can build on this but it doesn’t look to good to me at the moment. Of course it’s only the first game of a long season and it was a very tough first game for them so hard to judge. In the Premier league the first 3-5 results are very hard to predict because of ring rust and fitness levels etc. but they are the most important as to where the players heads will be at for the rest of the season. So Swansea need to pick themselves up and dust themselves down, they have just faced one of the toughest opponents they could and it showed.
    If they keep the belief the had shown in the first half add a couple of powerful lads before the window closes they may just make it.

    To the Guy who said the didn’t sell out they were short only by around a 50- 100 not bad for a Monday night with a 5 hour drive.

    Gaffer maybe you can tell me why Swansea fans kept singing Joy Division’s Love will tear us apart? As they are a Manchester band and Ian Curtis was a City fan! I don’t get it.

    • The Gaffer

      August 16, 2011 at 2:10 pm

      Why? Not sure about the Joy Division song, sorry.

      The Gaffer

      • Gaz Hunt

        August 16, 2011 at 6:31 pm

        “Swans, Swans will tear you apart – again.”

        Lots of clubs use it – I think one of the most famous is it’s use for Giggs at Manchester United.

        • The Gaffer

          August 16, 2011 at 7:38 pm

          I’m a big Joy Division fan, but I’ve never heard the version by the Swans sung by them. Sounds like more clubs are catching on to it and singing it in games now.

          Soccer songs go through phases. It wasn’t that long ago that a bunch of clubs were singing their version of “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes.

          The Gaffer

  5. IanCransonsKnees

    August 16, 2011 at 1:07 am

    I’m afraid for me it’s another misguided attempt to play champagne football with shandy footballers. Unless some element of pragmatism is introduced then it could be a long season. That said Saturday’s match against Wigan and Martinez will be interesting. The myth surrounding Martinez and Coyle getting their teams to play purist football should be blown out of the water.

  6. Gaz Hunt

    August 15, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    I know I’m not going to make any friends by continuing to say that Swansea are most likely to go down (along with Blackburn and Wigan, I believe) but I think the very reason people are impressed with them is going to be the down-fall.

    In the Championship they were able to out class opponents with ball-on-the-ground, pretty football but I don’t think it’ll be as effective and will probably be a hindrance in the top division with clubs knowing that all they have to do is put the pressure on them higher up the pitch.

    But what do I know? It’s all down to determination and a bit of luck most of the time. That goalie looks damn good too. Gaffer, I’ll owe you a drink if they stay up!

  7. Jake Wilson

    August 15, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    All the pessimism about Swansea’s chances of survival is just realism. Just going by memory, promotion playoff winners haven’t fared well the next season in the Prem. I think you’ll see a lot of good will toward the Swans by the footballing media and neutrals, much like Blackpool last season.

    Gaffer, your boys looked pretty decent the first 20 minutes tonight when Mancini bizarrely had his City side lying deep and ceding possession. Watching Swansea leisurely pass it around the middle third of the pitch may not have made for the most entertaining football, but it did give the match an unexpected air of drama as you found yourself wondering how long they could play with the big boys.

    Even once normal service was resumed and hosts had the Swans rocking back, neutrals were treated to the entertaining of watching City try to put one past your impressive new keeper and the woodwork. (It wasn’t so entertaining for those of us wondering when on earth the goal would finally arrive.)

    Once de Jong went off, there were a few promising opportunities on the break late on that bode well for the future for Swansea (and not so well for Manchester City, who lack true cover for the Dutch destroyer). City left with the three points, and Swansea went home with a bit of a moral victory after getting to halftime without conceding and proving they could play a little possession football for a decent chunk of a match in the Prem.

    Hope your boys stay up.

  8. Josh

    August 15, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    I am so happy with how my swans played today. It almost brought a tear to my eye seeing them with Premier league patches on their kits. Swans are staying up.

    • The Gaffer

      August 15, 2011 at 9:01 pm

      Same here Josh. They played City off the park for portions of the game. But there’s still a lot of work to do. For me, this weekend’s game against Wigan is when the season really starts for Swansea.

      The Gaffer

  9. Karl Pilkington

    August 15, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Would love to see all the promoted teams stay up and Stoke, Wolves, and West Brom go down. Would be great for the BPL to get unwatchable teams with horrible managers relegated.

    Have all three promoted teams managed to stay up any time in history?

    • Dan

      August 15, 2011 at 5:06 pm

      Blackburn, Bolton and Fulham 01-02 I believe. Also when we (Newcastle) came fourth and City just got promoted. I hate 2011.

    • Matt

      August 15, 2011 at 7:17 pm

      Blackburn will go down for sure. Wolves will surprise this year.

  10. Guy

    August 15, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    One thing I noticed watching Swansea in last year’s playoffs is that they do play defense as well as “attractive” football. They are no Blackpool, so I certainly wouldn’t write them off. Two of last year’s promoted teams stayed up. Why not the Swans this year?

  11. Burt Reynolds

    August 15, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    I think fans of the Premiership in general should take to Swansea well. I like how their last several talented young managers (Martinez, Sousa, Rogers) employed similar styles, and I respect that they’ve not sacked any of them. I would like to see them stay up, but I have them going down with Blackburn and Norwich. Who would go down if not a newly promoted team though? Most people seem to be picking Wigan to go down with two of the arrivals from the Championship, but with Wigan’s history of defying the odds, I have a tough time picking them myself. Maybe their luck will finally run out though. Newcastle is an unstable time bomb thanks to Ashley, and I am not sold on Wolves being a lock to stay up either. Blackburn is my pick though… they’re about as idiotic upstairs as Newcastle’s front office, but with less talent managing and on the pitch.

  12. brn442

    August 15, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    That Ostentatious sponsor placement in front their team photo is already a bad sign – Forget the Venky’s Chicken Advert – this is a new low.

    • The Gaffer

      August 15, 2011 at 2:38 pm

      Almost every club does that for their official team photo.

      The Gaffer

  13. Lyle

    August 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Even though I’ve predicted Swansea to do down this season in my EPL season 2011/2012 pick, I’d put money on Swansea staying up.

    It’s a solid club and they play good enough football to stay up. I think it will be hard for them because the league is pretty solid in the lower tier teams, like Wolverhampton and even Blackburn.

    I’m pulling for Norwich as well. Would like them to stay in the league. Wigan I want to see go down because they aren’t a well supported club, although I have total respect for Dave Whelan the owner and Roberto Martinez.

    Blackburn or Bolton probably need some time in the Championship as well.

  14. Jason Gatties

    August 15, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Keep an open mind? I could give a toss about the other 19 clubs in the Premier League, so I certainly care little about what Swansea does. As long as Fulham can get points off them twice, thats really all I care about.

  15. Andyb

    August 15, 2011 at 10:18 am

    They’ll be backed by 2,500 fans, they didn’t even sell out their allocation and its their first ever premier league game, which I find astonishing and embarrassing. I know its a Monday night game, but bloody hell that’s terrible.

    Anyway, being Welsh I’ve always wanted to see a Welsh club in the premier league, and I want them to stay up, without a doubt they have a better chance of staying up than Blackpool did last year because the premier league has gotten worse with QPR and Norwich coming up and replacing bigger clubs and better squads. Looking forward to the game.

  16. Mike C

    August 15, 2011 at 7:58 am

    Looking forward to the match, Gaffer!

    I actually do hope that the Swans stay up this season, because they do play an attractive style of football.

    I wish them well – just not today!

  17. Jjerg

    August 15, 2011 at 7:21 am

    I agree that writing off the Swans is silly. They do have a great manager in Rodgers, and they play thoughtful football. What worries me about this Welsh cluster is their style. They have to change their attacking mentality to stay up. Very few teams succeed with a free flowing forward style and the ones that do have much greater talent then their opponent. They were one of the most talented championship sides.
    That stated, you wrote, Swansea has a great manager. I don’t see him with a die by the sword attitude like Blackpool. Rodgers will be able to with a few games by his wit and smarts. Something many premier league managers lack. I see a 16-18the place finish for the Swans. They drop down next year after Rodgers leaves to manage Newcastle or some other club.

    • The Gaffer

      August 15, 2011 at 7:31 am

      Don’t forget that Swansea kept more than 20 clean sheets last season so they can defend well too, when needed. The only two question marks I have is regarding goalkeeper Vorm (quality goalkeeper but how quickly can he adapt) and Alan Tate, who doesn’t give me a ton of confidence in his abilities as left back.

      The Gaffer

      • Lyle

        August 16, 2011 at 12:54 am

        Vorm is better than De Gea at the moment. He’s totally comfortable between the sticks. He’s not tall and lanky, but he’s athletic and has good hands. He played great. Probably one the best four allowed goals in game goalkeeping performances in a while.

        Tate’s tough, but not EPL material. And no way should be playing left back.

  18. trickybrkn

    August 15, 2011 at 6:56 am

    Strangers things have happened then the Swans staying up… This time last year I thought West Ham had done enough to push mid table… Only, to be listening to the match this Saturday on BBC London radio from Doncaster.

    I don’t think they’ll go after it like Blackpool, but then again what made them exciting, also doomed them.

    They’ll need 27 pts from home matches. and pluck a few matches on the road. And need a the lower half to beat each other up, and a bit of luck.

    I’ll be rooting for them, everybody loves an underdog.

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