Swansea City; a footballing enigma to many have had a somewhat patchy history. In the past 25 years, they have been everywhere from top of the old Division 1, to saving themselves from relegation from the Football League on the last day of the football season. With liquidation looking inevitable at times, it is perhaps surprising that they are even still in existence.
However, last season saw them impress all but the harshest critic, playing a superb brand of football to see them finish the season just 6 points behind closest rivals, much fancied Cardiff City, and the same number of points away from the playoffs. Labelled as ‘the Championship’s Arsenal’, superb performances against Premier League sides Portsmouth and Fulham in the FA Cup saw the team, normally seen as South Wales’ weak link, launched into the public eye.
The summer after their superb debut in the Championship has been a tough one, with highly-rated manager Roberto Martinez, and star striker Jason Scotland both leaving. The failure to break the wage structure to secure the signing of on-loan Espanyol midfielder Jordi Gomez and Ipswich striker Pablo Counago also brought the club’s ambition into question.
New boss Paulo Sousa has very little managerial experience, and his torrid spell at QPR can’t help to inspire confidence in the ever-faithful ‘Jack Army’.
The signing of Stephen Dobbie and links with new Wigan-signing James McCarthy, as well as the permanent acquisition of Nathan Dyer gave the Swans plenty of hope earlier in the summer. However, Sousa’s lack of activity in the transfer market will leave many worried about the future direction of last season’s surprise package. His further concession that Swansea are not one of the 10 teams that he believes can achieve automatic promotion this season will not instill confidence in anyone.
If Swansea’s league position from last season doesn’t suffer, then their style of football can be expected to. The loss of Gomez is massive; his flair and style set the tone for Swansea’s beautiful short-passing game. He offset industrious fans’ favourite Leon Britton, and complimented Darren Pratley perfectly, whether he was played on the right, left, or through the middle. The experience gained last season by local talent Joe Allen will be invaluable, while the return of Ferrie Bodde will be almost like a new signing. The addition of Jordi Lopez, a man with La Liga experience will help, but many Swans fans doubt he has the required talent to break into the first team.
Goals will be the hardest thing for Swansea to come by though. Losing Scotland, a player berated by those who only watch him occassionally will be painful to all the fans. Having scored 50 in just 90 starts, he may have lacked the style of other strikers, but his power and instinct are irreplaceable. Links with Pablo Counago have brought little substance amid talk of Grzegorz Rasiak and Marek Saganowski signing from Southampton. An over-reliance on Dobbie could see too much pressure placed on the former Queen of the South man.
It is perhaps most important though that the fans stay behind the team. A record attendance of 32,786 (vs. Arsenal, 1968) may not be achievable, but it is the fickle fans failing to support the club through their tough times who can be blamed for the poor finances in the days gone by.
With the core of the team still available, Swansea are perhaps one signing away from being one of the top sides in the Championship, but the fans must not demand the slick passing style they have been spoilt by if they are to seek success. Sousa has experience at some of the biggest clubs in Europe, and previous rookie managers Roberto Martinez and Kenny Jackett proved calculated, but successful, gambles. Everyone will be hoping the Portuguese man can do the same.
SEASON PREDICTION: 11th