Now there’ll be some Mags keen as owt in making the trip to South Wales midweek to the highly admirable Swansea City; a beacon of inspiration in these dark times. An example of a better way for NUFC? Steven Carroll from fanzine Swansea Oh Swansea has given his view on SCFC and the state of play. Excellent read this!
Find SoS here…http://sosfanzine.com/
TF: Saturdays win at Fulham put to an end a winless run of 4 matches and yourselves sit 10th after 12 matches. Has the Premier League campaign met your expectations so far?
SoS: Pretty much, we were never going to come flying out of the traps as we had Manchester United, Spurs, Liverpool and Arsenal in the first six games. Since then we’ve picked up a reasonable sum of points and should really have two more in the bank if it wasn’t for the shocking decision to award Stoke a last minute penalty in our last home game. But considering we’ve had more games than any other team I’m pleased to be in the top half of the table going into this weekend.
TF: SCFC strengthened the squad with considerable numbers in the close season with £12m spent on Wilfred Bony the major purchase. Is this a statement of intent by the Swansea board to kick on from the excellent League Cup win last season?
SoS: The club didn’t really want to pay that amount of money for a player but they were left in a bit of a dilemma when top target Iago Aspas signed for Liverpool and not us. Then Laudrup drafted up a new list of strikers and it appeared Bony was the only one who would realistically sign and because we really needed a striker they were willing to spend such a hefty fee to secure his services. I don’t think we will see that fee broken for a long time if ever to be honest. In answer to your question I guess you could say yes it is a statement of intent but spending such fees isn’t going to become the norm at Swansea.
TF: Going back to the League Cup success in February, can you have believed this was possible when 10 years ago, the club were nearly relegated to the Conference. Is it possible to describe how that transformation was achieved?
SoS: Of course not, it’s a fairytale isn’t it! It’s very difficult to believe how things have changes since the first few years of me watching Swansea. I guess it all started when the current board took over in 2002, initially they made a couple of mistakes but they always decided after the financial problems of the past we would never overspend and mess with the future of the club. After a near miss with the Conference in 2003, Brian Flynn added the likes of Leon Britton, Roberto Martinez and Alan Tate to the squad and a permanent basis and the signing of Lee Trundle proved to be a real catalyst of getting bums on seats at the Vetch Field. Kenny Jackett then took over and won us promotion in 2004/5 and the following year we lost to Barnsley in the Play-Off final which was an absolute gutter at the time.
The next big change then was when Martinez himself took the reins. The style of football changed to what was become known as “the Swansea way” with a possession style game that was unique to the lower leagues. It worked a treat as we stormed to the League 1 title in 2008 and after he left for Wigan the club decided that from now on we would always look to appoint a manager who would be looking to continue with Martinez’s philosophy. That eventually lead us to Brendan Rodgers who took us up after defeating Reading in the Play-Off final two and a half years ago and then after that Michael Laudrup came in and we won our first piece of silverware last term.
You have to give major credit to the board of directors, they more than anyone deserve the credit. They’ve been on the journey all the way through and I bet all football fans would love to have local based businessmen who are supporters of the club running it.
TF: Following on from the fantastic win in Valencia and being 1 point away from the knockout rounds of the Europa League, is the club eyeing the competition as a genuine chance of silverware? Has the clubs league form suffered in any way?
SoS: I think Michael Laudrup is definitely eyeing it as a chance of silverware. When at Getafe he took them to the quarter’s of the Uefa Cup as it was then and they lost to Bayern Munich in extra time of their quarter final tie so he will believe we have a chance of doing well. It will be a huge ask though, I was in Valencia and as you can imagine it was an incredible night for everyone that travelled and I’d love to see us go as far as we can as we may never qualify for Europe again in my lifetime. A lot of it depends on who we draw but if Fulham or Middlesbrough can make the final then why not us?
The league form may have suffered slightly, but two of our four wins thus far have come after away ties in Europe so I wouldn’t say it’s had a huge effect on us. I think that’ll come later in the season as the players start to tire, especially if we continue to progress in the competition.
TF: Michael Laudrup hugely impresses as a manager with forward thinking ideas on the game and a commitment to flowing football. What are the cornerstones of his success? How long do you think he will remain at SCFC and what legacy can he leave the club if he does leave?
He’s cut from a similar cloth as our previous managers but of course there are differences as there are with each manager. The main difference with him is he likes the wide players to tuck in and becomes inside forwards rather than wingers so the team is a lot more narrow than it was under previous regimes. That’s one of the cornerstones to his success, you could probably say one of the other’s is Michu. Whether he plays him up front or behind the striker he’s always a constant menace to the opposition and was a huge part of our success last season.
In terms of how long will he stay it certainly won’t be long term, he’s said that himself. I’d say he could well leave this summer but if not almost certainly the one after. His legacy will surely be that League Cup win, our first major trophy and hopefully a long run in Europe as well. Two things we didn’t think we’d ever see and are unlikely to see again.
TF: Did the S.Wales Derby have an extra edge with both teams playing in the top tier or this just all PL hype? How did you find the derby compared with previous occasions?
SoS: I found a lot of it to be hype to be honest, it’s always hugely hyped in this part of the world but it seemed everyone else was getting involved in it this time with it being the first ever top flight clash between us.
I found the derby to be lacking in terms of what we usually expect to see to be honest. There were hardly any tackles flying in and both sides barely had any local players involved on the day. From my point of view it was one of the worst I’ve been to as I thought we were abysmal in the second half and Cardiff deserved to win. Our players took a lot of stick for that and we expect much better when we clash again in February. It was a horrendous game for the neutral as well, Angel Rangel made as many saved as Michel Vorm which says it all.
TF: Do you welcome Cardiff at all to the PL from a Welsh footballing perspective or is the rivalry far too intense for this to be a factor? What’s your view on the rebranding of CCFC?
SoS: I did before we played them but after that horror show I wish they’d stayed down! They’re the games you relish and after a three season absence I was really looking forward to locking horns with them again but you can’t enjoy any of the game as there’s so much riding on it. The only moments you enjoy are if you score and then at the end if you win, other than that the atmosphere’s always electric but again you’re just on edge for all the game.
Their rebranding’s embarrassing. I can’t believe the amount of their fans that just took it on the chin. I genuinely don’t think our fans would tolerate it and I know for a fact I wouldn’t. They seem to have be blinded by the pursuit of Premier League football. Think they need to realise selling your soul is a price not worth paying.
TF: Swansea City is a great example of supporter involvement with the Trust having 20% of the shares in the club. Can you give us a quick insight into the involvement that the Trust have?
SoS: The trust have around a 20% stake in the club and have a representative on the board of directors to represent the fans. That’s the gist of it really. The most important thing is that if we were ever subject to a takeover from a foreign investor then the fact that the trust wouldn’t sell that 20% makes us an appealing club to take over. Brilliant from our point of view as I never want anyone like that at my club.
TF: Just how close were SCFC to folding in the early 2000s? If they had, what would have happened next? Would a new SCFC been formed?
SoS: I was only thirteen at the time so I didn’t go to any of the meetings involving the supporters trust but we were in grave danger of losing our club. What happened though was we were in a fair bit of debt for our level and Australian businessman Tony Petty bought us for £1. He then decided drastic cutbacks were needed and tried to sack the seven top earners and offered the rest of the squad new deals as over 50% lower than what they were on. From there we ended up in administration and the main reason we didn’t fold is down to our ex player Mel Nurse. He bought the debt that the club owed and then accepted the administrators offer to settle up. Cost him an awful lot of money but Mel is a Swansea man through and through and couldn’t allow the club to fold. That was the key moment and from there the consortium of local businessmen put a package together to convince Tony Petty to leave. Nurse doesn’t get the credit he deserves if you ask me.
I guess we would have formed a new club if he had folded but I don’t think it was ever discussed as everyone was so focused on gaining control of the current club.
TF: What advice would you give to NUFC supporters wanting to replace Ashley’s regime. Was the Time4change march a start? Can you envisage further moves to supporter ownership in the first 2 divisions following yourselves?
SoS: You have my sympathy. You’ve been trying for a while to get rid of him and he won’t budge so he clearly doesn’t want to leave. If you want him out though you’ve got to hit him where it hurts and that means money or bad publicity. Sadly the TV rights are so high that empty seats won’t give him any drastic problems but if they got to the half empty level then he may have a problem from the fact it looks awful for sponsors if no one is at the games and makes the club less appealing. Sadly that means cutting off your nose to spite your face as well, we all know watching in the pub isn’t the same as at the game.
If you want to put a package together to get rid of him you could do a similar thing to the Red Knights at Manchester United and get a consortium of people all willing to put down serious sums of money to the point where it’s a no brainer for Mike Ashley to refuse. If this was to happen then you could really do with someone like Alan Shearer on board – he’d obviously be able to contribute and as a club legend I’m sure his influence would persuade other people to invest. It’ll be an uphill struggle for you to oust him but I wish you well as I’d be very frustrated if he was involved with us.
Supporter ownership in the top two divisions is very difficult to foresee because the genuine fans can’t afford to buy a good stake in their club. Clubs in the lower divisions will have a much better chance as it won’t cost as much and as was the case with us no one else was interested in taking over. I’d love to see more fans own shares in their club but sadly I don’t think there will be many who can afford it.
TF: Do you miss the Vetch? How has the progression been to the new Liberty Stadium?
SoS: Yes I do miss the Vetch. I saw my first ever football match there and it will always be very special to me and I have some amazing memories of watching us there. At the Liberty it was difficult to replicate the atmosphere at first but it has improved over the last few years so I have grown to think of it as being home and of course we wouldn’t be where we are if we hadn’t moved. If I had to pick my head would say Liberty but my heart would always be at the Vetch.
TF: Who are the great dangers for NUFC on Wednesday from this SCFC side?
SoS: Michu if he’s fit, he’s always got a goal in him and Wilfried Bony is the other main threat. He hasn’t looked entirely convincing in his short Swansea career yet but already has ten goals in all competitions so when he gets going he’ll be a real force to be reckoned with.
TF: What is your outlook for NUFC this season?
SoS: After your struggles last season I don’t think you’ll be anywhere near that low this term. I’d say you massively overachieved in 2012/3 then did the opposite last year so this year we will see a more accurate league placing in terms of where you should be which is just inside the top ten in my opinion. You’ve proven you can beat anyone on your day with recent wins over Chelsea and Spurs so my advice for Alan Pardew would be have a real go at the FA Cup. If we can win something then you certainly can!
TF: Finally, your prediction of the Match?
SoS: Hard one to call, really could go either way. I’ll sit on the fence and say 1-1
Many thanks to Steve for his time.