Ahead of tomorrow’s top-eight clash between the cities of Swans and Canaries, for the second time this season I’ve been chatting with Guto Llewelyn – a journo for ITV Wales’s Welsh language current affairs department and part of The JackCast podcast. And what a nice chap…
As a current affairs journo, I’m guessing as the clocks ticks on that bloody B word and all that goes with it, you’ve been a tad busy of late? Hopefully, the Swans have offered a pleasant distraction from all things May, Rees-Mogg, Farage and Fox?
It’s been crazy. The whole country seems to have lost its mind over Brexit and it’s so hard to believe that with less than a month until we’re due to leave we still have no idea what will happen. It keeps us extremely busy and gives us more than enough content for programmes but it’s still so chaotic. The Swans have had their fair share of chaos too this season both on and off the pitch. The Swans’s up and down season on the pitch has been entertaining and for the most part enjoyable, the continuing disorder in the board room far less enjoyable.
You mention the off-field problems. What’s the latest on Huw Jenkins’ attempt to wrestle back some control? Presumably, this is going to boil down to a power struggle with majority owners Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien. How has this all come about?
Huw Jenkins was for a long time a hero to Swansea fans, the chairman who led us from League 2 to the Europa League. But the way the club was sold to the new American owners, behind the back of the Supporters’ Trust, along with other unpleasant revelations since then turned him into a villain for many fans. He left the club last month after blocking the transfer of Daniel James to Leeds, we are led to believe against the wishes of the owners. There have been reports that Jenkins is now trying to find investors in the Middle East who would be willing to work with him to buy back the club but any talks are in their infancy. There are many Swansea fans who don’t want Jenkins back under any circumstances, I personally think he’s desperate to repair his reputation. Either way, the club’s not changing hands any time soon.
Last time we spoke, you painted an optimistic picture of things at the Liberty. With a new, young side that Graham Potter had built, you were playing some beautiful football and were within a single win of making the playoff places. Despite there being plenty of teams between the Swans and sixth place, if they win their game in hand they could be just four points shy of the playoff places, so do all of the above still apply?
Inconsistency means any playoff hopes are incredibly faint. We haven’t won three consecutive games all season so it’s very hard to see how Swansea can put together the kind of run required to leapfrog all the teams above us and steal the 6th spot. Having said that the vast majority of Swans fans will be content with a mid-table finish. We have a very young and very thin squad which plays entertaining football. They’ve adapted so well to the challenges they’ve faced this season and we just hope we can keep hold of them and build a future around them. Likewise, Potter is flying under the radar because of our league position but make no mistake, the turnaround he’s overseen in very difficult circumstances, has been outstanding, he’s seriously special.
You mentioned before the crop of youngsters that had been given the chance as a result of the squad overhaul – Roberts, Rodon and James were among the names you mentioned, as well as McBurnie fulfilling his potential. These guys still delivering (McBurnie has scored 18, so I’m assuming he’s a ‘yes’)? Any other names entered the frame as the season has progressed?
No new names really since we last spoke but the youngsters you mentioned are still doing extremely well. Roberts has slowed down slightly of late and Rodon has been out injured for a few weeks but McBurnie’s on a great scoring run and James has kept flourishing since his deadline day move to Leeds was called off (much to our fans’ relief). James is the one who’s probably progressed most since our last meeting. He must be among the fastest players in the country and his finishing touch keeps getting better.
Potter still has them playing in that fluid, attacking style that you described back in November?
Yes, even when tiredness and injuries have taken their toll they’ve kept playing the same way. Our passing statistics are I think the highest in the division and over the last five months, we’ve failed to score in just three games in all competitions. We’re very open at the back, which I’m sure Daniel Farke will have noticed, so there’s room for improvement but It’s still such a refreshing change compared to previous seasons when we’ve been extremely negative.
I notice there was no Leroy Fer or Martin Olsson in the squad against Bolton? They both fallen out of favour, or injured? Either of them likely to be there next season?
Both are injured. Martin Olsson has been out since December with a serious knee injury and we’ve missed his presence in the side. He’s out of contract in the summer so I fear he may have played his last game for the club. Fer has been out for a while with a hamstring injury and the Norwich game may be too soon for him to return. He’s been up and down, as usual, sometimes looking like one of the best players in the league and other times he’s a complete liability. I wouldn’t be surprised if he leaves in the summer, Villa were chasing him in January.
Have you followed our Germanic revolution? Thoughts? Can we make the top two?
I’ve loved watching Norwich this season, as I said in our last chat I tipped you for the playoffs before the season started but I think this campaign has exceeded all expectations. The football you’re playing is great to watch, you’ve had so many incredibly entertaining matches, and your scouting over the last year and a half has unquestionably been the best in the Championship. Farke’s done a fantastic job and I think you’ll finish in the top two even though the competition between the Canaries, Leeds and Sheffield United is fierce.
Finally…. score prediction?
You’re on a great run and full of confidence while we’ve won just three away games since the start of September (against Bolton, Brentford and Reading, so not exactly world class opposition). Also on current form, we have one of the worst defensive records in the division, although we are scoring regularly. I think it could be another entertaining game but can’t see anything other than a Norwich victory, so I’ll go for Norwich 3-1 Swansea.
City stood firm against the “up and at ‘em” approach from Millwall last weekend and are set for a different test in front of the cameras and floodlights on Friday night. Whilst Swansea find themselves languishing in the bottom half of the table, Graham Potter has got them playing the possession game that the Welshmen have become synonymous with over the last few years.
We have a new leader in our tipster table, with Stew correctly predicting the Millwall result and leap-frogging Martin, in what is rapidly becoming a two-horse race.
If only the same could be said of the Championship.
Penney predicts: I have to go one beyond Andy and go for a 3-0. I hate walking back down PoW on a Friday night so hopefully, NCFC will make the “experience” worthwhile. 3-0 City
Andy assumes: Swansea love dominating possession but are often found wanting in front of goal, very akin to ourselves a year ago. We’re a year smarter and more proficient at this game. 2-0 Norwich.
Gaz guesses: While I always have this inherent fear of ‘this being the day’, it’d be lunacy to predict anything other than a City win right now. In typical fashion, I’m not expecting it to be straightforward though. Canaries 3 Swans 2.
Cookie concludes: It would take a brave man to bet against City right now. Something I’m not. City 2 – Swansea 0
Stew suspects: My 3-1 prediction last week served me well. More of the same, I reckon: 3-1 Norwich
Oppo’s opinion: I’ll go for Norwich 3-1 Swansea
Siri says: The answer is Norwich 3 – Swansea 1
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