It seems wholly appropriate to me that your first away fixture of the new Premier League season should be against a team who know exactly what it’s like to stand in your shoes. We were there last year, full of anticipation, excitement and, let’s be honest, concern that we might not be able to hack it amongst the big boys of football’s elite.
Our first away Premier League encounter was actually our curtain raiser, our introduction to the top flight. We were up against the rich boys – Manchester City – and although we played some great football at the Etihad Stadium, to come away with a 4 – 0 defeat is not the way any club would want to start their foray on arguably the greatest league in the world. (I’m aware that some will dispute this in favour of La Liga – each to their own).
You may well think you’ve landed a fairly easy away opener – Swansea City, still relative new boys of the Premier League, finished around mid table in 11th spot last season – from an impartial onlooker’s perspective, it isn’t a game you’d expect to lose 4 – 0.
Football’s a funny ol’ game though, that’s why we love it. In the main, it’s unpredictable. As supporters of a particular club we become blinded more often than not and our view is skewed in favour of the side we support. We wouldn’t be die-hard fans if we weren’t like that. Wherever I go in the world, whatever I do, I’m a Swansea Jack at heart, with black and white blood coursing through my veins. I’m sure you Hammers feel the same.
However, despite the obvious rivalry and desire for both sets of supporters to see their respective clubs take three points from today’s clash, there is also something more than a little ironic about this game. I wonder what percentage of our fans supported your side in May when they played our neighbours and arch-rivals Cardiff City?
Several thousand if the message boards and social networking sites were anything to go by! And of course, some of you may well have supported Scott Sinclair, Neil Taylor and (the now exited) Joe Allen, alongside your own James Tomkins for Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics.
Next week it will be very different though. Any temporary allegiances will be forgotten. Like you, we want to make a positive mark on the Premier League. We’ll be hoping for a reverse of last season – so the plan is to secure three points at QPR in the first game and nail an emphatic win at home against you. (Last season saw us draw 0 – 0 with Wigan).
It would be disrespectful of me to suggest that plan will be easy to implement. You will want three points too – which makes for an exciting start to what will no doubt be a great season from two clubs with similar points to prove.
We don’t want to be one season wonders on the Premier League stage and we’re fully aware that with the departure of Brendan Rodgers and the uncertainty surrounding some of our key players, some view us as relegation potential. You’ll be in the same boat simply because you’re PL newbies again.
Rodgers’ move to Liverpool and the recent departure of Joe Allen to follow him to Anfield, has been a bitter pill to swallow. Michael Laudrup and the new players he’s brought in over the close season will need time and support, particularly early on. The trouble with football is, as we all know – especially in this league – time isn’t on our side. Underperform at the start and the season slips away. Time waits for no man.
But enough philosophising! Who are the players to watch from our new look side going into the 2012-13 season? Well, I was delighted when I heard the news that Michu had joined us. He’s a top class player, an attacking mid elder we’re hoping will do a similar job for us to the one completed by Gyl Sigurdsson during the second half of last season. Michu scored 15 goals for Rayo Vallecano in La Liga last season. I think we’ll be happy with a similar tally.
Loan signing Jonathan de Guzman, who played under Laudrup at Mallorca, is another newcomer to cause excitement at the Liberty Stadium. And of course, there are the players who were with us for our Premier League baptism last season and helped us on the journey to the Promised Land by getting us out of the Championship.
The likes of Scott Sinclair and club record signing Danny Graham, have made a significant contribution and ensured their place in Swansea City’s history books, as well as in the fan’s hearts. They’ll be keen to build on the successes of last season – so don’t expect them to sit back and not cause your defence problems.
And what about the Hammers? Realistically, what are your chances of survival? All but the pessimists among you will say “high” – we’re back to the stereotypical “true” fan again – why would any of us say any different? If we don’t believe, no-one will.
Speaking as a fan of football, I’d say you have a pretty good chance. I watched you against Cardiff and I was impressed with what I saw. Your gaffa has been rebuilding his now Premier League squad and I’m sure the signature of Alou Diarra went down well at Upton Park.
I’m predicting an improved position for us at the end of the season – one place higher in 10th spot. I’m going for 15th for you. And next week, much as I wish you a warm welcome to the Liberty Stadium, I’m expecting a home win: 3 – 1 and Michu, Sinclair and Graham on the scoresheet.