Date: 31st August 2012 at 12:36pm
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Vital Swans ed. Kevin Elphick gives us the lowdown on his side ahead of Saturday’s meeting.

What were your hopes, fears & expectations for the season?

Our hopes and expectations were simply to avoid relegation, and our fears link to that with all the talk in the Summer about ‘second-season syndrome’. Before Brendan Rodgers left to join Liverpool, a lot of fans feared that we’d become predictable in the Premier League, as teams began to understand our play, and how to beat it – even on our own soil.

Then, when Rodgers left, there were fears that our good work the previous season would be broken up by his departure, plus the likelihood of other members of the coaching and playing staff.

We wondered who we could appoint in his place, could he carry on the good of our previous managers? So you can see there was a lot to think about during the Summer, but it’s been a promising Summer with new manager Michael Laudrup and that has continued on in the first two games of the season.

The Swansea City board seem to have a good habit of appointing good managers and that seems to be no different this time.

Brendan Rodgers – turncoat, or a modern day Swans’ icon?

The question with Rodgers is, will he be remembered amongst the fans for getting the first Welsh club promoted to the Premier League, or for leaving to join Liverpool and taking some of the coaching and playing staff with him? You’ll ask Swans fans and they’ll be divided in their responses. He tried to leave with dignity and respect to the club that got him back into football management after a forgetful spell at Reading when he was sacked midway through the season. He tried to do that by promising not to sign any Swansea City player for 12 months, an agreement in which he didn’t stand by for long, having bought Joe Allen for £15m. So already he was losing friends in Swansea.

Many people believe that Rodgers invented our passing style here too – probably those who only watch the Premier League, Match of the Day and had no idea we had been doing it since around 2007 when Roberto Martinez arrived. Rodgers had it all set up nicely for him you could say. The style of play was already there, Sousa, the man before him, had improved our defence but Rodgers’ job was to then keep that whilst improving our attack. He was able to bring some good signings to help boost our chances of promotion from the Championship, which we achieved via the play-offs. What was more surprising though was our mid-table finish in the Premier League the following year. Impressive to say the least. Rodgers was able to combine and balance the main elements of any side – defence and attack brilliantly. Martinez had too much emphasis on attack – with a weak defence, with Sousa suffering with the opposite. Rodgers however found that balance, and he reaped the rewards in little time.

Whilst he didn’t leave in the best way he could, he probably couldn’t turn down the chance to join a big club such as Liverpool, especially as he didn’t get much success as a player, having had to retire at a young age due to injury. He must have confidence in his own ability that he can bring success to Anfield before getting the sack from the club’s impatient owners for taking too long in doing so. Swans fans wondered whether he’d get the time he needed, (and he’ll need it), to implement the style of play with the Reds, and with that, be successful in little time. Will he? Time will tell.

But the bottom line is that Brendan Rodgers did do what his predecessors couldn’t, and that was getting the club promoted into the Premier League, staying there, and we should always be grateful for that. Loyalty barely exists in modern football, and after Martinez’s departure, we’re getting used to the manager merrygoround at the Liberty Stadium!

How big was the loss of Joe Allen & will Scott Sinclair’s potential departure impact negatively?

Joe Allen will be a far bigger loss than Scott Sinclair will be. It’s a wonder to many, if not all Swans fans why Manchester City have bought the winger. He barely set the Premier League alight last season, and already Wayne Routledge has come in to replace him and done a fantastic job. What with Pablo Hernandez arriving, we have excellent cover for him.

Allen meanwhile was a big player for us, and he fitted in well with our passing style, but you have to say, with receiving £15m for him and replacing him with Michu for £2m, it’s superb business by the club. Allen was never a player to score regular goals for us, and it looks like Michu could easily hit double figures this year.

So both players won’t be a loss as long as you have excellent replacements, and we definitely do.

Are you pleased with the appointment of Michael Laudrup?

Definitely. He was the fans’ first choice before it was confirmed that he was appointed. He’s a huge name in the game, and while he hasn’t achieved big things as manager compared to what he did as a player, everything seemed right about the Dane carrying us forward this year in the Premier League.

He seems to suit the Swansea City way like a glove. That is, playing an attractive style of football, whilst doing so on a tight budget. Laudrup has done brilliantly in the transfer market so far, bringing in quality players for low fees, and his team are doing the business on the pitch. We’d have thought that it might have taken him some time to get his team playing well, getting results and adjusting to his own methods, but they’ve hit the ground running.

Who will be the key man for you this Saturday?

Michu seems to be the man. The £2m bargain, last season’s highest goalscoring midfielder in La Liga, is already proving he can score plenty of goals in the Premier League. He had a dream debut and he also scored last weekend against West Ham. He’s an excellent finisher, and he always seems to be in the right place at the right time to find the net. He’s sure to cause Sunderland problems on Saturday and it would come as no surprise if he was to get his 4th goal of the season.

If you could ship one player out tomorrow, who and why?

Fede Bessone, but it looks like he has now finally left. We released him before he wasn’t very good, then for some reason Brendan Rodgers thought he’d bring him back from Leeds United, who didn’t want him either. He hasn’t played a game for us, unsurprisingly since he rejoined.

If you could snap up one Sunderland player, who and why?

With weeks of speculation of Scott Sinclair joining Manchester City, a lot of Swans fans would have liked Adam Johnson in a swap deal!

How will you line-up Saturday?

I can’t see any reason why Laudrup would make any changes from the first two games, and it looks unlikely that any of the new signings will feature, so:

Vorm; Rangel, Williams, Chico, Taylor; Routledge, Michu, de Guzman, Britton, Dyer; Graham.

Match prediction?

I was going to say a hard fought 1-1 draw against a well-organised side, as Martin O’Neil’s always are. I know we’re going to have to work much harder to get a win against Sunderland as they do have the quality to hit us on the counter attack with the likes of Fletcher and Johnson. However, I’m feeling confident that we can make it three wins in three, and edge ahead 2-1.

Cheers Kev!


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