I've lost count of the number of times that Swansea City have been admired from afar by fans of other clubs, both in the Championship and within the Premier League. Okay, so the Manchester Uniteds and Arsenals of this world are unlikely to want to swap fortunes with the side from Glamorgan, but I know supporters of many a mismanaged club (the likes of Leeds United, Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool all immediately spring to mind) who positively drool over the Swansea blueprint.
Developing from within, using the transfer market shrewdly rather than flippantly, and trusting in youth are all staples of the Swans' manifesto – but of course this approach has its failings. There's a reason why Van Gaal and Wenger don't follow the same pattern: it promotes steady and sustainable growth, but requires patience and trust when things are going wrong. And whilst things will go wrong eventually, they will also get better.
Manchester United aren't afforded the same scope for forgiveness in terms of growing pains as a mid-table side would be – their fans demand instant success and they are so used to having it that managers can go out and drop £36m on unproven strikers. Garry Monk has never been afforded such luxuries, and when he finds himself punching above his weight, that marker is often used as the new measure of what is acceptable, rather than being treated as a pleasant anomaly.
As such, the Swansea boss apparently finds his job in jeopardy – he is currently the 1/4 favourite to be the next Premier League manager to lose his job with a range of leading bookmakers – as a result of garnering thirteen points from their opening twelve games. But this probably isn't too far away from where they should be given their stadium size, financial situation and inability to lure top-drawer players, so I would back the famously patient Huw Jenkins to resist swinging his chopper just yet.
Monk has proved himself to be both an excellent tactician and man-manager, and as such I'm backing him to begin his side's recovery against Eddie Howe's Bournemouth on Saturday. Such is the hysteria around the Liberty Stadium at present, it's perhaps worth mentioning that victory could move Swansea to within just a single point of Liverpool. Crisis, what crisis?
You can take advantage of bonuses and compare the odds from across a host of leading online bookmakers at bookies.com, but my pick would be to forget about Monk losing his job, and plump for a Swans 2-1 win at 17/2. But if you're not convinced their still-shaky defence can limit the Cherries to just the one goal, why not back Monk's leading striker, Bafetimbi Gomis, to open the scoring at a generous 5/1?
No one thought Rodgers could be replaced when he left in 2011, and then no one thought there was a suitable replacement for Michael Laudrup after he guided the club to their first major piece of silverware in 2013. Now in 2015 and on the back of last season's highest ever Premier League finish, chairman Huw Jenkins must believe that he did the right thing by by bringing through Garry Monk – after all, you don't become a bad manager overnight.
Last Updated on Thursday, 19 November 2015 18:45
With the Dafabet Welsh Premier League now into the second half of its first phase fixture list, the league table has to be taken seriously – the unexpected can't be explained by early season form, slow starters, honeymoon periods etc.
In many respects, the table after thirteen rounds of matches has a fairly familiar look to it, with the WPL's four European representatives from last July all positioned in the top five – but they're currently split by the surprise package of the autumn periods, MBi Llandudno, lying third and fresh from an impressive 1-4 win at Aberystwyth Town last weekend.
Current league favourites The New Saints travel north to face Llandudno next weekend in what promises to be a fascinating test of how far the Huws Gray Alliance champions have come since making their debut in the Welsh Premier back in August. Eyebrows were raised when they grabbed a 1-1 draw against the champions at Park Hall at the end of August, but that result came during a period when the Saints seemed to be a little below their formidable best.
It's maybe not surprising that TNS went through such a spell early in the campaign; their whole yearly cycle is focused on reaching a peak in July, when they carry Welsh hopes in the UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds, and their fortunes in that crucial campaign largely represent the defining line between on the one hand success and progress, and on the other failure or at least stagnation.
Of course, Craig Harrison's men (pictured above) emerged with huge credit from their brief Champions League campaign, easing through the first round before a desperately unlucky extra time exit in the second round. After the highs and lows of that experience, the return to the bread-and-butter of Welsh Premier life, and the challenge of defending the championship in order to have another shot at the Europe's biggest club competition, it's understandable that it took the Saints a month or two to completely find their rhythm and impose themselves on the league. October was a turning point for them: from sharing the leadership with several others, they emerged from the month with a healthy lead, even putting five points between themselves and Bala Town.
Still unbeaten despite the points dropped early in the season, TNS travel to Maesdu Park on Saturday for what could prove to be one of their toughest tests of the season. Although Llandudno's six-match unbeaten run came to a surprising end in their last home fixture, when Carmarthen Town snatched a 1-2 victory, they bounced back in fine fashion last Friday, racing into a three goal lead by half-time at Park Avenue and going on to win 4-1. The first league visit of champions TNS to Maesdu Park should draw a big crowd and if the visitors can come away with a win, their title odds could shorten even further.
Last Updated on Monday, 02 November 2015 20:39
Welsh Football magazine is a publication devoted to all aspects of football (soccer) in Wales. It is run independently by football fans and operates on a non-profit-making basis. Although amateur by nature, the magazine is produced to high standards of professionalism in content and production. Our intention, as well as recording news and results, is to offer a positive, but independent view of football in Wales: never negative or controversial for the sake of it - but also prepared to be critical when necessary in the interests of the game.
"Welsh Football" was founded in 1991 by writers who had been involved in previous publications including "The Welsh Football Almanac 1991" and the defunct magazine "The Welsh Footballer". The first issue appeared in January 1992 and the magazine has been published continuously since that time.
Eight issues are published each season and are available by postal subscription or from a variety of club shops and retail outlets in Wales.
To subscribe for a year, please send £27 by cheque payable to WELSH FOOTBALL, to WFM, 57 Thornhill Road, Cardiff, CF14 6PE or contact us for electronic payment options or special offers. Please use the contact details on this site to request further information.
The aim is to cover every level and every aspect of football in every geographical region of Wales. Every issue contains news and views on the Wales national team and the major Welsh domestic league competitions. Other contents include: club features; a full regional round-up of minor leagues in every issue; historical articles; programme reviews and annual awards; book reviews; league tables and other statistics.
"Welsh Football" relies heavily for its funding on subscriptions, sales at clubs and on the support of our major sponsors and advertisers, including Harris Printers of Porthcawl who have helped to develop the magazine to its current standard.
Last Updated on Sunday, 13 October 2013 20:40
Welsh Football should now be much more widely available in an independent or Welsh-interest shop near you. Together with the Welsh Books Council, we have distributed the November edition (which celebrates the Wales team's qualification for Euro 2016) to a wide range of retailers throughout Wales.
We will be holding a prize draw for some goodies to mark this initiative - to be in with a chance just visit your local independent Welsh bookshop and tell us by email or tweet whether you found Welsh Football on sale!
Prize draw will be held at the end of November.
Last Updated on Friday, 13 November 2015 11:30