All the way from SwanseaPosted: September 2, 2013
I’ve been a football fan, with varying degrees of intensity, since USA ’94. In that time I’ve been to see several teams play, but the major one has been Swansea City, who aside from a brief youthful fling with Manchester United and a rebound with Wimbledon, have always been my team. They were the first professional team I went to see way back in the day and since then I’ve seen the Swans between 15 and 20 times.
One thing I’ve always found a little interesting at football matches are the away fans, these people who follow their team across the country, from Leeds, London, Doncaster, Romania etc, they come to watch their teams play. I’ve watched them with a mix of puzzlement and admiration, it takes a lot to go around the country.
A few seasons ago, I watched the Swans beat Crystal Palace 3-0 at home, and there was a reasonable number of Palace fans in attendance. It was halfway through the series, Swansea were riding high and would ultimately go up to the Premiership at the end of the season, while Palace were scrapping at the wrong end of the table, where they would remain until the end of the season, avoiding the drop by 6 points.
What I remember of that game, apart from Swansea running wild was the fact that for the entire game, even trailing the Palace fans kept up a steady stream of chants and drumming. They’re team did little to recommend themselves on the field, but thanks to their wonderful fans I’ve developed a soft spot for the Eagles, and was pleased when they got promoted to the Premier League.
It also helps that they have Ian Holloway as a manager and are the team of choice of foxy news presenter Susanna Reid.
Away games held an odd allure to me, but I’d never been to one. The closest I’d come was seeing Swansea travel to Nottingham Forest, but it wasn’t a proper away day. For starters, I was visiting a mate and so was sitting, with Rich a fellow Swansea fan, in the middle of the home fans. This meant we had to hide our celebration/annoyance as the game progressed.
But this weekend, I was a proper traveling Swan. I drove up with some mates to watch Swansea take on West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns.
Despite being a lover of football and other blokey things (drinking, Steven Seagal movies, Status Quo) I always feel slightly out of my comfort zone among other football fans. My knowledge is far from encyclopedic and with my long hair and lack of Swansea shirt, I felt like I stood out a bit. I doubt anybody really gave a second thought, but it’s still the kind of random thing I fret about.
The game was brilliant, and I enjoyed belting out a few chants and clapping until my hands stung. The Swans had bought a rather impressive amount of fans, and while it might have been because of where my seat was, but it sounded like we were doing most of the chanting.
And with reason, Swansea were the better side and took the lead from a Ben Davies goal just past the 20 minute mark.
Swansea passed the ball around rather well and had the lion’s share of the chances, but a second goal didn’t seem to come and Wilfried Bony seemed sluggish, and the defence seemed to give West Brom’s players far too much time on the ball.
But in the second half Swansea built pressure with some clean cut passing, and a fine performance from Jonjo Shelvey and non stop running from Michu, although the player did pick up a needless yellow for letting his temper flare after being fouled.
Finally after 83 minutes Swansea found a second when Pablo Hernandez fired home. It was a good goal, and followed several near misses and a strong argument for a penalty.
The ball had barely struck the net and the home fans were heading for the exits in their droves, to much amusement and abuse from the visitors. Personally, I’ve never understood this and the only time I’ve left a match early was this year when I ducked out of Swansea losing to Arsenal so that I could get home in time to watch Wales play the championship decider in the Six Nations. Which I think is one of the few legitimate reasons to leave.
The early leavers may have got their fair share of heckling, but this was nothing compared to the stick received by Scott Sinclair. Sinclair is a former Swansea player who ditched us to go to Manchester City, for a massive pay rise. Now, usually I don’t object to players doing this, because if they offered me a pay rise to do my job I’d ditch it in a heartbeat. Most of us would.
The problem with Sinclair, is that he was a much loved player for the Swans and then he left to go to Manchester where the depth and skill of the squad ensured that aside from a couple of cameos he warmed the bench for a year. And then got loaned to West Brom. This was a bad move, and many speculate it was down to the complaints of his then girlfriend Helen Flanagan that he left.
Sinclair got a lot of light hearted abuse from the Swansea fans and it appeared to have some effect as he was distinctly off his game, and was substituted with quarter of an hour to go. When Swansea’s win was assured there were more chants aimed at him, I almost felt sorry for the guy, but always felt he’d made a massive error in judgement.
Sinclair is a good player, and another season at Swansea would have allowed him to generate even more of a reputation and ensured that when he did move on he would do more than just get splinters in his ass. Silly boy.
But most of the chanting was in praise of Swansea’s star players- Michu, Shelvey and Ashley WIlliams.
So, that was my first away day with the Swans and it was a lot of fun. Of course, the fact we won made it a lot better and had the scores been reversed I’d be whinging about the traffic, or the referee (who was a bit crap), or the West Brom fans. We’ll see how future away trips go.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.