Having given a superb ‘backs to the wall’ defensive display against Newcastle on the weekend, the Swans travelled to Goodison Park in a confident mood to take on an Everton side whom had struggled at home this season.
With the Swans still seeking their first 3 points on the road, many believed – given the recent performances of both sides – that tonight was going to be the night. It’s never quite as easy as that though is it, especially in the Premier League.
For me the game had a more poignant significance as my late father was a self-confessed Blue and it was at Goodison Park where I witnessed my first ever game of professional football away from the Vetch Field. Oh how he would have loved to see his son’s team lock horns with his beloved Everton in the Premier League.
The posse accompanying me on my 51st visit to an away ground (watching the Swans) were the usual suspects – Conker Jack and Director Jack – along with two new Jacks in the form of Golfer Jack and Doorless Dave (aka Jack-a-Door).
Doorless Dave is worth a special mention for his shenanigans in deepest darkest Blaina, where in true Michael Caine (‘ish) style he managed to “lose his bloody door” on his beloved Range Rover to a passing HGV – allegedly driven by a Cardiff City fan.
This story ensured much hilarity for the majority of the trip, fuelled further with constant Royle family quotes such as “How did you manage to do that then Dave?”.
I would say the choice of tunes for the journey was a source of amusement too – John Denver and Michael Bublé – but I think it’s fair to say that certain individuals, like Director Jack, would have rather listened to The Saturdays. There’s no accounting for some peoples tastes.
Anyway, having departed Loughor at around 1pm we took our usual scenic route through mid-Wales and headed north to The Old Trooper Harvester in Christleton (near Chester) for our planned pre-match meal.
We duly arrived in Christleton at 6pm – not bad from door to door (ha ha – nice one Dave) – having stopped only briefly in Mcdonalds in Newtown to have a pee. This seemed a very popular stop off point for other Swansea fans too as we saw numerous mini-buses and cars whilst there. I suspect this was more to do with the food than the toilets!
Talking of food, the fare in The Old Trooper was nowt to write home about (are any of the major chain restaurants?) and after munching our way through the courses we ended up being about £85 lighter in the pocket and collectively 8.5 lbs heavier in weight.
With our stomachs now full it was time for this little Jack Army to march onto Liverpool in search of Goodison Park on what was a mild but blustery evening on Merseyside.
We opted to park at a sports centre on Walton Hall Avenue (for £5) which was a little bit further away from the ground in the hope of (a) hopefully making a quick getaway after the game and (b) to provide some much needed exercise after our long journey/food over indulgence!
The walk to Goodison Park was not dissimilar to that of my visit to Anfield earlier in the season (apart from it being an evening of course) in that you had the stark contrast of row upon row of terraced houses and big green open spaces. And as per the Anfield visit, the Evertonians we encountered were very friendly.
Walking around Goodison Park you can’t help but sense/see that it’s showing its age and seems quite antiquated compared to other Premier League grounds we’ve visited. The one thing it doesn’t lack however is character from the old Vetch Field Double Decker’esque seating/stand to the statue of Everton legend Dixie Dean outside the Park End.
The Swans fans were given both tiers in the corner of the Bullens Road Stand and numbered approximately 2,100 – not bad for a midweek game 4 days before Christmas and not forgetting the costs involved with watching premier league away games.
I think it’s fair to say that whether you were sat in the upper or lower tier you would be struggling for a decent view of the game, unless the action was right in front of you.
Anyway onto the game and my take on proceedings…
- Personally I felt we looked like we were playing for a draw as from the outset we defended very deep with most of the players behind the ball;
- Our midfield were being outmuscled during the early stages and we really needed Kemy Agustien in midfield not Mark Gower;
- Whilst we might have been outmuscled, we certainly weren’t bullied and it was noticeable how defensively everyone was putting their bodies on the line for the cause;
- Jazz Richards continues to improve game by game and defender well this evening against a very tricky, pacy and strong Royston Drenthe;
- Unfortunately, Scott Sinclair seems to be lacking confidence which is in stark contract with Wayne Routeledge whom continues to prove me wrong – with yet another strong performance (bar a few poor passes);
- Despite being under the cosh during the majority of the first half (ring any bells?) we held out well and were I felt looking strong defensively – especially with Vorm making a couple of outstanding saves;
- Neil Taylor injury looked very serious at first and it was a relief to see him get up and waddle (much to the annoyance of the Everton fans) before making way for Rangel;
- A change was needed at half time and thankfully it arrived in the shape of Kemy Agustien who was a 2nd half replacement for the out of sorts Mark Gower;
- Rangel’s presence on the field illustrated how much he’d been missed and actually made me think long and hard about my early season observations about teams targetting him as a weak link;
- The Everton goal actually came from a corner that should never have been given – the ref overruled the linesman and as I was sat directly in line with it I could see it hadn’t taken a deflection!
- Which brings mean onto the standard of refereeing as once again it was poor and Kevin Friend fell firmly into the ‘homer’ category (yes and in the Simpson’s kind of way as well!);
- As always seems to be the case the Swansea fans were in fine voice again, which is more than can be said for their Evertonian counterparts. Sing when you’re winning, since one song and then stop singing would be more apt;
- Ashley Williams exemplified his ability as a captain by showing a great deal of appreciation to the fans for their support before, during and after the game. His crouched ‘hands in head’ pose at the final whistle also showed the disappointment he, the team and us as fans felt;
- Overall it was the lack of creativity from the Swans that was the most disappointing aspect of the game. Some might also argue that we didn’t deviate from plan A when we chasing the game as well. But let’s face it, we’ve never done that have we.
Disappointed with the 1 nil defeat, but by no means distraught, we trudged back to the car discussing the various ifs, buts and maybes of what we’d witnessed.
Every defeat seems to bring talk of upcoming games being ‘must wins’ but that doesn’t interest me, as at the end of the day EVERY game is a must win, in the sense that teams should go out to win every game. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the odd defeat such as this will not define our season. Anyway…
The thought of a John Denver/Michael Bublé combo on the 4.5 hour journey home was a very sobering one and did little to raise the spirits of us youngsters. Thankfully my sesame seeded ham and spinach baps came to the rescue (cue inuendo) – along with a Swans/football quiz – as we hurtled our way down the motorway (as opposed to being shaken, rattled and rolled through mid-Wales).
Thankfully the time seemingly flew by and our north-west adventure came to an end at 3am and although absolutely shattered I couldn’t help but think that at least one person I know and miss would have been happy with the result.
Dad – Nil Satis Nisi Optimum x