Diplomatic Immunity: Swansea City

An occasional series of open discussions with opposition fans. They can say what they like about Chelsea and I promise not to be rude back to them.

Number 2:  Joking with a Jack

Introducing Noel “Once A Jack Always A Jack”, who has supported Swansea through thick and thin, man and boy for over forty years. He gives us his views on all things Swansea and Chelsea and also proves the rule that once you start a Welshman talking, there’s no stopping him…

First, congratulations on Swansea City achieving promotion to the Premiership. You did it the hard way, but you did it in some style…

Thank you! Last season produced some of the most amazing football and saw individual players show real potential. Any game that was being televised “live” seemed to bring out the best in us and from being tipped by the bookies as one of the teams to be relegated it was an even better season than anyone could have predicted!

Remember, it had been after our second successive close season in the Championship to have our manager “poached” off us – firstly Wigan took Roberto Martinez then Leicester took Paulo Sousa and all their back room staff too. So our 3rd season in the Championship saw us kicking off with our 3rd different manager – but what a revelation Brendan Rodgers turned out to be.

At one stage, automatic promotion seemed achievable, then it looked more and more like the dreaded play offs and a potential final at Wembley against Cardiff!

We duly got through a thrilling encounter with Forest (good side) drawing 0-0 away with our full back Taylor sent off in the 2nd minute. The home leg was exciting and we got through 3-1. Cardiff City, having also drawn 0-0 away at Reading faced the 2nd leg the next night knowing we were already there but lost 3-0 to send Reading to meet us at Wembley.

After that winning experience at Wembley, who wanted automatic promotion anyway? 3-0 up at half-time we just knew it wasn’t all over and Reading got it back to 3-2 before Scott Sinclair got his hat-trick to make it 4-2. Final score: 43,000 Swansea fans went delirious.

When did you start supporting Swansea?

Probably 1967/68 I think, I remember it cost 2 shillings (10p) to get in and it was the greatest thing ever!

Why Swansea?

Well, home town club etc and that famous saying “Once a Jack Always a Jack” makes you realise that supporting Swansea is an addiction!

What was the first game you remember?

Newport County – a local derby – at home

What memory of Swansea City will you still remember when your memory has finally faded and you are old and senile?

Apart from this year it is the first game in the old First Division at home to Leeds United. August 1981, a packed Vetch Field, about 3,000 from Leeds, lovely sunny day and we won 5–1!!!!! Jeremy Charles scored first, a hat trick from a truly great centre forward Bob Latchford and the most stunning individual goal from Alan Curtis. I still get goose bumps whenever I see it. What a feeling, what a noise, what a quiet away end… what a memory!

Chelsea and Swansea have a number of connections at the moment, not least your manager Brendan Rogers. What’s your opinion of him?

With a debut season like he just had it has to be admiration. His contacts have been amazing, his time at Chelsea with Mr Mourinho must have been an experience, but to listen to him speak is a refreshing change for a manager – whatever the result, no slagging the referee / linesman, no criticism of individuals in public – but the main thing is so much common sense.

And Scott Sinclair? Borini? Yves Ma Makalambay?

Scott Sinclair found himself a “home” or was it maybe the manager – either way coming here has brought the best out of him. A great season last year which saw him the calmest, coolest person at Wembley taking not only one penalty but two – and scoring them both!! What a man.

Fabio Borini, came on loan, showed great class and genius but not a 90 minute player from what we saw. What we did see was a lot from Chelsea training ground at set pieces. Would have loved to have got him for a season in the Premiership.

We didn’t see too much of the keeper Makalambay apart from cup games as Dorus de Vries was in such good form. Both have now left so we have 3 new keepers.

Frank Lampard – did you see him play during his loan spell at the Vetch?

Yes, certainly did! Would like to think he learned everything he knows from his time at Swansea but maybe we can’t claim that. [Can’t see why not, surely he couldn’t have learned much at Upton Park…? – Jehode]. It was easy to see that he was going to be a top player – hope he keeps a place in his heart for Swansea!

If you had to pick your favourite Swans player of all time, who would it be?

Alan Curtis springs instantly to mind – from my era – and from the time that we went from the old 4th Division all the way to the old 1st Division. Curt, along with Jeremy Charles and the late (great) Robbie James came through the ranks and played for Swansea and Wales as a unit.

Curt had such skill, trickery and an honesty that you don’t seem to find much today – great to see him still involved with the club and he will always be a true legend of our time. I’m sure others older than me will name names too, but even they would agree that Alan Curtis has to be up there somewhere and he is my choice.

Back to the present day – who is your favourite player at the moment?

Favourite doesn’t necessarily mean the best, the fittest, the most skilful does it? Because my answer is going to be Alan Tate (could have been Leon Britton too but I’ll go for Tatey and I’ll tell you why). He joined us on loan from Man Utd and played a great part in helping us stay in the football league that year. His loan spell was up and when he played his last game he took off his white Swansea shirt to reveal a T-shirt underneath saying “Once a Jack, Always a Jack” – but what’s more he meant it. We were able to re-sign him and he’s been with us ever since!

Now, he has got a great football brain and reads the game well but he has played right back, left back, either centre back, midfield and has even been in goal when we played without a reserve keeper once! He left a premiership club to come to us at rock bottom and has played consistently in every level since to lead us out at Man City as vice captain. He is an honorary Jack legend. (Sorry Leon, but you would be too short to play in goal anyway!!)

Did you enjoy being re-united with Roberto Martinez at the Swansea v Wigan game?

Yes, he deserves so much credit for us being where we are today. As a player he helped us stay in the league; as a manager he built on what Brian Flynn and Kenny Jackett had started and got us into the Championship as Champions of League 1 (and I still have my photo with Roberto and the trophy in my office!) He had a decent reception from the home fans.

Swansea are one of the few clubs with a bright ‘n’ shiny new home. From an outsider’s point of view the stadium looks fantastic, the pitch always looks good and access is excellent.

You know, I thought the Vetch Field was better than the Bernabeu, Old Trafford, San Siro all put together but, boy, looking back, it was awful! Don’t get me wrong, the atmosphere at the Vetch was something special and I couldn’t imagine watching the Swans anywhere else, but going to the Liberty has been the best thing for the club and the atmosphere has now transferred there too. The pitch is fantastic and deserves the awards it and the ground staff have received – games at the Vetch cancelled because of too much rain, all a thing of the past.

So how did it feel to have to leave the old Vetch Field?

It was emotional, but as the song goes “Time to say good-bye” we went on the pitch and my Mrs dug up a piece of the turf to grow at home so we had a piece of memorabilia. Some people had seats, adverts, whatever they could rip up (if it hadn’t already fallen down!!).

Do you foresee the limited size of the stadium being a problem in future?

As it is now I have to say yes, though rumour has it that if we stay in the premiership or should I say when we stay in the premiership (!) there are plans to increase it to 30,000 capacity. Fingers crossed.

You share the ground with the Ospreys (Rugby Union) side. Does that ever pose a problem for you?

Not really, the egg chasers don’t use that many of the seats to be honest! I don’t follow rugby much. I wish them success, but there is more interest nowadays in football anyway.

Is ground-sharing ideal for a Premiership club?

Probably not, but the pitch is so good it doesn’t seem to make much difference. As we are tenants of the Council at the moment we don’t have much choice.

Swansea have become renowned for their attacking play. Do you think your style will be suited to the Premiership, or is it going to leave you too vulnerable at the back?

Yes! It will be well suited to the Premiership but it could well leave us either too goal shy or too vulnerable at the back. Don’t know how else to answer that but maybe strengthening the squad in the transfer window will help.

How do you view your performance so far this season?

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. That’s what we have to do. It couldn’t get much tougher than away to Man City first game, it’s just a case of getting a settled squad, new players bedded in take it steady then pick up points along the way. Don’t forget, 8 years ago we were facing up to the prospect of starting off in the Conference! Here we are in the Premiership instead – reality check please!

How do you view your season going this time around?

It’s going to be hard, but I would hope for 15th or 16th come the end of the season.

And how are you going to fare at Stamford Bridge on 24 Sept?

Oh no! I think we’ll win, lose or draw – not too sure at the moment. Okay, everyone will say an odds on home win but who can tell? Maybe a draw 1–1.

Are you going to the game?

Unfortunately no, due to other commitments, but would love to be there.

Have you ever been to Stamford Bridge?

Strangely enough, no, not inside just around the outside.

Your favourite Chelsea Swansea game?

April 1981, Swansea 3 Chelsea 0 last home game in old Division 2. It was also my mate Steve’s stag day (before weekends in Prague were ever thought of) just pub, football, pub, club, curry – a proper day out! I seem to recall “Jimmy” Hadziabdic scored a cracker with the outside of his right foot. Great day and the chant of “Going up, going up, going up” was being sung with belief.

What is your prediction for Chelsea this season?

2nd in Premiership and winners of either Carling or FA Cup.

What do you think of our new manager, Andre Villas-Boas?

Looks like a smooth operator!

If there was one player from Chelsea you could have for free….

Drogba. Is he available on a free…..?

Hands off! So, whyDrogba?

Because he’s so flippin’ good! Everybody hates him (but they don’t really) but that’s only like a respect thing. He can change a game in a second, he is so imaginative and unpredictable. When did you say we could have him?

Change the subject: Club or Country?


Prediction time! Your prediction for the top three for the Premiership this season is?

Two Manchesters and Chelsea in a 1-2-3? Man Utd, Chelsea, Man City. Then possibly Liverpool ? Maybe Swansea ?

FA Cup?


Champions League?

Final at Bayern’s ground? But predictably I guess Barcelona .

Five star dining at an upmarket West End restaurant, or bacon egg and chips at a greasy spoon?

Despite considering myself to be fairly cosmopolitan, when you have a Swansea accent it is slightly difficult to carry it off with any degree of success or credibility, so let’s go for the greasy spoon!

Eastenders, Coronation Street or Pobol Y Cwm?

Corrie every time because it not only has humour in it, it also has Rosie Webster who is Scott Sinclair’s girlfriend and she is often at Liberty Stadium and away games and was at Wembley. Top girl!

Okay dude, and finally….

How are the Swans settling into the Premiership and – I really must ask this one – how does it feel to be above Arsenal in the table?

Well…”finding our feet” I would say is a fair assessment – together with finding the back of the net against West Brom – which was a relief!  Mind you, take away the 4-0 defeat at Man City (and even that was not as one sided as 4-0 might suggest) and the games have been really good contests. Nice to hear Mark Lawrenson say so on MOTD on Saturday too.

At least we’ve not compromised on our style so far and despite a long list of injuries we’ve brought other players in from the squad who have not looked out of place either!

Above Arsenal in the table? Steady on now, though I have to admit to texting my mate on Saturday 5.30pm saying I’d be happy if the season could end now as we were 12th! If it wasn’t for that freak goal last week at the Emirates we could have been 4 points above Arsenal now – at least our goal difference is better than theirs! Almost 3,000 Jacks singing “we’ve got more points than you” to Arsenal before kick off was good, though not true by the end of that game!

Ask me next May (please) what it feels like to be above Arsenal in the table and assuming Arsenal will be at least 17th then I’ll have a pint or two with you!

At the moment, let’s keep two feet on the ground as we prepare for a journey to the Bridge on Saturday hoping that we contribute to a good game and that includes off the pitch as well as on it – a strong travelling support is forecast once again.

Apart from this Saturday and again on Tuesday 31st January 2012, have a great season – hope you like what Brendan has put in place here!!