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Swansea City preview and pub guide: Potter turning things round for Swansea

Swansea City preview and pub guide: Potter turning things round for Swansea
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Swansea have had a mixed start to their first season outside the Premier League since 2011.

They were third in the table after two wins and two draws in their first four games, but their form has been a bit up and down since then and they arrive at Griffin Park in 13th place, following three straight defeats and four losses in their last five matches.

Like our last visitors Middlesbrough, the Swans’ strength has been in defence where they have only conceded 21 goals – the joint third lowest total in the Championship – with six of those going in during two back-to-back home defeats last week.

However, this contrasts with their goals scored total of 22, which is the joint fifth lowest.

In their 10 away games, they have scored seven and conceded eight, so Saturday could be a tight game.

Swansea enjoyed seven seasons in the Premier League, with a best finish of eighth in 2014/15, although they only finished in the top half of the table in one of the other campaigns.

In 2013, they won the first major trophy in their history when they beat League Two Bradford City 5-0 in the Capital One League Cup final at Wembley.

That took them into the following season’s Europa League, where they negotiated two qualifying rounds to reach the group stages. They finished second to reach the knockout stages, where they lost 3-1 to Napoli after a goalless draw in the first leg.

WHO’S IN CHARGE

Graham Potter was named as Swansea manager in the summer in succession to Carlos Carvalhal.

Graham Potter

It is his first job in British football, after spending seven-and-a-half years in charge of Swedish side Ostersunds FK.

When he took over in January 2011, the club had been relegated to the country’s fourth tier but he transformed their fortunes by winning back-to-back promotions in his first two seasons in charge.

They finished 10th in their first year in the second tier and at the end of the 2015 campaign were promoted to the top division for the first time in their history.

Ostersunds won the Swedish Cup, their first major trophy, two years later to qualify for last season’s Europa League.

Their success continued with the side qualifying for the group stage and finishing second before facing Arsenal in the round of 32. Although the Gunners won the first leg 3-0 in Sweden, Graham’s side earned a famous 2-1 victory at the Emirates to bow out 4-2 on aggregate.

Graham played more than 300 games as a full-back in the Football League and Premier League for Birmingham, Stoke, Southampton, West Brom, York, Boston and Macclesfield and also earned one England Under-21 cap.

WE’VE MET BEFORE

Saturday is Brentford’s first League meeting with Swansea since New Year’s Day 2007 and our first home game with them since September 2006.

The Swans did the double over us that season with 2-0 wins in both games.

Leon Knight scored either side of half-time at Griffin Park to wrap up the points, and end our unbeaten start to the campaign, while a strike from Adebayo Akinfenwa and an own goal from Karleigh Osborne in the first half in south Wales were enough to seal our ninth defeat in 11 League One games and keep us bottom of the table.

We failed to get out of trouble and finished bottom, a point behind Rotherham, who had suffered a 10-point deduction, while Swansea finished seventh and missed out on the play-offs by three points.

The previous season, the Swans had ended our hopes of promotion by beating us in the play-off semi-finals.

We had finished third, three points behind promoted Colchester, while the Swans came sixth, two points ahead of Nottingham Forest, in their first season at the Liberty Stadium.

Jay Tabb gave us the lead after half an hour of the first leg at Swansea’s new home, but our goalkeeper Stuart Nelson was sent off early in the second half and Sam Ricketts snatched a draw for the hosts with a deflected 87th-minute shot.

Jay Tabb celebrates after scoring at Swansea

Leon Knight again proved the difference in the second leg with two goals in the first 15 minutes securing their first win at Griffin Park in 15 visits and a 3-1 aggregate victory. Swans goalkeeper Willy Gueret saved a Kevin O’Connor free-kick and an Isaiah Rankin effort in the second half, but we couldn’t hit back.

Action from Brentford v Swindon

The sides’ last meeting was in the first round of the Carling Cup in 2008/09 when a goal in each half from Shaun MacDonald gave them a 2-0 victory in a match in which Marcus Bean was sent off after collecting two yellow cards.

Our last win over Swansea came on Boxing Day 2005 at Griffin Park.

Visiting defender Alan Tate was sent off for a second booking in the 25th minute and from the resultant free-kick, Kevin O’Connor put us ahead to become our leading scorer for the season. Eddie Hutchinson doubled our lead with a header before the break and Andy Robinson replied late in second half injury-time, but we saw the game out for a 2-1 win.

The Swans and Brentford have met many times over the years and won promotion from Division Four together in 1978.

There have been plenty of high-scoring games between the two with the Swans handing out our joint record defeat of 7-0 in 1924 and beating us 6-0 in 2001, while we beat them 4-0 in 1977 and 4-1 in 1999 to clinch promotion from League Two.

OPPOSITION VIEW

BBC Wales football correspondent Rob Phillips tells us how Swansea have adapted to the Championship, the impact Graham Potter has made at the club, and the difference – on and off the pitch – between covering the club in the Premier League and the Football League.

Q – After last season’s relegation, what were the expectations for Swansea in their first campaign at this level for eight seasons?

A – Don’t think the expectations were that high. Following relegation the Swans cut their cloth by selling some of their stalwarts.

Goalkeeper Lukas Fabianski was the Player of the Year in 2018 and was sold to West Ham United. Defensive duo Alfie Mawson and Federico Fernandez went to Fulham and Newcastle, respectively. Others went, too.

Clubs (and their fans) who have been relegated are familiar with this scenario. Unfortunately there was insufficient activity of players coming in, which bitterly disappointed Swans fans. In particular they missed out on Brentford’s Ryan Woods, have looked in pole position to capture him and he is now at Stoke City.

With a new manager – Graham Potter – having also arrived following relegation, the fans realised there would have to be a rebuilding job, which is not easy in the Championship. So it has proved.

Q – What has Graham Potter done since arriving at the club?

A – He started in fine style with a brilliant win at Sheffield United and matched Leeds United in an excellent game at the Liberty Stadium.

But they have lately found the rigours of the unrelenting Championship tough with four defeats in the last five games. They can thrill and frustrate in equal measure. On song they are a joy to watch, but can also be a little naive. Frankly it’s typical of the Championship.

On a positive note, fans love to see local youngsters doing well. Potter has shown great faith in some of the up-and-coming Swans and they have repaid him with some sterling performances.

Potter has fast-tracked the development of youngsters like Connor Roberts, Daniel James and Joe Rodon.

They have done so well, Roberts and James have earned Wales international caps and Rodon is putting pressure on the likes of Brentford’s Chris Mepham for a centre-half berth in Ryan Giggs’ side.

Q – Like our previous visitors Middlesbrough, the Swans have one of the best goals conceded records in the Championship, but one of the worst goals scored records. What do you put this down to?

Oliver McBurnie

A – The goalscoring record relies heavily on Scotland international Oliver McBurnie, whose socks down, no-nonsense approach and eye for goal has made him a firm favourite.

But with injuries afflicting Wilfried Bony, McBurnie has had little help in the goalscoring stakes.

At the back, Mike Van Der Hoorn has been a mainstay and Joe Rodon is developing rapidly.

West Bromwich Albion exposed a problem at set-pieces and that is something Swansea will have worked on. But generally keeping goals out has not been so much of a problem.

Scoring – particularly away from home – is something they must improve upon.

Q – What differences have you noticed on and off the pitch following the Swans around in the Championship compared with the Premier League?

A – Off the field – the food served up for the media!

With honourable exceptions, the food we get at stadiums in the top flight is much better in the Premier League. Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City is almost cordon bleu standard! Obviously – again with a few honourable exceptions – the stadiums are bigger and there are bigger crowds in the top flight.

And for a commentator, a real boon in the Premier League – monitors on the desks!

On the field, the likes of Manchester City and LIverpool bring a rare quality and it clearly is a step up.

That said I am a big fan of the Championship because of its sheer unpredictability. Shocks appear to happen less and less in the Premier League – in the Championship upsets are a way of life. Also for fans, they do not have to wait for so long between games. It’s a grind, but actually the greater number of midweek games in the second tier add to its attraction.

As a manager at one Welsh club used to say: “The Championship is the hardest league to get out of.” He was correct. That’s part of its appeal – and it’s why it’s the best second division in European football.

Q – Who are the key players Bees fans should watch out for?

Connor Roberts

A – Connor Roberts is a bundle of energy anywhere down the right side, though he is nominally a full-back. He can score a goal as well. Really exciting.

Its a shame Daniel James is not fit. He catches pigeons, is extremely rapid and and exciting sight in full flight.

McBurnie is the main goalscoring threat. And look out for the skill of the Kosovo midfielder Bersant Celina, signed in the summer from Manchester City. He is a deft passer of the ball and has great skill on the ball.

Q – What style of play should we expect to see from Swansea?

A – Swansea vary between a back four and a back three with wing-backs. Away from home they are pacy on the break.

But they can be characterised by a possession based approach to any game. They are keen to pass the ball out of defence and Graham Potter likes to see his players brave on the ball.

When playing well they are really attractive to watch.

Q – Finally can you give me a possible Swans starting line-up and formation?

A – Well that’s a tough one. Graham Potter has kept us all guessing this season.

As stated earlier he is never afraid to change his line-up, including the goalkeepers and veers between a back four and a back three. There have been mainstays – Van der Hoorn, Rodon, Roberts, McBurnie – but the Swans boss cannot be second guessed.

So a rough guide would be as follows . .

Mulder

Roberts, Van Der Hoorn, Rodon, Carter-Vickers, Grimes.

Fer, Fulton.

McKay, McBurnie, Celina.

 

But I could be very wrong!!

 

IAN WESTBROOK

@ianwestbrook

 

PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS

For Swansea fans coming to the game, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).

As you are probably well aware, Brentford is well known for its four pubs – one on each corner of the ground.

The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the Royal Oak are the other options.

Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.

The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields. The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles.

There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave)– right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.

And another new pub worth checking out is The Black Dog Beer House, formerly The Albany, on Albany Road.

There is a pub right by Brentford mainline station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.

For real ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push.

The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super-adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge, and across from the site of the Bees’ new stadium at Lionel Road, with a deck overlooking the river – and The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel. There are a load more pubs in the river in Kew if that takes your fancy.

A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many, many more too if you have a look around.

Parking near the stadium is a no no but is pretty easy in the streets north of Griffin Park on the other side of the A4 Great West Rd via Ealing Road or Windmill Road. Make sure you look our for the parking signs which change from area to area.

Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.

By tube, it’s 35 minutes to South Ealing or Northfields stations from King’s Cross or Euston (less from Paddington) and then 15 minutes walk to Griffin Park from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford pub crawl outlined above (Plough, Lord Nelson, Globe, Griffin) of course. If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops).

You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.

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About The Author

Ian Westbrook

Bees fan since 1971 - been through all the ups and downs. Written about, reported on, commentated on and wittered on about all things Brentford in that time as well as watching hundreds, if not thousands of games, and loved every minute of it!

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