Thursday, November 07, 2013

Running on Empty

Swansea City fans have over the prevailing years been mass immunised against the twin viruses of disappointment and frustration.  We seldom hit the deck coughing droplets of expletive reaction.  That is our way.  This doesn’t mean that we don’t carry old internal scars that inflame and wish to burst, Alien-like, from our heaving chest cavities.


Take last Sunday’s abhorrent surrender against Cardiff City, and the double capitulation against Kuban Krasnodor in the Europa League.  These games displayed what could be a frightening epitaph to our dictum of exciting football in a suave stylee.  In other words the ‘Swansealona’ name bandied about like a baby’s head-wetting celebration appears to have packed its sophisticated case and disappeared up a faux-continental arsehole that may never have existed at all.  Anyone in the city giving their child that moniker or branded with a tattooist’s ink should look away now.

I recently wrote about how our stiff-backed yeomen of yesteryear –probably with 20 Rothmans tucked into their socks- would eviscerate any advancing foe.  Admittedly the sight of moustachioed rhinos digging fortified lines in the turf and booting everything skywards wasn’t exactly an appetising formula. We needed to migrate metaphorically and culturally from deep fried turds and communal baths of wintergreen to cordon bleu and light cascades of Evian.  However in getting to that apex we appear to have lost something on the way, and if the police and public did a fingertip search of the Swansea plateaux, they might just come up with that missing element -and name it ‘Passion’. 

The dreadfully inert second halves against Cardiff and Kuban encapsulate this loss. Distressing parades of hebetude, suggestive of a wide malaise throughout the squad. Compare our response to Cardiff going a goal up, with Kuban’s riposte to being behind. Where can we point the finger?  How about The Four Horsemen of the Laconic?


1.       Laudrup.  Admittedly a man of great articulation and skill.  But the demeanor is always suggestive of a shrug-shouldered lapse Buddhist, still holding onto some karmic beliefs and therefore acceptant of life setbacks as a blip on the path to Nirvana. Well, I don’t want Kwai Chang Fucking Cain.  I want Bruce Lee.  I don’t want a shiny pebble gently snatched from an old monk’s hand.  I want someone to rip that monk’s arm off & set about the temple with the haemorrhaging stump. 

2.       The Dressing Room.  Is there a possibility that the coaching team can no longer motivate the camp?  Rumours of unrest abound; but then that’s always a cheap way out when things are not running as planned.  However, the recent 2ndhalf displays fulfil a personal hypothesis that they must be administrating hypnotics to the players’ half-time cuppa and playing low-key Chilean pan-pipe lift music, rather than firing blowdarts of adrenaline and crushing their tympanic membranes with Napalm Death.

3.       Tactics.  The consensus is of master agents directing a flowing minimalist orchestra of disgorging notes from heaven; quietly rendering opponents into mechanised offal.  While the Carling Cup was a superb example of such majesty; when faced with adversity we appear to recoil like slug antenna in a salt storm. Cast your gaze into the dugout. What do you see in response?  Opposition managers ranting and pacing, their temporal lobes appearing to prolapse with anger.  Our technical area is as barren as a Chernobyl pleasure park, with Laudrup, Curtis, etc. as motionless as the mummies of Guanajuato. 

4.       Passion.  Yes, that word again.  Something seems to be missing.  Possibly for all the reasons listed above.  But it just feels that the players and management don’t care.  Even in the awful dark ages of Cork and Hollins there was seemingly some intensity, some devotion, some affinity with the honest working-class people who are prepared to endure debt and sacrifice to support this wonderful football team. The pithy milquetoast ambience of our recent games lends to a theory that Swansea is a shop window or an easy cash-cow for agents and players who’d much rather be strutting their Range Rovers & stupid overpriced headphones in more cosmopolitan environs than a south Wales coastal city.  But don’t let such behaviours daub everyone with the same shitty brush of inertia: look at one of the richest players in the world, Bayern’s Franck Ribery.  This man would climb inside a piƱata of razor wire and allow the opposition to beat him with pikes if it meant victory.  Come to think of it, looking at him, he might just have done this for a bet.

And while the board have created an unthinkable wonderland, they cannot be forever hermetically sealed from criticism.  Signing Wilfried Bony was a folly to compare with the Millennium Dome or the BBC renewing Miranda’s contract.  Paying £12m for someone who must have time-travelled from Woodstock (considering the amount of time he spends on his arse in a field) sticks in the gnarled craw of someone who once brought his own paint to help spruce up the hording panels on the Vetch Field North Bank.  One suggests naivety in this context, possibly desperation, to hang onto Laudrup after the Carling Cup success.  But this must surely question universal judgment.


It’s a familiar dichotomy, but one can lick a finger and test the prevailing winds. And on this wind carries our hopes and dreams, but lately some very sleepless nights.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Call of the West: But Who's Listening?

If you were unfortunate to be dropped through a wormhole from a different place and time, and subjected to the salivations of South Wales football fans, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this weekend's derby between Swansea City and Cardiff City was akin to the last scene of a Kurosowa showdown; hardened samurai massed across urban battle plains heaving under the weight of steaming angst; unblinking cohorts of testosterone backed up by attack helicopters.  Of course you would. But then such white noise would also ooze from any sponsor-heavy polyester top-wearing enthusiast from Milan, Glasgow, Manchester and Bristol. Apart from Bristol.

Everyone thinks that their own fire ant mound is bigger and more vibrant than their neighbour's nest, and makes such a loud hum that the whole world cannot ignore the discord. Nowhere is this more prevalent than the animus embedded into 40 miles of soulless tarmac buttressed by the Welsh cities of Swansea and Cardiff; traversed by scenic bays, vertiginous mountains and industrial installations belching ash like a chain-smoking uncle.

Unfortunately these twin Cambrian outposts had over the years decayed to the point of penury, resembling a duet of addled tramps noisily waving blood-caked fists at moving reflections in a shop window. And this is where we resided over the generations; sucking at crumbs from the rich man's banquet. A soundtrack to the funeral march of coal mining communities smashed by the Tories.   Supporting Swansea since the 70's was like dating a toothless-yet loyal hag; always expecting something special on your plate but finding a crumpled note, crudely scrawled "there's only dog shit for tea." Our cyclical sense of demise framed by a penchant for loathing borne out of delusions of something better out there. 

Years of animosity festering for no reason other than idiocy channelled by the bellicose phobia of fat bigoted men in designer gear. Pubs smashed to pieces like the sacking of Carthage; young people chased into the sea (though luckily the mythical swimming Cardiff escapees didn't flee into the neighbouring Aberavon Beach waters, or an affliction of toxic shock from a sargasso of tampons and disused nappies would have flavoured the humiliation). Police escorted bus trips that would take us past a gauntlet of ire.  I recall our convoy passing the river Taff and sat open-mouthed as an OAP with his grandson, dropped his fishing rod and angrily waved his cock at us.  As a welsh football fan this was mystifying: both clubs were on their respective arses of bankruptcy, eking out performances in the horrible mausoleums of Ninian Park and the Vetch Field (I have written about this previously Why should attending such sporting events hold more peril than a Barrymore pool party?

The games were nearly always dismal affairs; terse barrel-chested (mostly Welsh) yeomen kicking seven shades out of anything that advanced; almost aping the vein-distending nail-bitten terrace stressors. Attendances reflected the pointlessness.  For me the most memorable events of these dire basement clashes were: 1) someone's bathroom window behind the west stand smashed by a deflected clearance; 2) a Cardiff mod so overwhelmed by chasing our bus on his Lambretta that he crashed into stationery traffic; 3) repeatedly barracking a linesman with 'skidmark' due to the strategic brown streak on his shorts (he never appeared for the 2nd half).  And how could we object to Cardiff's 'The Ayatollah" -a spurious recall of Iranian funeral head-slapping-  when if a football landed on the roof of the Vetch Centre Stand, flakes of asbestos would rain down on our heads, resulting in the very same unison movements in brushing off the cancerous dust?

Of course, we've both finally found ourselves seats at the rich man's table; the toothless hag has been spurned for a vajazzled wag that feeds us cordon bleu and empties our wallets.  Gentrification and culture flows like fine wine.  But make no mistake; those ingrained passions and nail-bitten stressors will rise up again like the undead who were never rightfully despatched by a bullet to the head; and no perfumed wig effete continental fannying on the field will hold them at bay.  Hyperbole about 'the biggest derby in football' will foam from the Tawe and Taff rivers; but for the rest of the world it'll demand about as much column inch as a skateboarding wombat or a tweet from Melvyn Hays.  The next day we'll all just carry on, tattooed with some temporary bragging rights; wondering if there'll ever be anything left in the country to worry about.