With Swansea City putting their financial troubles aside and claiming top spot in the Championship and Bury being sadly expelled from the English Football League it has prompted me to post this piece I wrote for the last issue of the excellent Swansea Oh Swansea fanzine. My love of Swansea City is being restored through the efforts of Birch, Leon, Cooper and a group of hungry young players…my lack of love for what football has become has been magnified by the travails of Bury and Bolton. This piece for a fellow fanzine sort of covers both elements and it seems right to post it on the ATFV website.
It appears I’ve fallen in love all over again. No, this isn’t a story about my seedy escapades on various dating Apps. It’s more an Adam Sandler style RomCom script of how an ageing, cynical fanzine editor fell in love with his football club all over again.
Over the last few years I’d crashed right out of love with football in general and Swansea City in particular.
The absolute naked, frenzied, destructive GREED that defined the Premier League and “top” footballers (and let’s face it, half of those on £300k a week can’t even beat the first man with a corner) had manifested itself in MY club. On and off the field.
Out on the pitch we had an ever growing collection of no mark mercenaries, siphoning off huge wages, bonuses and “loyalty” fees (urghh) whilst investing zero effort in return.
In the Boardroom we had shareholders becoming ever more devious, setting a course that diverged from the Supporters Trust and instead headed into the arms of hedge funders so that huge personal profit could be pocketed – and club future and fans be damned.
And then Kaplan and Levien rocked up, with their pet poodle Pearlman in tow, and the whole community culture of the club was thrown on the Liberty car park floor, liberally doused in petrol (or GAS as the American trio would call it) and then burned to a cinder.
Suddenly the pride I felt at everything the club did was replaced with repulsion, like burning acid in my stomach; where before we’d tried to things the “right” way, never mind the “Swansea Way”, suddenly we were just like every other grabbing, grasping club, desperately living beyond its means in an annual attempt to conquer fourth from bottom in the Premier League.
Supporters had become “customers” to fleece at every given opportunity; young and hungry players were spurned in favour of expensive, high profile journeymen; interaction with the fans became a daily diet of click bait and filling the quota for posts and tweets irrespective of quality or the message put out.
I found myself more and more at odds with the club off the field of play and totally ambivalent to those wearing the shirt. Add to that the fact that the football we played was BORING and riven with the fear of losing rather than infused with a desire to win…and I was at the point of let my season ticket lapse. Maybe forever.
It was only the facts that we got relegated from the financial and competitive abyss of the Premier League and the appointment of Graham Potter to put together a team of hungry home grown players that persuaded me to renew.
Even then, my hatred of sell outs like Jenkins and Dineen and my deep suspicion of Kaplan, Levien and the Hedge Funder 27 was festering away, dissolving my ability to get behind the club I have supported for four decades.
And then a turning point came in March of this year with the appointment of Trevor Birch as Swansea City Chairman.
It’s as though the tentacles of the Americans have retracted as they turn their back on their “investment” and let the mega experienced Birch deal with the financial fall out of relegation whilst overseeing a drastic rebooting of the football side as well as interaction with the fans.
With Huw Jenkins removed and Leigh Dineen all but extinct at the club it feels as though a huge boil has been lanced. The poison is being drawn out of the club, and whilst the purge will never be fully successful until the Americans have moved on it has at least drained much of the toxicity from the stands and in the virtual environs of social media.
I don’t for one second pretend that things are good, much less perfect, at the club these days – we are still in deep financial problems and our squad strength and depth has suffered as a result – but the monumental change is that I feel a sense of pride in the actions the club is taking these days.
With Birch, Steve Cooper, Leon Britton and the Legendary Alan Curtis the men pulling the strings behind the scenes I feel like I have people I can get behind once again. It doesn’t matter if they are successful or not – I’ll just enjoy supporting them and revel in the knowledge that everything they try to do is for the benefit of the club and not their own personal bank accounts.
I don’t know, maybe I’m romanticising things…am I the only one that thinks the club suddenly feels more like the one we had during those golden years on the way up to the Premier League? Am I alone in feeling that the club is doing all it can to get closer to its supporters again and treat them as fans instead of customers?
Maybe I am alone – that’s what the shady dating Apps are all about after all. I’m just glad to be falling in love again with my football club.