Swansea City have put their chastening experience against Stoke behind them and Russell Martin's men have momentum behind them with two wins on the spot. But today's opponents can tell a similar story and are just one point behind their visitors in the fledgling Championship table. Can the Swans experience deep joy at Deepdale or will their hosts leave them in a shallow grave before the international break?
Almost a month into his reign the new Swans manager is starting to up the sex appeal. Ok the football on show against Stoke was about as hot as a Susan Boyle shower show but back to back wins against Brizzle in the League and Plymouth in the Carabao Cup have led to more interesting feelings in the collective loins.
As an editorial point I think it might be prudent to reign in the whole Sexy Russ schtick…the Susan Boyle bit might have been one comparison too far…huh, I blame that @ZoePPwales
Anyway, Sexy Russ (d’oh – Ed.) will hoping to get a hat-trick of wins as we head into the first international break of the season. Another three points today would keep the League tally ticking over and give the manager the breathing space needed to continue implementing his preferred passing game.
But Preston will have similar aspirations and won’t make it easy. Wins over Peterborough and Morecambe in the Championship and Carabao Cup respectively have renewed the optimism generated when Frankie McAvoy first replaced Alex Neill and led the side to safety in the League.
It all adds up to the potential for a fascinating encounter on the banks of the River Ribble…
Martin hasn’t had it easy since replacing Steve Cooper in the Swansea City dugout; only appointed on the eve of the season, Martin has had to get to know a weakened squad pretty damn quick, absorb injuries and suspensions to key players, cope with Covid robbing him of others and also hamper his efforts at the Fairwood training complex.
Having said that, Sexy Russ has been able to bring in some saucy talent in the shape of the feisty Flynn Downes, the ever improving Jamie Paterson and the pure football filth Ethan Laird.
In addition he’s (so far) been able to keep hold of his Captain Matt Grimes and he’s profited from Party Animal Piroe. Joel’s jiggling hips and direct running have brought him three goals already this season and he’s starting to look like a shrewd acquisition in a £1m plus deal.
Whilst Party Animal Piroe can be attributed to Andy Scott and his recruitment team, the conversion of Ryan Manning from squad player shrinking violet to centre half sex pot is all Martin’s doing!
With Manning and Brandon Cooper coping in the Covid induced absence of Naughton and Bennett, Martin will have an embarrassment of riches to choose from now the two ol’ timers are back in contention.
It’s not perfect going into the Preston encounter but it’s probably the best Russ has had it since he’s been here.
The two opposing managers know each other pretty well. Sexy Russ was simply the Canary Captain under Frankie McAvoy and Alex Neill at Norwich.
That connection and the similar formations could lead to the sides cancelling each other out, which to be frank (not Frank, of course, just honest) would suit the Swans more than the home side.
Talking of familiar faces, there’s two pretty familiar ones to Swans fans in the opposition set up. Peter Ridsdale popped up at Preston after bankrupting Barnsley amongst others.
And of course there’s Scott Sinclair. It’s ironic that we come up against the veteran winger – now 32 can you believe‽ – in the week that Morgan Whittaker bagged the first competitive hat-trick since Sinclair’s thrilling threesome in the Championship Final a decade ago!
The Swans may well be spared a Sinclair reunion (and the inevitable Former Swan Scoring Against Us Syndrome) as McAvoy’s wingback system and the form of Danish striker Emil Riis up front leaves little room for Scott’s inclusion…
…famous last words, eh?
The Ed's XI
Sometimes it’s easier for a manager with a small squad and little in reserve, it leads to consistency and the absence of selection headaches. Maybe that’s why Steve Cooper worked the likes of Ayew, Grimes and particularly Jamal Lowe into the ground – he simply didn’t have any Paracetamol in his medicine cabinet?
Sexy Russ must have a full blown migraine at the right now with the return of several players and the emergence of a few more genuine options.
He doesn’t have any thumping in his head when it comes to the goalkeeper – just a heart in the mouth problem every now and again as Steve Benda has done more than enough to secure the spot despite the odd schoolboy error with the ball at his feet.
As mentioned earlier Brandon Cooper and Ryan Manning have not let anyone down and would feel aggrieved if they lose out. So too would Joel Latibeaudiere, looking more comfortable having moved back inside with the arrival of Laird in the right wingback role. But with the experienced duo of Naughton and Bennett back it leaves Martin raiding that medicine cabinet for the Anadin Extra.
Flynn Downes is still missing through Covid but the midfield options look quite healthy still…Captain Grimes is still in the building (but for how much longer?) whilst Jay Fulton is back providing the bite. It’s the emergence of New Kid on the Block Dan Williams that will have more established players looking over their shoulders, especially injury prone pair Korey Smith and Liam Walsh. If Williams gets a run in the side there appears every chance he’ll refuse to give up that shirt.
As an example of how an established player can get overtaken, just look at Jamal Lowe…he must surely be behind Party Man Piroe for the central striker slot and the competition for two wider forward roles is hotting up with Paterson providing the prompting and Morgan Whittaker firmly throwing down three goal gauntlet.
Take two tablets Russ and sort out a side that can exploit Preston’s frailties at the back but combat their strength down their left hand side in the potent presence of Joshua Earl.
Is this the Sexy Russ starting XI?: Benda; Laird; Naughton; Manning; Bennett; Bidwell; Grimes; Fulton; Paterson; Piroe; Lowe
Both teams have had mixed starts to the season but both have shown signs of improvement over the last couple of weeks. Confidence will have been boosted by first League wins and big victories in the Carabao, but the fact that the Swans are unbeaten at Deepdale in the three seasons since Premier League relegation will be an extra little confidence booster.
Despite the infusion of confidence in both set ups though I’m not sure there will be a winner in this one. There’s little to separate them in the table, the managers are very familiar with each other and their respective football philosophies and the two teams will set up in very similar fashion.
Preston are vulnerable at the back but the Swans are not exactly prolific yet, despite the glut of possession they usually enjoy.
Therefore this one has low score draw written all over it for me…