LeightON in the Game

Nobody Has Won a Championship in September – But…

By Leighton Evans

The return of A Touch Far Vetched brings with it the return of its resident Mr Misery but even Evans The Ever Miserable is pretty perky in the first instalment of his new column Leighton In The Game (as in Late ON In the Game. He thought you’d need that explaining to you – Ed.)

leighton in the game

The return of A Touch Far Vetched brings with it the return of its resident Mr Misery but even Evans The Ever Miserable is pretty perky in the first instalment of his new column Leighton In The Game (as in Late ON In the Game. He thought you’d need that explaining to you – Ed.)

Normally, I am globally ranked in the top 10 for pessimism on any topic, but the start of the season even has my pulse racing more than the last orders bell down the pub.

I expect I started August like many – pleased with pre-season but happy to dismiss it as a load of meaningless kick-about games and hoping rather than expecting for a good start to the season itself.

What has been delivered could not have been in the expectation range of any sane Swans supporter: 16 points from a possible 18, 4 points from trips to two of last season’s top 6 and a blend of attacking incision and steely resolve at the back that stands in stark contrast to much of what has been served up over previous seasons (and, to an extent, last season too).

Allied to this, a reasonably benign transfer window where players who were expected to leave went, but others have stayed and contributed beautifully despite doubts, and there are more than a few reasons to be cheerful now.

Yet, my pessimism cannot be killed off that easily. While looking at the table today (10th September) is a very sweet sight, there are going to be more troubling days ahead as the nights draw in and I dig out the winter coat to trudge over to the Liberty.

There will be defeats ahead; there will be disappointing results against teams of the standard that we saw with Birmingham City (who were as useless as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest); there will be disappointment.

You cannot win the league in September, but you can leave yourself with far too much to do to be relevant after only six games. We are nowhere in that conversation.

However, there should also be real optimism going forwards too. A bright and fast start will not win anything come May 2020, but it is a huge boost to the players and supporters.

To be in that position with a rookie manager in his first senior football job is even more remarkable, and following the appointment of Graham Potter last season it looks like we’ve finally reverted back to selecting high quality, young, hungry managers committed to both excellent football and developing young players from within the club.

The academy has turned into a conveyor-belt of classy, streetwise and game-ready players for the first team in quick time (perhaps the only legacy of the Jenkins reign that I am still willing to tip my cap to after the last few years).

There is a buzz back – they even have the tone of the third shirt right, with the old Swansea Town badge making that an instant bestseller.

So, why so gloomy?

Well, the squad is still a little thin, the next few months might prove nothing more than an elongated shopping window for Ayew and Borja and I am naturally a miserable git (I can vouch for that – Ed.).

We have seen similar before too; in 1995 (I know, misty-eyed sepia-toned memories coming up) we started well before descending into a death spiral that included 4 managers (and a caretaker) in a season, Kevin Cullis and inevitable relegation.

We forget that Garry Monk started well in 2015/16 before his diluted hoofball hit an inevitable brick wall. The way that Cooper’s Swans have begun despite predictions is – against my better judgement – making me think of happier outcomes though.

There is something in the air this season, and nobody seems to be getting carried away. The football is good, the team looks united and strong, nobody getting carried away – even my mate who stuck £5 on Borja being Championship top scorer before the Preston game at 50/1 for a laugh.

I am always going to be troubled when things are going so unexpectedly well, but with some luck avoiding injuries we have the basis of something very decent this season. You cannot win anything with just a start, but you need the start to win something – and we definitely have that. If I am back in pessimism mode next month, someone give me a slap! (Form an orderly queue ladies and gentlemen – Ed.)