Tag Archives: Wales

The Managers: Chris Coleman

Premier League Clubs Managed: Fulham (2003-2007)

After a testing year experiencing relegation with Sunderland in 2018, Chris Coleman was recently trying to reboot his managerial career in China with Hebei China Fortune. However, this venture came to an end recently. Coleman’s peak moment came three years ago when he led Wales famously to the semi-finals at the 2016 European Championships.

In the Premier League, he played for Crystal Palace and Blackburn Rovers in the 1990s and spent four years as boss of Fulham, keeping the west Londoners comfortably in the mid-table reaches during that period.

Born in Swansea, Coleman’s first professional contract as a player was at Manchester City aged 16. However, he never made a senior appearance for the Citizens and left after just a year on their books citing homesickness as the reason for his departure.

Playing days at the Palace

He signed for his hometown club Swansea and spent four years with them, making nearly 200 appearances. He moved in 1991 to Crystal Palace and it was with the Eagles that he made his Premier League debut, featuring on the opening weekend in their thrilling 3-3 draw with newly-promoted Blackburn Rovers.

They reached the semi-finals of the League Cup in that campaign but were relegated in the Premier League on the final day of the season. Promotion from the First Division followed in 1994 but relegation came a year later for the second time. In December 1995, he bought his time at Selhurst Park to an end and signed for the Premier League champions Blackburn Rovers in a £2.8 million deal. He made 143 appearances for Palace, scoring 16 times which included five goals in the inaugural Premier League season of 1992-1993.

Coleman’s career at Blackburn never really took off. A persistent Achilles injury restricted him to 28 league appearances and he took the brave decision to drop down two divisions to continue his playing days at Fulham. Signing for the Cottagers in 1997, it began a 10-year association with the club as player, coach and eventually manager.

Fulham were in the Second Division on his arrival but had Kevin Keegan as manager and were owned by the Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed. Keegan quickly appointed Coleman as club captain and he led Fulham to the Second Division title in 1998-1999.

When Keegan left to take the England post in March 1999, he would be succeeded by Jean Tigana and he kept Coleman as skipper. However in January 2001, his professional career as a player effectively ended in a serious car accident in Surrey just days before an FA Cup third round tie with Manchester United. Coleman broke his leg in the accident and although he did play one reserve match in 2002, it was clear to Chris that he wouldn’t recover sufficiently to continue his playing career. In October 2002, he announced his retirement and took a place on the club’s coaching staff.

Flying at Fulham

In April 2003, Tigana left Fulham after contract negotiations broke down. Coleman was given the opportunity to take caretaker charge of the first-team for the final five matches of the season. At the time, the Cottagers still had an outside chance of being dragged into the relegation dogfight.

In his tenure, Fulham won three games and only lost once away to Leeds United. Finishing clear of danger in 14th place, he became the youngest permanent manager in the Premier League when he was given the job permanently by Al-Fayed.

Many pundits tipped them to struggle but Fulham were flying in his first full season at the helm, finishing in a creditable ninth place in the Premier League table. The west Londoners won 3-1 away at Manchester United and the goals of Louis Saha had them shooting towards potential European football before he joined the Red Devils in the 2004 January transfer window.

Andy Cole, Claus Jensen and Tomasz Radzinski were among the new arrivals in the summer of 2004 but Fulham couldn’t build on the success achieved by Chris in his first season. They finished 13th in 2004-2005, despite thrashing Norwich City 6-0 on the final day of the season.

Under his tenure, Fulham became a tough customer to play on home soil. Liverpool FC, Chelsea and Arsenal all tasted defeat during his managerial spell with the club but away from home; they became far too easy to play against. They achieved just one away victory in both the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 campaigns. Before the end of the 2007 season, he was gone.

A seven-game winless run saw the club hover only four points above the relegation zone in April and beaten 3-1 at home on Easter Monday by Manchester City. The decision was taken to relieve Coleman of his duties and he was replaced by Northern Ireland boss Lawrie Sanchez.

A club statement read: “Chris has provided a fantastic service during his 10 years at the club, but as a team and organisation Fulham Football Club has goals to attain and success to achieve – and by no means can this be compromised.”

From the wilderness to Wales

For five years after his departure from Fulham, Coleman’s management career threatened to end up in the wilderness. He went abroad first to Spain to manage Real Sociedad in July 2007 but only stayed in the post for six months, resigning after disagreements with the club’s president over the vision and direction they were heading in. At the time, Sociedad were playing in the second-tier of Spanish football.

He then returned to England, replacing Iain Dowie as boss of Coventry City in February 2008. He only managed to win 34 of his 117 matches as manager of the Sky Blues and was sacked at the end of the 2009-2010 season after a disappointing 19th place finish in the Championship. In May 2011, it was back on his travels to AEL in Greece in a stint that lasted a meagre 12 games. His career in the management game looked to be in danger of slipping away until the national job with his country came up in the most tragic of circumstances.

In November 2011, the British football world was stunned by the sudden death of Wales’s first-team manager Gary Speed at the age of just 42. The Welsh team were experiencing an upturn in their fortunes and eventually, Coleman, who had won 32 caps for his country in his playing days, agreed to take the position two months after Speed’s untimely death.

His first game was an international friendly defeat in New Jersey to Mexico in May 2011. Things didn’t start well and he became the first Welsh manager to lose his first five matches with the nadir being a 6-1 away defeat in Serbia. This meant qualification for the 2014 World Cup finals was never likely but a 2-1 victory over Scotland in October 2012 was the galvanising effect required for his management.

Reaching eighth in the FIFA World Rankings three years later, Wales qualified for the 2016 European Championships – their first major tournament appearance since the 1958 World Cup finals. Led by Ashley Williams with heroic performances from the likes of Joe Allen, Sam Vokes, Aaron Ramsey and of course, Gareth Bale – Wales went further than anyone could have expected. They topped their group ahead of England before beating Northern Ireland and Belgium in the knockout rounds. A 2-0 defeat to eventual champions Portugal in the semi-finals was no disgrace. It had been a tournament to remember for Welsh football and put Coleman back on the radar of many clubs following his management here.

He stayed in the Wales post with the aim of getting them to their first World Cup finals in 50 years. Sadly, it didn’t work out. Serbia dominated their qualifying group and a shattering 1-0 home defeat in their final group game to Republic of Ireland meant they even missed out on a play-off spot. Coleman resigned a month later.

He took over at struggling Championship club Sunderland in November 2017 but couldn’t halt the Black Cats’ slide into League One. He was relieved of his duties just before the 2017-2018 season concluded due to a board takeover.

Coleman wasn’t out of the game for long. In June 2018, he moved to China, succeeding West Ham-bound Manuel Pellegrini as the manager of Hebei China Fortune. They finished sixth in the 2018 Chinese Super League and have Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Mascherano among their squad. However, after just five points from nine matches in the new season and an early exit from the Chinese FA Cup by Chongqing Lifan, Coleman left the club in May 2019.

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Premier League Files: Rob Earnshaw

Premier League Career: West Bromwich Albion (2004-2006), Derby County (2007-2008)

Rob Earnshaw remains the only player to have scored a hat-trick in the Premier League, all three divisions of the Football League, the FA Cup, the League Cup and at international level for Wales. Earnshaw enjoyed goalscoring royalty at Cardiff City and his goals were crucial to West Bromwich Albion avoiding relegation in dramatic fashion in 2004-2005.

Although he played for Wales at international level, Earnshaw was born in Zambia. His mother was a professional footballer and later became a boxer whilst his father worked in the mines. The family moved to Malawi when Rob was five but in 1990, his father contracted typhoid fever and suddenly died. His mother, Rita, decided to move the family to a small Welsh town in the south of the country where her sister lived. Growing up in school, he supported Manchester United and excelled at PE, especially at gymnastics, basketball and football.

Earnshaw joined Cardiff City’s YTS scheme in 1997 and a year later, he turned professional. After making his debut in the first-team at the age of just 16, Earnshaw was loaned out to Scottish side Morton in January 2000 by the Cardiff boss at the time, Frank Burrows. Earnshaw later admitted the experience of going out on-loan made him a better player and showed him he needed to work hard.

From 2000 to 2004, Earnshaw broke several club records as he became a prolific goalscorer for Cardiff. He scored a number of hat-tricks in Division Three, Division Two and Division One and made the Football League PFA Team of the Year in two successive years. His prominence in finding the back of the net meant he received plenty of attention from numerous clubs in the summer of 2004. Interest came from Aston Villa, Charlton Athletic and Scottish giants Celtic. Cardiff owner Sam Hammam even went on to say if he was sold: “They would hang me in the city centre.” However, he was eventually sold to West Bromwich Albion for £3.5 million. In fact, after leaving Cardiff in 2004, Earnshaw’s total transfer fees came to a figure of £12.65 million.

It took some time for Rob to adjust to the higher level of football. He didn’t score for the club until his seventh appearance which was a brace in a 2-2 draw away at Southampton. However, he regularly found the back of the net once he’d broken his duck for the Baggies. Among the 14 goals he did net in 2004-2005 were vital goals to earn draws for West Brom away at Arsenal and Manchester United. In March 2005, he arrived into the game at The Valley against Charlton Athletic with an hour gone and the scoreline locked at 1-1. Earnshaw completed his feat of scoring a hat-trick in all major professional football levels in 30 minutes and also became the first Albion player to score a treble in the Premier League era.

Despite helping the club retain their Premier League status, manager Bryan Robson often used him as a substitute, much to his chagrin. In December 2005, he submitted two transfer requests which were both rejected but eventually, he left The Hawthorns to seek first-team opportunities elsewhere. Championship club Norwich City signed him on transfer deadline day in January 2006 as a replacement for Dean Ashton, who’d gone to West Ham United. After scoring 19 times in the 2006-2007 campaign for the Canaries, Derby County broke their transfer record to sign him in June 2007 for £3.5 million following their promotion back to the Premier League.

His season at Pride Park was a nightmare, just like the team. He was in-and-out of the side and didn’t score for the club until an FA Cup defeat to Preston North End in January 2008. His sole Premier League goal for the Rams came in a 6-2 defeat to Arsenal and was left out of the squad on the final day of the season as Derby accepted bids from Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United for his services. His Premier League career was over.

It was Forest who won the race to sign Earnshaw that summer and his figures of 35 goals in 98 league appearances between 2008 and 2011 were decent, though nowhere near the figures he enjoyed in his fruitful first spell at Cardiff. He returned to the Bluebirds for a less productive second spell in 2011 before winding down his career with periods at Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Toronto FC, Blackpool, Chicago Fire and Vancouver Whitecaps.

After retirement in 2016, Earnshaw stayed on in Vancouver as a youth coach before being announced as an assistant coach for USL side Fresno FC ahead of their first-ever season. As a player for Wales, he scored 16 goals, winning 59 caps. Currently, he is the seventh-highest all-time goalscorer in Wales’ international history.

Iconic Moments: Giggs’ last goal (February 2013)

There is often a huge debate for who has been the greatest player in Premier League history. Certainly the most successful is Ryan Giggs and it will take something to beat the Welshman’s incredible tally of 13 Premier League title-winning medals.

Giggs also holds the record for most consecutive seasons to score in the Premier League with his feat standing at 21 campaigns. His first goal in the Premier League was a wonderful individual effort away at Tottenham Hotspur in September 1992. He was still producing the goods two decades later with the second goal in a 2-0 away victory at Queens Park Rangers in February 2013.

It turned out to be Giggs’ last-ever goal for Manchester United. He retired in May 2014 after making a club-record 963 appearances for the Red Devils, scoring 168 goals. After retirement, he spent two years as Louis van Gaal’s assistant before leaving when the Dutchman was sacked. He is now the international manager of Wales but will always be considered one of the finest players to have graced both Manchester United and the Premier League.

The Clubs: Cardiff City

All-Time Premier League Record (upto 11th September 2018)

Played Won Drew Lost Scored Conceded Goal Difference Points No of Seasons
42 7 11 24 34 79 -45 32 2

 

Most Premier League Appearances

Player Appearances Total
Steven Caulker 38
Fraizer Campbell 37
David Marshall 37
Jordon Mutch 35
Gary Medel 34
Peter Whittingham 32
Ben Turner 31
Kevin Theophile-Catherine 28
Kim Bo-Kyung 28
Aron Gunnarsson 23

 

Most Premier League Goals

Player Goals Total
Jordon Mutch 7
Fraizer Campbell 6
Steven Caulker 5
Peter Whittingham 3
Craig Bellamy 2
Juan Cala 2
Kim Bo-Kyung 1
Victor Camarasa 1
Aron Gunnarsson 1
Kenwyne Jones 1

 

Biggest Premier League Victories

Match Date Season
Cardiff City 3-1 Fulham 8th March 2014 2013-2014
Cardiff City 3-2 Manchester City 25th August 2013 2013-2014
Fulham 1-2 Cardiff City 28th September 2013 2013-2014
Cardiff City 2-1 Norwich City 1st February 2014 2013-2014
Cardiff City 1-0 Swansea City 3rd November 2013 2013-2014

 

Worst Premier League Defeats

Match Date Season
Cardiff City 0-4 Hull City 22nd February 2014 2013-2014
Sunderland 4-0 Cardiff City 27th April 2014 2013-2014
Cardiff City 3-6 Liverpool FC 22nd March 2014 2013-2014
Chelsea 4-1 Cardiff City 19th October 2013 2013-2014
Cardiff City 0-3 Arsenal 30th November 2013 2013-2014

 

Managers

Manager No of Seasons managed Left the Club
Malky Mackay 1 27th December 2013
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 1 18th September 2014
Neil Warnock 1  

 

Highest Home Attendances

Match Date Attendance Figure Season
Cardiff City 2-3 Arsenal 2nd September 2018 32,316 2018-2019
Cardiff City 0-0 Newcastle United 18th August 2018 30,720 2018-2019
Cardiff City 3-6 Liverpool FC 22nd March 2014 28,018 2013-2014
Cardiff City 2-2 Manchester United 24th November 2013 28,016 2013-2014
Cardiff City 0-3 Arsenal 30th November 2013 27,948 2013-2014

 

Intro

Cardiff City defied the expectations of many experts to earn promotion back to the Premier League for the 2018-2019 season, four years after their one-season dalliance in the top-flight which ended with a swift return to the Championship. Their sole full season did have a few highs but their relegation was unsurprising after a controversial decision was made by owner Vincent Tan to sack the manager, Malky Mackay. This time round, it is the experienced Neil Warnock in-charge and he will make the Bluebirds tough to beat.

 

2013-2014

Popular Scot Malky Mackay guided Cardiff City into the top-flight for the first time in the Premier League era as champions of the Championship. Mackay spent big to acquire the services of defensive midfielder Gary Medel and centre-back Steven Caulker. Both impressed but the overall quality of the squad wasn’t quite good enough to ultimately avoid an instant return to the second-tier.

Cardiff started well enough and no supporter will ever forget their first-ever Premier League home game at The Cardiff City Stadium. Big-spending Manchester City arrived and were expected to turn the Bluebirds over. However, Cardiff dominated the aerial battles and two headers from Fraizer Campbell helped the newcomers to a shock 3-2 victory. Unseen at the full-time whistle was a frosty reception given by owner Vincent Tan towards Mackay. It was already the beginning of the end for Mackay.

Cardiff did beat Swansea City 1-0 in the maiden Welsh Derby at Premier League level and drew at home with reigning champions Manchester United. However, hours before a trip to Anfield, an e-mail was leaked into the press from Tan telling Mackay to resign as boss or face being sacked. Mackay came out fighting after the 3-1 defeat to a Luis Suarez-inspired Liverpool FC side but a 3-0 home beating by Southampton on Boxing Day was the final blow. A day later, Tan sacked Mackay, much to the fans’ disgust. The real reasons for his sacking weren’t fully revealed until his application and sudden withdrawal for the vacant managerial position at Crystal Palace eight months later.

Ex-Manchester United scoring legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed as new manager but the club were in a tailspin and he couldn’t guide them out of it either. Poor business in the January transfer window, including a swap deal with Stoke for Kenwyne Jones to arrive in-exchange for Peter Odemwingie didn’t help matters. Cardiff’s Premier League flame was extinguished on the final Saturday of the season when they lost 3-0 to Newcastle United. They finished bottom of the table with just seven wins to their name and 30 points. Solskjaer achieved just two league wins during his five-month reign as boss.

 

2018-2019

After a four-season absence, Cardiff returned to the top-flight and despite not winning any of their first four games, will scrap for every point possible. Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge has already shown his penalty-saving instincts, saving efforts from Callum Wilson and Kenedy in the season’s early weeks. The save from the latter in stoppage-time earned Cardiff a goalless draw with Newcastle United for their first point back in the big time.

The Bluebirds came from behind twice in their last match against Arsenal before being narrowly beaten 3-2 by the Gunners but Neil Warnock’s side will battle throughout and will win plenty of admirers throughout the season for the never-say-die attitude that the manager will demand from his players.

The Clubs: Swansea City

All data correct upto 3rd April 2018

All-Time Premier League Record

Played Won Drew Lost Scored Conceded Goal Difference Points No of Seasons
258 82 64 112 303 369 -66 310 7

 

Most Premier League Appearances

Player Appearances Total
Wayne Routledge 196
Ashley Williams 181
Angel Rangel 168
Nathan Dyer 158
Leon Britton 148
Lukasz Fabianski 142
Ki Sung-Yeung 133
Neil Taylor 131
Gylfi Sigurdsson 124
Federico Fernandez 112

 

Most Premier League Goals

Player Goals Total
Gylfi Sigurdsson 34
Wilfried Bony 27
Michu 20
Nathan Dyer 17
Wayne Routledge 16
Danny Graham 15
Fernando Llorente 15
Bafetimbi Gomis 13
Andre Ayew 12
Ki Sung-Yeung 12

 

Biggest Premier League Victories

Match Date Season
Queens Park Rangers 0-5 Swansea City 18th August 2012 2012-2013
Swansea City 4-0 Sunderland 19th October 2013 2013-2014
Swansea City 4-1 Queens Park Rangers 9th February 2013 2012-2013
Swansea City 4-1 Aston Villa 26th April 2014 2013-2014
West Ham United 1-4 Swansea City 7th May 2016 2015-2016
Swansea City 4-1 West Ham United 3rd March 2018 2017-2018
Swansea City 3-0 West Bromwich Albion 17th September 2011 2011-2012
Fulham 0-3 Swansea City 17th March 2012 2011-2012
Swansea City 3-0 Blackburn Rovers 14th April 2012 2011-2012
Swansea City 3-0 West Ham United 25th August 2012 2012-2013

 

Worst Premier League Defeats

Match Date Season
Liverpool FC 5-0 Swansea City 17th February 2013 2012-2013
Swansea City 0-5 Chelsea 17th January 2015 2014-2015
Tottenham Hotspur 5-0 Swansea City 3rd December 2016 2016-2017
Liverpool FC 5-0 Swansea City 26th December 2017 2017-2018
Manchester City 4-0 Swansea City 15th August 2011 2011-2012
Leicester City 4-0 Swansea City 24th April 2016 2015-2016
Swansea City 0-4 Arsenal 14th January 2017 2016-2017
Swansea City 0-4 Manchester United 19th August 2017 2017-2018
Swansea City 0-4 Manchester City 13th December 2017 2017-2018
Chelsea 4-1 Swansea City 24th September 2011 2011-2012

 

Managers

Manager No of Seasons managed Left the Club
Brendan Rodgers 1 1st June 2012
Michael Laudrup 2 4th February 2014
Garry Monk 3 9th December 2015
Francesco Guidolin 2 3rd October 2016
Bob Bradley 1 27th December 2016
Paul Clement 2 20th December 2017
Carlos Carvalhal 1  

 

Highest Home Attendances

Match Date Attendance Figure Season
Swansea City 0-0 Southampton 20th April 2013 22,561 2012-2013
Swansea City 3-1 Liverpool FC 1st May 2016 20,972 2015-2016
Swansea City 1-0 Chelsea 9th April 2016 20,966 2015-2016
Swansea City 1-3 Manchester United 6th November 2016 20,938 2016-2017
Swansea City 0-3 Arsenal 31st October 2015 20,937 2015-2016
Swansea City 1-1 Manchester City 15th May 2016 20,934 2015-2016
Swansea City 1-0 Norwich City 5th March 2016 20,929 2015-2016
Swansea City 0-1 Southampton 13th February 2016 20,890 2015-2016
Swansea City 2-1 West Bromwich Albion 21st May 2017 20,889 2016-2017
Swansea City 1-0 Liverpool FC 22nd January 2018 20,886 2017-2018

 

Intro

Swansea City became the first Welsh club to play in the Premier League when Brendan Rodgers guided them into the top-flight in 2011. The Swans have been a fixture in the Premier League ever since and achieved a top half finish in 2012-2013 and 2014-2015 under the guidance of Michael Laudrup and Garry Monk. American investment has led to some chaotic moments in the last couple of seasons but under Carlos Carvalhal, the south Wales club look set to extend their Premier League stay to an eighth successive campaign.

 

2011-2012

Swansea City became the first Welsh club to play in the Premier League and found the going tough initially; failing to score or win any of their first four matches. However, a 3-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion in September was the galvanising result that lifted their season. Brendan Rodgers’ side played expansive, attacking football throughout the season using a 4-3-3 formation. Arsenal, Liverpool FC and champions Manchester City were among the sides beaten at The Liberty Stadium.

The Swans also scored the fastest goal of the season, as Andrea Orlandi netted after just 24 seconds in a fixture against Wolverhampton Wanderers which ended in a 4-4 draw. Swansea were never under any serious relegation threat and finished a tremendous 11th in their debut Premier League season. However, they lost their manager in the summer as Rodgers left to fill the vacancy at Liverpool.

 

2012-2013

It was another successful season for Swansea who had a new manager with Michael Laudrup succeeding the departing Rodgers. The club celebrated its centenary, and to mark the occasion released a new crest. In keeping with the centenary theme, the home kit for the season used the colours white and gold, rather than the more traditional white and black.

There was trophy success in the League Cup and a top 10 finish in the Premier League, despite with one fewer point than they amassed in 2011-2012. With 18 goals, new summer acquisition Michu was one of the surprises of the season and the best results came on the road. A 5-0 opening day success at Loftus Road over Queens Park Rangers remains Swansea’s biggest Premier League victory, whilst two Michu goals sank Arsenal at The Emirates Stadium in early December.

 

2013-2014

Swansea broke their transfer record in the summer, paying Vitesse Arnhem £12 million for the services of Ivorian forward Wilfried Bony. Bony was the star turn in a frustrating third campaign at this level for the Swansea faithful. He scored 16 Premier League goals which ultimately kept the team away from relegation trouble.

That didn’t look so secure in early February and after a 2-0 loss at West Ham which was their sixth Premier League reverse in eight games; owner Huw Jenkins sacked Michael Laudrup with the club just two points above the drop zone. Former skipper Garry Monk took over on an interim basis and was given the job permanently in May after securing safety with the Swans ultimately finishing 12th.

This was the only season the Welsh Derby took place in the Premier League. Swansea won 3-0 in February in Monk’s first game in-charge to make amends for the 1-0 loss they suffered to Cardiff City in November.

 

2014-2015

2014-2015 remains Swansea’s best season, both in terms of finishing position and points tally. They finished in eighth position, amassing 56 points and they never dropped outside of the top 10 throughout the season. In his first full season as a manager, Garry Monk was a revelation as his side recorded some amazing results.

This included league doubles over both Arsenal and Manchester United, whilst Bony scored nine further Premier League goals before he moved to Manchester City in the January transfer window. There was a heavy 5-0 loss at home to champions Chelsea in January but this was a blot in an impressive campaign which saw cracking performances from the likes of Jonjo Shelvey, Lukasz Fabianski and returnee Gylfi Sigurdsson.

 

2015-2016

Swansea went through the first month of the 2015-2016 Premier League campaign undefeated with two wins and two draws. Among those results was an opening day draw at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea and a third successive victory over Manchester United.

However, it all started to unravel from September onwards. A run of one victory in 11 games followed which saw Swansea drop from fourth to 15th in the table. After a lifeless display at home to Leicester City which ended in a 3-0 defeat, the club made the difficult decision to sack Monk. He was replaced a month later by the former Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin. He guided Swansea away from danger and they finished 12th, with late season victories at home to Chelsea and Liverpool FC among the highlights.

 

2016-2017

This was a chaotic season for Swansea City which nearly cost them their Premier League status. Guidolin started the campaign as manager but was sacked in early October after a 2-1 loss to Liverpool FC. Swansea had just four points on the board when he was dismissed. American boss Bob Bradley succeeded him but his reign was even worse and he was axed after a Boxing Day beating at home to West Ham United.

Swansea went into 2017 bottom of the Premier League and favourites to be relegated. Paul Clement, a former no.2 to Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea, was chosen as the man to lead them away from danger. Four wins in his first six games in-charge showed a rapid improvement and gave them a fighting chance. A run of five defeats in six games in March and early April looked set to cost the club but a 1-0 victory in early May over Everton, coupled with Hull’s shocking home loss to Sunderland put their fate in their own hands.

A week later, a 2-0 success away at Sunderland ensured safety when Hull were beaten 4-0 by Crystal Palace 24 hours later. Swansea finished in 15th place, helped by 15 league goals from new signing Fernando Llorente and some more sizzling displays from the influential Sigurdsson.

 

2017-2018

Despite the return of Bony and the excitement over the loan arrival of Renato Sanches from Bayern Munich, there was concern around The Liberty Stadium as Sigurdsson was sold to Everton and Llorente joined Tottenham Hotspur on transfer deadline day. Those fears looked to be fully warranted as Swansea won just two of their opening 15 matches.

Clement was sacked five days before Christmas following a 3-1 loss to Everton and Swansea spent Christmas Day bottom of the Premier League table. Former Sheffield Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal came in as Clement’s successor and has inspired the club away from danger. Swansea go into the final six matches of the season with Premier League safety firmly in their own hands.

Great Goals: Ryan Giggs – Tottenham Hotspur vs. MANCHESTER UNITED (September 1992)

In the very first season of the Premier League, Ryan Giggs was one of the biggest stars. Still only a teenager, the Welshman’s lightning pace and box of tricks made him a nightmare to play against. He scored one of his best Premier League goals in September 1992 when Manchester United made the trip to White Hart Lane.

Still goalless with half-time in sight, Giggs took possession and beat two Tottenham defenders before rounding the goalkeeper and then with the angle tightening, produced a fine finish into the back of the net. This goal demonstrated all of Ryan’s strong attributes as a youngster.

Tottenham did score in the second half to ensure the game finished all-square at 1-1 but this match is only remembered for a wonderful individual effort by Giggs.

Premier League Files: Sam Ricketts

Premier League Career: Hull City (2008-2009), Bolton Wanderers (2009-2012)

Sam Ricketts represented nine different clubs over the course of 16 years before a knee injury forced him to retire from professional football in November 2016. At the time, he was the club captain at Coventry City.

The ex-Welsh international was commonly deployed as a full-back but could play on either side of a back four and should an injury crisis develop, he would also chip in with a role at the heart of central defence. Ricketts played for both Hull City and Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League. These clubs produced the most fruitful spells of his career.

Ricketts came from a showjumping background. His father, Derek Ricketts was the world showjumping champion in 1978 and Uncle John Francome is a former jockey champion in horse racing and a respected TV pundit. As a teenager, he was tempted by the world of horse racing but elected to concentrate on football instead.

He began his career at Oxford United in October 2000 and joined Swansea City four years later after a spell in the non-league with Telford United. He helped Swansea win promotion to League One during his time in south Wales before moving to Hull City for £300,000 in 2006.

Three years later, Ricketts played an important role in Hull’s shock promotion to the Premier League in 2009 and made 29 appearances in his debut Premier League campaign as the Tigers’ stayed in the top-flight by the narrowest of margins at the expense of Newcastle United. Although Hull wanted to extend his contract, Ricketts’ performances had caught the attention of Gary Megson who brought him to Bolton Wanderers in July 2009.

Four months into his maiden season with the Trotters’, Ricketts was involved in one of the most comical own goals in Premier League history. At home to Blackburn Rovers, Ricketts got himself into a big muddle with goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen. As the Finnish goalkeeper came out to sweep up a Blackburn free-kick, Ricketts headed the ball towards his own goal, leaving Jaaskelainen stranded and Blackburn given a gift on their way to a 2-0 victory. The reactions of both players summed up embarrassment and massive strain.

In February 2011, he snapped an Achilles tendon in an FA Cup tie against Wigan Athletic which ruled him out of action for the best part of seven months. When he returned to the fold, Bolton were in the midst of a relegation dogfight. He scored on his first game back on New Years’ Eve against Wolverhampton Wanderers but it would be a losing battle against top-flight status. Bolton dropped out of the league on the final day of the season.

He stayed for one more campaign in Lancashire before moving to Wolves and therefore reuniting with his manager from the Swansea days, Kenny Jackett. As club captain, he helped spearhead the Black Country club make an instant return to the Championship with over 100 points. He ended his career with Coventry and played 56 times for the Sky Blues’ before quitting the game on medical advice. He won 52 international caps for Wales.

Premier League Files: Paul Bodin

Premier League Career: Swindon Town (1993-1994)

Paul Bodin’s career is often only remembered for being the unfortunate player to miss a crucial spot-kick against Romania that denied Wales a place at the 1994 World Cup finals in the United States. It is a moment that he admitted in 2015: “I have had to live with that hurt and it never quite goes away.”

This is slightly unfair considering he was a very good left-back in his day and he was one of Swindon Town’s standout players during their sole Premier League campaign in the 1993-1994 season. Bodin began his career as a schoolboy at Chelsea but he left the club without making an appearance for the senior side. He would go onto represent several sides in his career including Cardiff City, Crystal Palace and Reading. However, it was two spells at Swindon which is where he played his best football.

He had two spells at the County Ground, making 239 league appearances and recording 37 goals which are impressive figures for a defender. He scored against Manchester United and Arsenal in the Premier League; two of seven strikes notched in Swindon’s season in the Premier League limelight.

Bodin retired from playing in 2001 and returned to Swindon to spend 12 years in the youth coaching set-up. He also has worked at Southampton’s academy and was Rob Page’s assistant during the 2015-2016 season at Port Vale.