A view from the enemy: Swansea fan on Oscar, Benitez and that ballboy

Michael Steele

Swansea fan Matthew Harrison provides us with a view from the enemy.

Who would you rather have; Benitez or Michael Laudrup?

Despite the howling Chelsea boos that now seem to follow Rafa everywhere, it must be remembered that he is a European Cup winner and he did break up the Barca/Real duopoly in La Liga – twice. However, unsurprisingly, I love Laudrup. I’ll hold my hands up now and say that although I was excited by his appointment, I just had one of those bad feelings about it. Surely we couldn’t strike it lucky again with another inspired managerial appointment? How wrong I was. After the inspired appointments of Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa (to a certain extent) and Brendan Rodgers, Huw Jenkins struck gold again with Laudrup. I was at Loftus Road on the opening day of the season where we tore QPR apart to a 5-0 tune playing some of the most exciting I’ve seen Swansea playing. And our first 45 minutes of football against WBA in December are considered by many Swansea fans to be the best 45 minutes of football they’ve ever seen the Swans play. Alongside the exciting fast passing game he has introduced at Swansea, he has been the perfect person to come in and steady the club following Brendan’s departure. He’s just so damn cool! Although I still wish he’d give himself a squad number – the videos of him on the training pitch confirm that the Great Dane has still got it.

Who would you rather have; Torres or Michu?

At the moment – Michu of course. He is ruthless when given any sniff of goal, as he showed with his superb finish on our last visit to Stamford Bridge for the League Cup semi-final (sorry to bring that up). I was very much an advocate for Michu playing in the number 10 role behind a main striker, but as the season progressed I’ve began to think the Spaniard should be the team’s focal point (or fashionable ‘false 9’). And of course, as I’m talking about Michu, it is now compulsory to at least refer to him at least once every few sentences as ‘bargain of the season’. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone does attempt to prise him away from us in the summer, although he does genuinely seem to be loving life on and off the pitch in South West Wales at the moment.

I am actually a fan of Torres, although I’m still unsure whether that ‘am’ should be changed to a ‘was’ now. However, despite some of his critics he has still scored 20 goals this season, which isn’t an awful return; but for now, give me Michu every day.

What do you make of Chelsea fans treatment of Benitez?

I appreciate the fact that there is some bad blood between Mr. Benitez and Chelsea fans, but after making it initially known that he was not wanted at Stamford Bridge, I do personally believe that the fans should have downgraded their protests and got themselves behind the team more. Surely, all that negativity packed into Stamford Bridge on match day must have had at least a bit of an impact on the pitch.

If you could have one or two players from Chelsea, who would you take?

On the Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast recently, they declared that the Mata/Hazard/Oscar trio are a bit like a boyband and like all boybands everyone has a favourite member – undoubtedly, my favourite from the trio is the Brazilian; I’m a huge Oscar fan! I was at the Olympics Football group game in the summer between Brazil and Belarus at Old Trafford; everyone had come to see Neymar, but I fell in love with Oscar. He was superb that afternoon and he stole the show for me. He has the elegance and trickery that you would associate with a stereotypical Brazilian playmaker, but he is also deceptively tough and hardworking. The exciting thing with Oscar is that he should only get better next season. Also his goal against Juventus in the Champions League is easily my favourite of the season – the way he made Pirlo look silly and then smashed the ball past Buffon, one of the best goalkeepers of my generation, was unreal.

Of course, there are several other Chelsea players I’d happily take such as Mata and Hazard, but it’d be great to bring Frank Lampard back to Swansea now his contract at Chelsea is coming to an end (I still think it is crazy that the club are not offering him a new one). He scored his first professional goal whilst on loan at Swansea from West Ham don’t you know.

What do you think of Chelsea in general as a club?

I always used to like Chelsea as a club when I was growing up. They were always quite exotic in the first half decade of the Premier League with Gullit, Vialli and of course Zola. In all fairness, since the Abramovich era began I’ve found myself not despising and envying the club’s money-fuelled ascent, but nor do I have any real affection for the club either. I will admit though, I did have a massive soft spot for Mourinho when he was Chelsea manager – he just seemed to reinvigorate everyone in the league. I cannot properly comment on the fans either, as despite travelling all-round the country watching Swansea and plenty of other non-Swansea games for our website, Lost Boyos (which features a groundhopping section), I’m still yet to have ever seen Chelsea play live. I can’t make it Saturday either!

Who should be to blame for Chelsea's poor season?

Abramovich for me. Di Matteo did what was necessary last season to win the FA Cup and Abramovich’s much coveted Champions League trophy. Abramovich has always dreamt of his Chelsea team playing free-flowing, attacking and exciting football and Di Matteo looked to be on the first steps of bringing this to Stamford Bridge. At the start of this season Chelsea were playing some wonderful stuff and most people seem to have forgotten now but they were leading the way in the early stages of the season. What good sacking him did I’m not sure; especially when there appeared to be no real plan in place following his sacking. My initial reaction was that Abramovich had already got the almighty Pep Guardiola lined up as a replacement following the Spaniard’s self-imposed exile, but when that appeared to not be the case I could only scratch my head in bafflement at the decision.

What did you make of Hazard's attempt to retrieve the ball from that Swansea ball-boy?

When I saw the kick at the ball boy, I lost it and rained down all sorts of hatred onto Hazard. For that split second, I was furious and wanted him banned for life. However, this was merely the initial and instant reaction of a passionate football fan. Minutes later I reflected how stupid both parties had looked in the incident and both clearly made fools of themselves. Over the years I’ve always praised the Liberty Stadium ball boys, as they’ve always been really good at getting the ball back into play quickly to keep our fast passing game going; it’s funny now how we’ll always have a reputation as the club with the time-wasting ball boys. It was also a bit of a shame for us that an excellent two-legged display from the Swans that saw us reach our first ever major final was overshadowed by the antics of a 17-year old boy.

How pleased are you with how your season is going?

Could not be happier! As soon as we think we’ve hit our peak, things just seem to get better and better. We’re on course to finish in the top 10, we’re playing fantastic football under one of the greatest players to ever play the game and we’ve won our first ever trophy, fittingly, in our centenary year. It’s been close to the perfect season. Our signings have all fitted into the team exceptionally well and although Michu has grabbed all the headlines, I think our new centre back Chico has been outstanding this season. Chico has become a real fan favourite thanks to his committed displays and his large than life character – he’s a bit like our version of David Luiz.

Now just to thrash Cardiff twice next season!

And finally, how do you see the game going and what will the score be?

Despite the media suggesting that the Swans have knocked off for the season already with European football secured and Premier League safety in the bag, we’ve actually played quite well over the past few weeks and it just seems that little things are not going our way. I’m sure we’ll be up for the game this weekend, but ultimately Chelsea have a lot more to play for and I think they’ll probably come out victorious. Plus, throw in the fact that the team will probably be looking for revenge for those League Cup semifinals. I’m sure.

Hazard will want to prove a point! I’ll go with 2-0 to Chelsea.

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