I think essentially, I’m a glass half full type of guy. Of course, I have my moments of complete and utter despair as much as the next musician, writer performer and Swansea City fan but on the whole I’m an optimist and live in hope that things will all work together for good.
The past few years haven’t been a lot of fun following the Swans. After that unstoppable rise from the depths of the old Fourth division to the Premier league, winning the League cup along the way my glass wasn’t half full, it was always overflowing. So, when it started to unravel, I still had the glow of better times in the not too distant past to look back on and give me hope.
That hope was even there until the final half dozen games of last season. With a few games to go, unbelievably after the season, or seasons we had had, we were still in with a shout at premier league survival. Then the roof came in, we couldn’t win a game and relegation finally won the day
Then over the summer everybody left. If I’m really honest when some players left, I wasn’t terribly broken hearted. Some I felt liked the money more than the club, but it was hard not to feel the glass start to drain when the squad looked so threadbare.
So, to the first of the positives, Graham Potter. Potter was the type of manager we had been used to appointing at the club. He was young, loved playing proper football, or the Swansea Way as we liked to call it, and it seemed no one else had heard of him or would give him a chance in the UK.
Then there was the new squad. Whatever your feelings about the way the club has been run in recent years most fans would agree that one of the best things the previous local owners had done was invest in the training facilities of the club and in the youth set up. Over the past few years the Under 23 side managed by Cameron Toshack and Gary Richards has more than held its own against the top young sides in the country regularly winning their league and winning the Premier league cup in 2017.
But if we hadn’t been relegated last year and if so many ‘first team’ players had not left what chance would we have had to see players from the Under 23 squad grow up before our eyes. Where would Conor Roberts, Joe Rodon, George Byers and Oli McBurnie be playing, maybe in some League One side on loan? If you remember at the start of this season people were saying Daniel James didn’t have it. It was only 2 years ago Shrewsbury Town sent him back form a loan deal because he couldn’t break into the side.
You put Potter and that group of young exciting committed players together and you have a season that’s been the most fun to watch in maybe 5 years. Ok, its not the life and death feeling I used to get before every game in the Premier league but not having that pressure has meant that it’s been possible to sit back and enjoy football again and not worry about my blood pressure.
Along the way this season we have had some disappointments. We’ve completely destroyed some teams and still lost, and we took Manchester City to the wire and only went out of the FA Cup because of 2 dodgy decisions but its been an honour to see these kids pass and move with an arrogance that I haven’t witnessed at the Liberty since the days of Roberto Martinez.
There are other positives that might have been overlooked. In the Premier League every media opportunity seems to be controlled by the League. Every game is covered by a flotilla of outside broadcast trucks and the concourse is full of journalists from all over the world. The Championship does not have that pull, that worldwide attention. What that has meant is that there have been opportunities for the Club to develop its own media department. In the same way Graham Potter has developed his footballing staff Jonathan Wilshire, Head of Media and Marketing at the Swans, has developed his media team.
At the start of the season the club decided that it would broadcast every game via Swans TV. That sounds like a good idea but starting a TV station from scratch is not that easy. The decision was made to build a studio and staff it with young people. In the same way at the start of the season, some of the passes made by the team on the pitch didn’t always go to the man, on the TV side the staff were learning too. In football you prepare for kick off on the pitch with a pre-season build up. In TV you run pilot shows but it’s never the same. You can pilot as many shows as you like in the run up, its only when the season starts, and you go live that you really learn. As the team has grown in confidence on the pitch so has the TV production team off the pitch.
Again, it’s a youthful playing squad in the media department. They have their own equivalents of Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge in the shape of editorial guidance from Jonathan Wilshire and technical backup from old hand Mark Williams. Most of the staff are straight out of media and film school. There’s a raw enthusiasm in the team that many a TV show I have worked on has lacked. Every week they produce hours of footage for social media and the website and every game they go live to the world. Like everything the more, you do it the better you get.
The face of Swans TV is Sioned Dafydd. Sioned started at the club on work experience but after a few years at the club she was given the responsibility of presenting a live show for almost 3 hours on match day. You can see that just like Dan James and Conor Roberts she is now a top professional. She talks to camera, she interviews guests from TV personalities to Swans Legends and she makes it look easy. On the few occasions Sioned has been away I’ve stepped in to present the show and let me tell you its harder than she makes it look.
Just like the playing staff the problem will be how does the club hold onto this talent. For local media students and colleges this might be a blessing in disguise. If we have to get used to some of our best talent starting at the club and then moving on it does create opportunities for others to come in, learn their trade and get a foot on the ladder. Then again of course I hope Dan James and Sioned Dafydd aren’t going anywhere soon. I’ll raise my more than half full glass to that!