|Swansea City 1 v 1 Barnsley|
Saturday, 22nd May 2021 Kick-off 18:30
This is it Swansea, let’s get to Wembley !
Saturday, 22nd May 2021 09:00 by Keith Haynes
Wales most successful Premier League club have a chance to return to the top flight if they can avoid defeat today at the Liberty Stadium against Barnsley. Already with a one goal advantage Swansea City take to the field at 6.30pm this evening safe in the knowledge they have already beaten Barnsley three times this season. However, that means nothing in the Championship play offs, and today the best side books a date at Wembley stadium a week today on Saturday May 29th.
Swansea City have made constant improvements since a sub-part 2018/19 campaign that saw them finish 10th. The Swans reached the Championship playoff final last season and are in line to do at least a repeat of that this term. Steve Cooper & co. boasted a strong record at home in the league campaign, raking in 47 points from 23 outings at home.
Barnsley, on the other hand, reached the Championship playoff semi-finals by finishing 5th in the league. After finishing 21st in the table last season, the Tykes have made fabulous progress this term, but come into this game on the back of a three-game winless run.
The first leg, played at the Oakwell Stadium earlier this week, saw Swansea City eke out a narrow 1-0 win over Barnsley, thanks to Andre Ayew. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides,
So let’s have a look on the day of the game what Andre thinks about it all and achieving promotion for the swans. “It would be among the tops for me,” he said yesterday. “I have grown to love the club and the fans. It’s very special for me. It would be a big achievement for me because it would prove I can do it at any level. I’ve followed a lot of players who have played at a really high level, come down to the Championship, and not succeeded. For me, this has been a test to prove I can do it at any level. I have done it at every level and I’ve never doubted myself. I need to prove it now. If you work hard, you get rewarded and I want to make Swansea happy. In terms of me personally, this (promotion) would be very big. That’s the reason why I stayed with this team. If there was no ambition to try and go up, then there would have been no point.
Andre couldn’t wait to speak about the Jack Army “We can’t wait – we just want to feel them back,It’s funny because whenever you go out to a stadium normally for the warm-up, the fans are not there yet. There are maybe a few, but when we got to Barnsley the 4,000 were already in! We were like ‘Gosh, it’s back!’ You know some decisions are going to be weird because the pressure is more. We just want our stadium to be more than what it was at Barnsley. We know what the Liberty is like when we are in these moments and have these big games coming up. It’s something different. We know everybody isn’t going to be there and as players we would love a full stadium for this game, but it’s not the case. We are lucky to have a few in and it’s the start of something. Hopefully we will have more back soon. I can guarantee all of the players can’t wait for Saturday to feel the fans. We also want to feel they are happy with where we are. We are going to need them if we are going to go through on Saturday. It’s a fact, because what is coming up tomorrow is going to be very tough.”
Another stalwart of the side Wayne Routledge has achieved many personal milestones in his own career at Swansea. Winning a major trophy, seven seasons in the Premier League and European adventures have all come to Wayne over a whole decade of Swansea service.
“I’m proud. I think it’s a really good achievement. If you go back to when I signed here, I think if you’d have said I’d be here 10 years then people would have laughed at you given my previous spells. I owe a lot to Brendan for spending a lot of time with me and showing his vision moving forward. I was floating around in my career, but I came to Swansea and re-educated myself on football under Brendan Rodgers, and then Michael Laudrup Each year we kept going and progressing. Now we’re at 10 years. My role has definitely changed in the sense of what I offer and bring to the table. I’ve got years of experience, but it’s not just on the pitch. I’ve dealt with situations that the young players are going to experience, and I can help them on their path. I came here and I’ve evolved from that person in 2011. It’s given me a happy family and it’s a great place to be.”
The swans of course have a healthy and very successful academy. Currently Connor Roberts, Ben Cabango and the two Coopers Oli and Brandon are all a part of that success this season.Others have moved on but Matt Grimes will always point to his three years in the reserve set up then loan games away from the Liberty as a huge part of his development. Now club captain he has proven what hard work and dedication can bring to a young mans desire to be a professional footballer at Swansea. Most certainly the most successful youth and academy set up in Wales - be that scouting local talent like Joe Rodon now at Spurs, or bringing in the likes of Dan James from Hull and Oli McBurnnie from Bradford, the club has excelled in this field.
Matt Grimes spoke this week about the forthcoming game today “The overriding emotion is excitement. These are massive games so a little bit of nerves is always good,” he said. The 46-game season builds you up into the final three games of the play-offs, and all the hard work you've done you want to put on a show in both legs and hopefully the final. Last year it was my first time in the play-offs and a lot of the players’ first time. In some ways we knew what to expect but, in others, we didn’t.
Matt has made it clear this season is very different for the swans. “This year it will be very different. We have got a lot of players who have been there and done it. “We have gone from strength to strength as a team. We have had more points, more clean sheets, better defensive record, so from that point of view I do think we are better equipped this year. I think there is so much that goes into games. They are massive games so experience of big games obviously helps. The lads who experienced it last year, it holds us in good stead going into this year. But you need to have your best game. You need to turn up on the day and you need some real quality because Barnsley are a very tough opponent. We have to be excited about the challenge and the opportunity, and we have to be at the top of our game.”
The last word today has to go to Steve Cooper who has already gone down in Swansea folklore as one of the most forward thinking and clever tacticians the club has seen in many years. Cooper said after the first keg “The first thing when the final whistle went on Monday was knowing we now have opportunity to do the same in our own stadium, in front of our own fans. It’s something to look forward to, we’ve missed having supporters in stadiums, particularly our own. Having some supporters back is long overdue, it’s an important game and it is something to look forward to and cherish. We have to be motivated and ready to play in front of them, it’s just not been the same without them. The atmosphere on Monday made everyone realise that is how thing are supposed to be, and it will be even better and more appreciated when we get full crowds back. But we have to focus on giving the supporters something to cheer and get behind. We will also be thinking about those who won’t be able to get in too, because in normal circumstances there would not be an empty seat in the place. So as players, coaches and staff, we have to represent this community and show our unity and what Swansea City is all about. If we do that it should make for a positive performance and result, but only we can do that. It is in our control to do that.”
As we all know this counts for nothing in a one off cup tie that faces the swans later today. Here’s to the Jack Army the twelfth man, and they are all going to be needed today, each and every one of them.
Fan information for those attending the game. Those supporters who are attending the Liberty this evening are asked to follow these guidelines within the stadium.
Today’s Matchday programme, free download. Click below.
THIS IS IT JACKS !
Photographs licensed from Reuters / Routledge Getty images
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