Have you heard the one about the Englishman, 37 Welshmen and 35 Scots?

“Put some wax on the tracks and slide on out of here.” Adam Ant

Is there any hope left for the SPL? This season they decided to start the Premier League in July so that the teams could be better prepared in Europe.  After the Scots fell behind the Danes in the UEFA co-efficient rankings their easy route to the Champions League group stages was closed as of this season.  So hence the shift forward in the start of the season.  Well, it hasn’t done the teams much good so far with Dundee United out of the Europa League before August started, and Rangers losing 1-0 at home to Swedish Champions Malmö FF at odds of over 14/1 before crashing out on aggregate by 7:55pm on this night.

But starting so early meant that the “big two” would miss out on potentially financial lucrative friendlies against some of Europe’s biggest games.  In the past few years Celtic have played the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea in the past few years in the US, whilst Rangers have themselves faced some of big guns.  Hardly fair right?

So what did they do? They allowed each team to arrange a friendly during the season and “move” their league game.  Surely the ultimate two fingers up at the tradition of the league. So with Rangers hosting Chelsea next Saturday it was Celtic who took advantage of a weekend off (after just one game!) this week and headed down to South Wales, like the rest of the TBIR gang, on the Gower Peninsula, one of the most outstanding areas of beauty on our fair island to take on Premier League new boys Swansea City. Swansea?  Premier League? A team not from England in the English Premier League? What’s that I hear you say? Foul?  Not so.

David James is an article writer in his spare time and can describe the feelings of a nation as they are about to embark on a record breaking season. (You can read more on his website, free bets directory and sports blog).

For those readers from around the world who may not be versed in UK geography, there will be a very special team playing in the English Premiership next season. A team that isn’t actually from England.

This may surprise a few people but Swansea City is a team from Wales, a country famed for a sport where people throw around a ball shaped like an egg, famed for actors Catherine Zeta Jones and Anthony Hopkins, Tom Jones, cockles and laverbread and now finally, a Premiership football side.

30th May 2011 was a very special day for the people of Swansea. It was they day the beloved ‘Jack Army’ gained promotion to the English Premier League, after years toiling in the lower leagues of England. In fact, the club was sold for the price of one English pound to creditors in those dark gloomy days, a fact which most supporters will never forget.

With the Jacks almost falling out of the football league altogether, the Swans rescued themselves with a James Thomas hatrick in a 4-1 win over Hull in 2003 which saved their football league status.

Move forward 8 years and it was another hatrick hero, this time Scott Sinclair firing Swansea past Reading in the Championship Playoff Final and into the hallowed turf of the Premiership, sending 40,000 Swansea supporters into ecstasy.

Gone are the days of the old Vetch Field. The old ground is now a construction site, waiting to be developed by building investors, but the memories long remain. Gone are the Tuesday night matches against Macclesfield and Shrewsbury in front of 2,000 die hard supporters. Gone are the famous Vetch Field burgers and the accolade of having ‘The Worst Toilets in the Football League’.

Yes, we’ve moved on. The Swans now play their football in the 23,000 capacity Liberty Stadium, with 16,000 season ticket holders shouting their support, million pound transfer records are being agreed, lucrative advertising contracts are being ironed out, fans have live games against Manchester City, Aston Villa and Manchester United on Sky Sports and ESPN to look forward to, while the Swans even boast their our own WAGS.

It’s certainly been a rollercoaster 10 years for every Swansea supporter, with more lows than highs, but its one that we’ve ultimately come out of and now we step into the light of the Premiership.

And yes, I think we deserve it.

To say that people were excited here in Abertawe (Swansea to those who aren’t yet fluent in Cymru) is like saying that Gavin Henson is vain.  Ever since their victory over Reading on Bank Holiday Monday at Wembley Stadium, the city has been like a child on Christmas Eve.  Some couldn’t believe it until the fixtures were published and “the richest club in the world” Manchester City would host The Swans on the opening weekend; Others like our resident expert Abi Davies will not believe it until they line up for the opening game at the Liberty versus Wigan Athletic on the 20th August.

Of course the higher you go, the better the quality of your opposition.  Swansea’s final two warm up games are against Celtic and Real Betis.  Five years ago it would have been Carmarthen Town and Merthyr Tydfil in front of one man and his sheep.  Tonight there are around 13,000 in the stadium, including about 700 Celtic fans.  Outside the ground the Scots complain about the heavy police presence, only to justify the decision by setting off two flares in the opening fifteen minutes of the game.

Just looking at the line ups in the programme shows how far the Swans have come.  Both teams have 35 players in their squads.  But then Swans announce two new signings who will be in the squad for this game.  And to think, Aston Villa won the First Division Title back in 1981 using just 14 players in their 42 game season.

Prior to the game John Hartson is presented to the crowd, and every man stands to give him a massive ovation.  Just two years ago, Hartson was gives days to live.  Today he is still in remission. If one man sums up a fighting attitude to such a ferocious disease it is John.

Abi Davies takes over the reigns with the actual report as she watched the game rather than me watching the crowd.

Swansea City 2 Celtic 0 – Liberty Stadium – Wednesday 3rd August 2011
Following a trio of friendlies against Welsh Premier League opposition and a 2 match tour of Austria, Swansea City’s penultimate Pre-season friendly saw Brendan Rodgers side play their first game at The Liberty, since their emphatic play off semi-final victory over three months ago. They came up against a Celtic side full of confidence after The Hoops got their season under way last week with a 2-0 win over Hibernian.

Despite having already begun their domestic campaign, last seasons SPL runners up Celtic, fielded a strong team for Wednesday’s game at The Liberty with Kris Commons, Scott Brown and Georgios Samaras all in the starting line up.

Having had their fourth bid for Lee Camp rejected by Nottingham Forest earlier this week, Swansea started German trialist keeper Gerhard Tremmel in goal against Neil Lennon’s side, whilst new recruits Danny Graham and Steven Caulker made their first appearances at The Liberty in Swans shirts.

Premier League new boys Swansea City got the game under way and enjoyed the majority of possession early on as Celtic failed to get a hold of the ball.  Following a quiet first 15 minutes for both keepers, Kris Commons powerful effort from 25 yards out gave Swans on trial keeper Tremmel his first test, The German did well to tip the ball over the cross bar.

Despite this chance, and the vocal backing of their great travelling fans, Celtic failed to really impose themselves further on the opening half as Swansea began to dominate proceedings, coming close when Wembley hat-trick hero Scott Sinclair was played through one on one with Dominic Cervi, however the winger took one touch too many enabling Cervi to collect.

Ashley Williams also came close to opening the scoring, rising well to connect with a ball played into the box by fellow centre-back Steven Caulker, only to see his header saved by Celtic’s keeper. Nathan Dyer was next to try his luck, after fending off defenders and using his quick feet to set himself up for a shot, the winger fired just wide of the target. From the resulting corner the ball found its way out to Tate and despite being ordered by Swans fans to shoot, the defender opted to cross the ball into the box with his perfectly weighted delivery picking out Swansea’s record signing Danny Graham, who suffered the same fortune as Nathan Dyer had, as his header fell marginally wide of the post.

Even though he didn’t have a great deal to do, Tremmel continued to impress when called into action, making a great save to deny Celtic’s captain Scott Brown as well as commanding his area and showing a great ability to clear any danger from corners and crosses.

The scores remained level at the break, however Brendan Rodgers would have been by far the happier manager at the interval.

Despite much concern and speculation surrounding his capability to deal with the pace and skill of Premier League players, Alan Tate’s first half performance proved that he has stepped up his performance level and work rate, looking sharp, reading the game well, Tate intercepted and broke up a lot of Celtic’s build up play and looked ready to fight for his place in The Swans side.

Swansea made just one change at the break, with former Benfica keeper Moreira replacing Tremmel in goal. This seemingly the one position still up for grabs following Dorus De Vries’ departure.

Portuguese keeper Moreira was called into action early on in the second half as Samaras broke clear of Angel Rangel opening up a shooting opportunity, however summer signing Jose Moreira collected with ease.

Nathan Dyer appears to have picked up where he left off last season, showing his great skill and ability it was also promising to see that he was able to come up with an answer even when Celtic defenders were doubling up on the diminutive winger

The Swans were passing the ball around well in the middle of the park however movements were breaking down in the final third. With three holding midfielders on the pitch, Swansea were missing the presence of link player Stephen Dobbie who started the game on the bench. Therefore it was no surprise that when Swansea did break the deadlock that the goal stemmed from a set piece. After Alan Tate was fouled on the edge of the area, Scott Sinclair stepped up to take the free kick and after his effort was parried away by Cervi, the ball fell for Angel Rangel who volleyed home from ten yards. Giving The Swans the lead on 64 minutes.

Shortly after the goal Brendan Rodgers made a triple substitution which saw the introduction of Stephen Dobbie, Mark Gower and Neil Taylor.

Stephen Dobbie instantly changed the game, linking up with Dyer and Graham, the Swansea attack looked far more clinical with The Scot involved.

Having been on the pitch less than 5 minutes, Dobbie tried his luck from long range, and even though his effort fired well wide of the target I feel its great to see him confident enough in his ability to take on the shot.

With 15 minutes remaining, Rodgers made a further four substitutions which saw the introduction of Orlandi, Beattie, Moore and a warm welcome to The Liberty for Leroy Lita who only finalised his move to South Wales hours before kick off.  Georgios Samaras thought he had given his side the equalising goal with little over 10 minutes to go, however the goal was ruled out for offside.

In the 85th minute, having been played through by Mark Gower, former Rangers man Stephen Dobbie fired home to double Swansea’s advantage.

The scoreline remained 2-0 to the home side- a well deserved victory against stern opposition.

The Swans final preparation match before making their Premier League bow sees them face Real Betis at The Liberty stadium. The Spanish side also promoted to the top flight last season.

For more visual fun have a look at our Flickr feed here.


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