Football fans don’t get much more involved than Jim White*, who’ll be in the away end for Sunderland v Swansea. Jim is vice-chairman of the Swans Trust (the supporters’ group that owns 20 per cent of the club, a unique phenomenon in the Premier), runs the fan site SCFC2.co.uk and gets to loads of games. Even before the fine win against Arsenal, he was enjoying the Swans’ Premier experience …
Salut! Sunderland: Swansea coming up felt a little like compensation for Blackpool going down and you’ve nut sunk without trace, as some predicted. What were your minimum and maximum expectations and how has reality compared?
I knew that we wouldn’t sink without trace as we played a style of football that would surprise many. I guess the minimum expectation for any newly promoted site is 17th place. The maximum is somewhere nearer the top 10. In reality we are as write (14th, on Dec 30 but now up to a heady 10th -ed) where I expected us to be as I honestly believed there would be three worse sides than us in the league and I still believe that this will be the case!
As a follow up to that, you are just above us, and well clear of the relegation zone, as I write (and have recorded excellent wins since). How confident/fearful are you of that perilous second half of the season?
Well we are all a bit concerned about it as everyone knows that it’s a long season in the Premier League and the stats show a lot of clubs have a good start and then fade away. The solace for us is that we have a good home record and we don’t concede many goals and were not suddenly going to start conceding loads as we are well organised. The downside is that whilst we play good football, we do need to be more ‘penetrative’ up front and this is something we will be working hard on. We will need a bit of luck but I am confident we will stay up.
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Who in the Swansea squad has/have shown himself/themselves to be out and out Premier class and who has, without being unkind, not?
It has been a team effort this year with lots of stand out performers. Michel Vorm has made himself a legend very quickly in goal, Ashley Williams continues to be a rock at centre half, Leon Britton makes us tick in the centre of midfield, Nathan Dyer has continued to be electric down the right wing and Danny Graham has started to score goals after a few early misses. All of these guys have done well and alongside Joe Allen would be snapped up if we did go down. Scott Sinclair has not had the season he would have wanted to but the Premier League is different to the Championship. I guess the one player I am disappointed with is Stephen Dobbie. He was outstanding as the tip of our midfield 3 but even though he has had limited chances in the Prem, I am just not sure if Brendan Rogers thinks he is ‘quick enough’ in both feet and mind for the Premier League. Time will tell but I wonder whether he will be there by the time we play you.
Question posed after the 3-2 win over Arsenal: anything you’d care to add given your recent good run?
Not much except to say that we still need to work very hard to get results away from home. Performances at the Liberty Stadium have always been good but its away from home that we need to show some steel. If we win at the Stadium of Light then I will start to think that we have come of age! I know that every Swans fans would like a victory but we will be very happy with a point now Martin O’Neill is in charge.
You saw us stammer to a 0-0 draw at your place very early on. How bad did you think we were then (under Steve Bruce, of course), and do you fear us more now that Martin O’Neill is in charge?
Yes, it’s fair to say that Sunderland looked very very average when we played you. It seemed to me that you just didn’t have much attacking intent and looked set on a draw which was surprising considering we were a newly promoted team. It was pretty obvious that you had to change things as you would have been in a real relegation scrap if you hadn’t changed managers. Martin O’Neill is a different kettle of fish and has a proven track record. We won’t fear you like a Man United or Chelsea but we know it will be an even tougher game now
And are you actually enjoying the Premier experience?
Of course! It’s amazing in the first season and to see the big clubs come to us and to go to grounds we had only thought of as cup draws is awesome. When you consider that 10 years ago, we nearly went out of business, couldn’t pay our electricity bill and had to win against Hull to save us going out of the league! Therefore, any Swans fan who can’t enjoy this season after the past we have had needs their head examined!
Are you old enough to have seen past clashes between Sunderland and Swansea, home or way? Do any stick out in the memory for good, bad or amusing reasons?
I have a memory like a goldfish and so only remember certain games and as we have been in different divisions for many years, not that many come to mind. I am not sure when the last game was between both teams before this year but I expect the game was sometime in the 80s!
And what thoughts do you have on Sunderland: the club, the fans, the city and region?
I have a soft spot for Sunderland for a number of reasons. I have to say that I don’t know the city that well but the North East is a wonderful area of the UK with some fantastic places and wonderful people. The club is one full of history and a loud, committed fan base. My preference in the North East has always been for Red and White over Black and White as you like us suffer from the media’s obsession with a local neighbour who promises a lot but who regularly delivers little. We also have some great player links with Sunderland. Alan Tate is a legend in Swansea and Tatey is an adopted jack now even though he is a Mackem at heart. One of our greatest captains John Cornforth (big personal favourite player of mine) was also a Sunderland boy and so when you throw in other links like Colin Pascoe (our current Assistant Manager used to play for you) Colin West and Tom Butler then you have a team we like and want to do well (when you’re not playing us!!)
Tell me your own highs and lows as a Swansea supporter.
Too many to mention! Being a football fan is all about riding the rollercoaster. You have to enjoy the ups and also accept the downs. There was no greater high than seeing us get promoted to the Premier League in May last year but after spending the last 30 years supporting the club, I have enjoyed all our successes such as our win at Wembley in the Autoglass in 1994 and our promotion party against Bury in 2005. The lows are always when you lose to the enemy or see players not give their all but there will never be a worst time than the period at the start of the century when a man called Tony Petty tried to take the club I love away from me and thousands of others. Luckily enough, many fans all felt the same way and so we joined forces along with a group of local businessmen to bring our club back and we have not looked back since!
The Allchurch and even the Toshack years are long in the past but who is the best player you’ve ever seen in your colours, or wish you’d seen had you been around, and who should have been allowed nowhere near them?
Ivor Allchurch was (I am told) the best player ever to wear a Swansea shirt and I am sad to say that I never got to see the great man play. I started watching the Swans in the 1980’s and so had a few years watching the great Robbie James dominate games like no other in central midfield. I wished I had seen more of him and I certainly wish we had a player like him now as well. Robbie was the best player I have ever seen although Lee Trundle does come close just for the pure entertainment and fun! Trunds in his prime was great to watch. A real bag of tricks!
Who will finish this season’s top four, in order, and who – hand on heart – will go down?
The top 4 will be Man City, Man Utd, Arsenal and then Spurs I think. Hand on heart, I think it will be Blackburn, Bolton and Wigan who go down
If Swansea and/or Sunderland were missing from your answers to the last question, where will our clubs finish?
They were missing from the above list. Both teams will survive I think. You will finish 13th and we will finish 15th or 16th.
The Osman Question (in “honour” of his successful claim for a penalty after falling over his own feet at the Stadium of Light): Salut! Sunderland bores for England on the subject of diving and feigning injury etc, but what form of cheating in football most annoys you and what would you do to stamp it out?
I cannot stand the feigning of injuries and or players going down like they have been shot when they have been barely touched. Rightly or wrongly I am a traditionalist and think that it’s a physical game that requires real men to play it. I grew up watching real solid players like Stuart Pearce, Bryan Robson, Terry Butcher, Vinnie Jones, Sky Walker (one for the Swans fans there) who if tackled would just get up and get on with the game. The ‘ponceyness’ of some players now does my head in!
Your geography makes this a more interesting question than is often the case: club first or country first, and why?
I am a proud Welshman and want my country to do well for sure. I have travelled to see Wales many times but I am afraid that some of our little cousins down the road sometimes make travelling to see Wales difficult for Swansea fans which is a shame. If I was pushed then it would be the Swans over Wales when it comes to football matches but I love to see both do well.
Will you be at our game and what will be the score?
Yes I am hoping to be. It will be the first time that I have been to the Stadium of Light and so I am looking forward to it! I hope that we will get something from the game! My heart says 2-1 Swans but my head says 2-0 Sunderland. We shall see!!
* Jim White on Jim White
I am 36 years old and live in Somerset. I was born in Swansea but my parents left when I was five and so I have supported the Swans from afar since then. I run my own email marketing company (intouchcrm) and also run the leading Swans fan website SCFC2.co.uk which has been going since 1986. Swansea City is the only Premier League club to be 20 per cent owned by its fans and I am proud to be the vice chairman of the Swans Trust (the group that owns the shares in the club) and so its fair to say that Swansea City takes up a huge amount of my life! I don’t mind though, you can take the man out of Swansea but you can’t take Swansea out of the man ? Happy to hear from others via www.scfc2.co.uk, via our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/www.scfc.co.uk or via twitter at @swansinfo.
Interview: Colin Randall