As a Swansea supporter studying at Durham University, Bobby Gardiner* could not have been much better placed for making it to Saturday’s game. But the agreeable life of a student means he still has plenty of holiday left and cannot get up to the North East. But he’s more than satisfied with the Swans’ start to the season (draw at Chelsea, home win vs the Mags), predicts an away win against Sunderland but is the first WAY interviewee of the new season not to predict relegation for us
Salut! Sunderland: What a fine start to the season, drawing 2-2 at the home of the unlovable champions and beating the Mags. Pleased as punch with the result and what it tells you about the season to come?
Bobby Gardiner: Yep, a great start to the season – walking into the Bridge a couple of weeks ago, I would have taken a point and ran. As it turned out, I couldn’t help but leave thinking we deserved a couple more points than we got. But four points from those two fixtures is great and hopefully we can keep this up, though it’s still very early on.
Now explain what it is that Swansea get right and Sunderland get wrong. Is south-west Wales really so much more attractive to decent players than the North East or should we be looking more at how the two clubs are run?
Considering I go to university in Durham, I could hardly insult the North East here. But I think it’s more about how a club is run, as you say: I’d be critical of any recruitment department that brings in Kaboul and Coates with all of the options out there. That said, I’ve been a fan of Jeremain Lens since his PSV days and am interested to see what he can do.
Either way, you must be rubbing your hands with glee at such an easy away game coming so early.
I’m scared to answer this, I just know I’ll jinx it.
Gomis seems to be coming good and I will admire him forever for his Charlie Hebdo gesture. What about the business done in pre-season – happy with what you have or are there still weaknesses?
I’m pretty pleased, yeah. Our summer was more about reinforcing than anything, creating competition in as many positions as possible. Bringing in Andre Ayew was great obviously, but most midtable clubs managed to entice a marquee signing or two. What many of them don’t have is any sort of real depth.
Are you content with Garry Monk’s achievements and Huw Jenkins as chairman; how far can they take the Swans?
In Huw we trust. I like Garry, he’s an affable chap, but that’s worthless if you’re not a good manager. While I think we were perhaps a tad lucky last season, what I like most about Monk is his relentless desire to improve. He has a lot to learn, but no one is more aware of that than Garry himself.
And remind us of the quite exceptional ownership structure in which fans are involved.
So Swansea are pretty unique in that the Supporters’ Trust own roughly 20 per cent of the club and have a representative on the board. It’s not quite the Bundesliga’s 50+1 model, but it does mean that fans are prioritised more than most clubs. On top of that, Huw and a lot of the guys that saved the club from near bankruptcy are fans too. I’d recommend the film Jack to a King for a more in depth portrayal of the ownership story, it’s genuinely fascinating.
Who are the best players you have seen in Swansea colours? I take it you never saw Ivor Allchurch.
Wilfried Bony. He’s a lot more technically gifted than anyone gives him credit for, mainly because he’s stereotyped as a big, physical striker. I loved Bony, and I wish he’d left in a less acceptable circumstance so I could just hate him and get over it.
And who have been the worst?
Dwight Tiendalli. How he’s a footballer is completely beyond me.
Your own highs and lows as a supporter?
I have to confess there haven’t been many lows in my four-five years of following Swansea. Gonzalo Higuain is my favourite player, and so him scoring against us in the Europa League was quite painful, but it’s not too bad in the greater scheme of things.
Ki is the obvious current link between our clubs. Our fans took to him, though he faded and was then injured (or unwilling to risk himself before Brazil) towards his loan season’s end. How did he fare until subbed at Chelsea?
Yeah, I met a Sunderland fan on a train to a Durham open day the season before last and I remember telling him that he was gonna love Ki Sung-yueng. He’s a wonderful player, though I think he needs to feel supremely comfortable for that to shine properly. He was effective as ever, covering Jonjo defensively and pressing energetically. That Cork could slot straight in is indicative of that unusual depth I was talking about.
Still time to enter this week’s prize Guess the Score competition: https://safc.blog/2015/08/sunderland-vs-swansea-guess-the-score-give-us-a-performance-without-fear/
What do you make of Sunderland – club, supporters, team, city, region?
I didn’t get to make it to the Sunderland game at the Stadium of Light last season as it was on the day I moved into uni, unfortunately, and now I’m deprived of the opportunity again as I can’t make it up there this weekend. I haven’t had too much contact with Sunderland fans, to be honest, though I’ve had no problems with the ones I have. I’ll get back to you when I finally make it to the game next season, eh.
And will we finally be going down this season?
I don’t know what to think with you guys anymore. We’ll all predict you to go down and then a late burst of form will keep you up, as ever.
Name the top four in order and the bottom three (or other two!) and say where the Swans – and us if not tipped by you for the drop – will finish
City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool. Coin-toss between Liverpool and United, for me. Umm, West Brom, Norwich, Watford to go down. Swansea to finish 8th again, hopefully, while you guys finish one point above West Brom in 17th. The stuff of dreams.
Give me one reason why we shouldn’t just give up on diving and other forms of cheating and accept them as part of the game
Because it can be stopped; we just need stringent, retrospective bans.
What single step could the football authorities or Swansea FC take to improve the lot of ordinary fans?
I think the FA could look into pushing more clubs into emulating Swansea’s £22 cap for away tickets. It really does make a huge difference to fans, and doesn’t cost that much for clubs considering their obscene turnovers.
Will you be at our game and what will be the score?
I won’t, sadly, because of the aforementioned conspiracy against me getting to the Stadium of Light. I’ll go for 1-3 to the Swans.
* Bobby Gardiner on himself: My history supporting Swansea is a bit unconventional. Having grown up in Asia, I moved to England with no real concept of a “local” club and was a bit alienated by how, out there, you could only support the big teams as they were the ones on TV. For a while, living in London I just didn’t support anyone. Swansea’s promotion season, though, caught my attention and it all kind of spiralled from there. I study PPE at Durham University and write about football in my free time. My latest project is a platform for aspiring football writers called IntoPress; we just launched with a free e-magazine. We’re on Twitter at @IntoPress if anyone is interested.
Thanks for having me.
Interview: Colin Randall