Looking to improve on a tricky start to the season, the Hatters travel to South Wales to face Swansea. ORH spoke to Swans Cast to get a view on all things Swansea, their view on Luton and a couple of Championship predictions.
Tell us a bit about your background as a Swans fan...
I have been a Swans fan since the days of League One under Roberto Marinez, after being born into a family who have always supported the local team. Back then, I used to look for the results on the back pages of the local newspaper I delivered when I couldn't attend the games, but always looked forward to seeing the goings on, the success at the time probably contributed to this. My podcast partner, Lee, has been around the Swans scene a little longer and definitely has more knowledge of our past, but we are both now avid fans who love to discuss the football, which is how Swans Cast was born during the pandemic last January.
Having started the season with a mixed bag of results and finding yourselves in the midtable spots, where would you like to see Swansea improve in the coming games?
As you have mentioned, Swansea have offered a very mixed bag at the start of this season. Some issues early on have definitely been on our desperation to keep the ball, resulting in minimal risks and limited opportunities going forward. We have begun to address this in the last two games, with some more directness and I intensity brought to the gameplan. This has to continue, but one area I personally would like to see addressed as a matter of urgency is our ability to manage the end of the game and see out a winning position. In both the cup tie at Oxford, the spectacular injury time against Millwall in our last outing, and several times last season, this poor end of game management has cost us and we really have to find a solution.
A 15th placed finish last year must have been a bit disappointing following the Swans' promotion chasing season of 20/21, do you think Swansea will be able to improve on that finish this coming campaign?
Its never exciting to finish mid table after pushing for promotion, especially with back to back play off appearances, however we expected to finish in that area last term, in all honesty. We had a tricky season. Steve Cooper's departure was a rather messy situation, and finding a replacement dragged on far too long. Martin therefore had no pre season to work with the players but came with a big shift in mentality and style to that left by Cooper. Several players he inherited just did not suit this style, and the squad were not fit enough at the season start due to the turbulent summer (also hindered by an outbreak of Covid) and this was never really able to be fixed all year. Martin has himself quoted the lack of pre season and players that suit the style as reasons our season was such a roller coaster, and has in some ways made a rod for his own back by repeatedly insisting we would see the best of his style and completely different Swansea City once he had one. He has now had a pre season, and cannot claim he hasn't been able to recruit his desired type of player, (though we are still short in areas), so now it is time to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak, as fans are definitely expecting more from this term. We have not seen it yet, there have been glimpses, but it is still early days. Personally, I expect we will finish higher, I think we can push for the Play offs, but could well be one of the several teams who fall just short.
What do you make of the current transfer window so far for Swansea? Has anyone in particular caught your eye?
I have mentioned Martin has been able to bring in some more suited players this term, and the window in itself has been, decent. We have strengthened in out main problem area, center back, with Nathan Wood and partially Harry Darling. Both have already made a positive impact on the team and should enable the style to continue to develop, as we struggled for defenders who were comfortable enough playing the ball last term. Joe Allen returning is definitely a positive signing, especially as his roots are at Swansea. He replaces Flynn Downes who has progressed to the Premier League. Not necessarily an improvement in the middle, but Allen being in his latter years will bring much needed experience to the squad, and if the Millwall performance is anything to go by, is going to slot in seamlessly.
Would you like to see the squad strengthened more before the end of the transfer window, and do you have any names in mind?
We do still seem light as a squad, and the quality below the first team is thin. Joel Latibeaudiere picked up a long term injury midweek that is causing a head ache at right back, an area we need a signing without question. Cyrus Christie is the obvious choice to revisit here, after his success with us on loan last term. Initially, the wage demands could not be met, as he is now available on a free. But with his trial at Birmingham not amounting to a contract, and the window edging closer to closure, I am wondering if negotiations may reopen, as both the club and players situation could potentially see more compromise to form a deal. With some weeks left until the window closes, there are also concerns we are not getting the best from our main threat Joel Piroe, who has been linked with a move to the Premier League. It is vital for our season he stays, and gets his head firmly into his role at the club to find the form of last season if we have any hopes of achieving a play off push. Keeping him will see the window as a success, but a late transfer changes the narrative entirely.
Luton have undoubtedly started the season poorly, especially when compared to their play-off finish in 21/22. What do you make of the Hatters' summer business? And where do you see them finishing this year?
Luton have been spending money this season, which is a sign of your success. It seems there have been quite a few incomings, which can cause issues in bonding and gelling with the team and the system, which could be part of the reason for a slow start. Though, Nathan Jones has shown he seems to be able to continuously bring success to the club. The highlights from an outside performance I'd say would be Cauley Woodrow and Luke Freeman, who should add creativity to your front line. Personally, I saw Luton's play off achievements last season as a massive success for your club, did not see it coming at the start of the year. It will be tricky to follow that up with another top six finish, but I don't expect a massive drop off, and I'd suggest consolidation in the upper mid table would still be a good season for Luton as you continue to build as a club.
Time for some predictions - who do you think will (i) get automatic promotion, (ii) make the playoffs, and (iii) get relegated?
It is such a tough league to predict this season as it always is! My guesses are Norwich and Sheffield United for automatic promotion, Burnley, Watford Blackburn and Preston for play offs. But to be honest, I've already changed my mind several times since to season start! Finally relegation, I have Reading, Rotherham and Birmingham.
Finally, give us your score prediction for the Weekend's game…
This week, Swansea have been improving and I have to back them to get over the line after a disaster end to the mid week fixture. So a first home win, 2-0 Swansea.