After League Cup disappointment, Reading are back in league action with a daunting trip to South Wales. Saturday’s opposition Swansea City have started the season excellently, only off top spot on goal difference behind Leeds United - all the more impressive given the loss of key men Graham Potter, Dan James and Oli McBurnie in the summer.
We spoke to Swansea City fan Declan Terry to find out more about what’s going so right at the Liberty Stadium. Thanks to him for taking the time to answer our questions, and you can find him on Twitter right here.
What’s been behind your impressive start to the season?
I’ve got to be honest, even I am surprised at how great of a start to the season we’ve enjoyed. Steve Cooper came in to replace Graham Potter as an unproven manager at senior level so it was hard to predict how we were going to do. However, after a 100% record in pre-season we have started the Championship season brilliantly, whilst building a good squad who are playing the Swansea way of football.
The reintroduction of Borja Baston and Andre Ayew has also been a factor. They cost us a combined £35m when we were in the Premier League and spent last season out on loan but both have returned to Wales, have got their heads down, committing to Swansea and you can see the sheer quality they possess at this level. Despite losing key men in Oli McBurnie and Dan James in the summer I think we have got a much more balanced squad on the whole.
Can you keep it up?
I certainly hope so! We had an electric start but the international break came at the worst possible time as it stopped our momentum after a fantastic win away at Leeds. We lost our first game back after the break against Nottingham Forest but last week’s stalemate at Bristol City was a positive point and hopefully we can get back to winning ways against Reading.
Going forward we have a strong squad, some players on the bench that can step in and compete so as the games come thick and fast hopefully we’ll remain at the right end of the table.
What do you make of the job Steve Cooper’s done so far as manager?
I can’t really fault the job he’s done at all. A proud Welshman, Cooper seems a brilliant coach and the fans already love him. He’s going about things in the right manner, always encouraging the players and saying the right things in the media.
Most importantly the team really appear to be playing for him and have bought into his way of playing, which is not too dissimilar from what we saw grace the Liberty Stadium last season. He was awarded August’s manager of the month award too - so overall a phenomenal start for Cooper!
Who are the key players we should look out for?
Andre Ayew is a cut above in the Championship and certainly has the ability to make the difference in a game. Joe Rodon has been a brick wall at the back and has recently managed his first couple of Wales caps, whilst newly appointed captain Matt Grimes, in my opinion, should be playing Premier League football. Kosovan international Bersant Celina also has the quality to unlock defences from out wide or in the middle - if he’s on his game he will really worry the Reading defence.
What are Swansea’s main strengths as a team?
It’s got to be the possession-based football we’re playing at the moment. Every single player in the starting 11 is comfortable with the ball at their feet which is not something you see from too many teams in this league.
Teams can come down to Swansea, sit deep and get stuck in but when we’re in full flight, the opposition is in for a tough 90 minutes chasing shadows. We had a complete off-day against Forest the other week though and couldn’t string two passes together so the Swans will be looking to put things right on Saturday.
It’s a positive and a negative thing that we do have a very young squad. A lot of players only made their debuts last season and still have a lot to learn as they go. Those youngsters have been outstanding for the past year although they do have a mistake in them and understandably aren’t the finished article yet.
We can be quite naive on times and even Cooper is still trying to improve his game management from the sidelines. So I’d put down inexperience as a weakness in the Swansea side.
How do you see the game going, and what will the score be?
I think the Swans will get back on track with a win at the Liberty. After the disappointment from the last home game I’m confident the performance levels will be a lot better, kicking on from a good showing at Bristol last week and we’ll get those three points. I’ll go for a 2-0 Swansea win with Borja and Celina on the scoresheet.