Time to see if all this ‘Swansealona’ stuff is all West Walian huff and puff.
The vile old Vetch had virtually no redeeming features except that, looking back, you sensed how watching football might have been in the 1930s. At one Cardiff-Swansea game the atmosphere was largely down to the howling of police Alsatians.
Liberty – the replacement – is pretty much the plainest new arena of all. A great achievement, no doubt, but Dullsville bog standard. The stadium cladding has school uniform greyness about it. The interior seating is black and white – reflecting the Swans’ kit obviously. It’s one of the few grounds where the advertisements are a bonus – they hide large swathes of the slabby grey concrete.
It’s almost as if the architects walked up the long, snaking High Street and took inspiration from its terraced grit, not-very-enticing pub exteriors and fast food outlet frontages and decided to put up something of similar tone. They’d taken Dylan Thomas’s ‘lovely, ugly town’ description on board.
Malmo seemed to join in the general dowdiness with a horrible black kit – like 11 refs from the Eighties had set up a side. Mr Wallander would have approved of it.
Even the Swans’ one dash at colour – a purple and yellow second strip reminiscent of an obscure East European team trying to look snazzy for effect – seemed to be striving too hard to impress. That too, is awful.
But then all the glitter’s in the team. You read about Michu, watch his best bits on the telly but in the flesh he really is just as good as people say and it’s surprising to see that he’s still at Swansea this season.
With him and Craig Bellamy at Cardiff there’s probably never been two players of such standard playing regularly in Wales since the era of Ivor Allchurch.
He scored the first with aplomb after a defender slipped, and then hurtled towards a centre half to win the ball from the restart, setting up another attack. He’s got a Rush and Rooney-esque ability – rare these days among attackers – to win the ball for his team. I counted three lost causes won by his tenacity. His touch was excellent and even if you allow for Malmo’s inadequacies, he was worth the admission money on his own.
He set up Wilfried Bony’s second goal by hitting the post so Bony could poach the rebound.
Bony, the boy from Bingerville, Ivory Coast, seemed a bit hesitant but having two goals laid on a plate for him will help him settle. His goals – he scored loads for Vitesse Arnhem last year – and Michu’s magic should see Swansea easily survive in the Premiership.
Malmo disintegrated and by the end looked like a middle-of-the-road plucky Championship side, Barnsley, say.
The fans roused themselves to create a good atmosphere. The Wales games here have been poor in terms of backing and the only fevered atmosphere I recall was the Cardiff-Swansea cup game in 2008 when locals were literally foaming at the mouth at their victory.
In all, an enjoyable performance. Back in 1989 Panathinaikos played at the Vetch, I remember an excellent 3-3 draw in front of about 6,000 fans with the Swans scoring through Robbie James and Andy Melville, twice. Memorable for a first sighting of flares at a match – Greek fans lit them up in the big expensive white elephant stand and the smoke drifted across the pitch. It was a taste of European adventures to come, following Wales.
This was nowhere near as exciting but a couple more vibrant nights are on the cards if Swans can negotiate the play-off round later this month.