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Britton earns point in first game

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WITH all the talk of Brexit emanating in the bleak mid winter around the United Kingdom the irony wasn’t lost that Swansea City turned to a Britton on Saturday (Dec 23) in a bid to ensure they remain part of the lucrative Premier League.

After dismissing manager Paul Clement earlier in the week, 35 year old fan-favourite and former Club captain Leon Britton became the third manager in 11 months to take up the hot seat at the Liberty stadium, the sixth incumbent in two years. Passion, pride and tenacity are words used to describe Britton in his 452 club appearances and he at least ensured the side were motivated to play in this pre-Christmas fixture.

The industrious midfielder is a man small in stature but one with a lion’s heart clearly displayed on his sleeve and his side showed spirit to draw the game 1-1, in doing so taking a point from a fixture for the first time this season when they have conceded the game’s opening goal.  One swallow wouldn’t make a summer for the rock bottom Swans, who travel to Liverpool on Boxing Day but caretaker manager Britton knows points are a premium in ensuring Premier League survival come May.

Brexit champion Theresa May would draw strength from a man like Britton in her corner as he instilled a sense of belief from the fans and players, whilst the Swans board experienced some turbulence, directly to Huw Jenkins and American Directors Jason Levin and Steve Kaplan.

For the third season running a manager has departed the Liberty Stadium in December, Gary Monk in 2015, Bob Bradley last season and Clement with history telling us in 1914 Walter Whitaker lost his job as manager of the Swans and at least reminding us that football is unpredictable at best.

41 years in management, six longer than Britton has walked this earth and former England head honcho Roy Hodgson galvanised visitors Crystal Palace season after arriving at the Club in September.

With no points after the opening seven fixtures of the season, including a 2-0 loss to Swansea in August the Eagles from South London are now flying, unbeaten in nine games and out of the relegation zone with 18 points.

Luck plays a part and captain Frederico Fernandez gave away a clumsy penalty just before the hour mark, the third penalty conceded this week by Swansea and Luka Milivojević made no mistake for 1-0.

Swansea for this game had been playing the Swansea way, going ‘back to a being a Jack’ as they kept the ball, moved at pace and worked closely in areas of the field which allowed crosses to be supplied into the box.

Nathan Dyer, Martin Olsson and Kyle Naughton orchestrated the best moves where 85% of the 596 passes were accurate.

What was lacking, as it has been all season was the product with young striker Tammy Abraham isolated and lacking confidence to turn half chances into goals.

Dyer had a thirst to go hunting the ball and drew some treatment alongside Abraham from the Palace enforcers and despite some yuletide work from Tom Carroll the only festive song of note in the first half was the visitors rendition of ‘glad all over.’

Wilfred Zaha was a cut above those on the field as the Swansea crowd could appreciate a complete footballer but such is the passion in South Wales their enchantment for their own sides bravery and effort never wavered even after the Serbian struck with the penalty kick.

Britton stepped up to the plate and Jordan Ayew’s introduction after 64 minutes was the spark needed to ignite the flame.  The home side were more direct, testing goalkeeper Julian Speroni and chances arose much to the delight of the 20354 present.

The game was open, end to end which suited the Liberty faithful, safe in the knowledge Lukas Fabianski was untroubled in the home goal. The equaliser came with 12 minutes remaining, Ayew sending a flying James McArthur a Christmas cracker of a dummy, making quick yards to the edge of the penalty area and unleashing a right footed pile driver into the left hand corner for his first goal in 15 games.

‘Support the team not the regime’ was a mantra from the East stand which blasted out Hymns and Arias as the all whites were on the front foot but to no avail when referee Craig Pawson called a halt to the game after five minutes of added time.  Roll back time 12 months and Swansea were also bottom of the league, albeit they have one more point after Saturday than this time last season.

Post match Roy Hodgson spoke about how it “was going to take time to get back on an even keel” which his Palace side have achieved. Britton can take heart from that advice as he looks at exchanging his players passport to the ‘blue passport’ of management in time and perhaps trigger his own ‘article 50’.

He spoke himself about the Boxing Day trip to Anfield as “a brilliant moment for myself and my family” and the Swansea family know the importance of ensuring they remain in contact with the sides above them outside the relegation zone. A trip to Watford follows the Liverpool game before Tottenham arrive for the first game of the New Year, with Harry Kane, a man who has had more shots this season than Swansea’s entire team looking to emulate his 2017 record haul of 37 goals in a calendar year.

Nothing is easy in the Premier League but by the end of January the Swans may find themselves with some light at the end of the tunnel with a run of fixtures against Leicester, Burnley, Brighton, West Ham, Huddersfield and Southampton. If Palace can string together a nine game unbeaten run why can’t Swansea , although a wily Hodgson knows “there is a long way to go and it will be a scrap until the end of the season.”

Britton, or the man appointed to guide the Swans must enter the new year with the words of John Lennon’s ‘war is over’ ringing loudly to play ‘without any fear’.

Clement did it last season, picking up the January Manager of the month and there is no reason why it can’t happen again.

Raise a cup of good cheer in the hope of a prosperous New Year as without hope there is no life. Remember this is just football, a game that is more important than life and death according to one well known Scotsman who had a passport stamped across Europe.

Sport

Rugby pays tribute to Tommo

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TRIBUTES have poured in following the news that popular Scarlets match-day announcer Andrew ‘Tommo’ Thomas has passed away at the age of 53.
Tommo was a huge character at Parc y Scarlets on match-day, bringing his infectious personality to the mic.
An official statement from the Scarlets said: “We are devastated to hear that the voice of Parc y Scarlets, Andrew ‘Tommo’ Thomas, has passed away suddenly.
“Tommo was a hugely popular figure as the Parc y Scarlets match-day announcer, a passionate Scarlets fan who brought his character and energy to every match.”
Scarlets chaplain Reverend Eldon Phillips said: “We are devastated to hear this tragic news. Tommo loved the Scarlets and put his heart and soul into his role as our match-day announcer.
“A huge character, he was much loved by supporters, players and staff.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Donna and son Cian at this sad time.”
Scarlets head coach Glenn Delaney said: “This is desperately sad news. Tommo will be greatly missed by us all. I’ll miss his smile, energy and passion. Gone too soon, much love to his family at this terrible time.”
Attack coach Richard Whiffin tweeted: “Incredibly sad news. Tommo will be greatly missed by us all. Will miss his match day hugs! Love to his friends & family at this terrible time.”
Referee Nigel Owens took to social media to say: “Rwy methu credu y peth. Well I am devastated. A great man and a true friend. I Cant beleive it. Cydymdeimlad dwys iw wraig ar mab ac ir teulu I gyd. Bydd colled enfawr ar ei ol. Always had a smile on his face. RIP Tommo
Tommo was hugely popular with Scarlets players who posted tributes on their own personal social media pages.
Springbok Uzair Cassiem said: “Devastated by the news of your passing! Always got the biggest smile, big handshake before and after games! To the family and friends of Andrew Tommo Thomas, condolences from my family and myself.
Wales prop Rob Evans said: “Really sad to hear the news about Tommo tonight. Thoughts are with his family, a great man full of laughs.”
Former Scarlets captain Rupert Moon said: “Lost a great friend @TOMMORADIO …… my brother by another mother. Thoughts with his family & all his many friends. Sleep well buddy. Big boys do cry.”
Another ex-Scarlets skipper Matthew Rees said: “Can’t believe the news coming from west tonight. Tommo you were a true gent. PYS will never be the same!!”
Former Scarlets full-back Morgan Stoddart said: “Hearing of the passing of @TOMMORADIO, dreadful news. What a great man. He brought laughter to any room he entered. Will be remembered and missed. #TrueScarlet
Title-winning Ireland lock Tadhg Beirne, now with Munster, said: “Very sad news to hear of the passing of Tommo. An absolute gentleman, a passionate Welshman, and a true Scarlet.”
Among the other former players to pay their tributes were Kieron Fonotia, Michael Tagicakibau, Ryan Lamb, Rhys Thomas and Gareth Maule, while messages of condolence came from Cardiff Blues, Dragons and Ospreys,
Dragons hooker Richard Hibbard said: “Really sad news, RIP Tommo. What a great bloke.”
Tommo was also a popular radio presenter. He had been with BBC Radio Cymru between 2014 and 2018. He then left to present a daily program on Nation Broadcasting station. In 2011 he won the Radio Presenter of the Year award for his work on Nation stations in Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.
Rhuanedd Richards, Editor of BBC Radio Cymru, said: “Tommo was proud of his roots and a unique broadcaster who loved to entertain his audience on Radio Cymru. With his powerful voice and larger than life personality, his love for his family, west Wales and of course the Scarlets were a great influence on his broadcasting.”

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Crymych win at new home

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Crymych 132- 3 defeated Hundleton 74-7
IT WAS a happy start to Crymych CC’s new life at Ysgol Y Preseli playing fields as the home side brushed aside Hundleton in the Alan Brown Cup.
The visitors won the toss and elected to bowl first, with the pitch showing signs of Monday’s heavy rain. Crymych opened with captain Sam Kurtz and chairman Rhodri Lewis, who started steady after a couple of tight overs from B Adams and S Williams (1-12). Both batsmen rotated the strike early on before Lewis chipped a ball to Peter Fox off Williams’ bowling for 7.
Kurtz then lifted the tempo with some boundaries, after Rich Thorne departed for 2, cleaned bowled by Stapleton (1-24). Osian Wyn the next batsman in as Kurtz reached his 50 in only 31 balls, having been dropped early on. Kurtz departed for 87, bowled by B Adams (1-42). Wyn and new batsman Dan Griffiths (3) then ran hard between the wickets in the final overs as the home side set the visitors 133 to win.
Hundleton’s reply got off to a rocky start as opening bowler Ioan Davies clean bowled both S McNiffe (1) and B Adams (0). Peter Fox caused the homeside some concern though, as he struck a couple of big sixes on his way to 24, before being caught and bowled by Dan Griffiths.
J Williams carried his bat for most of the innings, but as he looked to lift the run rate he was stumped by Kurtz, off Dan Jones’ slow stuff. Tight bowling from Wyn (1-14) and Ali Davies (1-6) Both Humphries and Lockyer departed without troubling the scorers with Griffiths clean bowling the latter for final figures of 2-13.
UMPIRE Dave Brandon
Crymych 132-3: Sam Kurtz 87; Osian Wyn 20*
B Adams 1-42; S Williams 1-12; C Stapleton 1-24
Hundelton 74-7: P Fox 24; J Williams 25
Dan Griffiths 2-13, Ioan Davies 2-9, Osian Wyn 1-14, Ali Davies 1-6, Dan Jones 1-16
Crymych win by 58 runs

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Swans grab last gasp play-off spot

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WAYNE ROUTLEDGE’s last-gasp header saw Swansea City secure a play-off spot with a handsome away victory over 10-man Reading on a dramatic Wednesday night (July 22).

Steve Cooper’s side knew they had to win at the Madejski Stadium to have any hope of a top-six finish, and Rhian Brewster’s 10th goal of the season gave them an ideal start.

The sending off of Yakou Meite then gave the Swans a man advantage, but the Royals equalised before the half through a George Puscas penalty.

The Swans restored their lead through a classy finish from substitute Routledge, before Liam Cullen showed great composure to steer in his first goal for the club.

And when Routledge popped up at the death to complete his brace it put the Swans into the top six as Forest suffered a 4-1 defeat at home to Stoke, meaning Swansea got into the play-offs on goal difference.

The Swans started on the front foot, with centurion Connor Roberts having particular joy down the right-hand flank.

Brewster then nearly threaded Conor Gallagher in on goal after fine work by Andre Ayew, before Roberts hit a strike into the ground and over the bar after Jake Bidwell had made the overlap on the opposite flank.

The hosts responded by having a good spell of possession, probing and asking a few questions of their own.

But the visitors hit the lead in the 16th minute through Brewster. The striker picked the ball up some 30 yards out and got the ball out of his feet before smashing a long-range drive that completely deceived Rafael in the Reading goal.

John Swift curled a free-kick over at the other end, while more good work by Roberts could not quite end with Bidwell getting on the end of a deep cross before Rafael made a hash of dealing with a Gallagher cross.

Swift headed straight at Erwin Mulder from a good counter on the half-hour mark, with Ayew quickly advancing up the field to work Rafael again.

Opportunities were coming at both ends, with Mulder called into action again as Meite took aim from the left side of the area.
Swansea were riding their luck a little and had a let-off when a sliced clearance landed on top of the bar.

Matt Grimes had a free-kick pushed away by Rafael before the home side were reduced to 10 men after Meite had pushed Mike van der Hoorn in the face after a tussle for the ball.

But the hosts made light of the numerical disadvantage by levelling after Bidwell was adjudged to have fouled Andy Rinomhota, with Puscas beating Mulder – who got a hand to the strike – from the spot.

However, the Swans should have led at the break. Ben Cabango’s shot was blocked and fell to Jay Fulton, but the Scot pulled his shot wide of the target.

Rafael pushed away an Ayew drive right on half-time, with Swansea frustrated that referee Stephen Martin did not award them a penalty of their own as Fulton went down under a challenge from Omar Richards.

With Cardiff winning and Nottingham Forest losing, Cooper knew goals were needed and he made two changes at the break.

Yan Dhanda came on for Fulton, while Routledge replaced van der Hoorn, and they were immediately on the front foot.

With Swansea committing so many players forward, Reading looked to sit deep and play on the break and they proved resolute as the visitors battled to find a way through.

Grimes curled a free-kick wide of the target and Gallagher also threatened from distance, but the hour mark came and went without any clear-cut chances to show for their dominance of possession and territory.

However, when they did craft a sight of goal they took the chance clinically. Grimes produced a lovely ball, and Routledge controlled superbly to loft the ball over Rafael and into the net.

Unfortunately for the Swans, that goal went in moments after Forest had equalised against Stoke, which appeared to put a sizeable dent in their playoff aspirations.

Nevertheless, Cooper’s side continued to search for more goals in the hope events in the East Midlands would turn back in their favour.

They so nearly made it 3-1 with 17 minutes to play as lovely link play from Rutledge and Bidwell ended with Ayew steering just wide.

The situation was changing all the time, and Stoke retook the lead at Forest to leave the door ajar for the Swans.

And, when Stoke scored a third at the City Ground and Cullen coolly fired home his first senior goal for the club with six minutes remaining, they suddenly only needed a goal to finish in the play-off places.

Grimes had a deflected shot tipped over but the Swans then got the goal they needed in stoppage time as Routledge popped up to nod in at the far post, with Stoke’s fourth goal putting the matter beyond doubt a few moments later to spark delighted celebrations among Cooper, his players and his staff.

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