Michael Duff can play down the importance of the next league fixture as much as he likes but he will surely be aware, as much as anyone, of the significance of this fixture as much as any Swansea City manager would have been in our recent past.
If he isn’t aware then there will be enough people in our squad who will have pointed out to him the significance of the Swans wining the last four derby clashes and becoming the first side to do the league double. A feeling that was so good we went and did it twice thanks to a last minute winner from Ben Cabango back in April.
The words of the manager on Saturday night will not have gone down well on the white side of the South Wales divide but there is probably no doubt that Duff was trying to dial down the pressure on his squad (and himself) after the season has started with a five game winless run that sees us heading into the derby clash in the division’s bottom three.
“There’s no getting away from it, It’s an important game,” Duff said after the defeat to Bristol City at the weekend. “But it’s not the be all and end all. I’d rather win promotion and get beat by Cardiff twice. People might not like that.”
When you look at the words in the cold light of day then it’s probably fair enough. Most Swans fans would take promotion and two defeats against Cardiff. The challenge this morning is that the defeat is feeling a very distinct possibility, promotion is nowhere near anyone’s thoughts right now with two points on the board from five games.
Duff (and his squad) will be aware of the pressure that will mount on them in the next couple of weeks so I can relate to a reason why he would want to try and deflect some of that pressure if it. When you have started your managerial league career at a club with no wins in five then the significance of the sixth fixture takes on a new meaning. Even more so when it is against your local rivals.
it's probably a silly question the morning after yesterday but asking it anyway given both sides are pretty much out of form
— Planet Swans (@swansnews) September 3, 2023
Swansea’s dominance of Cardiff is clear for everyone to see. Looking back over the past 30 years the Swans have lost just 2 of the last 12 fixtures at the home of their rivals and just 6 of the last 27 fixtures overall. It is a record to be proud of and one that the Swans will very much want to maintain and that is before we consider the fact it will at least lift us out of the division’s bottom three.
Indeed it is not inconceivable that the Swans could go into the game at the bottom of the league thanks to the evening kick off – both Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough will play before us when the league campaign kicks back off again in just under two weeks.
It is not a case that defeat is an unthinkable moment – broken clocks are right twice a day remember – but more that a sixth league game without defeat will increase the pressure on Michael Duff and the fact that the opponents at Cardiff will notch it up a level.
Joe Allen is someone who knows more than many about the significance of this fixture and whilst he was not talking specifically just yet about the fixture he knows what is needed after the worst performance of the season to date against Bristol City on Saturday.
“”e have talked about putting together a 90-minute performance,” said Allen when speaking to the club’s official website.
“That was the aim we had set ourselves and we have fallen short of that.
“We have got no option but to dust ourselves down, get back to work and make sure we are better than that next time.
“It is vital we respond, we cannot be feeling sorry for ourselves.
“We know we can do better and must do better. It is quite simple.”
There will not be a Swans fan that disagrees with the words of the midfielder who scored in the last ever derby at Ninian Park back in 2009. For two consecutive Saturdays the Swans have taken the lead in the league but on both occasions have allowed the opposition to dominate and go onto secure the three points.
For all that has gone wrong at Swansea this season it has not been a bed of roses up the M4 either with Cardiff sitting just two points above us in the league courtesy of their one league win – secured with a late penalty at home to Sheffield Wednesday. Progression to the third round of the League Cup has generated some joy but with three two-goal advantages thrown away to date it is certainly not a case that we have no hope in our desire to continue our dominance in this fixture.
The work of the fixture computer this season has meant that the Swans have two weeks now to prepare for the fixture – a two weeks that will be slightly disrupted by the international call ups for a fair few from the squad. Those call ups take away some of the work that Duff can do with his squad but for those left here they will do the work this week in preparation and be joined by their team mates when the international players start to return in the early days of next week.
And Duff is more than aware of what his side need to do not just in this fixture but in all the games that are upcoming “We need to do more, we need to play more on the front foot and show more energy because ultimately if we keep giving two goals away every week it’s going to be a long season. We need to be better than that.
“We just need to be more aggressive with and without the ball.”
And with that aggression and backed by the passion of the travelling Jack Army we could still spring yet another magical moment in derby day history.
Because it is, for many, more than just a game.