LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 30: Fans celebrate after Scott Sinclair of Swansea scores a penalty during the npower Championship Playoff Final between Reading and Swansea City at Wembley Stadium on May 30, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
I have to admit, until a few weeks ago I hadn't been impressed with Swansea this season one bit. Yes, their philosophy was commendable, but I found them a little dull to watch and lacking the kind of discernible cutting egde that could justify the commitment to their footballing beliefs.
In recent weeks that has changed, though, and I am finally aboard the bandwagon. So I was delighted to catch up with Chris Carra of top blog Forza Swansea for a brief chat about what is going on at the Liberty Stadium this season. For you Twitter types, Chris can be found at @ForzaSwansea and is well worth a follow.
Anyway, over to you Chris...
I think Swansea have surprised and impressed everyone this season. Can you give us a little summary of how it has gone so far?
Chris: Pretty good I feel and I'm sure every other supporter agrees with me! We've already seen some amazing football from the Swans against teams such as Arsenal, Liverpool and Man United and they've managed to replicate their attractive passing game born in the lower leagues. There have been a few negatives, such as the lack of goals at the beginning of the season and poor away form, but the positives are definitely outweighing the negatives at the moment!
Going into this weekend's game, Swansea are sitting very pretty indeed in the top half of the table. Has that changed expectations around the club at all regarding the goals for this season?
Chris: It depends who you ask. I was expecting Swansea to do well this season – I predicted a top 10 finish in August and stick to that prediction, so for me expectations are the same. I guess it has probably changed some views – maybe those who would have been happy avoiding relegation at the start wouldn't be pleased with a relegation battle now after the club have graced the top ten in style. I assume some of the bullish pundits who wrote Swansea off before a ball was kicked this season have some humble pie to force down.
Swansea's away form this season has almost been as bad as their home form is good. Can you put your finger on why exactly that is?
Chris: Last season it was the same story – doing well at home, lacking that confidence away. I'm not sure how well the team travel, but I suspect it could be down to the Liberty Stadium being a fortress. The noise is immense and the support probably plays a massive factor in player moral. Saying that, the away support is generally fantastic too, with 2,000-odd Swans fans sometimes out-singing home supporters in places like the Emirates and Stamford Bridge.
We'd love to get your thoughts on Sunderland this season. What did you make of, firstly, the Bruce sacking and the subsequent revival under Martin O'Neill?
Chris: I wasn't that surprised with the Bruce sacking – these days managers can go after just a few bad games, so it's not shocking. I did like him as a character though. Then again, I like O'Neill as a manger, and he seems to have done well in spurring the team on at the midway point of the season – I think I'd prefer O'Neill to be at the helm over Bruce.
I suspect you don't really fear anyone at the moment, but who, if anyone, worries you in the Sunderland side going into this game?
Chris: I don't fear one player, but Sunderland as a whole team can give anyone a game on a good day. To me it seems to be a team effort as opposed to 'get it to one guy and he'll do all the scoring'... I could be wrong though!
And where do you think Swansea will have the upper hand and can really hurt Sunderland?
Chris: Naturally Swansea can out-pass most teams it seems, so playing it quick along the ground will be their best form of attack as usual. Sunderland have the upper hand in some aspects, like the physicality and height (Swansea are generally a tiny side) and have more Premier League experience. Quick, slick play will be our route to victory though.
Finally, how do you see the game going? Can we coax a prediction out of you?
I honestly see Swansea winning this one. I'm probably asking for trouble posting this on a Sunderland fan site, but with the confidence from the Arsenal match combined with recent victories away at Aston Villa and Barnsley (FA Cup), I think Swansea are hitting their season peak. Having said that, Sunderland are just two points below and held the Swans to a 0-0 draw at the Liberty earlier in the season. Still, I just think Swansea will have the edge. 2-1 to the travelling Jacks is my prediction.