Toshack's enduring tale with Swansea
The Toshack touch in Swans' fairy tale which outshines the Leicester giant-killing story
SWANSEA v SOUTHAMPTON
(Sunday, 8.45pm, Singtel TV Ch 103 & StarHub TV Ch 228, ELEVEN Plus HD)
Leicester City's title win last season ranks as one of the most thrilling - and certainly the most unexpected - in English football history.
However, as great as the Foxes' achievements were, it would surely have paled in comparison to the tale of John Toshack's Swansea City, who led the old First Division in the spring of 1982 before falling at the final few hurdles.
This Sunday, the Swans take on struggling Southampton in a swanky stadium and in front of a global TV audience of millions (including Eleven Sports Network in Singapore).
It's a far cry from the old days at the Vetch Field - the dilapidated stadium where they plied their trade from 1912 until the summer of 2005.
Swansea's exploits in the late 1970s and early '80s were led by former Liverpool and Wales legend John Toshack, who grabbed the club by the scruff of the neck and somehow guided them on a magnificent odyssey from the Fourth Division to (briefly) the summit of the top flight.
With six games remaining, the Swans led the chasing pack, but only one win from their final half a dozen fixtures saw them leapfrogged by eventual champions Liverpool.
The following season, despite having invested heavily in the squad, Swansea got off to a poor start and never recovered. They were relegated, and Toshack (above) resigned shortly after.
But that was only stage one in a downfall that was long and protracted. By 1986, the club were back where they started before Toshack's appointment - in the bottom division.
The years of turmoil continued. Ownership changed hands several times and the club were on the verge of bankruptcy on more than one occasion, until a consortium of local supporters and businessmen - an eclectic group of builders, accountants and carpet salesmen - formed the Swansea City Supporters Trust and forced through a takeover of their beloved club.
The Trust, headed by former Swansea legend Mel Nurse and chairman Huw Jenkins, worked tirelessly to revive the club, but, on the final day of the 2002-03 season, the Swans needed to beat Hull City in order to avoid dropping out of the Football League - an outcome that may well have ended their very existence.
Enter James Thomas, a local boy who had taken an 80 per cent pay cut after initiating a move to his boyhood team from Premier League Blackburn Rovers.
His hat-trick in a 4-2 victory secured Swansea's status as a professional Football League club. It was a day that will forever be etched in the memories of Swansea supporters.
"I'll always remember the night before the game trying to get to sleep. Just the pressure of it, especially being a local boy from Swansea - I had to face the supporters wherever I went," Thomas told ITV News.
"But, when you're on the pitch, it's just another game. The atmosphere that day was like a 12th man for us and helped massively. It was the highlight of my career and a day I'll never forget.
"That was rock bottom, and ever since that day the club have progressed. It was a massive turning point."
Thomas was forced to quit the game soon after following a persistent knee injury. He now works as an ambulance driver in nearby Port Talbot, and supports his old side from the plush Liberty Stadium seats as a season-ticket holder.
In 2005, Swansea began their ascent of the Football League once again, earning promotion from the basement division.
By now, they were playing in a state-of-the-art stadium, and new heroes had emerged, including Leon Britton (above), who remains a fixture in the Swans squad having also been part of Thomas's landmark day on May 3, 2003.
In 2011, the club were promoted back to the top flight after a 28-year absence. In 2013, they won their first major trophy, the League Cup, and three years later they're still punching above their weight in the Premier League.
Two months ago, in an effort to maintain the club's upward trajectory, the rag-tag bunch of local businessmen who saved the club 15 years ago, relinquished their controlling interest to an American consortium led by Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan.
The rise, fall and rise of Swansea City is a story for the ages, and the next chapter promises to be yet another page-turner.
Richard Lenton is the lead presenter at ELEVEN SPORTS NETWORK. Join Richard and his studio guests for ELEVEN's live coverage of the Premier League, which includes tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) clash between Chelsea and Liverpool at 2.30am, and Sunday's double-header between Watford and Manchester United (6.30pm), and Southampton versus Swansea (8.45pm). For more details, visit www.elevensports.sg
Amendment could delay FAS' election
Rejection by affiliates could delay FAS election of new leadership
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) could install its first elected leadership by Dec 1, 2016.
This is based on times specified in FAS' proposed constitution between incumbent FAS president Zainudin Nordin calling for election, and the actual voting day. (see box)
But these constitutional amendments have first to be voted in by the FAS' 46 voting members at its annual general meeting (AGM) on Sept 24 - and that may not happen.
The FAS announced yesterday that it has received approval from world football governing body Fifa for its proposed constitutional amendments to allow for democratic election of its leadership, but its target of holding an election by the end of 2016 could be stymied.
Alfred Dodwell, the only named member of R Vengadasalam's team to be put forward for election, has already started campaigning for support to make a further amendment - to add three more members to the 15 who will stand for election to the FAS Council.
This is aimed at having more robust discussions that will see only good ideas implemented.
Rejection would mean a return to the drawing board and a certain delay in calling for the FAS' first election.
Each of FAS' 46 affiliates has one vote, and a simple majority is required to pass - or reject - the FAS' proposed constitution.
FAS vice-president Lim Kia Tong, who is leading the FAS' constitutional amendment efforts, believes the proposed change is unnecessary.
"It is clear that there are no major objections (to FAS' proposed constitutions), but the change that has been proposed will not have a major effect," he said.
Lim explained that three co-opted members will be added to the 15-member elected FAS council, to ensure "vibrant debates", and while those three will not have voting rights, there are other checks within the council.
In its decision-making process, the council members will vote, while the president abstains. And if there is a tie, the president will cast the final vote to determine the council's course of action.
"I think there is no necessity for this (proposed change)," said Lim who is the deputy chairman of Fifa's disciplinary committee.
Lim revealed that if Dodwell does manage to garner enough support to reject FAS' proposed amendments, it will certainly delay the election.
"We will have to redraft that article in the constitution, and get Fifa approval again. And I can't tell how much time that will take," he said.
The FAS started redrafting its constitution in January this year, taking some nine months to receive final approval for the document.
Fifa has approved transitional provisions in the FAS proposed constitutions that allow for the current FAS leadership helmed by Zainudin to "remain in their positions and effective", provided the election is held before the end of 2016. But this could change if there is a delay.
Brunei and Indonesia have faced Fifa bans in the past for third-party interference in their football affairs and a delay in conducting democratic elections, but Fifa had earlier told The New Paper in a statement that those cases "do not compare to the situation of the FAS."
"These (constitutional) changes have been made with the idea to be inclusive and to allow for vibrant discussions, for the good of football," said Lim.
"I don't foresee any major objections."
HOW THE ELECTIONS WILL WORK:
- President, deputy president, four vice-presidents and three council members will run on a slate
- The remaining six council members will run as individuals
- Three more council members will be co-opted in
Council make-up:President, deputy president, four vice-presidents
- Nine elected council members
- Three co-opted council members
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FAS CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Cubs lose to M'sia
Mercedes to score off-track too
After bagging double championship honours, circuit kings look to lead in trackside hospitality
In recent years, Mercedes have been kings of the circuit in Formula 1.
Not content just being out in front on the track, they are now looking to lead the way in the paddock as well by enhancing their trackside hospitality experience for their guests.
In the past two years, Mercedes have cruised to the constructors' championship, twice finishing nearly 300 points ahead of their closest rivals, while Lewis Hamilton won the drivers' championship ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg.
The 2016 season has been no different with Hamilton and Mercedes once again leading the way, with seven races left to go.
Next up on their agenda is Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix, which was a race to forget for them last year as Hamilton retired after 33 laps, while Rosberg had to settle for fourth place.
Although Hamilton has expressed confidence that they will fare better this time, Rosberg and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff both conceded that the Marina Bay Street Circuit is more suited for Red Bull and Ferrari.
While it remains to be seen if it will be either Hamilton or Rosberg standing at the top of the podium come Sunday evening, Mercedes have a guaranteed success in their latest innovation to enhance the experience of their guests.
Members of the media were yesterday given a tour of the Mercedes garage and allowed to experience the latest Mercedes initiative, which involved augmented reality technology in partnership with official partner Epson.
After taking a seat right behind Hamilton and Rosberg's cars, guests put on a pair of Epson's Moverio smart glasses which allow them to take on a different visual dimension.
Projected contents are overlaid on the lenses of the glasses, showing team-related content like the anatomy of the racecars, race-day roles of engineering and the explanation of a pit stop in slow motion.
"The combination of smart glasses and augmented reality technology today brings much potential to enchance the viewing experience of guests," said Siew Jin Kiat, regional general manager (South-east Asia) visual instruments of Epson Singapore.
"We look forward to delivering new and exciting visual experiences to viewers through Moverio, in partnership with our customers and independent software vendors."
This new guest experience, which Mercedes assert is the first of its kind across all the F1 teams, is the latest development to emerge in their continued association with Epson, which the team stressed was a partnership and not a sponsorship.
Bottas confident he'll get there
Some time before Kimi's champ again
Ferrari's Raikkonen says car will have to get better for him to have a chance of winning
When Kimi Raikkonen's contract extension with Ferrari was confirmed at Silverstone earlier this year, the blunt Finn famously said: "I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I can drive well. I am very happy about it. It gives me pleasure to see disappointed people."
He was responding to a growing pool of critics in the racing community who felt the 36-year-old's best days were behind him, and that the most storied team in Formula 1 were better off signing a younger driver, like Williams' Valtteri Bottas, to partner Sebastian Vettel.
For much of his career, the talent of the driver billed as the "Ice Man" was never questioned.
Never fazed and extraordinarily laid back, he won the 2007 driver's world championship with Ferrari and talk was of more to come.
It has not come to pass, and Raikkonen acknowledged yesterday that it would take a while before he can mount a challenge for the drivers' title again.
"It isn't just about the driver, it's about the whole team," he said, after interacting with participants of the Shell Eco-marathon Asia at Suntec City, as he prepared for the 2016 Singapore Airlines Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix.
"We are improving things all the time and going in the right direction, but we still have a way to go.
"Next year will be a new year and the cars will change; as a team we will do our best and hopefully we'll be up there winning races."
In Formula 1, the way the car is set up is as important as the driver's skills itself.
The 2016 Ferrari, with a more positive front end, has been tweaked to suit Raikkonen, after he complained that the packages for the past two seasons did not complement his driving style.
The results have been telling - Raikkonen is now in fifth place with 136 points, just seven behind teammate Vettel.
Raikkonen was 99 points behind the four-time world champion at the same stage last year, and both Ferrari pilots are tipped to do well, along with the Red Bulls, along the Marina Bay street circuit on Sunday.
After all, Vettel won the Singapore race last year and Raikkonen finished third, while eventual overall champion Lewis Hamilton retired and his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg finished fourth.
Ahead of this year's race, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and Rosberg said Singapore's night race would suit the Ferraris and Red Bulls more than the otherwise dominant Silver Arrows.
But Raikkonen will not be drawn into talking up his team's chances here.
"Obviously we did well last year but who knows if it'll be the same this year," he said.
"We can only do the normal things that we do and hopefully be up there to challenge for a win.
"This is a tricky circuit; you need to get the set-up right to get the car working nicely and that will make a lot of difference."
One thing, though, don't be fooled by the Ice Man's demeanour.
Despite having almost 250 F1 races under his belt, Raikkonen will still be a bundle of nerves at the start line on Sunday.
"I like it (going fast), I enjoy racing and I enjoy driving. I am always a little nervous (at the start of races), but it's normal," he said, with a shrug.