Supporting club and country

30th March 2013

They say football is a funny old game and that is never truer than during international week . . . particularly this past week.
Ever since Gareth Bale went down in a heap playing for Spurs against Fulham, his welfare has been top of my footballing concerns. Would he be fit to play against the Scots and Croatia?
I happened to be tuned in to the commentary from White Hart Lane in the car at the time. I listened intently as the commentators described him lying on the pitch and then gingerly walking to the touchline.
It didn't sound good. Typical! Gareth Bale had been in the form of his life during the past few weeks for Spurs, and now he was going to be injured for Wales' big World Cup double-header.
But then hope! The commentator's tone seemed more optimistic and Bale was ready to rejoin the action. Phew! But just when I thought all was well, a few days later the news broke that he had caught a virus from his daughter.
"Pesky kids", as the guilty caretaker used to say in Scooby Doo. What are world-class footballers doing going near those little germ factories known as children anyway? Even if they are their own offspring!
If we are to believe press claims about pampered Premier League players, surely they have staff to look after their infected infants! Anyway, after days of worry and speculation he made it out on the pitch at Hampden...but not for long. 
There seems to be some confusion over whether it was Scotland's attempts to kick him out of the game, or little Alba Violet's virus that did for him, but what it did mean was that I and the rest of Wales' fans faced another few days of enquiring after Gareth Bale's health.
By the way, wasn't it great to watch the likes of Ashley Williams and Ben Davies prove that Wales have other top class performers and aren't a one-man team.
As I write this, on the eve of the Croatia match here at the Liberty, I'm still none the wiser as to whether Bale will pull on the red jersey. 
But it has just struck me, that by the time you read this, my feelings for Gareth Bale will have been completely turned on their head. I wanted Bale to be as fit as a fiddle and still in the form of his life for the games against Scotland and Croatia.
But when Spurs walk out against the Swans at the Liberty I hope he has an absolute stinker! 
Now in any other part of life, those sentiments would be seen as hypocritical and two-faced, but as a football fan, I think they are perfectly understandable.
As much as I admire Gareth Bale as an outstanding footballer and as proud as I am to see a Welshman tormenting the world's best defenders and teams, today he is due to play against the Swans. In the space of a few days, he has transformed from hero to opponent.
I still hope he's fit to play because I wouldn't wish illness or injury on any player, and as a football fan I want to see the best players perform live. By general consensus, Bale is currently one of the best players in the world.
It will be a pleasure to see potentially one of the best players in the history of Welsh football playing against what is surely now undisputedly the best club side in the history of Welsh football.
It's the kind of occasion you want to tell your grandchildren about when you are old and grey.
But, as a Swans fan, the only Welshmen I want to see excel on the pitch this afternoon are Ashley Williams, Ben Davies, and the nine other adopted Welshman, who will be wearing white.
And talking of adopted Welshmen, here is something else that has been causing me some concern over the past week...why wasn't Leon Britton in the England squad?
It's widely accepted that one of England's biggest midfield problems is ball retention, unless of course they are playing nations with the population of Newbury, which they did last Friday.
So why do they consistently ignore one of the most successful English qualified passers of the ball in the Premier League?
Is it because he plays for a so-called unfashionable team like the Swans, perhaps? Last season Stuart Pearce and former England manager Fabio Capello came to watch Britton and the likes of fellow England hopefuls Danny Graham, Nathan Dyer and Steven Caulker.
But despite their outstanding form, there wasn't a sniff of a call up for the senior team, although Caulker did earn a place in Great Britain's Olympic squad.
When Caulker returned to his parent club Spurs, he was almost immediately called up to the England squad last August. He didn't make it onto the pitch, but he has since made his full England debut despite being a less regular starter in the Premier League than he was with the Swans, and arguably not in such outstanding form as he was last season.
Don't get me wrong, I'm delighted for Steven and I think his call-ups are thoroughly deserved, but I just don't think he should have had to wait for so long, and should have been recognised while playing for the Swans.
Ah well, it's probably just as well Leon hasn't had an England call up anyway because that would cause me another club versus country dilemma.
I would obviously want Leon to play out of his skin every time he pulled on the Three Lions shirt because he is an absolute Swans legend and he personally would always have my support, but England...
Yes, I know, we're all British, and yes, I supported all the GB competitors during the Olympics whether they were Welsh, Scottish, English or Northern Irish, but I'm sorry, no matter how hard I try, and I promise you, I have tried, I just can't bring myself to actively cheer on the England team. 
It's like asking me to go to the Cardiff City Stadium and cheer on the Bluebirds. And yes, I know I should support all Welsh clubs for the good of the national game, and in a way I do, just don't ask me to cheer for Cardiff! If they get to the Premier League it will be good for Welsh football, as long as they finish below us next season!
It's a complicated life supporting club and country isn't it? Especially when you support a Welsh club in an English league where a large number of your players are going to be English and your Welsh international players are going to play for rival English clubs!
And I haven't even mentioned our Spanish full-back who has lived here for six years, has a Welsh wife, Welsh-born child, feels like a Welshman and isn't allowed to play for Wales! But that's another story.  
C'mon you Swans!