We've come unstuck against the Toffees

22nd December 2013

When I was a kid, I would always be disappointed if I was given toffees for Christmas.
That's why I used to prefer Roses to Quality Street - not so many sticky, sickly toffees.
So when I saw we were playing Everton today, my initial reaction was - oh no, not Toffees for Christmas again!
The disappointment doesn't just go back to my ungrateful childhood. The Goodison Park Toffees have proved to be particularly sticky and unpalatable opponents on the football field. 
The Swans have failed to successfully unwrap the Toffees' defence since we've been back in the Premier League. We haven't scored once against Everton in four attempts
And we haven't had much luck against them previously either, having failed to gain a single victory in 16 previous league meetings and an FA Cup tie.
Last season's draw was only one of four we've managed against the Merseysiders, with only one of those earned in Swansea.
I'm going to stop now, because I'm not paining a very optimistic picture here am I?
But this is Christmas, and special things happen at Christmas. What better time for the Swans to end their winless run against Everton.
So my wish for an early present this year is at least one goal and three points against Roberto Martinez's men this afternoon.
While I'm conjuring up Christmas wishes, here are a few more festive footballing requests I have for the year ahead.
Top of the list is the wish that football stops the use of the phrase: "Top, top" when describing players who are at the peak of their profession.
Jamie and Harry Redknapp started it verbally: "'E's a top, top, playa . . ."
Then Sir Alex Ferguson put it in print when he said Steven Gerard wasn't "a top, top player . . ."
And now the whole footballing world and beyond seems to be adopting it.
And I've even heard some people saying: "He's a top, top, top player . . ."
Where will it end? Newspapers will start running out of room when they're quoting managers trying to outdo each other when talking about their "top, top, top, top players putting in top, top, top, top performances for their top, top, top, top, top clubs."
Perhaps they'll have to bring in abbreviations like: "He's a top (x7) player." Footballing quotes could end up looking like mathematical equations.
Next on my list is a wish that tackling doesn't disappear from the professional game.
Football is a contact sport, but if we are going to see free-kicks and penalties conceded every time there is "contact" between players, then tackling - good or bad - will disappear from the game because players will be too scared to put in a challenge.
It's starting to be accepted in some quarters that if there is "contact" - no matter how minimal - a player is perfectly entitled to "go down". Well, if that is the case, then the next logical step is football will become a non-contact sport. Surely that's got to be bad for the game?
How are people supposed to tackle if they aren't allowed to make any contact? And I'm not just asking this question because I used to play centre-half! It could take some of the spectacle out of football.
It will mean more and more players will go for the "easy" option of hitting the floor rather than trying to ride a challenge and carry on for goal.
One of my favourite goals ever was the one where George Best skips past a scything attempt at a tackle by Ron "Chopper" Harris. Now there was undoubtedly illegal contact, and Ron himself has admitted there was intent in his lunge.
But all that's in Best's mind is beating Harris and scoring the goal. The last thing he is thinking of is going down for a penalty because there was "contact".
Best's determination to beat Harris provided us with one of his greatest goals. It would be such a shame if goals like that were replaced by free-kicks and penalties awarded for a tiny fraction of the contact on players who are looking for a foul.
I'm not saying I want to go back to the days when the likes of Harries, Norman Hunter and our own former favourite Tommy Smith used to cause havoc. 
Creative players must be protected from illegal tackles, but surely there should be some reasonable contact allowed?
On the international front, I hope that Wales get a favourable result in the forthcoming draw for the Euro 2016 championships.
With more teams than ever taking part in the finals, and a squad peppered with Premier League quality like Ashley Williams, Neil Taylor and Ben Davies, this could be Wales' best ever chance of breaking their qualification hoodoo.
And with the tournament being played in France, Wales should get a sizeable following in the tournament if they qualify.
Staying on the international theme, but also with a club angle, I hope all the Swans players who are in with a chance of representing their countries at the World Cup in Brazil, get the call ups they deserve.
That would be the latest in a long line of firsts that Swans fans have enjoyed over the past few seasons - cheering some of our own players at the World Cup.
Anyway, it would be so nice to cheer somebody else on at the World Cup, rather than whoever is playing England!
Mind you, if any of our English players gets into the squad, I will be delighted to cheer them on the Three Lions for the first time!
Another Christmas wish is that Swansea travel agents will be inundated with inquiries about weekends in Turin next May. What a way to round off our first Europa League campaign that would be!
I've kept my most controversial wish until last. I genuinely hope that Cardiff City stay in the Premier League this season.
I believe having all the professional Welsh teams playing at the highest level they are capable of, can only be good for the future health of Welsh football - both at club and international level. And, of course, it means we will keep the derby matches next season.
However, there is one extremely important condition attached to my hope for Cardiff to stay up - that the Swans finish comfortably above them.