Fixture release day is an exciting time in a football supporter’s life. That month and a half of spending weekends in garden centres and high street shops to desperately fill the void left by sweet, sweet footballing goodness is quelled by the prospect of a new campaign.
The day is spent pouring over the fixtures, drooling over the prospect of West Brom away in January. While many fans will invariably look to key fixtures such as derby matches, clashes against the big boys and the much-loved Boxing Day game, there is just one fixture I look for - Swansea away.
Magnificent in its splendour, ridiculous in its logistics and mediocre in its on-field delivery, Swansea away is the best fixture in the football league calendar.
Yeah, it doesn’t sound fun - most things you have to wake up at 5am aren’t - but that is just the mindset of the uninformed and those thoughts never come into the head of a true Swansea away convert. Unlike the other long haul trips to Southampton and Bournemouth, Swansea doesn’t have to involve London at any point, which already makes it infinitely better.
While some see it as a six-hour journey from hell, navigating from the north-east through the windy roads to south Wales, I see it as a beautiful adventure through the UK’s glorious countryside. Travelling from the north-west my voyage is slightly shorter but takes in all the delights of using Arriva Trains Wales.
The delightful route from Manchester passes through places that you know you’ve heard of but didn’t think actually existed. You know, like Abergavenny, Ludlow, Leominster, Cwmbran and Neath. There is also the wonder as you watch passengers stood on the platform in the wintry drizzle, what do they do here? Where do they go to have fun? Are they happy?
Like with Norwich, and to a certain extent Sunderland, Swansea is one of the Premier League’s outposts. The furthest westerly team in the division shares parallels with our fair city. It has a marina, it has a rival city nearby that it despises, it has a Wetherspoons and Yates’ within spitting distance of each other and most of all, it’s bloody cheap.
Unlike your fancy-dan cities, there is a level of charm to Swansea. Something which seems to say “come in, mate I’ve got the kettle on” - an understated quality and people who are happy to chat football with you. There never seems to be an unfriendly Swansea supporter (if you have been slapped by a Swansea fan in the past before, sorry - it was probably your fault anyway) and they seem to appreciate the fact that you’ve travelled so far.
That’s the topper. You feel like you’ve earned the away day. You feel like that over six hours of travelling has been worth it as you sip that first pint of Brains. This is an adventure, a voyage into foreign land, through the valleys and into the crisp, cold paradise of south Wales.
Yes, we probably won’t win (although we actually could this year) but sat amongst this beautiful land for a couple of hours is victory in itself. So for those lucky souls who are going to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday - enjoy it, drink it in and tell everyone you know. For you will be a Swansea away convert, an honour of the highest order.
Oh, don’t talk to me about the journey back. It’s awful and I threw up on a tram once.