Exeter City v Swansea City
Sunday 21st July, 3pm
St James Park
When Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale said jokingly that hosting Swansea would be “a good opportunity for our players to defend”, there was a stark underlying truth about the statement.
So far in pre-season, Swansea have played five, won five, scored 23 and conceded merely once (via a defensive lapse against Dutch outfit Excelsior, which was subsequently punished with five in response). Most recently they dismantled Yeovil Town at Huish Park with five different scorers contributing to the 5-0 win.
Since being promoted to the Premier League in 2011, defeating Reading at Wembley in the Championship play-off final, the Swans have simply blown expectations out of the water. They brought an attractive, possession-focused style of play to the top tier that only Arsenal had ever really been famed for in recent memory, and it flew in the face of the blood-and-thunder traditions of English football.
Whilst naivety occasionally crept in to begin with, meaning they were occasionally made to pay the price for the elaboration, the Swans stuck to their guns and have added a clinical edge to their game (thanks in part to the arrival of Michu, who was simply unplayable at times for some of the Premier League’s top defences), as well as shoring up defensively to cut out any habits of giving away goals as freebies.
Last season, they went one better in the league than their previous campaign in order to finished 11th in the top tier, but Michael Laudrup also led the side to major silverware as they overcame then-League 2 side Bradford City in the Capital One Cup final.
It all goes to reiterate the potency that Exeter City will face on Sunday. The game will certainly be a showpiece for spectators, but it will also be a real gruelling task for those players that are charged with keeping the Swans at bay (and trying to mount a few attacks, for that matter).
But the style and verve that Swansea have shown is not just on the field. They have an exceptional reputation off the pitch too for their drive and focus, and this was hammered home this week when it was announced that Exeter City would be keeping the sum total of the gate receipts for the fixture.
It was a welcome gesture, and one that reaffirmed that the Swans hadn’t forgotten where they came from. Like Exeter, they were staring down the barrel of exiting the Football League a decade ago but they produced a last-day miracle to avoid the drop at the expense of the Grecians. And now, with a Europa League campaign to look forward to in their plush 20,000-seater stadium, we look forward to welcoming the team and their fans for a pre-season game at the Park.
Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale: “It’s a fantastic game for us. They are a fully-fledged Premier League side now, playing football in a wonderful fashion and with a big, big European name [Michael Laudrup] as manager.
“He was a wonderful footballer at that, and always speaks so well and so rationally.”
Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup: “I am more than happy with the way things are progressing. We will go into the season with a strong 22- or 23-man squad to compete on both the league and cup fronts.
“They all worked extremely hard during the training camp in Holland and have continued that theme back home in Swansea this week.”
The two sides haven’t met in competitive action since ‘that final day’ a decade ago, when a Sean Devine gave the Grecians a 1-0 win at Vetch Field and gave Exeter false hope that survival was on the cards.
However they did visit St James Park in a pre-season friendly just a month after Paul Tisdale became Exeter City manager. Leon Knight scored twice for the Swans before Chris Todd, formerly a Swansea player, cut the deficit. However Izzy Iriekpen rounded off a 3-1 win for the visitors.
Under-18s and students can see the Grecians and the Swans doing battle at St James Park from just £2, over-60s can enter from £6 and adults can see the match from £12.
Click here for full ticket details.