The Lions return to Sky Bet Championship action on Saturday (kick-off 5.30pm), beginning September with a clash at The Den against Swansea City.
Neil Harris’ men suffered two slender defeats on the bounce in South Yorkshire last week against Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham United but bounced back on Wednesday night with a Carabao Cup victory over Plymouth Argyle. Graham Potter’s Swans sit 10th in the League table, having won two and lost one of their opening five on their return to The Championship.
Founded in 1912, Swansea City have consistently competed in the EFL, and are one of three Welsh representatives of the 92 League clubs along with Cardiff City and Newport County. The Swans recently dropped into The Championship after seven years in the Premier League, during which time they managed eighth and ninth-placed finishes and lifted the League Cup in 2013. Their domestic cup success saw them compete in European football for the first time as British representatives – the club previously spent several years on behalf of Wales in the Cup Winners’ Cup – as they reached the knockout phase of the Europa League, facing Napoli in 2014.
Ones to Watch
Joe Rodon has earned more than his fair share of plaudits since being given an extended first-team chance by Graham Potter this season. The 20-year-old local lad made his first-team debut at the start of the campaign after coming through the ranks in South Wales from the age of eight, captaining the U23 side and being named on the first-team bench on a number of previous occasions. Rodon has been described as a centre-back with ‘a bit of everything’, possessing powerful aerial ability and a commanding presence, but also a slickness and comfort with the ball at his feet. The defender spent the latter part of last season on loan at Cheltenham Town to gain valuable League experience, and has represented the Welsh U21 side.
Joel Asoro arrived at the Liberty Stadium following former side Sunderland’s relegation, and has had a positive impact since signing. The 19-year-old represents a youthful core of Potter’s Swans side, able to both lead the line and play a supplying role out wide or behind the strikers. Asoro played youth football in his native Sweden, representing the Swedish U17 side at the age of 15 and scoring 14 goals in 21 appearances. The forward moved straight up to the U21 squad, at the same time as his move to English football. Direct, quick and exciting, the teenager is already a huge prospect and a fully-fledged gem in Potter’s squad, with the manager’s time in Sweden enabling him to spot the potential of Asoro early on.
Bersant Celina has made a name for himself in senior football since debuting in the Sky Bet Championship with Ipswich Town in 2017. The Kosovo international joined the highly-coveted Manchester City academy in 2012, making his official first-team debut in 2016 after a series of impressive performances for the club’s Elite Development Squad. Celina experienced a loan stint at FC Twente, getting regular game time before becoming one of Ipswich’s standout players last season. With a host of managers battling for his signature, Celina signed a permanent deal for The Swans during the summer after finding first-team opportunities difficult to come by at the Etihad Stadium. Lively and exciting on the ball, with a great passing and shooting range and set-piece ability, Celina could be one to watch this campaign.
Oli McBurnie has excelled so far this season after being trusted with the number nine berth by Potter, following his loan spell at Barnsley last campaign which proved his attributes as one of the division’s most threatening attackers. McBurnie began his senior career with Bradford City after competing for Manchester United in the 2013 Milk Cup, and spent time on loan with Chester before signing a permanent deal with The Swans in 2015. He then experienced a loan spell with Newport County, in which he scored a second-half debut hat-trick off the bench. Further loan spells with Bristol Rovers and Barnsley followed, the latter seeing him pick up the club’s Player of the Year award last season despite joining in late January, with nine League goals. Rangy, confident on the ball and possessing a dangerous knack of popping up in the right places, McBurnie was called up to the Scotland squad earlier this year after turning out for the U21 side – the striker made his debut in March against Costa Rica.
In the Dugout
Graham Potter arrived at the Liberty Stadium ahead of this season, replacing Carlos Carvalhal at the helm following the club’s relegation from the Premier League. Potter had established himself as a high-profile coach after a remarkable journey with Swedish side Ostersund, in which he took the club from fourth-division minnows to a domestic cup triumph and Europa League knockout tie against Arsenal during a spell of seven-and-a-half years. Potter spent time with clubs including Stoke City and Southampton during his playing career, then spending three years with York City. Potter began coaching in university football after hanging up his boots in 2005, and has seen his stock rise massively since his extraordinary exploits in Sweden.