An emotional return home

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The South of Wales is like a home to me. This weekend we visited Cardiff, which is just 30 miles away from the place that used to be my home. It still motivates me a lot to play in this stadium, even though I left Swansea quite a few years ago. I don’t get booed when I get out of the coach anymore and the bluebirds fans were quite nice to me, just a little boo when my name was announced and that was all. It’s been a long time since I played in one of those derbies. I enjoy scoring in the City Stadium, 3 goals already, but the one on Saturday was probably the one I have celebrated the least.

Oddly enough we stayed in Bristol, almost an hour away from the stadium. On the trip to the game, when crossing the bridge that goes from England to Wales, lots of memories came to my mind. How many times have I done that same trip on the M4! I remembered the first time, 8 years ago, when I accepted Roberto Martinez’s invitation to visit Swansea. We landed in Bristol, I was with my dad, and Lakey picked us up. We got in his old BMW and drove to Bristol. Lakey took the corners too fast and we had an enjoyable one and half hours; me with my rubbish english, my father translating and me looking through the window imagining how my life would be if I decided to stay.

On Saturday, in the coach, I looked through the window trying to silently work out how long we had left to reach the stadium, remembering that once we passed Cardiff there was only half an hour to go to the ground. And I remembered every minute of my first trip with the same sensations and nervouness of the unknown. On that very first trip we also had a very curious anecdote. When we got to Swansea, a van full of party women stopped next to us and some of them showed us their boobs. What a welcome! Lakey must have been used to it because he laughed like mad at the looks on our faces…

Nothing much to say about the game. One goal from a rebound and two from penalties. It’s always the same, and the second penalty was really tough. I scored a good goal and helped the team as much as I could but we ended up finishing the year without winning a single away game. I could have never imagined that at the beginning of the season.

All is left now is our last goodbye game at Bloomfield Road against Huddersfield. I don’t want to make history as the worse team in the league so it’s a challenge to us, and especially to me, to say goodbye to the Championship with a win.  That is the least our fans deserve after 10 long months of despair. I am actually really looking forward to that game.

Some very special people came to visit me in Cardiff. I explained a few weeks ago about the difficult situation that a family, who are close friends of mine, are going through. Claire, Nicola and Andrew are three beautiful young people. Andrew is a little heroe who protects his sisters above all else, with the love he learned from his parents. Claire and Nicola are two wonderful girls who are going through a really tough time and I love them to bits. They came to see me and they made me very happy. To see them looking so good and with that big smile made me feel much better. They brought some presents for Norah and Emma and they were as nice to me as they have always been. They know that they will always have me by their side as a good friend.

I was a bit envious to see the Watford celebrations for their promotion, but they have been the best team and I am happy for them. Oscar Garcia was there for a month and you can tell they learned a bit about his philosophy. Slavisa Jokanovic is their coach now, a former midfielder who played with Oviedo, Tenerife, Deportivo and Chelsea. They gained promotion after beating Brighton away. Brighton aren’t having a great season either but at least they have managed to stay up. Looking at our situation I can’t really talk about other teams “bad” seasons…

Three things I take from this week’s Champions League, Verratti, Barça and Juve. Well maybe four: the opportunity to see Guardiola returning home as the rival. Or maybe five: what a bad game from Atlético at the Bernabéu! I believe that Italy has found in Verratti their new Pirlo. He is born to play at Barça but was unlucky to have to play against, in my opinion, the best team in Europe right now.

The semifinals game Barca v Bayern is going to be one of the best games that can be seen at the momento. Pep would return home and that would be the icing on the cake. I think Barca could win as they seem to be a bit fresher than Bayern but it will be very tight. I also think would be tight in the other game. I am happy for Juve because they are finally back where they belong. Italian football needed this and now all the other historic Italian teams need to start working hard in Europe. Italy must be back to being head to head with La Liga, the Premierhsip or the Bundesliga. By the way, no one things Madrid will sail through that game…

I said that I was a bit let down by Atletico. It is easy to talk from the sofa with a cup of coffee and maybe one day I will become a coach and will have to eat my words, but I was disappointed by Simeone’s tactics. He had an attack of “catenaccimo” and played too defensively, personally I think they had better weapons to face a Madrid side without Modric, Bale and Marcelo. I missed the Atletico that could pressure their rivals without pause!

We have only got one week left to end this nightmare. I can’t even imagine how our fans have endured such a season. I hope we will be able to give them something to cheer about during our last game.

So, I would like to finish with a “ I am sorry” today. To all our fans, I am sorry.

Translated by Alfons Vinent.

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