I pen this with some apprehension and in all honesty, reluctance. It’s my final press conference as manager of Swansea City in 2017/18.
I don’t know if I’ll get kept on for next season, I highly doubt it. Swansea always strike me as one of those clubs looking for a big name and as big as my name is in Italy (Inter Milan) and Romania (Dinamo Bucharest), I suspect that I’ll become a Roy Hodgson type, only good for mid-table clubs with little ambition other than surviving in the Premier League.
Well, let’s ‘ave it. There are 11 journalists in the room ahead of our FA Cup Final and I’m sure they want as good copy as I’ve given all season.
Reporter: Mark Hughes has been speaking pretty highly of you in the build-up to the match; how do you value the praise of opposition managers?
Me: Let’s just say it means more coming from some managers than others. Mark is not someone I have a lot of time for in all honesty so I’m looking forward to beating him on Saturday. I don’t like him, I think he’s incredibly lucky to have got sixth this season.
Reporter: It’s unusual to hear a manager speak so negatively about an opponent like this, is there a danger of you becoming too preoccupied with the personal rivalry between the two of you?
Me: I don’t think so, it’s my job to make sure my team are up for it and this has added an extra dimension which has given me more motivation to get a good result on Saturday. I’ve already beaten ‘Hughes’ 2 – 0 this season at our gaff.
Reporter: In all their history, Swansea have never won the FA Cup. It is a massive challenge for you to win this, isn’t it?
Me: No, I think we have a fantastic chance. Forget the history, our time is now. It’s not Arsenal or Chelsea or Liverpool, it’s Stoke. Let’s not forget that.
Reporter: Will we see any changes to your first-time line-up for the big match?
Me: As always, we will analyse the players’ fitness and their performances in training before making any decisions regarding team selection. Andy King and Andre Ayew are injured both are cup tied anyway.
Reporter: This game is one of the very biggest and all the Swansea fans are sure to be watching with high expectations. Is that making you at all nervous?
Me: The whole team I aware of what is expected of them. That has been made abundantly clear. I’m confident in the players we have.
Reporter: You will be missing Andre Ayew for the match, just how big a blow is that to your team’s hopes?
Me: Andre has incredible ability but he is just one player and this is a team game. Also, as I said, he’s CUP TIED.
Reporter: A number of people would agree that your 2 – 1 win over Everton was the highlight of Swansea’s run to the final. Is that something you also believe?
Me: I think we’ve grown as a team from the first moment we were together in this campaign and we’ve been stronger for every match we’ve won. That’s the reason we’re here. If you press me, I’d say the win over Preston North End was the highlight.
Reporter: Winning the FA Cup would undoubtedly be the pinnacle of Swansea’s campaign. Just how badly do you and your team want it?
Me: Of course we want to win it but if the worst happens and we lose the final it won’t diminish the terrific time we’ve had. I’m proud of the boys and what they’ve achieved so far. To end the season in the top half was an amazing accomplishment.
Reporter: Is it perhaps doubly important to win knowing that a spot in the EURO Cup awaits too?
Me: The FA Cup is my sole focus right now. We have to be prepared for the task at hand otherwise anything else will be rendered completely irrelevant.
Reporter: Your encounter with Stoke City on Saturday sees you come up against a jubilant Mark Hughes given his recent continental qualification success. How do you feel about your counterpart’s recent achievement?
Me: I’ve got to be honest, I think Hughes is a bit overrated. It was a surprise to see his recent achievement and I think we can get a good result against his side on Saturday to highlight his shortcomings. As we did back in February.
Reporter: That’s a very surprising response, are you just showing a bit of jealousy here or is your criticism of Mark Hughes actually justified in your eyes?
Me: I think my criticism is very valid and after we’ve finished with them on Saturday I think the plaudits might just dry up for Mark Hughes. If I had Shaqiri in my team, we’d have qualified for the Champions League!
Reporter: Can you reveal how you will be instructing the Swansea boys to play?
Me: I am not going to discuss any tactics approaching the match. Mostly because I’m unsure if we’ll play 4-4-2 or 3-5-2.
I know what you’re thinking, I should have kept my words soft and sweet because I may have to eat them, but I just don’t like Hughes. He’s nicking a living as far as I’m concerned, no matter what his Premier League position is.
Join us tomorrow for teamsheets and kick off will be at 3pm (as it should be, 3pm on Saturday) over on @FMDaily_
Time to dust off the suit…