We catch up with Swansea striker Danny Graham ahead of the Swans' reunion with Brendan Rodgers
Hi Danny, how would assess Swansea City's start to the season?
We're looking down on an awful lot of teams who would have expected to have been above us, so we'll take where we're at right now. A lot of people tipped us to suffer from second-season syndrome and at times already this season we've found it pretty difficult but we've got belief in ourselves and that's really important. We all feel confident that with plenty more hard work that we have the quality to stay in the Premier League.
What changes have been made since Michael Laudrup took over as manager?
In terms of our general style there's not a great deal of difference to be honest. Under Brendan Rodgers we had a certain philosophy and even though he's moved on we've retained most of what helped us to do so well last year under him. Maybe, if anything, we're a more attacking side this term than we were under Brendan. We did pass the ball around to one another extremely patiently and perhaps that's the biggest alteration we've made. Under the new manager we like to get the ball forward a bit quicker and sometimes it works to our advantage and sometimes it doesn't. Michael Laudrup will need a bit more time to get all of his own points across, so that we're sure of what he wants but to have 11 points while going through the transformation; we'll take it.
Do you personally prefer the more direct style this season?
Well, as a centre forward it probably does suit me more yes. I definitely think we're creating more goalscoring chances under Michael Laudrup and that's got to be good news for us attackers. On the flip side, if we go forward too early and lose the ball it does make us a bit more exposed in defence. I like it, but maybe the back four guys prefer it when we keep the ball for longer. Look, we had a great start, then a bad patch, but after beating Wigan Athletic we're feeling good again and looking to kick on.
How about the new faces within the squad, how are they settling in?
Last season we had Steven Caulker at centre-back and he was terrific of course but Chico Flores has come in and been superb to be fair. It was hard for him initially because he didn't speak much English and that affected his communication on and off the pitch but he's taking lessons and learning fast. I feel that with every day he's feeling more at home in Swansea and that will help his performances. There's also Michu who has been a breath of fresh air around the place. He's stepped into the shoes vacated by Gylfi Sigurdsson and proven to be a more than capable replacement. He fills that gap between midfield and attack wonderfully and has a knack of arriving in the opposition penalty box at just the right time. When it comes to finishing he's second to none and what's impressed me most is that he can score with both feet and in the air, too. All the new players are great. There are no big egos at Swansea.
Are you looking forward to the reunion with Brendan Rodgers at Anfield in the Capital One Cup Fourth Round?
Yes of course. It should be a great evening and we're all looking forward to seeing our old manager again. Brendan was a massive influence on my career and to most of us really and he's held in great respect by everyone in the dressing room. He took the club into the Premier League for the first time and will always be appreciated by the fans, staff and board members. His philosophy was unusual in many respects but when everyone saw how well it worked for us it was inevitable that a bigger club would come in for his services. He was always going to be a huge loss to the club if he left, but we knew it would happen one day.
And you'll be lining up against the ‘Welsh Xavi’, Joe Allen, hopefully too?
Joe's a great lad, a good personality and Swansea born and bred. He was a big player for us, and, like Brendan, was always likely to attract the attention of clubs that are bigger than us. None of us could begrudge him the move and when the club received the offer they did for Joe I don't think they could realistically have said no.
Do you think he can make a big impact at Liverpool?
I do. He's a player with enormous ability that was simply superb for us last season. The fact that Brendan took Joe with him to Anfield shows just how highly he regards him and I'm not at all surprised because us players all know how good he is on the ball. To be dubbed the 'Welsh Xavi' was a massive statement but he can handle it. Once he becomes even more comfortable in his new surroundings, and once the team develops the style which the manager is trying to implement, you'll all see what a player he will become for Liverpool. He's definitely good enough.
Last season Liverpool didn't score a single goal against Swansea City. Does that influence anything in this match?
Not really but we have a decent record against the big boys and will look at this as another nothing-to-lose match. We beat them 1-0 at our place, when I got the winner, and held them to a goalless draw at Anfield, which was a match I will never, ever forget. When we walked off at Anfield, the Liverpool supporters clapped us off and that's a moment that will live with me forever. To go to such a great club and to play as well as we did was brilliant alone, but for the Reds fans to recognise it by clapping us off the pitch was something very, very special. We all sat in the dressing room saying how amazing that was, and it’s one of the highlights of my career because not many teams are clapped off by the home fans in Liverpool's backyard. It doesn't get much better than that. This will be a totally new match of course but we'll give it a go and hold our heads high no matter what happens.
What will it take for Brendan Rodgers to get Liverpool playing in the Swansea style?
You can't just turn up, shout some instructions and expect the players to be able to do it. This philosophy and style takes time to mould. It's all about having belief in the system and that's something that will come as Liverpool produce more and more victories under Brendan Rodgers. It will work, I have no doubts about that, but Liverpool is a very big club and nothing changes at places like that overnight. Instant success might not come but over the long haul, they will be okay. Luckily the board seem to realise that, so I expect our old manager to be given the time he needs to implement the changes, and they will come good.
You have to have a lot of self-belief to play that way don't you?
Yes you do. This will be a new thing for many of the Liverpool players, who won't be accustomed to playing out from the back in the way that Brendan likes to. It's a shock at first, and to play fast, one-touch football all over the pitch takes a lot of belief in yourself and the players around you. Liverpool have world class players so I have no doubt they're good enough to do it. Before long, everyone will be saying they're a joy to watch.
How important is the Capital One Cup to Swansea City?
We're taking it very seriously and rightly so. You could see that from the strong side we put out at Crawley Town. We all want a long cup run and this great competition gives us an opportunity to get to Wembley for a major final. It won't be easy getting past Liverpool in this round but if we do, we'll start looking at the prospect of winning silverware which is very, very exciting. Some of the big clubs play so many matches in Europe that I can understand resting a few players but we don't have that to worry about and it could be an advantage for so-called lesser clubs like us. I want to lift a major trophy and I'd love to collect a winner's medal at Wembley, so this match against Liverpool is a very important one to me.