Michel Vorm claims he was a 'nobody' before Swansea signed him
MICHEL Vorm claims he was a "nobody" before Swansea City signed him last year.
It may be a slight exaggeration for a player who had already been capped by Holland, but it certainly required some diligent scouting for the Swans to prise this goalkeeping gem away from Utrecht.
Just over a year later and Vorm, who signed a new four-year contract with Swansea yesterday, has proven himself to be a revelation in South Wales.
The Dutchman was named player of the season during a sparkling first campaign at the Liberty Stadium, and tying him down with a new contract was a priority for the Swans.
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The 28-year-old is thought to have attracted interest from a number of the Premier League's heavyweights, but he insists leaving Swansea has never been a real possibility.
"Not one club came to Swansea or my agent to say 'we want to buy Michel'," Vorm says.
"After a good season people talk about things and you never know if it is true, and in this case there was no club to come for me with a bag of money to buy me.
"I signed a new deal especially because I want to play here and stay here for a longer period.
"The way we played last season and the way I played was a part of the good atmosphere and the way I was feeling here. That was very important for me.
"Also my family enjoy staying here in Swansea very much, and it was very important for me to look forward to the next few years.The future of the club is very bright."
Vorm's success in the Premier League has made Swansea an unlikely hit with fans in Holland.
The former Utrecht man says his friends and international team-mates watch the Swans regularly, admiring the passing style which echoes the philosophy of great Holland and Ajax sides of the past.
Vorm also reckons playing in Britain's top flight has enhanced his chances of adding to his nine Holland caps.
"The Dutch Eredivisie is a good platform to play on, but the attention you get in the Premier League as a player, particularly if you do well, the recognition is very big," he says.
"That's why I'm very proud of what I did last season because I was nobody when I came in.
"I'm still thankful to Brendan Rodgers who brought me in for £1.75 million — I hope I'm worth more than that now!"
Fresh from committing his future to the Swans, Vorm's next assignment will be tomorrow's daunting trip to face Stoke.
The goalkeeper missed last season's 2-0 defeat at the Britannia Stadium through illness but, fit and ready this time, he could hold the key to Swansea's hopes tomorrow.
When Swansea were searching for a goalkeeper to replace Dorus de Vries in the summer of 2011, the criteria for the new man concerned more than handling skills alone.
The heir to de Vries's throne had to be confident with the ball at his feet, a player capable of keeping possession well enough to fit Swansea's passing style of play.
They identified Vorm as the ideal candidate, a Dutch international with an eye for a pass as well as a sixth sense for saving penalties.
The 28-year-old enjoyed a stellar first term at the Liberty, making a string of spectacular saves and adapting impressively to Swansea's fluid approach.
His passing ability will be brought into focus tomorrow, as Swansea face a Stoke side whose direct style could hardly be in starker contrast to Michael Laudrup's ethos.
There is no point in trying to combat Tony Pulis's side in terms of physicality — teams who engage in a wrestling match at the Britannia Stadium will usually be pummelled into submission.
"It's a different kind of game when you play against Stoke," Vorm says.
"You train a bit differently when you know you will face a lot of long balls into the box.
"Set-pieces are the hardest part. Stoke probably have the tallest and biggest players in the Premier League, and I think we have some of the smallest.
"It's not going to be easy but, if we do what we can do and work hard, it's not impossible."
Swansea will attempt to outplay and outmanoeuvre the Potters, and that will be their best chance of claiming victory in Staffordshire.
As Victor Valdes does for Barcelona, Vorm operates like a sweeper behind his central defenders.
Although the Dutchman may not have players of Gerard Pique or Xavi's quality to supply, those in front of him are more than comfortable in possession.
As a result, Vorm's passing success rate so far this season is 79.1 per cent, the best in the Premier League for a goalkeeper.
Only two other stoppers who have played more than three top-flight games this term can boast success rates of more than 70 per cent, Manchester United's Anders Lindegaard and Pepe Reina, who plays for Liverpool under former Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers.
Vorm's assured distribution lays the foundation for the Swans' intricate possession game.
His ball retention is one of the reasons why the likes of Ashley Williams (92.4 per cent) and Leon Britton (93.1 per cent) have similarly impressive pass completion stats.
Keeping the ball to this extent is both an attacking weapon and a highly effective way of frustrating opponents, who cannot threaten without possession.
Stoke, conversely, only rarely require their goalkeeper to pass rather than clear.
Their current first-choice stopper Asmir Begovic has a pass success rate of just 47.8 per cent so far this season, as he is asked to play long balls into the opponents' half.
It is no surprise that Begovic's passing stats do not compare favourably with Vorm's, but those attributed to Stoke's playmakers might raise eyebrows.
Statistically, Vorm's distribution is even more accurate than two of Stoke's most creative midfielders, Charlie Adam (78. 9) and Glenn Whelan (76.1).
Stoke will pose a formidable challenge tomorrow — many consider the Britannia to be one of the Premier League's most intimidating grounds.
The odds will be stacked against Swansea but, if Vorm and his team-mates can play with their usual accuracy and panache, they could emerge from the Potters' lair with pride and points intact.