Pablo Hernandez ready to shine at Swansea City
PABLO Hernandez reckons he is ready to thrive at Swansea City after his starring role in the weekend win at West Bromwich Albion.
Hernandez has struggled for consistency during his first 12 months at the Liberty Stadium.
But the former Valencia man delivered the kind of performance which explains why Michael Laudrup stumped up £5.55 million to bring him to Wales as Swansea beat the Baggies.
Hernandez teed up one goal and scored another to ensure Laudrup's team got their Premier League season up and running.
The 28-year-old also rattled the Hawthorns woodwork on a day when his quality in the final third shone through.
Yet only three days earlier, Hernandez had endured a frustrating night as Swansea were humbled by Petrolul Ploiesti.
Such contrasting performances went some way to telling the story of Hernandez's first year as a Swansea player.
At times he has been excellent, on other occasions he has struggled to make an impact.
Part of the problem last season was a run of injuries which hampered Hernandez's progress.
Now the four-cap Spanish international hopes more regular action in 2013-14 will allow him to produce his best form.
"I had some good games last season, but this year I think I will be better if I have more regular games," Hernandez says.
"I think I can help the team by scoring more goals, and scoring at West Brom and getting a victory is very good for my confidence.
"Now is the time for some recovery because we don't have a game for two weeks.
"Then we have got a big week with Liverpool and Valencia."
The mouth will water throughout the international break at the prospect of what awaits when Swansea return to action.
First comes to chance to take a domestic scalp when Brendan Rodgers's Liverpool, the early Premier League leaders, come to the Liberty on Monday, September 16.
In what must go down as one of the most eye-catching weeks in the history of the club, Swansea then kick off the Europa League group phase with a game against Valencia at the Mestalla.
It promises to be quite an occasion for all concerned, but none more so than Hernandez.
Born and raised near Valencia, he spent the best part of a decade at the club — there were brief spells away, including one under Laudrup at Getafe — before leaving for Swansea.
Hernandez will be going home when Swansea fly out to Spain in a couple of weeks' time.
And he is relishing the prospect following Sunday's pressure-easing victory in the Black Country.
"We are all very happy because we needed to win that game after starting the season with two losses against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur," Hernandez adds.
"We needed the three points before the international break and the team worked hard to win the game.
"Before the game the manager told the team that the three points were very important.
"To have zero points from three games would have not been good for the team.
"It would not have been easy for us with our confidence.
"But the win is good news for the confidence of everyone around the club."
Swansea's win was timely given that they have a couple of weeks without a game — and that the tricky fixtures keep on coming right now.
There is no shame in defeat to either United or Spurs, while the Albion trip did not look easy on the back of the two reverses.
Yet Laudrup's men outplayed their hosts last weekend and were well worth a victory which might have been much more comfortable.
Steve Clarke's claim that West Brom had played some good football and only missed out due to a lack of cutting edge was weak.
In fact Swansea were short of their best in the final third and, had they been sharper, the home side could have been humiliated.
Thanks to some disappointing finishing, Laudrup could not relax until Hernandez steered home Michu's pull-back seven minutes from the end. Hernandez's fourth Swansea goal — and his first since Queens Park Rangers were thumped in February — rounded off a fine afternoon after his cross had picked out Ben Davies to volley Swansea into the lead.
"I'm happy because I could help the team with one goal and one assist," Hernandez says.
"It's not important if I score or if Ben scores, what is important is that the team win the match. And this match was more important because we don't have another for a while.
"We needed to react well after losing the first two games and we did that."
And so the focuses switches to Liverpool — and a chance for Hernandez to find the target once more.
He will never be a prolific goalscorer, but accepts that last season's tally of three goals in 36 appearances ought to be bettered this term.
"I think seven or eight goals is a good mark for a midfielder," Hernandez declares.
"I think and score more, and that would be good for me."
Meanwhile, Jazz Richards has withdrawn from the Wales squad to face Macedonia and Serbia.
The defender was called up by Chris Coleman after teammate Neil Taylor pulled out with a thigh problem.
Wales play Macedonia in Skopje on Friday before Serbia visit the Cardiff City Stadium four days later.
Swansea captain Ashley Williams and left-back Ben Davies are expected to feature in both matches.
Richards will be replaced by Cardiff's Declan John, while Newcastle defender Paul Dummett comes in for Neil Eardley, who is also injured.