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Around about ten years ago, anybody who would have guessed that lowly Swansea City would be a Premier League side would have gained some funny looks. It was something which was a million miles away as the Welsh side sat propping up all four of the top divisions; the first agenda was keeping themselves in the football league.
Fans of the Swans would have been somewhat forgiven for thinking the worst when it came to their beloved club back in 2001. Performances on the pitch were also met with rumblings in the boardroom in relation to the club’s precarious position financially. However, doom and gloom was eventually eradicated thanks to the players securing the team’s football league safety and a bunch of supporters along with former Swans stalwart Mel Nurse in purchasing the club.
In the years that passed, Swansea City climbed out of the bottom division and then also went about winning promotion from the now known Npower League One. The run-down, old Vetch Field was replaced by the stylish Liberty Stadium and at this point it was clear to see that the club were on the rise. It was not all plain sailing for the Swans however, with managers coming and going from the Liberty.
On the 24th February Roberto Martinez was appointed as the new manager and after a while in charge, many fans believed that they had finally found the man who was right for the club, a former Swansea player who is a stickler for free flowing attacking football. But it was perhaps this attacking brand of football that ultimately led to Martinez’s departure to another one of his former sides, Wigan Athletic, with the lure of Premiership football proving too good to turn down.
It was back to the dreaded drawing board for those at the top of the City hierarchy and it was eventually deemed that another foreign manager was the right way to go, with Paulo Sousa of Portugal taking the reins. In the early days the appointment was seen as a masterstroke, with the former Queens Park Rangers manager masterminding the highest league finish for 27 years (7th), just one place outside of the playoff places.
But Swansea were once again met with a similar situation to that of Roberto Martinez’s. Sousa departed the Liberty Stadium in July 2010 by mutual consent, eventually paving the way for his move to Championship rivals Leicester City. With the Welsh club once again looking for a new boss, the task of progressing Swansea City was put in the assured hands of Brendan Rodgers. The decision was originally met with raised eyebrows from many of the City faithful, mainly because of Rodgers’ poor record at Reading, another side in the same division.
But the Northern Irishman quickly went to work at his new team and set about making Swansea better. One of his acts at the club was to bring in winger Scott Sinclair from Premier League side Chelsea. Sinclair, who had played for eight different clubs before he was even twenty years old, was initially seen as an expensive risk but his performances on the pitch proved the manager’s faith in spending the money on him.
He went on to score an excellent twenty-eight goals in the second tier of English football. But it is not arguable what Rodgers’ greatest achievement at Swansea was and that was winning the 2011 playoff final at Wembley, propelling the club to the dizzy heights of top flight football for the first time since 1983.
When questioned about the uprising of the club Rodgers stated ‘years ago the club couldn’t even pay the electricity bill at the Vetch which is absolutely incredible if you look that we have just won the £90 million game.’ And it is this quote that perhaps goes the best way in describing the dramatic rise of the Welsh club.
Their first season in the prestigious Premiership was really something special. Not only were they the first ever team from Wales to kick off any Premier League campaign and not only did they make a profit of £14.6 million but they also finished in a very respectable 11th place. The Swans also managed to beat Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and champions elect Manchester City along the way, earning the applause of clubs up and down the length the country.
After Brendan Rodgers’ departure to giants Liverpool, the Swansea board members were in an all too familiar position of trying to name yet another new manager. Michael Laudrup was the man set upon in relation to progressing the club even further, something which many pundits doubted could actually happen. Laudrup boasts an impressive CV, with a whole host of trophies including a Danish title with Brondby. He also has good records at both Getafe and Real Mallorca who play in the Spanish La Liga.
His style of play was something which made him first choice for the Swans, with his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation often gaining praise from many throughout the global game. His appointment on the 15th June 2012 was met with a real sense of excitement throughout the city but there was still a small concern whether he could emulate the successes that Brendan Rodgers had brought to the once debt-ridden club.
Fast forward to the present day and all of those doubts are completely forgotten, this being mainly down to the club’s brilliant Capital One Cup capture. Less than a week ago, Laudrup’s team smashed League Two Bradford City 5-0 at Wembley in order to win the accolade which was previously known as the Carling Cup. The win was Swansea’s first major trophy in their 100 year history, a fitting tribute to mark such an anniversary and Dane Laudrup was quoted as saying that ‘as a manger it’s absolutely at the top, winning a trophy for the first time in 100 years.’
Many football experts cannot believe the rise of Swansea, even since Laudrup’s appointment, the club have gone from strength to strength. Playing a brand of football which has the rest of the league purring with envious glances has also allowed arguably, for better players to join the team. Jonathon De Guzman joined from Villareal, whilst versatile Korean Ki Sung-Yeung arrived from Glasgow Celtic. Defender Chico Flores and midfielder Pablo Hernandez were brought in from Mallorca and Valencia respectively but without question the signing of the summer for the club was the capture of Spaniard Michu.
The striker has blown away defences this season and notched an impressive goals total which has left people wondering how long he will remain a Swansea City player. However, his recent new contract should hopefully fend off any of those tempted to make an audacious bid.
More importantly, the Swansea board members will be hoping that they are not once again left with the task of finding another new manager of their side, but it is unrealistic to think that many bigger clubs will not have their eyes firmly on 48 year old Michael Laudrup. Something which will go a long way in calming fans’ nerves are the words ‘I have no ambition to become the manager of a big club’ with him going on to say that he couldn’t have done everything he had for the last ten years and to then be fired after around nine months for not delivering trophies.
If Swansea can hold onto their talisman and add yet even more quality to their ever improving side, who can go against a claim that European football may be a realistic target in the not too distant future?