TheHardTackle is looking at the three teams promoted to the Premier League. With the top two, Queens Park Rangers and Norwich City already covered, we now take a look at the third and final team to gain promotion, the play-off winners…
SWANSEA CITY FC
Nickname(s): The Swans
Ground: Liberty Stadium (Att 20,500)
Brendan Rodgers – With his playing career cut short at 20 years of age, Rodgers took his first coaching steps with Reading’s youth team. A switch to Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea saw Rodgers impress in a similar role, before being promoted to reserve team manager. His first managerial role came at Watford, before he returned to Reading as first team boss. However, poor results meant that he only lasted 6 months before getting the sack. In July 2010, Swansea gave Rodgers another chance. The gamble paid off as Rodgers’ team gained promotion to the Premier League.
Bought for £1 in July 2001, seven months later debts were so high that they were 24 hours from going out of business. Saved by a local consortium of supporters and ex-player Mel Nurse, a remarkable turnaround, led by Chairman Huw Jenkins, now sees Swansea in a healthy state having posted a profit of nearly £600,000 last year. Their finances would have been boosted further with victory in the Play-off final, with a reported £90m – the cash prize for promotion!
Swansea’s main derby is the South-Wales derby with enemies Cardiff City. Bristol City and Bristol Rovers are the next nearest rivals. But as Swansea are the first non-English side in the Premier League, every game will inevitably turn into a Wales v England affair.
Formed in 1912, Swansea’s first 65 years were spent yo-yoing between the lower English divisions. As a Welsh club in the English league, Swansea were able to enter the cup competitions of both countries. In the English FA Cup, their best run was in 1964 when they reached the semi-final for the second time, beating the mighty Liverpool at Anfield along the way. They had more success in the Welsh Cup, winning it on numerous occasions.
In 1977, Fourth Division Swansea appointed 28-year old former Liverpool striking legend John Toshack as their manager. Appointed at the start of March, Toshack guided the Swans into 3rd place and promotion to the third Division. The following season, another 3rd place finish meant promotion to the Second division for the first time in 14 years.
1979/80 saw Swansea establish themselves in the second tier, before a promotion push a year later. A 3-1 win away at Preston on May 2, 1981 confirmed Swansea’s place in England’s top division. In just 4 seasons, they had remarkably gone from the fourth division to the first.
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, their opening game in the first division, against Leeds United, resulted in a 5-1 success thanks to Bob Latchford’s hat-trick. Incredibly, they were top of the league. But it was no fluke, as victories over giants Liverpool, Manchester United, Spurs and Arsenal put them top on further occasions. But injuries to key players eventually meant the side finished at a respectable sixth position in the league.
Kicking off in the big league again!
The rise through the divisions had been quick; the fall was just as rapid. Poor signings, bad form and financial problems meant relegation in each of the next two seasons. Toshack paid the price for his failings.
A bigger fight was ensuing off the pitch though as financial debts meant they were wound up by a court order in December 1985. Eventually, local businessman Doug Sharpe came to the rescue to secure the club’s future.
Their fall back to where they had started was complete with relegation to the Fourth division in 1986. In 8 years, Swansea had gone from the Fourth to the First division, then back again!
1988 saw another promotion, then a period of eight years in the third tier ensued, until relegation in 1995/96 saw them in the now Third division (the Premier League was now the top division).
Financial problems returned with the club 24 hours from liquidation in 2001, but a local consortium saved the day again. On the pitch, two narrow escapes stopped the club slipping out of the Football League.
In 2003/04, Kenny Jackett replaced Brian Flynn as manager, and in his second season, after a number of defensive buys, a 3rd place finish saw promotion gained. Year 2005 saw Swansea leave their Vetch Field home and head to the new surroundings of the Liberty Stadium, which they share with Rugby Union club – The Ospreys.
In their first season back in League One as it was now called, Swansea finished 6th, then reached the play-off final where they lost on penalties to Barnsley. Jackett resigned halfway through the next season, replaced by former player Roberto Martinez. The Spaniard missed out on the play-offs, but in his first full season, guided the team to a massive 92 points as the title and promotion was won.
Martinez, who was snapped up by Premier League club Wigan, was replaced by Paulo Sousa. An eighth-place finish was achieved, before Sousa left for Leicester City. In came Brendan Rodgers, who guided Swansea to 3rd place and the play-offs, where victory over Reading booked the Swans their passage to the top flight.
SEASON 2010/11 – A BRIEF REVIEW
Following the resignation of manager Paulo Sousa, Brendan Rodgers was appointed manager in July 2010. Shortly after, young winger Scott Sinclair was snapped up from Chelsea. The pair would go on to have an unbelievable first season at the Liberty Stadium.
The opening 8 games of the season saw 4 home wins and 4 away defeats. A turnaround then ensued, as points became hard to come by at home, but easy away with 5 wins out of the next 6 games on the road, including a 1-0 victory at rivals Cardiff.
By the turn of the year, the Swans were third in the table, level on points with second place Cardiff, but seven points behind leaders QPR. The foundations for their success were built on a strong defence; they would go on to have the second best defensive record in the league. Key to this was Welsh International defender Ashley Williams who was in imperious form.
Scott Sinclair – player of the season!
Added to this, they played attractive attacking football. Both full-backs, Angel Rangel and Neil Taylor, bombed forward at every opportunity. In midfield, youngster Joe Allen and Leon Britton were comfortable in possession, with Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair the pacy outlets on the wing. Up front, Stephen Dobbie, Luke Moore and latterly loan signing Fabio Borini, all chipped in with goals, although Sinclair would go on to be top scorer.
The new year saw a continuation of the good form, with Swansea never leaving the top 4. Despite a few wobbles in April, they managed to finish the season strongly with three wins on the bounce, resulting in a third-place finish and a meeting with Nottingham Forest in the Play-Off’s.
The first leg at the City Ground couldn’t have started any worse for Rodgers’ men as left-back Taylor received his marching orders within 90 seconds. But a spirited performance earned a 0-0 draw. In the second leg, Swansea’s attacking flair blew Forest away. They were on their way to Wembley.
Backed by tens of thousands of fans, a Scott Sinclair hat-trick and a Stephen Dobbie goal gave the Swans a 4-2 victory to become the first Welsh Club to appear in the Premier League.
Player of the Season:
Goalkeeper Dorius de Vries and central defender Ashley Williams both played every league game of the season proving to be the backbone to the Swans’ brilliant defence. Youngster Joe Allen impressed in midfield, whilst Nathan Dyer provided pace, skill and effort from the right wing.
But there can be no doubt about the player of the season; Scott Sinclair. The young winger, signed from Chelsea in August 2010 for a bargain £500,000, topped the scoring charts with 24 goals from all competitions. His pace, directness and skill, gave Swansea an outlet so often when under pressure. In the biggest stage of all, the Play-Off Final, Sinclair stepped up to the plate scoring a hat-trick, two of which were calmly taken penalties. The England Under-21 international is now one of the hottest properties in the country and will be the key to the Swans’ Premier League fortunes.
Performance of the Season:
Down to ten men within a minute, Swansea hung on for a spirited Play-Off first leg 0-0 draw at the City Ground. The second leg at the Liberty Stadium was a winner takes all battle and Swansea responded in fine style with a 3-1 success over Nottingham Forest. The woodwork had already been struck by both teams before Leon Britton sent a left-foot drive into the Forest net.
Soon after, it was two, as Stephen Dobbie brilliantly waltzed his way through the visitors’ defence before arrowing a low shot into the bottom corner. The second half saw end-to-end excitement, with Forest pulling a goal back. In injury time, with Forest throwing goalkeeper Lee Camp up for a corner, the ball broke to Swansea’s Darren Pratley, who advanced before his shot from the halfway line made the game safe. It was a brilliant goal, a brilliant way to round off Swansea’s performance of the season.
PREMIER LEAGUE 2011/12
TheHardTackle’s Players to Watch Out For:
Swansea’s success is built on a strong rearguard in the form of goalkeeper Dorius de Vries and Welsh International defender Ashley Williams. Attacking wise, Swansea like to play with plenty of pace and width to their play, so it is imperative that Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair adapt to Premier League life quickly. Top-scorer Sinclair will be relied upon to again score goals, but the burden will be shared by new signing Danny Graham.
TheHardTackle’s Potential Signings:
Knowing goals are even more vital in the Premier League, championship top-scorer Danny Graham has already arrived in a £3.5m deal. Rumours are abound that experienced forward Eidur Gudjohnsen will follow suit, along with Barcelona B forward Jonathan Soriano, a striker who netted 30 goals last season. A stunning move to capture veteran Spanish International midfielder Marcos Senna has also been mooted. After the success of Chelsea’s striker Fabio Borini, manager Rodgers will again be looking to utilise the loan market as he looks to shore up his defence.
TheHardTackle’s Season Prediction:
Swansea’s first taste of Premier League football will be a difficult one. A finish anywhere outside of the bottom three will be heralded as a success. If they can maintain their strong defence, we believe they have enough pace, creativity and goals in their attack to cause teams problems. The only Welsh club to ever appear in the Premier League, we can see Swansea doing their country proud by finishing 17th and thus, escaping relegation.
Written by guest author – Robert Nevitt – http://rnevitt.blogspot.com/
Follow the author on twitter @rnevitt