Ten years after the almost dropped out of the Football League and in the year of their centenary, Swansea City triumphed at Wembley to win the first major trophy in the clubs history, which will also see the club play in next season’s Europa League. The Swans journey has been a fairytale one – one that differs from their final opponents Bradford – both clubs have gone in opposite directions in the last decade.
The Bantams were simply out-classed by their Premier League opponents and while it is easy to be patronising about Bradford they could have no qualms about the result itself. However, their journey to the final itself is something that should be acknowledged – particularly the victories over three Premier League clubs: Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa. Bradford beat more top flight opposition on their cup run (3) than QPR have done in 27 games this season (2). It was Michael Laudrup who paid the League Two side the biggest compliment: “This final will remain in the history books, a small part because of us, a large part because of Bradford.”
On many levels, Swansea are the model club for Football League clubs, both on and off the field. Philosophy is a term that is continually bandied about in football these days, but Swansea are a club who have put that into practice. Kenny Jackett, Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and Brendan Rodgers have all played their part in the Swans revival, lying the foundations and now Michael Laudrup has added the finishing touches with something tangible – a trophy. The faces may have changed in the dugout but stability remains. Chairman, Huw Jenkins personifies that stability – he does not deal in knee-jerk decisions.
Laudrup, whose stock continues to rise, has been touted as a future Arsenal, Chelsea or Real Madrid manager, Swansea has played a part in his own revival as a manager. This was the Dane’s first trophy since 2005 with Brondby in his homeland. To his credit, Laudrup has added substance to Swansea’s already stylish play – the foundations were already there but a frequent criticism of the Swans last season was they lacked a killer punch, or rather passed the ball for the sake of it. Laudrup has made the club more attacking and has added his own hallmarks to the side.
Michu, Chico Flores, Jonathan de Guzman, Pablo Hernandez, Ki Sung-Yeung have all played huge parts in Swansea’s season, all of whom were signed by Laudrup. It was also a great moment for the likes of Ashley Williams, Leon Britton, Gary Monk and Angel Rangel most of whom have made the journey up the leagues with Swansea and played in yesterday’s final. Laudrup said that this was one of his most successful moments as a manager: “As a manager it’s absolutely at the top, winning a trophy for the first time in 100 years”
It was probably Leon Britton that best summed up Swansea’s success: “We did what we’ve always done: pass the football”