by Kieran Davies
With Michael Laudrup taking the reins at the Liberty Stadium after Brendan Rodgers decision to ply his trade at Anfield, it seems a good time to look at this growing Welsh club. The rise of Swansea City in footballing circles has been very quick, but what pivotal change or appointment turned this club from a club haemorrhaging money in the lower leagues to a financially stable Premiership outfit raising eyebrows with opposing fans and pundits alike. Most people in South Wales will tell you it is the infrastructure Roberto Martinez implemented in his time there. That baton was then taken from him by Paulo Sousa who ran with it before handing it Brendan Rodgers who crossed the finishing line. But then without Brendan Rodgers would people still be praising the infrastructure of Martinez’s reign?
Granted it was plain to see that Roberto brought a European style of passing football to a side that used to pride itself on the ‘big man upfront’ . He also brought his own backroom staff and ethos and where financially possible players to implement his tactics. He nearly had instant success with the limited amount of time he had when he took over but the play offs eluded them. The following season they went up as champions and their style of football was turning heads. Despite promotion Swansea couldn’t keep their manager from the clutches of a Premiership club and lost him and 4 backroom staff that summer.
Evidently the Latin theme to things at Swansea was popular as Paulo Sousa replaced Martinez. He seemed to take things forward with the Welsh side finishing in its highest league finish for 27 years when they narrowly missed out on the playoffs in 7th place. The paint had barely dried on the sign on the manager’s door, when yet another manager was getting itchy feet and thinking of ventures elsewhere. Club and manager agreed to terminate his contract and he moved on to Leicester. That was the moment when Huw Jenkins decided to take a gamble on a relatively unknown Irishman with a glowing reference from a certain Jose Mourinho. The jury was out in South Wales.
By the following April there was no jury, they weren’t out anywhere the future was bright, the future was Brendan. After a win in the Play Off Final the Swans players planned a summer of texts from friends asking for tickets for big games. Jamie Redknapp and co beckoned in the Barclays Premier League. The winners of the most lucrative game in sport are always favourites with the bookies to go straight back down. By Christmas, the talk around South Wales was more about a second season in the Premier League. The team and its passing philosophy was making waves throughout football, with their midfield schemer being talked about in the same breath as the likes of Iniesta and Xavi when it came to passing stats. Their football was being likened to Barcelona. Now I think even Brendan cringed when he heard this but appreciate the sentiment in the compliment never the less. The Swans comfortably finished 11th in the league which is a remarkable effort and gained a lot of admirers with the way they went about it. Not so much the smash and grab of a Blackpool but the confidence of an established Premier League outfit.
So as things stand Swansea look forward to a new Premier League season. The fans seem happy with appointment of Laudrup. Is this more to do with his reputation as a player than a manager though? Yes, both he and his brother were wonderful players but as far as his managerial career with the exception of Brondby, all of his other tenures seem that short some may have wondered whether he was just on a package holiday. He has form for going into clubs that have asset stripped and sold all of their wanted resources and not being someone who demands of the owners. As a player he would have fitted into any side who employed Swansea’s passing philosophy but as a manager? It might be worth Swansea fans checking the duration of his tenancy agreement when he finds somewhere to live, but they seem happy with the addition.
So the question will still remain, who is responsible for Swansea’s rise, was it Martinez’s infrastructure, Sousa’s attacking flair or Rodger’s ‘total-football’? Only time will really tell, Laudrup has big boots to fill and the bar has been set high by his predecessors. The Premier League is not a forgiving beast so he will need to hit the ground running. Whether Swansea will manage to hold on to all of their stars or whether the lure of a big club may too much for some as it was for their manager, they will need to be ready for the challenges ahead. They are in a very good place at the moment in terms of revenue/finances/playing staff/facilities but Premier League status is not something that can be taken for granted. There is a big season ahead as for any club replacing a manager, optimism is the mindset needed and the league table come May 2013 won’t be telling any lies.