Swansea City - The Wait Is Nearly Over...
The long wait is soon to be over for Swansea City fans as we look forward to another season in the Championship.
With Roberto Martinez leaving to join Wigan Athletic, former QPR boss Paulo Sousa has arrived at the Liberty Stadium to take over as our new manager, so what can we expect this year with the Portuguese legend at the helm?
So far, Sousa has been impressive in his approach and has said all the right things since joining the club in June, but can he deliver the right results on the pitch? His 5-month spell at QPR is one he doesn't like to talk about and once he'd like to forget. The board of directors got too involved in his managerial responsibilites and he was sacked for revealing that Dextor Blackstock joined Nottingham Forest on loan without his knowledge.
You'd be wrong to right off his managerial potential and abilities based on his time at QPR. He wasn't given the freedom to run the club like he should and he'll be looking forward to working with a more respectful board at Swansea City Football Club.
Sousa has done it all as a player. He played for some of the best club sides in Europe including Juventus, Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan and he was won more than 50 international caps for Portugal. The fact that the Swans can attract and appoint someone with that experience and honours list just goes to show you how far we've come. Six years ago, we were moments away from preparing for the reality of non-league football but now we have our sights on possibly promotion to the Premiership within the next few years. That's a realistic aim for the future, and the likes of Burnley and Hull are our inspiration for meeting those aims.
So, the big question is, can Paulo Sousa be successful as a manager as well? So far, all the signs point to yes. We were all deflated and lacking enthusiasm following Martinez's move to Wigan but Paulo's arrival has restored that. He's a very confident manager but without the arrogance that his fellow native and friend Jose Mourihno has. He believes fully in his knowledge and ability to bring success and his first interview for the club was impressive to say the least - 'I am a special person with a lot of ambition, I aim to use all my knowledge, convictions and commitments to help the club progress and build strong foundations.
'I believe in my knowledge and what I can do for the club. My philosophy is the same as the club's and I am delighted to commit myself to Swansea because we agreed from the start about how we can get success in the Championship.
'I already know how much quality the players have. Now I need to see if they have the same will to succeed as last year. Everyone has been very friendly since I arrived and I feel the chairman and all the staff that work at the club are committed to supporting me.
'I expect commitment from everyone, because the club needs to be above every individual, from players, staff, manager, everyone; that is our philosophy.
'We want to build and important family here, where we can always be happy.'
With Martinez's exit, more departures were expected amongst the playing staff but so far we've only lost Jason Scotland, which was inevitable, and loanee Jordi Gomez. Ferrie Bodde seems keen to move on but what better mentor could he learn from that Paulo Sousa? The Dutchman could learn a lot from the new gaffer but he has no patience to wait for his chance at playing in the Premier League.
If he was to leave, and some fans wouldn't see it as a huge loss due to his lack of loyalty to the club that gave him his big opportunity over here in English Football, we have a replacement in Jordi Lopez - Sousa's only signing so far. The Spaniard possesses excellent passing ability and looks very composed and comfortable in possession and is most likely to play an important role this season.
Sousa is also still looking for a replacement for striker Jason Scotland. Stephen Dobbie arrived on a free from Queen of the South and Gorka Pintado is fully fit again, but the new boss wants to add another forward to his squad. Defenders have also been targeted, and two new players before the end of the transfer window would complete Sousa's squad for the season ahead.
After a very respectful 8th position last season, Sousa is aiming for a top 10 finish in 2010 rather than looking to improve on last year's efforts. Some could say that is lacking ambition but it's a realistic target. The second season in a new League is always difficult, and the Championship will be a lot more competive this year with the likes of Newcastle United, Middlesbrough, West Brom, Reading and Sheffield United all looking for promotion to the Premiership. Nearly half the sides in the division have the potential to win promotion, whether it's automatic or via the play-offs so consistency will be the key. Paulo is looking to see what level the club and his squad is at this year and he wants to consolidate us as a top-10 Championship side.
The pressure won't be on Sousa this year. The board or the fans aren't demanding success from the Portuguese and a finish around 9th-12th will be a very respectful one in a tough League.
The long wait is finally over and here's to 9 months of excellent football from the Swans!