Swansea City - Our Identity/Season Review 2003-11
Swansea City has always been a secret haven if you wish, an underrated city overshadowed by the success of a team always regarded as the smaller team to quote a certain 'Sam Hamman`.
Since the fateful fixture against Hull in 2003 the team has gradually been put on the map, new stadium, new players but the core remains. Every team needs a Garry Monk, Leon Britton to remind the new players of where they are. The name James Thomas is down in folklore but there`s a new hero in Scott Sinclair, such different players but same ideology, to succeed.
As opposed to our neighbours we didn`t have to flex our financial muscle and bring in gifted individuals we chose to focus on group dynamic, teamwork and just general dedication for one another, and this proved dividend.
Kenny Jackett was the catalyst of things to come he got the ball rolling and perhaps had the hardest job of all of getting the team out of the depths of league two and into league one that`s the first sign of progress. Players like Leon Knight, Lee Trundle, Andy Robinson were the first players in and remarkably out soon after but they started the transformation. Soon were they out the door as was the manager who then went on to Millwall, as we know.
Then came to time of Roberto Martinez an ex-player which a certain brand of football. Many think he was the one who set the Swans on their way with his brand of 'Sexy Football` so to speak, across the floor neat passes, a foreign influence, which hardly became accustomed, in English football.
Many thought the Swans couldn`t play their way out of League 1 and they were proved wrong time and time again as they dominated the division particularly to the dislike of a certain Leeds United.
The Championship a different proposition all together over the years the standard has increased, every team has their own strengths/ideas about how to play the game and many skilled players perhaps playing below their level.
The first season in the division proved prosperous, favourites for the drop and finishing a meritable 8th place just outside the playoffs but unbelievable considering they just came up, almost securing an FA cup match against the mighty Manchester United was almost on the cards if not for agony of missed chances. The season was a success with beating Cardiff and Forest and crowds of over 16,000 were the start of things to come.
Then came the change in dynamic, Roberto Martinez had left fresh from a successful recovery in English football to join a higher force in the premiership he can be forgiven by some but not by all of the Jack Army.
A new manager in the form of Paulo Sousa, regarded in the same vein as Mr Mourinho with his suave appearances and once again he carried on the aspirations of Roberto but changed the emphasis from attack to defence which struggled to catch on the Swansea crowd, many times it went forward then back and averaging a goal per game was not doing much for the crowd and everyone involved.
Yet it proved successful with a finish of 7th and if perhaps they had put away more games when they tried, the playoffs were in reach especially on the last day of the season against Doncaster, we were beating clubs above our level almost doing the double over the arch rivals being a highlight, Swansea were officially on the rise and teams were starting to notice, Opportunity missed.
Swansea City by now was suffering every emotion possible, from success to sadness all in the same season all we needed was a bit of stability we had it from the chairman but not from the manager and again after one season Paulo chose the door for Leicester City which proved an unfruitful spell and he became redundant soon after. Wrong club, wrong time.
Wheels in motion again how much more of this could we have great things which lead to disappointment, The search for the manager this time was more methodical but still trying to keep the same ethos, Speed was linked, so was Coleman but in the end Rodgers was the decision and rightly so despite his background his eye for players and his method of football was relevant to the Swans. His 4-3-3 formation or 4-2-3-1 the Barca/Arsenal look was successful here for years so carry on the winning formula.
Leon Britton who arrived in 2003 to help the club from relegation had just left for Sheffield United the signs were ominous a crucial component had left without word, The manager acted swiftly and brought in a player he regarded highly in Scott Sinclair, A Chelsea youngster for the England Under 21s blessed with two great feet and an eye for goal a proper marquee signing which the swans hadn`t seen before. He finished the season with 19 goals in the league which for a winger is highly impressive.
The season didn`t start off well as expected but slowly picked up results and the team was into the same ethos of teamwork and dedication and this proved as results from Cardiff, Watford and Burnley were coming in great. Brendan Rogers spoke about turning the Liberty into a fortress and for a few months up until the game against Bristol City in November a shy 1-0 defeat this was happening teams didn`t want to get passed out of the Liberty.
At this point going into Christmas and beyond we were up in the 2nd place margin or even 3rd or 4th but that was still unbelievable and a testament to the manager again. Then the team went through a lull after January with players wanting to go, Darren Pratley etc. and players were doing brilliant at the Liberty but away from it there was no Plan B a different methodical approach and we were getting beaten by the teams we should have been putting away which proved the turning point in us not getting automatics.
The end of the season was perhaps my highlight of the last 8 years beating the likes of Norwich, Forest and Leeds in front of the Sky cameras just shows us how far we have come and we played them off the park there was no hiding place for them.
The pundits were talking us up but of course the team kept a low profile as usual. We finished a respectable 3rd in the Championship on the last day overcoming the enemy so to speak which allowed bragging rights into our side, but was this a ploy by Dave Jones (Cardiff Manager) to let us play Forest in the Lottery that is the playoffs.
I as a Swans fan was not excited but not nervous by the prospect of playing Forest but they were bang in form and I think the away game to Millwall on the penultimate day of the season really helped us through that with our first away win in ages coming at a crucial time this was the foundation of our success.
Millwall as we know is hostile territory just like the City Ground, which we found out. My first impression of the away game seeing young Neil Taylor go off with a red I was first off very angry and displeased but arguable a yellow would have sufficed in fairness. This left the Swans with around 80 minutes with 10 men which was difficult in the lower leagues but at this level almost unbelievable and yet they did it and were unlucky not to perhaps win, finally an away performance not seen in the light before, this I believe won us the playoffs the team and character displayed was almost unrecognisable from recent weeks.
Drawing 0-0 there was a result which put the Swans in the driving seat and with the atmosphere and a full house at the Liberty in the home leg managed to come through 3-1 not helped by a certain Robert Earnshaw who had to make his name known.
At 2-1 they were dominant and as that fateful corner swung in you couldn`t hear a pin drop and yet as the ball broke and Darren put the ball in the net from halfway the sense of relief was unparalleled, the burden had been lifted from Swansea. Going into the final at Wembley would never have been imagined in 2003 but shows the great strides the club have overcame with adversity and decision making not helping our cause.
To go to Wembley with 40,000 of the Jack Army made the team and no doubt me proud as they played within an inch of their lives and at 3-0 up thanks to Sinclair and Dobbie you could feel the Premiership within our grasp and not even a Reading onslaught could stop what was always coming in the Welsh district.
Scott Sinclair may have been the hero that day but fans will always remember Garry Monk`s block at 3-2 which saved the game and sent the team into euphoria. It`s been a magnificent 8 years and I wouldn`t want to support anyone else, the trials and tribulations we have had to overcome has been worth it, and no team has a faithful army in numbers like the Jacks do, and we have proved that money doesn`t buy you anything but hard work and a bit of graft does.
Many thanks to Daniel John for the article. Hopefully we'll see more of Daniel's articles on the website in the near future.