Daniel James examines the meteoric rise of the Swans over the last ten years.
How was it that a small Welsh team on the verge of exiting the football league ascended so rapidly to stardom and international renown?
A lot of praise must firstly be given to the chairman Huw Jenkins. Jenkins has been the fundamental component of the Swansea fairytale. A lifelong fan who was born in Skewen, Jenkins assumed control of a club that was in dire straits, both on and off the pitch.
The turn around since then has been such that Jenkins was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree at Swansea University in 2012, and recently scooped an OBE for his services to Welsh football in June. With young talent being nurtured and developed on the training ground in Swansea, the national team has received a major boost and has risen to 10th place in the latest FIFA world rankings, something that would have been far more unlikely had Swansea not become a permanent fixture in the upper echelons of British football.
Jenkins has kept his feet on the ground remarkably well considering his success. When asked why it was him who assumed control of the Swans, he jokingly stated that ‘I was the only one dull enough to do it.’ Swansea had to beat Hull City on the last day of the 2002-2003 season to avoid relegation from the football league and were mired with crippling debts. One could forgive Jenkins for joking about the severity of the situation in his early role.
“At the time the club was in a right mess,” said Jenkins. “There are no other words to describe it.”
“We just went in and tried our best to try and work our way through it. We had to look for money week-in, week-out to pay the electric and water bills.
“I was the dullest one and that’s why I said ‘yes’ [to becoming chairman]at the time and looking back, nobody knew how it was going to turn out.
“But we quietly grew from there and luckily enough we are where we are today.”
In particular, Jenkins has instilled an ethos in the club whereby he wants the team to play attractive football- much of which is instrumental to the plaudits the club has gained over the past decade.
His shrewd appointment of managers has perhaps been the most instrumental factor in the team’s development.
From Kenny Jacket guiding the Swans into the Championship, Martinez who helped to install the ‘Swanselona’ passing game that we are familiar with, Laudrup who guided Swansea to be the first Welsh team to win an English League cup, and Garry Monk who had a sensational first season in charge; Jenkins sure knows how to pick his managers to fit his vision and club philosophy.
The modesty of Jenkins to put his management of the club down to ‘luck’ is a telling testament to his character. He has overseen the transition from the old Division 3 to the Premier League as well as a switch of stadiums from the Vetch field near the sea in the Sandfields, to the lavish modern facilities of the Liberty.
The Swans occupied the Vetch Field since their humble origins as Swansea Town in 1912 until the 2004-2005 season. The final game at the Vetch saw the Swansea beat Wrexham in the FAW Premier Cup Final, and whilst this was a commendable achievement it is nevertheless a stark contrast to contemporary glory and the announcement that the Swans are now amongst the top 30 earning clubs in the world.
There was, despite the antiquated facilities, a romance to the Vetch stadium encapsulated by Roger Evans in the old favorite ‘Take me to the Vetch Field.’ It was part of a history of the team that will never be forgotten.
Players who helped the team to where it is today will also be remembered.
Legends such as Garry Monk, Leon Britton, Alan Tate, Lee Trundle, Ashley Williams, Roger Freestone, Ivor Allchurch, Leighton James and Ferrie Bodde all deserve recognition amongst others as legends to don the white of Swansea who all played a massive part in making the club what it is today.
The supporters also deserve a special mention, with the supporters trust owning 20% of the shares. Recently, Swansea City announced a move to subsidise away fixtures and cap away games prices. Season tickets have also been reduced. One cannot help but think that Jenkins is doing his utmost to say thank you to the Swansea faithful. Indeed, he would not be where he is without you. Anyone who has been to a game at the Liberty Stadium will tell you that the noise and atmosphere is unparalleled in football. The success of Swansea at home has been credited to the 12th man they have at the Liberty- the crowd.
The next generation of players to represent the pride of Wales must feed off the passion of previous generations. Supporters must continue to follow in the shrewd guidance of Huw Jenkins and the management in who he puts his trust . Swansea City for the past decade, has a system that works literal miracles.
With a string of purchases that look insightful and make excellent financial and tactical sense, the Swans can look forward to perhaps their best season yet. The Liberty will be buzzing with optimism come August.