Swansea City is the current pride of the English Premier League.
Even though it’s in Wales. And so, if my geography is correct, makes it a Welsh club.
Swansea is a strange team, in that it’s well run, has brilliant fans, and always seems to have a solution despite other teams frequently poaching its players and managers. But it wasn’t always so sunny for the Swans.
Back in the day, I only knew of Swansea because of John Toshack. You know, the guy who used to manage Real Madrid.
Toshack was a Wales and Liverpool striker in the 1970s. He formed a classic big-man, little-man combo with Kevin Keegan for the Reds. Toshack left Liverpool in 1978 aged 28 to become the Swansea boss. The team was then in the fourth division. He led them up to the first division with three promotions in four years. One year the Swans actually finished sixth.
But then it went wrong. The club ended up back in the fourth division, Toshack was fired, and the club almost went bust.
Afterward, Toshack ended up at Real Madrid via Real Sociedad.
Swansea moved to the new Liberty Stadium in the mid-2000s, and the good times came rolling back. Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins is basically the best soccer administrator in Britain.
He wanted a continental style of play at the club, so he appointed a retiring player, Roberto Martinez, as manager. Martinez got Swansea promoted from the third division and left for Wigan and then Everton.
Jenkins replaced Martinez with Paulo Sousa and then Brendan Rodgers. It was Rodgers who got them into the Premier League. He left for Liverpool, and was replaced by Michael Laudrup, another Real Madrid connection. Laudrup won Swansea its first major trophy: the League Cup in 2013.
When he left, Jenkins again returned to a retiring player: Englishman Garry Monk, who had played for the Swans for 10 years.
Swansea won’t win the league, but sixth place could be on.
I mean, look at its recruitment in comparison to, say, Manchester United. Wilfried Bony leaves for Man City, and it has Bafetimbi Gomis ready to step in. Throw in Andre Ayew for free and you can see that there’s a plan in place for the long-term growth of the club.