Swansea City the Star in Early Premiership Fixtures
Coming from Wales, Swansea City have certainly been a breath of fresh air in the sometimes fetid English Premier League. Although lacking in any real football pedigree, there is absolutely nothing in their DNA to suggest the Swansea City is anything more than a lower league club with aspirations of a giant killing in one of the domestic cups once in a while.
The Swans flirted briefly in Division One, a decade before Sky TV came along and invented the Premier League and, by extension, English football.
Their manager at the time, John Toshack, was a Liverpool legend and he gathered around him a whole galaxy of other former Liverpool legends and players like Ian Callaghan and Ray Kennedy.
The Swans climbed the divisions reaching the top flight in 1981 and even, for a few glorious days, led the table.
It didn’t last of course. It wasn’t a model designed to last. By packing the first XI with experienced but aging pros approaching retirement, there was no plan B. As the players wrinkled, the club withered and fell, ingloriously, back down the leagues and almost going bust.
Now they’re back. Rather than being a retirement home for the aged, who now tend to go into the far safer and far warmer TV studio, they have been able to attract promising young managers who in turn have made this city on the south coast of Wales a far more cosmopolitan place than it has ever been before.
Given their visceral rivalry with Cardiff, just along the coast, it is a sign of the times that the city of Swansea have so openly embraced the new faces that have come to the football club with their new ideas.
First there was the Spaniard Roberto Martinez followed by his compatriot Paolo Sousa. Then Northern Irishman Brendan Rodgers. And now the Great Dane himself: Michael Laudrup.
It’s all a far cry from the more traditional appointee, the likes of Colin Appleton, Frank Burrows and John Bond; journeymen managers who inspire images of flat caps and cold showers.
Swansea’s first season in the Premier League delighted everyone with their delicious passing and movement. They even beat Arsenal 3-2 at home with a performance that must have even had the usually sour loser Arsene Wenger purring — at least inwardly.
Players like Scott Sinclair, Nathan Dyer and Joe Allen impressed. So much so the former is likely to join Manchester City, the latter has joined his former gaffer Rodgers at Liverpool.
Yet the dream isn’t over. Instead, Laudrup has come in and the fans must be rubbing their eyes in disbelief. That Laudrup, perhaps the greatest player Denmark ever produced — the Laurdup who played for both Barcelona and Real Madrid, should have been sold on the dreams of a small provincial club in the south of Wales is nothing short of astounding.
Yet it follows the theme began in 2007 when Martinez came in. Young, eager, innovative managers with a thing to prove who believe in playing football on the ground.
Faced with the departure of Allen and the imminent loss of Sinclair, Laudrup acted quickly to bring in new players. And after just two games one of them, Spaniard Michu has already impressed with his ability and work rate.
His goal at Loftus Road in the opening day win against Queens Park Rangers highlighted his ability. Latching on to a sublime through ball, he was able to curl the ball past the hapless Robert Green. It was a highlight on a day of highlights.
The win over West Ham United at their own Liberty Stadium highlighted his work ethic. Visiting defender James Collins looked unsure in possession in his own half. Scenting an opportunity, Michu moved in. Collins panicked and played the ball back to his keeper. But the delivery of the back pass lacked power. Michu pounced and it was 2-0.
Despite their fine start, two wins and no goals conceded, Laudrup will admit that the fixture list has been kind to his team. Many challenges lie ahead and no doubt, in fine management speak, he will talk about how his team’s goal is Premier League survival.
Along the way you can be sure they will win many more admirers.