Swansea City Breathe Much-Needed New Life Into the Premier League

besian idrizaj Swansea City Breathe Much Needed New Life Into the Premier League

Swansea City captain Garry Monk paying tribute to Besian Idrizaj

On the wall in my office I have a framed photograph of an unremarkable building sitting beside a green bumpy pitch. I keep it as a memory of my childhood and where I came from. That picture of the North Bank, the main terrace of Swansea’s old dilapidated ground (now sadly demolished), was where this blue-eyed boy fell in love with his local team. Those memories from 32 years ago haven’t left me, especially that golden day in August 1981 when Swansea City played their first game in the top flight against an institution in English football, Leeds United, and beat them 5-1 to send shockwaves through English football. That same season Swansea did the double against Arsenal, beat eventual league champion Liverpool 2-0, defeated Manchester United 2-0, beat FA Cup winner Tottenham Hotspur, was victorious against UEFA Cup winner Ipswich Town and sunk European Cup winners Aston Villa. All in one season where they ended in sixth place.

After Swansea’s super performance against Reading in the 2011 Championship Playoff Final, in what was an incredibly entertaining game, I don’t expect Swansea City to go on and perform nearly as impressively in their first time back in the top flight since 1983. A lot has changed since then, but Swansea do have the team spirit, the style of football and hard working ethic to win over the hearts and minds of soccer fans from around the world.

The Swans will stick out like a sore thumb in the Premier League next season, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing in a league which can be homogeneous at times. They’re the first Welsh club to play in the Premier League. They play a brand of football which is pleasing to the eye (like Blackpool) but are much more defensively sound than the Tangerines (don’t let Monday’s performance fool you). They’re a club who live within their means (they even turned a profit last season, which is unheard of by most clubs in the top two divisions). They don’t even have their own training ground (they currently train at a nearby racket club). Their supporters will sing loud passionate songs you will not have heard before in the Premier League (instead of the carbon copy chants at other grounds). And at the end of the day, they have passion and a desire to create attacking football that is so foreign to many defensively minded clubs in the Premier League.

One more thing that Swansea has and that’s class. After winning the see-saw match 4-2 against Reading, each of the players adorned a white T-shirt with a tribute to the 22-year-old Swansea City player Besian Idrizaj who tragically died a year ago after a heart attack. It was a fitting tribute on a day when the farce called FIFA stooped to new lows in their political mind games. Swansea’s tribute shows that footballers do care and have a heart.

With manager Brendan Rogers at the helm, this is a Swansea City side that is going places. Along with Norwich City and Queens Park Rangers, these three teams from the Championship will breathe new life into the Premier League and will make it a very intriguing season beginning in August. I, for one, can’t wait.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013. View all posts by Christopher Harris →
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28 Responses to Swansea City Breathe Much-Needed New Life Into the Premier League

  1. Rick says:

    That was the first match of Championship football I’ve ever seen. It was incredibly entertaining. Good luck to Swansea.

    • The Gaffer says:

      The quality of the Championship is improving and it’s been one of the best seasons in recent memory. I would definitely recommend that readers watch it next season. So many upsets each week and some very good football played.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Gaz Hunt says:

        I’ll double that recommendation.

        I’m a huge fan of the Championship – the league is very open and attacking and has some great matches. I’ve found myself more and more gravitating towards Championship games after I’ve seen my club and any big match-ups in the Premiership.

      • brn442 says:

        Gaffer, you have said multiple times in the past that you have no favorite premier league team (those vicious rumours of you being a Liverpool fan) Now as that’s no longer the case, will you recuse yourself from writing on Swansea Football Club? But seriously – congrats, and I look forward to seeing them in the Premier League.

        Also, can Swansea City play in Europe, if they get a spot?

        • The Gaffer says:

          Good question about the European spot. I don’t believe they can qualify for Europe unless they do so through the Welsh Premier League or Welsh Cup. But since they don’t play in the Welsh Premier League and no longer compete in the Welsh Cup, they have no way of getting into Europe.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

          • Gaz Hunt says:

            Yup – I think that’s right.

            Welsh teams can’t qualify for Europe through the English League as those places are for teams to represent England in the competitions.

            Just as English teams in the Welsh League couldn’t qualify for Europe through that avenue (New Saints FC is the only team I can think of).

          • actually says:

            The FA said that Cardiff would gain a spot in the UEFA Cup if they won the FA Cup Final a couple of years ago. The FA backed down when UEFA said they would give them a spot if they qualified and the FA refused their entry.

            So, if Swansea of Cardiff qualifies for a Champions League or Europa League spot, then they’ll play in Europe because the precedent has already been set for them to do so.

          • Gaz Hunt says:

            Actually,

            Do you have a source / quote that makes you think this?

            I think what they (UEFA) actually said is that they would make a one-off exception and allow Cardiff into the competition in addition to the English clubs that qualified. In other words, Cardiff would get into Europe but it wouldn’t be at the expense of an English club.

            I believe it is a UEFA rule (not English FA) that only clubs from the respective country can represent their league in the competitions. When this rule came into effect, the Welsh teams were given a chance to re-enter the Welsh league but chose not to (for obvious reasons).

            I could be wrong but that’s my understanding. It’s an interesting discussion.

          • The Gaffer says:

            It was my understanding that Cardiff would have been a one-time exception too for that FA Cup.

            Cheers,
            The Gaffer

          • actually says:

            “I believe it is a UEFA rule (not English FA) that only clubs from the respective country can represent their league in the competitions.”

            False. There is no such rule. UEFA said that Cardiff, Swansea, and Wrexham could no longer compete in the Welsh Cup back in the 90s because for all intents and purposes they were considered, by UEFA, as English clubs.

  2. Jay says:

    It’s a stupid thing to say that now……. let them play some games and then we can decide on that.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Just by being the first Welsh team ever to play in the Premier League, they’ll breathe much new-added life into the league.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

    • Guy says:

      For cryin’ out loud let the guy enjoy the moment. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to criticize later on. This is just the first installment of Swansea City Talk. ;-) (thanks ICK)

      • Gaz Hunt says:

        I was thinking a little of the same, Jay.

        Guy is right, though – let him have his moment and we’ll have opportunity to get on at the Welsh-men later.

        Congratulations Swansea supporters!

  3. Terry says:

    That tribute to Besian was pure class. The lad was on a tryout with Liverpool before ending up at Swansea. It would be great to see a benefit match between Swansea and Liverpool for Besian. Not sure it would happen but it would be nice.

    Things will definitely be different with Swansea in the EPL. For the better I think. Their style of play will endear them to many supporters. Most clubs are going to find it difficult to play at Liberty Stadium and the travelling for both players and supporters won’t be an easy one. It’s a long journey. Many EPL supporters the world over will get to know Swansea and Wales a little better. This will also help the tourism in Wales.

    I wish Swansea all the best and hope they remain in the EPL for some time to come.

  4. Up the Chels! says:

    Now if we can just get Cardiff in the Prem at the end of next season so the world over can see what is possibly the most hotly contested derby in the world. Swansea v Cardiff is always an entertain and hotly contested game, it would be good to see it in the Prem.

    Until then, cheers to the Gaffer and cheers to Swansea for making history. I look forward to finally seeing the Swans play at the level their football has deserved.

  5. Lyle says:

    Actually, Swansea are just putting on the diaper that Blackpool wore all last season.

  6. ron says:

    Congrats to Swansea! Being part-Welsh and having traveled there last year, I’m hoping this means I’ll get a chance to make another trip and see a Newcastle/Swansea match. Now that the teams are set, when will next season’s schedule likely be published?

  7. Troy says:

    Congrats Gaffer. I also tremendously enjoyed watching the riveting playoff.

  8. Dave C says:

    Gaffer, prepare for a whole season of critics accusing you of having a Swansea-bias!

    • The Gaffer says:

      I’m ready for them! ;)

      Seriously though, I’m usually pretty hard on the Swans than others, so you may end up seeing me be more critical of them than other readers or pundits will.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

    • The Gaffer says:

      IanCransonsKnees, thanks for sharing those two. I saw them a while back and had a few laughs about ‘em. Definitely a lovable bunch of lads who would get chewed up by some of the other crews out there.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • IanCransonsKnees says:

        There’s some sad acts out there, believe me Swansea aren’t on their own. I can honestly say in the 16 years I’ve followed Stoke I’ve only seen it kick off between fans a handful of times, but if you go looking for it you’ll find it. I think Green Street was based on those clips though.

        If your last experience of Swansea City was The Vetchfield I’m sure the Liberty will blow you away. Bit disappointed you got promoted I fancied us to take a punt on Ashley Williams.

        I’ve linked this excellent piece about staying up and how to do it – http://www.footballfancast.com/2011/05/football-blogs/stokes-ambitious-investment-a-blueprint-for-others-to-follow

        It pretty much says what I spouted on the relegation thread about Blackpool, Burnley and Hull, obviously in a much more succinct manner.

        If you come over to check out Swansea you’ve got to do an away day, it’s one of the best things in football. Just try not to go with the muppets in those videos.

        • The Gaffer says:

          When I do go to Wales, it’s usually in the summertime so it’s usually when there are no matches on. However, I’ve seen Liberty Stadium from the outside (by train). And it looks like a brilliant stadium. Hope to be able to go see a match there in person soon.

          An away day is possible depending on timing, etc.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

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