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.