What Swansea City’s Promotion to the Premier League Means to Me

I had a sudden realization the other morning that my life has changed. While driving my 7-year-old daughter to school, I said to her “Hey, that was pretty neat that my team, the white team – Swansea, won Monday, wasn’t it?” Each weekend when she sits down and watches about five minutes of a game or has it on the background as she colors in her crayoning book, she and I will often pick teams for fun. She often picks “the red team,” while I pick the opponent. Some weeks it’s Liverpool, Arsenal or Manchester United. It doesn’t matter to a kid that age. It’s just teams playing in different colors.

Starting next season, though, I’ll be watching “the white team” more often. My weekends have revolved around watching as many Premier League matches as possible but there’s often no priority to which games I’ll watch. It all depends who’s playing when or how convenient a match time is, or not. But as a lifelong supporter of Swansea City, I’ll get to experience next season what many of you may take for granted — supporting a team in the Premier League, and prioritizing your weekend to revolve around when your team plays its matches.

For 27 years, I’ve been a neutral. From the moment I arrived in the United States in 1984 until now, I’ve supported Swansea City religiously but I haven’t had the opportunity to watch the team that much either in person or on television. I’ve supported Swansea at an arm’s length (4,437 miles, to be exact). As a result, I’ve been a neutral soccer fan, cheering on the teams in the Premier League who play the best football, hoping that the underdog succeeds and just sitting back and enjoying the sport without getting too emotionally involved.

Now that has changed — in a major way.

While watching the Championship Playoff Final on Monday between Swansea and Reading, I surprised myself by how I acted. This was the first time in 27 years when I lost my emotions during a soccer game. I couldn’t sit down for the entire game. I held my head in my hands when Reading pulled two goals back. I screamed so loudly that it sounded and felt like a primal scream. The scream was so loud that one of my child’s pet mice disappeared during the commotion of me running around the room as I celebrated a goal by the Swans. I was frightened I had accidentally stepped on the mouse while running around like a banshee celebrating, but thankfully we found the mouse a few minutes later. She must have been so terrified by the screaming and yelling that she hid inside a plastic toy Mercedes.

The last time I acted so uncontrollably was when I was on the terraces at Swansea more than 27 years ago. The club is my life, and it’s been a very long and depressing journey for the Swans since 1984 until now. Those screams and yells from me were a release of all of the pain, and suffering they’ve caused me over the years (thanks to numerous relegations, broken hearts and more). But it was also a massive sense of relief and, at the same time, a feeling of pure joy.

As a Swansea City supporter in the United States, it’s been a lonely experience. In the 27 years that I’ve lived in the States, I’ve only seen one person ever wearing a Swansea City shirt (I ran in to this stranger at a Miami Fusion match). At the same time, it’s been a very difficult experience supporting my country, Wales. They’ve never qualified for a major tournament in my lifetime, so supporting Swansea and Wales has been a trying experience. Whenever World Cups or Premier League seasons happen, I’ve gotten very used to enjoying soccer for soccer’s sake and being a neutral. I don’t get wrapped up in the games too much where it’s too difficult for me to objective. I sit back and observe, and enjoy the sport without getting too attached to the teams.

Again, this will change next season as I sit on the edge of my seat and go ballistic when Swansea get a shock result in the Premier League, or succumb to a deep depression when the team underperforms in a key match.

I’m really looking forward to experiencing a Premier League season as a supporter. I’ve lost count of how many times someone has asked me which Premier League club I support, to which I’ve replied “None of them, I’m a neutral.” That has changed. I will now get to experience what many of you do.

After having written about a whole host of Premier League clubs from 2005 (when EPL Talk was founded) until now, it feels very strange to type in the words “Swansea City” into the WordPress page I use to write these articles. It almost feels like someone will wake me up from the dream and tell me that it’s all make believe. But it is true. And Swansea deserve to be in the Premier League after playing a season of beautiful football where they accumulated the points and won the matches necessary to make it to the big time. It probably won’t feel completely real until that first match of the opening weekend when my team plays on the TV screen in front of me and my daughter and I will be cheering on “the white team.”

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 What Swansea City’s Promotion to the Premier League Means to Me

  1. James says:

    Hope that Swansea doesn’t play a ‘red team’ the first week!

  2. Chowie says:

    Congrats, it must be the best feeling ever, one hopefully I will also get to experience, jealous much ;) oh, and the Jacks deserved it, they were the best team in the Championship I feel.

  3. StellaWasAlwaysDown says:

    Nice post! I too will be cheering on the Swans when they take the field next year as I watched them as my adopted Championship team. I hope they do well (just not against AVFC!) and stay up. I’ll be looking for you to fully let your bias out next season when posting. :)

  4. Soot says:

    Wait wait, you have pet mice running loose in the house?

    Congrats

  5. Terry says:

    It looks like your daughter has better taste than you when it comes to supporting an EPL team. I hope the Reds, the real Reds, win the title for your daughter’s sake. Liverpool all the way! :)

    That must be an exhilirating feeling to know that after such a long time your team has finally made it back into the top division. I wish you and all the other Swansea supporters all the best and hope your club continues to play attractive football and are able to stay in the EPL beyond the first season. Swansea are going to be one of the teams neutrals are going to want to watch for their style of play.

  6. adam says:

    congrats dude….few of here in the states have that kind of connection to a club, especially a club that has been mired in lower divisions for so long.

    enjoy next season, i think you will have a lot of people here pulling for the the ‘swans’

  7. Mekias says:

    I’ve only watched the Premier League for one year and been a supporter of Everton for one year but my heart pounds in my chest when watching them. I’m at the edge of my chair, clenching my fist whenever a beautiful Baines cross gets fired in the box. Sometimes it gets to be too much and I have to pause the game and do something else for a bit to calm myself down.

    I can’t even imagine what it will be like after 27 years to finally get the chance to see your team every week and witness first-hand all the and jubilation and heartbreak of their journey through the Premier League. One thing’s for sure, you’ll never forget it.

  8. The Gaffer says:

    I just found out this morning that Adidas will be Swansea’s kit manufacturers for next season, so I’m hoping they can design something as great and memorable as they did for the Swans in the early 80s when they had so much success.

    Adidas’s track record of late, when designing, shirts has been very inconsistent. Hopefully they’ll get it right this time!

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

  9. BD says:

    Great post, Gaffer. Congrats on Swansea. Wish them all the best, just not when they are playing my Blues………

  10. Michael anderson says:

    Not a Welshman myself, however relatives are and one of mine once played
    For the juniors back in the 60s. Found this out 8 or so years ago, watching their comeback from league one to the championship and finally to where they belong has been some journey, I’ve watched games from Australia on the poorest of quality pictures imaginable for far too long. Hopefully we can replace borini with Graham or a quality target man! I only know a slight feeling of your pain. I’m only young and never witnessed the toshack years. Can’t wait for my first vision of the swans in the epl

  11. Eric says:

    Congrats on your clubs success! I have just started following EPL and Championship the last two years and “adopted” Cardiff because my family hails from there back to the 1850′s. While I understand I am supposed to despise you now as a Swansea supporter, I look forward to reading of your journey through next seasons EPL and wish you(kinda) all the best!

  12. Mike in Idaho says:

    I am envious, once again Forest has failed in the playoffs so I will have to wait to experience that feeling.

  13. Stacy Richardson says:

    Now you’re no longer a “neutral,” I know you’re just going to be insufferable now. ;-) That’s okay. You’ve earned the right.

  14. Miguel says:

    I also support Swansea City, because i like playing Fifa video game and i like to choose a team that is not on the premier league and promote it to it, so i chose Swansea because it had a nice logo :P , im going to be cheering from them next year, i hope it stays on the epl!

  15. Dean says:

    I support Swansea City from afar too…..New Zealand. The game was on in the early hours of Tuesday morning here and I must have woken half the neighbourhood up I was shouting and screaming so much. I’m pretty much the same as you in that people ask which football team I support, when I answer they usually either look at me with something approaching pity or say who? Will be an amazing experience watching them in the EPL…..last time I saw them play live was against Macclesfield in the bottom division

    • The Gaffer says:

      Dean, glad you hear that there’s Swansea supporters in all of the corners of the world. You make some great points. When people ask me which team I support, I tell them it’s a small city in Wales that they probably haven’t heard of. Nine times out of ten they’ve never heard of Swansea. But I have a feeling that will change this season!

      The last Swansea match I saw was home against Wigan in League Two in August 2000.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  16. Mike in Bristol says:

    Swansea City the Soap Opera: the last 10 years from the depths of despair to ecstasy
    I have no choice in what team I support, as far as I’m concerned a true football fan should support their local team. Mine being Swansea City as I used to live about 5 miles from the old football ground growing up, to which “The Gaffer” knows just as well as myself. My team may not be the biggest in the world or have won the most trophies etc, but the rollercoaster ride it has put me through cannot be beaten and I am glad I am a Swansea supporter and not a Glory Hunting Liverpool/ Man U or C/ Arsenal/ Chelsea fan.
    Part 1: the Beginning

    When growing up watching the Swans lose to Kidderminster, the older generation around me used to reminisce about the late 70’s early 80’s, where John Toshack came from Liverpool and took us from the 4th division to the 1st in 4 years. Stayed for 2 seasons, beating all the top teams, then imploded falling back down to the 4th just as fast as we had risen. Fast forward to my Swans journey in the late 90’s, where I was going to see the Swans play blooming Rushden & Diamonds. However, instead of taking the easy option and watching Man U on Sky, I would spend my pocket money on a Swans ticket on the North Bank. Where I would hope that the Swans would win a game, slightly disappointed that I missed out on watching the ride of a lifetime, and boy was I wrong.

    The next few years of my experience did not get better, in fact the most memorable thing about our club at the time was our infamous mascot Cyril the Swan, that was making a bit of a name for himself for the wrong reasons. The most famous incident being where he decapitated Zampa the Lion (the Millwall Mascot) and drop kicked the head into the crowd.
    For Cyrils take: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZvuScQ18io
    The football was bad, the club was in financial difficulties … bad times.

    Part 2: Win or Bust

    Then came a London based Australian by the name of Tony Petty, a millionaire that was apparently going to pump money into the club to try and change our fortunes … it did not turn out this way. He sold our best player Stuart Roberts for peanuts (100k to Wycombe) and transfer listed the whole squad, it turned out that he in fact had no money and was trying to drain funds away from the club. Needles to say the fans were not happy about this and for the next few months, football was secondary to getting rid of that crook.
    A 12 year old Swans fan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xC2A1JuodfA
    Eventually we kicked him out with a consortium of businessmen, who a majority were Swansea based and were all Swans fans. They appointed our team captain Nick Cusack as manager and everything from here on in was plain sailing. Uhm….. not quite.

    Needless to say Cusack was not management material and left a few games into the 02-03 season and Brian Flynn was appointed. Flynn brought in 3 key players that season Alan Tate (Man Utd), Leon Britton (West Ham) and Roberto Martinez (Motherwell).We were bottom of the league with 9 games to go and received the record of being the club being the fastest club to go from the top of the league to the bottom which was around 20 odd years. It eventually went down to the last game of the season, where if we beat Hull we would stay up, the most important game ever for the club and it was either win or die for the club. We came from 2-1 down to win 4-2 with James Thomas (a local lad) scoring a hat trick with the last being a chip over the goal keeper from just outside the centre circle. Sheer relief
    Highlights of Hull game: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIkFuYD9Q2g

    Part 3: Scouse years

    The following year Flynn brought in Lee Trundle a squeaky voiced scouse lad from Wrexham FC, that came late into the professional game at 23 years of age as well as Andy Robinson from the Liverpool Leagues. Swansea and Trundle were love at first sight, in which he brought media attention to the Swans for footballing reasons for a change, especially on Soccer AM where he was often on featured.
    Some highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_ilqmcslw4

    Even though we were entertaining to watch with a Blackpool mentality of we will score more than you. The players were unfit, to which the board blamed on Flynn due to his refusal to move from Burnley, with his assistant often taking the training sessions. Flynn was sacked and Kenny Jackett an ex-welsh international was appointed to improve the professionalism of the club. The Jackett era saw the Jacks move from the old Vetch into a new 20,000 stadium across the city and promotion to League 1 with a last day win up at Bury where 5000 jacks cheered on the Swans into league 1 on the last day of the season, and during the celebrations our keeper “Big Willy Gueret” got arrested.
    Bury Goal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ul3s6QbVYjI

    Even though Kenny was successful, he didn’t really play attractive football that Flynn instilled during his second season. The Scouse years accumulated in two trips to Cardiff’s millennium stadium, one being for The LDV vans Trophy which we won 1-0 with Magic Daps scoring the best Swans goal I have ever seen, as well as loss in the league one playoff final. This loss spelt the end the scouse years and the following season saw Jackett being dismissed and during the summer transfer window, swans selling Trundle to Bristol City for a million pounds.

    Part 4: Martinez Era

    Martinez (remember him) replaced Jackett, which received a mixed reaction with supporters with some wanting a more experienced manager. In his first interview he said and I paraphrase “they kicked me out as a player and they will have to kick me out as a manager”, those words would come back to haunt him. However, to his credit he had sown the seeds that know have begun to come to flourish.

    Martinez signed players that were a bit left of centre with him signing the 3 amigos (even though they are Spanish and not Mexican, lol) as well as the two dutch lads Bodde and de Vries and a trinidadian Jason Scotland. His first season saw us being crowned league one champions (who needs experience hey). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsCPY1-pjTI

    We were now in the championship just missing out on the playoffs with our leaky defence being blamed. However, with some investment the Swans were seen as serious contenders for the playoffs next year. That was until Steve Bruce became Sunderland manager and Wigwam needed a manager for the next season. Martinez was brought to England by Wigwam and has a strong bond with the club which is understandable. He eventually left the Swans for over £1 million, and Martinez went from hero to zero with a large segment of Swans fans. However, the Swans did give Wigwam a bloody nose as when they tried to get the backroom staff on a free. The Swans dug in they ended up paying just under a million, lol. Taking on the mantra spouted by the words Cyril said to Zampa before he was decapitated, “don’t f### with the Swans”.

    Part 5: Sousa then Rodgers

    Martinez left us in the lurch, with not just taking our top scorer (Jason Scotland), but also our entire backroom staff. With only a few weeks to go Sousa one of the Portages golden generation, became our manager.

    That year was the most boring year of watching the Swans in my life, no goals plus no off the field turmoil. Sousa sorted out our defence, but it came at the expense of us losing all of our attacking threat, we missed out on the playoffs on the last day. The Swansea fans were not happy, with some warning that they would not renew their season tickets unless there was some drama.
    Sousa was on high wages and signed onto a multiyear contract, it was going to cost us to get rid of Sousa. That was until Leicester came in for him and paid us compensation lol. However, who would he be replaced by…

    Brendan Rodgers, an Ulsterman who to me looks like an Oompa loompa, who in his previous job got sacked for taking a playoff contenders Reading to a club fighting relegation. The fans were not too pleased but when he signed Sinclair from Chelsea for 500k, they quickly shut up.

    Rodgers has brought a best of both mixture of philosophies of both previous managers, with Sousa tactical awareness and defensive guile, with Martinez attacking philosophy. We ended up 3rd above Cardiff for the first time in my Swans watching lifetime, playing controlled attacking football.

    Part 6 The Championship Playoffs

    Away to high spending Notts Forrest and in the first minute our left back Taylor gets sent off…. crap. Then Rodgers chooses instead of taking of an attacking player of either Sinclair, Borini or Dyer and try and contain the FEC, he takes of our midfielder Dobbie leaving us with a 4-2-3 formation, bloody hell this Rodgers has guts. We hold out for a 0-0 draw in a quite even game which under the circumstances is probably the best performance from a Swansea team I have seen.

    Then comes the Home Leg which to date is the most enjoyable Swans game ever because usually teams come to our place and defend for their lives. All the goals scored were quality, with a left footed curler from Britton (remember him) a nutmeg and shot from Dobbie and a last minute strike from Pratley from the halfway line. I have never celebrated a game so much in my life and by the end of the game I was like a zombie.

    Then there was Wembley

    3-0 up at half time, 3-2 after 60 minutes and then Garry Monk (my MOM) deflects a shot onto the bar … squeaky bum time to say the least. Then we get a penalty for Sinclair to get a hat trick to make it 4-2. The same score line as the Hull game as 8 years ago that kept us in the league, but now has sent us into the premiership. It was like a dream and to be honest I can’t belief we won.
    The club I support has come so far and is unrecognisable to when I started watching them.
    From a club that was seen as a joke to one which is an example for medium to small clubs to follow. I feel I have been blessed to be a passenger on the Swansea Train, next destination the premier league.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Mike, it has been a long torturous journey indeed. Thanks for sharing your story and the history of where we’ve come from (especially for some of our readers who aren’t familiar with Swansea). For those readers who haven’t had a chance, be sure to watch some of the videos that Mike shared above. Great stuff!

      We’ve got a lot to look forward to for the next 12 months as a Swansea supporter!

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

    • Guy says:

      Great stuff, Mike. Thanks! :-)

  17. Althought I am enviable of your cushty position on the East coast, you have missed a hell of a lot in terms of Swansea City.

    Especially in recent seasons. They’ve conceded next to nothing at the back, unfortunately for yourself Ashley Williams has not replicated his immense club form on the international stage.

    Leon Britton and Gary Monk have achieved the fairytale feit of rising through up through four divisions with the side, and recently Brendon Rogers has orchestrated a brand of sexy football which was previously alien to the valleys.

    Swansea have admirably saved wingers Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair from dropping of the footballing radar after promising starts at youth level. Darren Pratey is a bit of alright in midfield, strength, poise and a ‘tidy’ goal contribution. (I dont knwo if you’ve been up to date with the British comedic scene but the word ‘tidy’ is now a national treasure in Wales thanks to the Gavin & Stacey series)

    Well deserved.

    However, it remains to be seen if you’re famous Northbank is a patch on our legendary Southbank!!

  18. Mac says:

    Really happy the Swans made it up to the Prem. you’re an extremely loyal supporter and I’m glad you get to experience the joy of supporting your boyhood club at the top. Looking forward to reading your articles about the Swans once the season kicks off.

  19. Allan says:

    “This was the first time in 27 years when I lost my emotions during a soccer game” – Seriously. You are a plastic then. Once in 27 years you have lost your emotions…plastic fans. Swansea will be full of them now.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Allan, utter rubbish. Who are you to call me plastic? I’m a very even-keeled person so it’s very rare that I get very emotionally upset or excited about most things in life.

      I’ve supported Swansea for 32 years. How long have you supported your club, and who do you support?

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

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