Swansea City: Charting the Rise, Fall and Rise of Capital One Cup Winners
Swansea City capped a remarkable turnaround in fortunes when they collected the Capital One Cup at Wembley on Sunday.
Few could have predicted that the South Wales club, which had fallen so far from their previous heights of a sixth-placed finish in the English top tier in 1982, would claim their first major trophy 10 years after almost tumbling into non-league football.
Swans manager Michael Laudrup has continued the work of predecessors Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and Brendan Rodgers with seamless transition and taken the club one step further by winning a trophy.
The 5-0 demolition of Bradford City was not merely due to the lack of experience evident in the League Two side—it was more a case of a team reaching their creative peak, and few Premier League clubs would have lived with Swansea's possession and movement on display at Wembley.
But Sunday was a far cry from the lows which have blighted the club since they reached the top flight in the early 1980s.
Swansea had been a team content merely to bob between the old Second and Fourth Divisions without their feet ever leaving the ground.
All that changed on Mar. 1, 1978, when former Liverpool striker John Toshack was handed his first managerial role at Vetch Field after Harry Griffiths stepped down from the role.
The ex-Wales international became the youngest manager in the Football League at 28 and promptly oversaw a promotion to Division Three two months after taking charge. That triumph was marred by the death of ex-manager Griffiths before the end of the season.
The following season brought further success for the Swans and Toshack as they achieved a second successive promotion.
Two seasons later, Swansea sneaked into the old Division One for the first time in their history on goal difference ahead of Blackburn Rovers. The meteoric rise, though, had not finished.
The opening day of the new season saw new signing Bob Latchford hit a hat-trick in a 5-1 drubbing of Leeds United. The upstarts had arrived.
Toshack had plundered former club Liverpool and their Merseyside rivals for experienced players such as Latchford, Ian Callaghan, Phil Boersma and Garry Stanley, along with Welsh players such as Alan Curtis and Robbie James.
Further wins over Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham saw Swansea challenging for the title before a lack of depth in the squad cost dearly and they ended the season 18 points behind champions Liverpool.
The seemingly inevitable second-season syndrome hit Swansea hard and they were relegated twice in succession, landing in the Third Division in 1984. Toshack paid the price as a result when he was sacked.
The club would drop into the bottom tier in 1986 alongside another fallen giant, Wolves. But relegation had been the least of Swansea's concerns, with local businessman Doug Sharpe saving the club from a winding-up order in December 1985.
Four years after regularly hitting the top spot in the First Division, Swansea were back where they started. It had been an ignominious fall, but it wasn't over.
In 2003, Swansea were floundering at the foot of the bottom tier and it was only by winning their final two league games that prevented the club from dropping out of the Football League.
The nadir, though, had been reached and Swansea would again rise through the divisions before the 2011 playoff win over Reading ensured they became the first Welsh club to play in the re-branded Premier League.
The success of recent seasons is due in no small measure to the club choosing wisely on the managerial front.
Sunday's cup triumph and Swansea's form throughout the season will come at a price, as Laudrup has been strongly linked with a return to his former club, Real Madrid, to replace Jose Mourinho this summer.
But the Liberty Stadium hierarchy have been unstinting in their pursuit of fresh, young managerial talent in recent seasons.
For Laudrup, read Martinez, Sousa and Rodgers. All were relatively untried in club management, but Swansea's courage in appointing all of them has paid a rich dividend.
Resigned to the knowledge that their successful bosses will always be striving to test themselves at the highest level, chairman Huw Jenkins and his board constantly maintain a lookout for potential coaches of the future.
It is a tactic that has served the Welsh club well and will do so in the future.
Anyone doubting the wisdom of appointing the right manager should ask Swansea supporters about Kevin Cullis. But that's another story...
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