Swansea City: Why the Swans Are on the Way to Challenging for a Spot in Europe
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Swansea City have already qualified for the UEFA Europa League next season. The Swans hammered Bradford City 5-0 in the Capital One Cup Final in February to book their place in the younger brother to the UEFA Champions League.
That qualification comes as the Swans are gearing up for life in the English Premier League as a regular European contender.
Since soaring back into the Premier League in 2011, Swansea City have set new standards on how to run a promoted club on and off the pitch. Gone is the conventional wisdom that a team must fight its way out of the trenches in its first couple of seasons in the EPL.
That strange insight has been replaced by the reality the Swans have given every other team; that good football can be played and results achieved on a low budget. Never in the 21-year history of the Premier League have so many promoted clubs tried to play the game in a technical way, despite the very real fear of relegation.
Can Swansea compete for a spot in Europe on a regular basis?
Fans want to see entertainment, and in football the best entertainment comes from a technical game.
For this approach Huw Jenkins, Swansea City's chairman, deserves huge credit.
Jenkins, who owns 12.5 percent of the club, took over day-to-day running of Swansea in 2002. Back then the Swans were struggling in every conceivable way in the fourth tier of English football. They narrowly avoided relegation to the conference on the final day of the 2002-03 season by beating Hull City, 4-2, to relegate Exeter City to the fifth level of the English football pyramid, the conference.
Roll on 10 years and Swansea are no longer scrapping at the lower reaches of the professional game. Jenkins' insight and clever planning have seen a number of intelligent football men appointed to the club over the years as they built slowly toward the Premier League.
The secret to Swansea's success is continuity.
Managers may have changed over the years, Brian Flynn, Kenny Jackett, Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers and most recently Michael Laudrup. However, the one thing they all have in common is that they came in to work with Swansea's people.
This approach keeps the spine of the club the same off the pitch. In the end it gives Swansea an advantage over other clubs who sack entire backroom teams when they release managers from their contracts.
Now with Michael Laudrup in charge, and having posted record profits in 2012, Swansea are well on the way to the next phase of their development: competing in Europe on a regular basis. When you consider that Swansea's Liberty Stadium is the smallest in the EPL at 20,750, you realise that these figures are absolutely massive.
Swansea's record profits last season have allowed them to make plans to re-develop the Liberty Stadium into a 30,000-seat stadium. Should they achieve this, then their profits could conceivably double.
Add in an anomaly in the Premier League, a wage cap of £35,000 with a £5,000 win bonus, and you can see that Swansea are very well-run financially.
The key to Swansea's success on the pitch, particularly since Roberto Martinez was put in charge, has been continuity. The now Wigan Athletic manager deserves huge credit for putting the finishing touches to Jenkins' foundations. Under Martinez the Swans played in an attractive manner.
Martinez came to the club with a definitive technical philosophy, which has since been carried on and improved by Rodgers and Laudrup. Each manager has used the same basic setup and style since 2007 with the same philosophy ingrained across all sections of the club.
The success in the League Cup final has fast-forwarded their ambitions by a couple of seasons. It has also shown how prudent Jenkins is as a chairman to take in Laudrup despite a relatively poor couple of seasons after success with Getafe in 2007-08.
Under Laudrup, Getafe, the smaller Madrid brother of Real and Atletico, played some brilliant free-flowing football and proved a difficult side to beat. The Azulones finished 14th and made it as far as the UEFA Cup quarterfinals, and lost the Copa Del Rey final to Valencia.
However, Laudrup resigned from the minnows after just one season. Unsurprisingly he was immediately linked with numerous bigger clubs.
Now at Swansea the Dane appears settled. He has signed a new contract which will, in theory, keep him at the club until 2015. The reason for giving Laudrup a new contract, despite having just joined in August as Brendan Rodgers' replacement, was to give the club continuity and to fend off any interested parties.
Keen to improve and add to the team for their Europa League campaign next season, Laudrup has already identified Sevilla's Alberto Botia as a potential signing. The 24-year-old ex-Barcelona graduate fits the template exactly for the kind of player Swansea sign.
The excellently named Angel Rangel has signed a new contract until 2016, as has Ashley Williams and a host of other members of the Swansea nucleus. The club also hopes to force through the permanent transfer of Jonathan de Guzman from Villareal.
Keeping the core of his squad together will be of utmost importance for the sought after Laudrup. He will also be keen to add class. Considering his experience of Scandinavian and Spanish football it would be no surprise to see more quality arrivals in the summer.
In his first season in charge, Laudrup raided La Liga four times. In came Michu, Pablo Hernandez, de Guzman and Roland Lamah for a combined fee of £7.5 million. Michu, Hernandez and de Guzman have all been spectacular successes.
The backbone of a well-run club is there for all to see. Huw Jenkins' skillful chairmanship has seen to that. The backroom staff and support team have remained consistently run with realistic and progressive targets given to them each and every season.
The X-factor to make all of this succeed is a manager on the same wavelength with insightful knowledge of modern football and foreign transfer markets.
With the great Dane in charge, the Swans are set for progression again next season. No one would bet against them winning the Europa League on their first appearance in Europe, in their 101st year as a club.
The X-factor behind it all? The X-factor for the next stage of their development?
None other than Michael Laudrup.
Statistics provided by www.swanseacity.net, www.soccerbase.com and www.premierleague.com.
You can look me up on Twitter @WillieGannon
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