It was all very Max Boyce at Chelsea when Swansea turned up for the top of the table clash. First v second, two 100% records. “Land of my fathers,” echoing down the Fulham Road. Something had to give, and it was Chelsea, who overcome a tricky first half, to win the day by 4-2.
But although they lost, Swansea showed that there is nothing accidental about their fine start to the 2014-15 season. For a long period, Gary Monk’s team played Chelsea off the park, exposed certain weaknesses in the Blues’ back-line – notably pace – and played the ball around with confidence and purpose. Not everyone has a Diego Costa in their line-up, and that was the main difference between the two teams.
It does look as though Swansea, on most people’s list to be only temporary residents of the Premier, can maintain their remarkable story. This is their fourth season in the top flight and they’ve finished 11th, 9th and 12th– a consistent record, and not forgetting they won the Football League Cup in 1913.
It’s a little surprising that they have hung on to players like Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge, who are both playing well this season. Indeed Dyer has already scored three goals in the Premier. And their star striker, Wilfried Bony, interested a number of clubs in the summer, but he’s still at the Liberty Stadium. Bony moved to Swansea in the summer of 2013 and netted 16 goals in 34 Premier games last season and 25 in all competitions. While the Spaniard, Michu, lost his cutting edge to injury and eventually moved on, Bony filled the gap nicely.
He was on the bench at Chelsea, but his replacement was equally impressive. Befetimbi Gomis (left) joined the club in the close-season from Lyon and made his debut at Stamford Bridge. His selfless running and determination troubled Chelsea, especially in the first period and he even earned some applause from the home fans, who are never the easiest to win over if you’re a visiting player.
When Michael Laudrup departed Swansea, the sceptics felt that the club’s moment in the limelight may be passing. Swansea had won their first silverware a year earlier when the Dane was “sacked”, which may have appeared short-sighted. When Gary Monk was appointed, he was relatively unknown outside of the valleys. It has proved to be something of an inspired move.
Monk played for Swansea for 10 years, across all divisions, so he was well-versed with the culture of the club. It’s a club that has known triumph and disaster. It was only 11 years ago that the club almost dropped into non-league football. But in 2005, they moved from the old Vetch Field ground to the council supported Liberty Stadium and from thereon, the club’s fortunes changed. Three promotion campaigns, in 2005, 2008 and 2011 ended with Swansea in the Premier. A real success story.
But it’s not the first time that Swansea have seen dramatic success. Between 1977-78 and 1980-81, Swansea were promoted three times and then finished 6th in their debut [old] First Division campaign of 1981-82. From 1982-83 to 1985-86, they were relegated three times and found themselves back in the old Fourth Division!
There’s far more substance to Swansea today than in the days when veteran [Liverpool] players went to Wales to top up their pension funds. They may struggle to keep some of their players, but they play football the right way and for that they should be applauded.
Swansea could become everyone’s second club, if such a thing exists in 2014. In the 1960s and 1970s, West Ham were always lauded for being a club that “played football”. The Swans may be the 21st century equivalent of the purist’s favourites…