February 21, 2013
The League Cup final is on Sunday, and because of the novelty of Bradford City’s involvement, there will be plenty of neutrals rooting for the League Two side to cause the upset.
Victory at Wembley would change Bradford’s short-term landscape, and it would default them into the Europa League and doubtless alleviate the financial difficulties which have befallen the club during their tumble down the league pyramid.
That’s great, but I still want to see Ashley Williams and Swansea City walk the Wembley steps and lift that trophy.
Frequent visitors to this site will know that I’m a Swansea-sympathiser, and for a very good reason: they are a natural antidote to a lot of the cynicism within the domestic game. The way they play the game, the way they’ve been assembled: Swansea are refreshing at a time when our love for the game is being continually tested.
The story of their rise from League Two to the Premier League has been told many, many times, but that doesn’t make it any less remarkable. They are truly a progressive, modern club who have achieved success organically and have been rewarded for their ambition.
We’ve seen lower league clubs trying to buy their way out of obscurity before, with varying degrees of success, but Swansea aren’t a Fulham or a Crawley Town, and Huw Jenkins hasn’t used his football club as a vehicle for his own ego. He hasn’t overpaid players, he hasn’t thrown transfer fees at mercenaries tasked with elevating a club for whom they have no affection, and subsequently Swansea’s rise through the leagues has been synonymous with ‘controlled progress’.
The Swansea side who will walk out onto the Wembley pitch at the weekend may now have a slightly cultural feel to it, but you don’t have to look far to see the original building blocks. Ashley Williams, who came to the club via Hednesford and Stockport, Leon Britton, a West Ham outcast, and Angel Rangel, plucked from the depths of Spanish football. Even when you factor in Pablo Hernandez, Jonathan de Guzman, Michu, and Chico Flores, you have to remember that those are players who were sold on an ideology rather than a pay-cheque, and that they were all paid for by the sale of the now departed Joe Allen, a player cultivated in Swansea’s youth system.
Domestic cup competitions are all sold to us on the value of their romance, and in this instance that might be entirely appropriate. A side, who a decade ago were being humiliated by Oxford United, capping their consolidation of a Premier League place with a cup win and a place in Europe – how can anyone not want to see that?
Bradford have put together a cup-run for the ages, but Swansea are still the real story here.