Historic season draws to a close

19th May 2013

This afternoon's visit by Fulham brings back memories of the afternoon Roy Hodgson brought the Cottagers to the Liberty Stadium for an FA Cup fifth round tie back in February 2009.
That was arguably the match which woke the nation up to the fact that something special was starting to stir in South Wales thanks to the Swans' slick passing style.
There was a huge amount of praise lavished on the home side for their performance in a 1-1 draw which was beamed across the country live on TV and set up the prospect of a quarter-final clash with Manchester United.
ITV's Steve Ryder, along with pundits Andy Townsend, John Toshack and David Pleat were tripping over each other to heap praise on the then Championship side.
Fulham's Simon Davies joined the St Valentine's Day love-in   describing us as playing like Barcelona - not the last time we were to hear that comparison.
The national press joined in the praise. Sam Green wrote in the Guardian: "With all due respect to Fulham, anyone with an interest in the romantic heart of football will want Swansea City to host Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
"It would see a collision between two of the best footballing sides in Britain, and be a chance for Sir Alex Ferguson to go head to head with a potential candidate to be his successor.
"Anyone who saw Fulham hang on for a draw at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday lunchtime surely felt somewhat blessed. It was undeniably romantic. Even ITV could not spoil it.
"The all-white kit, the stylish Spanish contingent, a Championship side from humble South Wales mesmerising their Premier League guests from trendy, moneyed west London with a sophisticated passing game. A club who were hit with a transfer embargo seven years ago now pushing for the top flight in their sparkling new stadium. It was even Valentine's Day."
He continued: "Maybe the only people who do not want to see Swansea and their passionate supporters in the Premier League and the FA Cup quarter-finals are Cardiff City fans. But maybe they should.
"Could it be that these two most ardent of rivals are spurring each other on to herald a new golden age of Welsh club football?"
Not just lavish praise, but incredible foresight in predicting a golden age for Welsh club football. 
Although he may have got the bit about being Sir Alex's potential successor wrong, I wonder if our Sam had a cheeky fiver on Roberto Martinez leading Wigan to win the FA Cup last Saturday?
In fact, if he did, I wonder if it was the second leg of a double on Swansea and Wigan winning both domestic cup competitions? Who would have forecast that at the start of the season?
Certainly not those who were predicting a severe dose of "second season syndrome" for the Swans last summer, and even during the early months of the season - despite their explosive start QPR and West Ham.
Instead, the Swans have proved those temporary doubters wrong, and have attracted even more praise, both on and off the field as they have proved you don't have to have an Arab sheikh, a Russian oligarch or a Malaysian's millions to buy success.
As I've said, a wider audience has admired the Swans' style on the field since that Fulham FA Cup tie, but this season it has been enhanced.
Especially as the players have shown it's not just here at the Liberty they can turn on the style. Wins at such notoriously difficult venues such as Stamford Bridge, The Emirates, Anfield, St James's Park and of course, the home of English football itself, Wembley (again!), proved there is substance as well as style in their play.
But more and more people are now starting to admire what the club is doing off the pitch too.
None other than Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, who described the Swans as "probably the ideal ownership model" for a football club.
Even our newly promoted local rivals have been casting admiring eyes west. In a recent article in the Guardian, Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan praised the Swans.
The article read: "For a blueprint for success in the Premier League, Tan believes Cardiff need to look no further than Swansea. "I think it is a model that we should emulate," he said in February, when outlining his vision for Cardiff in the top flight. "We should study more carefully and see how we can follow such a model."
In the old days, football clubs were owned by the local butcher, baker and candlestick maker, now they are just as likely to be owned by foreign multi-millionaires.
It's difficult to say which is right and which is wrong. Manchester City's millions bought them the Premier League title last season, and they were hoping for European glory this year.
But they have been left empty handed this season, while the likes of the Swans and Wigan have won domestic cups and the Champions League, whether it is Bayern Munich, or Borussia Dortmund, will be won by a club whose ownerships is in the hands of their fans.
What clubs like Swansea have done is to show that there is hope for those without the big money foreign backing.
When all that praise was heaped on the Swans back in 2009, I was nervous about what it could mean. Would "big" clubs come in and take our brightest stars.
To an extent those fears came true, with three managers and a number of key players having been tempted away, to apparently bigger clubs in just over four years. 
But, despite those departures, the Swans have built on their success every season since, and are now in a stronger position than ever before having bagged the Capital One Cup and guaranteed a top-ten finish in the Premier League, whatever happens today.
Now, as the most successful season in the club's 100-year history draws to a close, I for one can't wait to see what the next one has in store.