Swans have proven that nothing is impossible

16th May 2015

A few years ago I used to think the Premier League was in danger of turning into an establishment where only the wealthiest could afford to trade.

Only the biggest spenders with the biggest credit ratings would be allowed in through the doors. You either had to have new money, or be part of the old establishment.

The rest would be forced to press their noses up against the window and only dream of the riches within.

The super-rich, the likes of today's visitors Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United and all, would do their trading at Harrods, while the rest of English (and Welsh) football would have to go to their local Happy Shopper store.

Well, I am more than happy to acknowledge that I was wrong.

Next season's Premier League fixture list will include the following words: 

Swansea City v AFC Bournemouth.

Now if those few words don't act as hope and inspiration for every single club in the Football League then absolutely nothing will.

Swansea City v Bournemouth was the first professional football match I ever saw back in March, 1978.

It wouldn't have just been difficult to imagine the two clubs playing each other in the top division back then, it would have been impossible to imagine what the top division would be like today.

Remember, this was six months before Tottenham Hotspur became the first top-flight club to recruit high profile foreign players in the shape of Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa.

Back then, clubs' squads would be made up almost exclusively of players born within the British Isles.

Matches were played in ageing stadiums, often on mudbath pitches and live coverage was confined to the European Cup Final, FA Cup Final and a handful of international matches.

These were the days when your club was more likely to be owned by the local butcher, baker and candlestick maker rather than a Russian oligarch or even a mega-rich Sheikh.

Both sides were in the old Division Four of the Football League back then. The Swans had been forced to apply for re-election to the football league just three years earlier in 1975, while during the same year Bournemouth had been relegated to the bottom flight, where they had struggled to make an impact.

Although the Swans did make it to the old First Division briefly in the early Eighties, and Bournemouth enjoyed sporadic success, notably with some famous FA Cup giant killings, neither club could be counted amongst the nation's most successful during most of the Eighties, Nineties and Noughties. 

At various times both have looked like going out of existence entirely, let along going out of the league. In the meantime, football's richest clubs were getting even richer as the Premier League took off and transformed football.

Everyone in these parts is now familiar with the Swans' rags to riches rise. The success the club has enjoyed over the past few seasons has ensured the remarkable Swansea City story has spread all around the globe.

Now Bournemouth, following in the footsteps of other "lesser" sides like Blackpool, Burnley and the Swans have made the rise into the top flight.

Bournemouth is a slightly different story to the other recent unfashionable successes . . . this is the Cherries' first sitting at the top table.

They will give hope to every other club that has never graced the top flight, be it the Premier League or the old First Division.

Their rise to the top is also different to that of the Swans in that the Cherries have benefitted from significant financial support from a wealthy backer, while the Swans had no such significant support.

But there are plently of "big" clubs in the Championship, which have the kind of financial clout Bournemouth have, but haven't been able to make that step up to the Premier League. So, it's not all just about the money.

Bournemouth have shown that you can play your way into the top flight as well as try to pay your way into it.

And they will surely take heart from the Swans who haven't just played their way into the Premier League, they have played their way into at least a top 10 place.

I have to admit, five or six years ago I couldn't see the Swans making it into the Premier League.

Now that may have just been down to my natural pessimism, but I just didn't think it would be possible for a club of our size to make it and compete with the super rich.

I also didn't think it would be possible for a club outside the big four of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City to win the Premier League title again.

I know it's getting harder and harder as the financial gap between the top sides and the rest grows, but why not?

What if a club does get the right balance of young home-grown talent, successful playing style, a modest amount of financial clout and good old-fashioned luck? Who knows what could happen? 

Look at Southampton this season. Despite losing half their squad in the summer they gave the big boys a real run in the early stages of the season.

I think the days of a Nottingham Forest coming up and winning the title the following season, like they did in the late Seventies, are long gone.

But who knows what a smaller club could achieve if that "perfect storm" of luck, young talent, style and backing all came together at once.

Bournemouth have shown every club in the Football League that the Premier League dream is possible - even for a club that has never before dined at the top table.

I wonder how long it will be before a so-called "modest" or "unfashionable" club really does mount a sustained challenge for the title . . . or even win it?

It would be a remarkable achievement. The last time someone other than the big four I mentioned earlier won the title was Blackburn Rovers 20 years ago.

Today's visitors upset the apple cart to a degree back in 2011-12 when they broke the domination of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

But they couldn't really be described as an unfashionable club, given their size, history and financial backing.

Wouldn't it be fantastic for the Premier League if someone could upset the dominance of the big four?

Far fetched? Would you have predicted the Swans challenging for a top eight Premier League finish 10 years ago?

And who would have predicted Bournemouth would be in the Premier League next season when they were 24 hours from liquidation back in 2008?

It's been a remarkable season and who knows what's in store next term?

Dreams really can come true.

C'mon you Swans!