In a rare-reappearance of the Roker Ramble we take a very brief look at Swansea. Like them? Love them? The truth behind them lies somewhere in between...
A wise man once told me: there's nothing more dangerous than a girl with a plan. The same, it would seem, is true of football clubs. Once the furore over the debut single of ‘Eden Hazard and the Ballboy' evaporates, the attention will rightly shift towards the fact that Swansea City are headed to Wembley for a second time in three seasons.
The progression of the Welsh club has been done to death. Not only that, in the shouty, sweary world of football, anyone who does anything a little bit good is over exaggerated to the point of perfection. Much of this last season was orchestrated by then-manager Brendan Rodgers, but now armed with the song sheets, ‘Hymns and Arias' is frequently followed by a little ditty about how Swansea do ‘this' the right way, and ‘that' as it should be done. Football, in some places, exudes arrogance. Not only are Swansea winning football matches but they are winning the hipster battle that will ensure that when Sunderland face them on Sky next Tuesday, the ‘neutrals' will be swooning over Michu in the same way they did over Dimitar Berbatov one Sunday afternoon last November.
That paragraph potentially proves my point. It doesn't read like it, but I admire Swansea City. The only thing more impressive than being a Premier League club just a decade after staring over the Football League precipice is the unwavering commitment from Chairman Huw Jenkins to what they have now become. After falling at the League One play-off hurdle under Kenny Jackett, Jenkins' desire to creating an identity for a modest club has succeeded through patience, and a conviction in his beliefs. That Swansea has played largely the same way through four successive managers is certainly commendable. That the Premier League landscape is illuminated by ‘new' money, and that those chasing a place in it next season - primarily the cities of Cardiff, Leicester and Hull - have had their promotion pushes heavily invested in only serves to edge those in favour of ‘the Swansea way' towards exaggeration tipping point.
But older Swans fans could argue that the preaching of passing precedes the unveiling of Roberto Martinez and the ‘plan', as Brian Flynn usually sent teams out with the intention of moving the ball fluidly. Whisper this, but until Gylfi Sigurdsson rocked up last January and provided a spark, ‘the Swansea way' was boring, and often easy to guard against. Michu, and Michael Laudrup's other signings have tilted perception back the other way, but the fanfare lauded onto the club for signing a player in the top scorer charts in La Liga, that wasn't from Barcelona or either major Madrid club, highlights that nothing can just be good any more. Granted, Michu's worth to a club still aiming to establish itself is far more than their outlay, but no action of his has gone without the prefixed ‘bargain of the season' or ‘two-million-pound-man'. Swansea have passed, and passed, and passed, the challenges that lay in front of them, but so have many others - each in a different way. Some better, some far worse, but each different.
Modern football has taken many of the game's finer things and made them bold. And bright. Like a fluorescent MS-Painted sign for a sunbed salon. Gone, seemingly, are the days of things being capable, or effective; nowadays if you're not brilliant, you're shit. The problem is, Swansea are neither.