Issue #14 Wembley: One year on and 176 miles away

As told by Michael Wood

Less than a year on from Bradford City’s League Cup final at Wembley it is not hard to see the difference between where the club sat then and where it is now in Yorkshire. In Wales though on the night our opposition that day Swansea City sack Michael Laudrup from his position as manager the improvements in the Principality are under question.

Swansea City’s League Cup win was the coming out party for a club run well by chairman Huw Stephens who has reportedly fallen out with the Dane over his desire, or lack of desire, to sign a deal for next season. Managers had come and gone at The Liberty Stadium but a principal of good football with players who fit the budgets remained.

Giving Stephens the benefit of the doubt it probably still does unless he has – Geoffrey Richmond style – decided that modest success one year must be translated into massive gains the next. Let us hope for our sporting vanquishers of March 2013 that he has not.

Laudrup has performed the brief of Swansea manager this season well. The spell of defeats his team was on was surely not the whole reason for his exit. The campaign in Europe included some impressive wins and the team recorded a first ever victory at Old Trafford in the FA Cup. 12th in the Premier League is nothing to be sniffed at. If the issue is about contract length and signing up beyond the end of the season one hopes that Stephens does not come to regret that decision.

Indeed one recalls the sacking of Colin Todd as City boss after the misanthropic manager suggested he would not be interested in a new deal in the summer. David Wetherall was given a chance and relegation followed. Todd’s team were in no danger of relegation whatsoever and it was the change was the cause of the problems.

The progress Laudrup has made is now in the hands of such a situation. The team he leaves is in the same position this year as last – the middle of the Premier League – but watching them this season they seemed more at home in the top flight. No longer wide eyed they played their brand of impressive passing football not trying to prove that they were worthy of a top flight place but being worthy of it. They were on the verge of being Premier League rank and file.

The new Fulham, so to speak, as the old one beats a path back to the Championship.

Stephens believes what he has done in removing Laudrup has made that more likely, one worries that it has made it less.