From despair to delight in nine years for Swansea City

Brendan Rodgers has led Swansea City to the Chamionship play-off final Brendan Rodgers has led Swansea City to the Chamionship play-off final

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Swansea City stand on the brink of promotion to the Premier League - dubbed the world's richest league - yet nine years ago, they were on the verge of going bust.

Businessman Tony Petty's turbulent three-month spell in charge at the end of 2001 almost brought the club to its knees.

Supporters took to the streets in protest against the Australian's running of the club as he attempted to sack seven players and two coaches, which the Professional Footballers' Association thwarted.

But a local consortium of supporters, headed by former director Mel Nurse, later battled to gain control of the club.

Start Quote

Throughout my life I've made a few mad decisions and offering to become chairman is one of them”

End Quote Huw Jenkins

And on 24 January, 2002 - reportedly 24 hours before the club was set to go out of business - they ousted Petty.

Huw Jenkins was installed as chairman but it was not a by no means smooth start for the new owners who had to keep the club afloat and in the Football League.

"Looking back, you could probably say it was a ridiculous decision for me to say that I'd become chairman because realistically none of us had a clue how things were going to work out," he said.

"There was no experience at the time of running a professional football club in League Two and the pressures the job brought with that, with the scrutiny and the media.


Swansea players celebrate
  • 2001/02: Rescued from brink of collapse. Captain Nick Cusack replaced manager Colin Addison.
  • 2002/03: Cusack sacked, Brian Flynn kept Swansea in the Football League.
  • 2003/04: Kenny Jackett replaced Brian Flynn.
  • 2004/05: Promoted to League One in Jackett's first full season in as a manager.
  • 2005/06: Lost to Barnsley on penalties in League One play-off final. Won Football League trophy.
  • 2006/07: Jackett replaced by ex-captain Roberto Martinez.
  • 2007/08: Martinez's first full season as a manager ends with promotion to the Championship after 24-year wait.
  • 2008/09: Missed out on play-offs by six points. Knocked FA Cup holders Portsmouth out in fourth round. Martinez left to take over at Wigan.
  • 2009/10: Paulo Sousa guided Swansea to within a point of the play-offs in his one season in charge before leaving for Leicester City.
  • 2010/11: Finish third and reached play-off final in Brendan Rodgers' first full season as a manager.

"Every decision you make is highlighted and criticised from all quarters. I think you quickly realise and quickly grow up and that's what I did.

"At that time there was an urgent necessity to control our finances otherwise the club couldn't survive. That came before any football decision.

Turning point

"We were living from week to week with what income we had in. We can remember numerous times when we were struggling to pay our way."

But while that was going on, matters on the pitch almost took a disastrous turn for the worse.

Only a 4-2 win against Hull City on the last day of the 2002/03 season saved the Swans from relegation out of the Football League.

"We could have been responsible for a lot of things going wrong at the club," added Jenkins.

"The thought that we could take the club out of the Football League as a body trying to run the club wasn't a good experience. There's no doubt that you'd never forgive yourself."

Like many supporters though, Jenkins points to the Hull victory as a turning point in the club's history.

Eight years and two promotions later, they are at the Premier League's door where a £90m jackpot awaits.

But what is remarkable about their rise is that unlike many clubs, they have stuck to their financial means and refused to break tight budgets in search of glory.

They've employed four rookie managers who have all helped the club progress and introduced an attractive brand of football that has won them many plaudits.


Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins

Every manager is a gamble. You haven't got a clue how things will go when you appoint a manager.

New managers coming into the game with fresh ideas are vital to the British game. Things move on in football and young peope have their own ideas.

Certainly Brendan Rodgers had studied a lot when he was at Chelsea, but before that he studied the European way of playing and what he'd like to do if he had the chance.

The enthusiasm and the new ideas and the giving people a chance to try and achieve their goals as a manager to me is more important than experience.

"We've managed to stabilise the finances, stop money going out of the club - we had nobody in the background who was going to pump in millions of their own money - and from that day on to this we've more or less worked within the incomes that the club's brought in," said Jenkins.

"We operated our playing budget and budgets from that, and we've stuck to that process.

"If we go up, nothing's going to change. We'll have a certain amount of income more or less guaranteed and we'll try to find a way of competing again working within those figures, like we did in the Championship."

Whether Swansea go up or not, they can still be proud of their achievement on and off the pitch.


The Swans have gone about their business quietly and Jenkins wants the respect he feels the club has lacked over the years, on top of living in the shadow of arch-rivals Cardiff City until now.

"Forgetting the money side of it, the most important part is the credibility in what we've done, probably more respect," he said.

"We've struggled to gain respect. I think everybody thought we were a little club in the back of beyond that are doing well but would be lucky to survive at Championship level.

"Even if we played well and won games, we'd have a pat on the back as if to say 'you won't get relegated'.

Will Swansea City seize the day?

"I think we've always had that thrown at us - which we'll never forget - really from the majority of people we've dealt with in the football circles.

"It will allow us to keep moving along the same path that we have set and it will allow us to continue growing as a club.

"I personally believe there is nothing that will stop us growing to what we need to grow to."

And promotion to the top flight of English football 30 years after they last clinched a place there is Jenkins' ultimate goal.

The John Toshack era has undoubtedly been Swansea's hey day while the win over Hull was arguably their most important game.


You can work your way through the market and our idea was to always go for players that other teams didn't want.

Most clubs go after the same players all of the time which pushes up the wages and transfer fees but I think finding a way to play and compete and perhaps bring in more gifted, technical players rather than physical athletes that a lot of clubs seem to go for before the football ability, is obviously clear to us and shows the way forward.

So many teams you see in the Championship and the Premier League that rely so much on individuals winning games and leave individuals to do more or less what they want on the pitch.

And Jenkins believes the club's eight-year turnaround will be a bigger achievement than when Toshack took them from the fourth to the first Division in four seasons.

"Yes definitely with the way football has developed," he said.

"If you look back to when we started this process, when our discussions went on 10 years ago, nobody could ever dream we would be standing in the directors box in Wembley on Monday.

"Promotion without a doubt will be a fantastic achievement.

"The way my personality is, I will probably take it on board as something we aimed for and got it.

"But it's bigger than that with the way football is today and the money thrown about."

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