From despair to delight in nine years for Swansea City

By David Dulin
BBC Wales News website

  • Published
Brendan Rodgers has led Swansea City to the Chamionship play-off final
Image caption,
Brendan Rodgers has led Swansea City to the Chamionship play-off final

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.

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.

"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.

"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'.

"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.

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."