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FFT.com's Championship Correspondent Emyr Price examines a club who've shaken off the loss of their highly-regarded manager
In a footballing world dominated by risk-taking over-spenders, tax-dodging chairmen and those who like to specialise in financial mismanagement, Swansea City are an oasis in a what is increasingly becoming a very barren desert.
Their situation is one to marvel at: a reward of patience and sound decision-making that is now beginning to bear fruit.
One thing you won't find in club chairman Huw Jenkins' diary is a date at the High Court with the tax man. No. Leave that sort of business to Portsmouth, or Southend. Or the other Championship club down the road in South Wales, whose name they don't like to mention in these parts.
A balance sheet in the red? Not at the Liberty Stadium.
Swansea City are that rare thing in the modern game. A club completely debt-free, yet successful. After a sluggish start to the season they've been an almost permanent fixture in the Championship play off-places since October, and there's nothing to suggest they are about to nosedive either.
Wind the clock back to February 2007, and Swansea were a third-tier side under the guidance of a greenhorn manager. Spaniard Roberto Martinez was a fan favourite, who had made more than 100 appearances for the Jacks and captained them to promotion from the bottom division in 2006.
In their first season under Martinez, the Swans swept to the League One title. Burly hitman Jason Scotland's sackful of goals undoubtedly helped, but the Spaniard's flamboyant approach had created a squad devoid of weak links, one in which every player was capable of contributing to the easy-on-the-eye football the manager was cultivating.
An excellent eighth-place finish in their first season in English football's second tier – where again, Scotland wasn't exactly shy in front of goal – and things were looking rosy for the men in white.
Crucially, the money men at the club had resisted temptation to spend above their means and all this on-field success was achieved courtesy of a softly-softly business approach. Prior to the summer just gone, the club's record signing was a modest £400,000.
It's hardly the type of sum to get the pulse racing. But then again, Martinez's men were proving adept enough at that type of thing with their performances on the pitch.
Then Wigan Athletic came calling and Roberto scarpered, taking with him Scotland and another of the Swans' stars, Jordi Gomez.
The general consensus was that without the hugely influential departed trio – and half of Martinez's back-room staff - the club would find life in a very competitive league a little to tough to handle. And when Jenkins & Co. confirmed the equally inexperienced Paulo Sousa as Martinez's successor, most fans groaned.
They needn't have despaired. For whatever rickets the Portuguese boss has made in the fashion stakes – grey tartan suits, anyone? - he's more than made up for with his footballing nous.
With Scotland gone, goals have been hard to come by for Sousa's men – despite the addition of Craig Beattie for (by Swansea's standards) a whopping £800,000, and the return to the Liberty of the man they like to call Magic Daps: Lee Trundle.
So instead foundations have been built, as they are with most success stories, from the back.
They've conceded just 22 goals all year, a record only matched in the division by leaders Newcastle United, and this has resulted in just five defeats. Again, it's only the heavyweights from the North East who can boast a better record.
When you consider they've scored just 14 goals at home – whereas bottom of the table Peterborough have notched 27 times on their own patch this term – to be in fourth place in the league is pretty remarkable.
But to paint a picture of a dour defensive unit devoid of any attacking flair would simply be wrong. You wouldn't necessarily go to The Liberty Stadium to see a hatful of goals, but if it's entertainment you're looking for then there are plenty of worse places you could end up in.
And it's little wonder, given the wealth of talent Sousa has at his disposal. Box-to-box midfielder Darren Pratley has alerted a number of Premier League clubs to his talents with some energetic displays in the centre of the park. So has the old fashioned whippet-winger Nathan Dyer.
The acquisition of Welsh international attacker David Cotterill in January looks a shrewd move already, and another Wales midfielder – Joe Allen – is showing himself to be a star-in-waiting. Oh, and the hugely influential Ferrie Bodde is due back imminently from long term injury.
There are concerns: a lack of strength in depth, coupled with the problem of where the next goal is coming from. Maybe the club isn't ready for the next level yet either.
But while strikers frequently forget how to score, it's not too often that you see defenders forgetting how to defend. And that watertight defence could well be the ace up Swansea's sleeve come the run-in.
After all, it's served them pretty well up until this point.
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BRILLIANT ARTICLE AND SO TRUE. EXAMPLE TO ALL CLUBS - WATCH THIS SPACE!
Emyr - As an exiled Ipswich fan, should I be very worried indeed about the possibility of relegation this season? Where has it all gone wrong?
Tim - I've been amazed as everyone else has at Ipswich's poor season.
I had them down as play off probables at the beginning of the season.
I'd be a bit worried if I were you, but I reckon you'll be ok. The win at Hillsborough on the weekend was massive and I'd say youve got just enough about you to be ok.
Nice job Pricey. Couldn't agree more. My only worry is: will you know be banned from Cardiff home games after this?
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