Rather logically, a review of April – June follows the January – March installment of this Vital Swansea Review of 2008.
Bournemouth at home was meant to be one massive promotion party down at the Liberty, and for the large part it was. Andy Robinson parted company from his wallet for long enough to give the Swans a one goal lead and we were cruising. With Doncaster doing their part and losing, promotion was there for the taking. An equaliser and then a Jo Kuffour winner deep into injury time saw the already popped champagne go flat. But Donny drew so it didn’t matter anyway, did it?
It didn’t seem to matter that much to the 750 or so Jacks that travelled up to a freezing Carlisle on the following Tuesday night to witness the performance which proved just how far ahead of the rest Roberto Martinez’s side were. Carlisle’s fantastic home record didn’t stop the Swans from playing their natural game, outplaying the North East side and coming away with a 0-0 draw. One win away from the promised land!
That win came at Gillingham. A goal down after twenty minutes and it wasn’t looking all that great. Step up Guillem Bauza. The curly haired Spaniard wrote his name in Swansea City folklore with two goals before half time that sent 1500 Jacks wild at Priestfield Stadium, and sparked jubilant scenes back home. 1700 watched on a big screen at the Liberty as Roberto’s foreign legion smashed the clubs points record to claim a famous promotion!
Next up, the title. An anti-climax if ever I saw one. Defeat at home to Yeovil didn’t matter as nearest rivals Carlisle lost as well so the Swans were champions. Or were we? The Football League decided to drag the Leeds United saga on a bit longer, just to give them something to do I imagine, and as such the league trophy wasn’t present in South Wales. This was despite being 16 points clear of Leeds, who had fifteen points deducted at the start of the season (they hardly ever mentioned it up here!). But still, the Football League, in all their wisdom, decided no trophy for the fans and players to enjoy.
There was a trophy the following week though, after the Swans signed off from the Liberty with a Bauza hat – trick on the way to a 4-1 win over Leyton Orient. And the man himself picked up the giant cardboard cut out from the crowd as the players went on a victory lap of the pitch. Points record extended, title in the bag…cue pitch invasion like the good old days! This was followed up by a open top bus parade through the city, cardboard trophys aplenty once again!
The League One Team of the Year was announced, and included five Swans. Monk, Rangel, Robinson, Bodde and Scotland all made the cut. Leon Britton should have been in there, and Paul Anderson can consider himself unlucky not to have made it either.
The Football League kept us waiting until May 2nd to tell us of Leeds’ fate, not that it mattered much by that stage. No points back for the Elland Road club. There wasn’t much sympathy heading their way. What mattered more to the Swans though, was that Garry Monk could finally get his hands on the League One trophy in the final game of the season at Brighton. Febian Brandy’s goal saw the Swans break the 90 point mark for the season and seal a 1-0 win. So finally, weeks after it should have happened in front of a packed home crowd, a select few saw Monk, Scotland, Roberto and the rest lift the trophy at the Withdean. Not how it should have been, but that’s how it ended up. It left a bitter taste in the mouth of everyone associated with the club, but couldn’t detract from the overwhelming emotion of joy. Swansea City were promoted as Champions, and back in the second tier for the first time in 24 years.
Nottingham Forest somehow managed to pip Carlisle to the second promotion spot on the final day, but the other main talking point of the month was Andy Robinson. He hadn’t signed a new contract, and with Leeds reportedly interested in him the Scouser said he would make his decision the day after the play – off final. Call me synical, but had he been allowed to make his decision then he would probably still be in a Swansea City shirt this season. Martinez was having none of it, and forced Robinson to make his decision. Money was a bigger draw than Championship football and so Robbo packed his bags and went to Yorkshire. Doncaster beat Leeds in the play – off final and Robinson faced up to another season in League One. Shame.
The likes of Monk and Tom Butler did put pen to paper on new deals as Martinez started to build for life in the Championship. Ashley Williams became a permanent Jack after his loan spell from Stockport County. £400,000 very well spent by the shrewd Martinez.
More awards for the Swans in May as Martinez picked up the LMA Manager of the Year award and Jason Scotland got the Golden Boot. The Liberty Stadium cleaners were spending more time in the Trophy Room than ever before!
There was also the first bid from Derby County for Ferrie Bodde who had his transfer request rejected. I’ll leave that one for later…
Kevin Austin left the club on a free, while Gorka Pintado and Jordi Gomez became the latest Spaniard’s to join the ranks in South Wales. Martinez was working his magic in the transfer market once again, getting Pintado in a cut price deal, and persuading Gomez that La Liga wasn’t the place to play his football in the coming season. The man is a genius!
Meanwhile, the transfer saga of the year was building pace. Not that Portugese fella who looks like his tan came from a tin of varnish, but the equally talented Ferrie Bodde. Derby increased their bid to £750,000 and Huw Jenkins rightly laughed it off.
Bodde wanted to leave, he had supposedly been looking at houses in Derby and it just seemed a matter of time before the Dutch maestro left. Or so we thought.
Kevin Amankwaah did leave the club in June. Remember him? Mark Gower and Fede Bessone also signed on the dotted line to become Swans players in the new season, and the squad was starting to take shape very nicely indeed. The season couldn’t come quickly enough…
Read Part 3 here