Swansea's date with destiny

Posted by Max Hicks

Michael Laudrup's Swansea City stand ready to win their first major domestic trophy, a feat which, if achieved, will represent an addition to the Swans' trophy cabinet which has eluded, say, Arsene Wenger and one of British football's better teams for the past eight years.

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Arsenal are, of course, one of the list of sides, along with Real Madrid, who are supposedly ready to wrest Laudrup from South Wales. A domestic trophy - even British football's bronze medal - will hardly cool their interest. Laudrup himself appears content with life in South Wales at present, and the belief is that a cup final victory will compel Laudrup to sign the contract extension he has lately been negotiating. This is a man with vision, at a club whose status as top flight surprise package masks the fact there is still so much room to grow.

When small clubs find or develop good players, or provide a platform for a previously unfashionable manager to thrive, it isn't long before the big clubs notice. And when they do, those men are cut out of the hearts of their clubs with deflating inevitability, the reliable bludgeon of wealth always the instrument of choice, with all the surgical precision of a lead chequebook flattening a butterfly.

I'd like to think Michael Laudrup is different. I'm not about to suggest he will commit to Swansea for a Fergie-esque (or even a Moyes-ean) spell of age-long rule - Laudrup seems a serene nomad with little desire to embrace the suffocating insularity of long-term tenure - but seeing out his two years, and possibly that extra third, does at least seem more than likely.

In the meantime, Swansea are once again making new ground under a new manager. Laudrup has taken this team to its first league cup final. The club's reputation and achievement continues to grow, and should there come a time when Laudrup moves on or when one of Europe's elite finds 20 million pounds to throw at Michu, history suggests the Swans will somehow still find a way to turn that forced change into another forward step.

Europe beckons, and arguably represents an even greater prize than a League Cup winners medal or the rush of hoisting that trophy on Sunday. In a very short time, Swansea have shown that rather than merely holding their own in the top division, they are staking a claim to permanence, creating a Swansea shaped slot which no other side could fill, for no other side really compares.

There are many like-for-like clubs in the UK, interchangeable sides with identi-kit styles, each as idiosyncratic as a photocopy of the first page of the great book of British football. There is an unwritten law of universality which suggests this ought to be the case, and is the case in any country, in any walk of life.

The Swans however are one of the true anomalies, one of a handful of sides who don't just do things 'their way', but have a 'way' to speak of in the first place. This is a club built on an organisation-wide philosophy, one with its own emergent and strengthening culture. It seems right that the club's progress over the past decade ought to be rewarded not just with a continuing claim of Premier League membership, but with a side order of silverware.

Metaphorically speaking, Sunday's league cup final is a tap-in for the Swans, with all due respect to their opponents. Of course the game isn't won yet. We all know that it's "11 men versus 11 men" and that "anything can happen in one game", and the Swans will know that, too.

Laudrup's video room session in which his side were made to watch each of Bradford's four cup games against Premier League opponents ought to have reinforced the genuine if containable threat the league two side will pose on Sunday. Still, it would take a cataclysmic performance from Swansea to come up short this close to the finish line.

This club's larger success has been achieved through a dedication to doing the little things right. On the field, the players need only continue to do the little things right for 90 more minutes to earn their first major trophy, a ticket back into Europe and another step down the path less trodden which Swansea City have been laying brick by brick for the past ten years or more.

Some silver to compliment the gold trim of the Swans centenary kit would be a great way to celebrate 100 years of Swansea football, and herald the potential for further future success.

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