Swans team spirit brings home a centennial trophy

Posted by Max Hicks

Swansea City made history on Sunday by winning the club's first major silverware with a 5-0 victory over Bradford City at Wembley. No one was sure what to expect of the League Cup final. Romantics perhaps hoped for League Two giant-killers Bradford to upset the bigger side; Swans fans were nervous they might do just that, and neutrals mostly just wanted to see a good game.

It took just 16 minutes for the Swans to set the tone when Nathan Dyer turned in a Michu rebound. When Michu scored the Swans' second a little before half-time, the game turned into the comfortable victory the Swans were hoping for.

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The result fairly demonstrated the difference between the sides, as well as enhancing Michael Laudrup's personal connection with that particular scoreline - not only was Laudrup on the winning side in 5-0 victories for both Barcelona and Real Madrid in two El Clasico derbies, but also began his Swans career with a 5-0 win over QPR.

This 5-0 might be the most memorable, bringing Swansea their first major silverware in a century of existence.

On the subject of five-nils, Laudrup's decision to protect key players in last week's 5-0 loss to against Liverpool now appears entirely justified. What's more, the entire team seems to have understood the decision, taken the loss on the chin, and moved on. Perhaps lesser sides might have been rattled by a high-profile humiliation at the hands of a former manager the week before a League Cup final, but not Laudrup's Swans.

The Swans are very much a team, and won the cup as one. Dyer justly won the man-of-the-match award, but in truth Pablo Hernandez or Jonathan De Guzman might also have been chosen. There was an uncharacteristic moment of temporary bad blood when De Guzman wouldn't let Dyer take the game's lone penalty to complete a hat trick.

Since the Swans haven't been awarded a penalty all season, it's hard to know whether De Guzman is the appointed penalty taker. It seems to me De Guzman wanted it because it had been his near-certain goal that was prevented by goalkeeper Matt Duke's foul.

It was harsh on Bradford and Duke, especially when he was dismissed. Duke had so often been the hero for Bradford during their Cup run. At the time, the Swans were coasting, 3-0. For the sake of the game, there is an argument that referee Kevin Friend might have decided to only award a yellow. By the book, that decision would have been wrong, but perhaps the book needs better definitions.

It might have been unprofessional had Friend deliberately chosen to make the wrong decision on this occasion, but who would have complained? Friend might have had some answering to do, but Howard Webb survived his decision not to dismiss Nigel de Jong for a common assault in a World Cup final. That was a very high-profile decision deliberately made for the sake of the game. The fault, of course, isn't with Friend so much as with the limited allowance for context provided by the rule book.

After the dismissal, which ruined not just Duke's afternoon but also Nakhi Wells' (who was substituted to allow Bradford to bring on a replacement keeper), what little tension remained in the stadium promptly evaporated. The Swans were allowed to see out the game against ten men, gently probing and generally enjoying themselves without any real sense of urgency or danger. Not that the Swans fans were complaining, of course.

Laudrup showed some trademark class in introducing old hand Garry Monk in the 62nd minute rather than the 92nd, allowing the team's official captain to enjoy some of the game before hoisting the trophy alongside acting captain Ash Williams. Laudrup's decision to substitute Dyer, still chasing his hat trick after being denied his chance from 12 yards, was perhaps less easy to understand.

Maybe it was a gesture to remind Dyer - and the watching football world - that this Swansea side are a team, and no one player is bigger than the team, no matter how well they've played. Dyer had done his damage, scored two good goals, and helped put the game more or less out of Bradford's reach just after half-time. He might have wanted the personal glory of the hat trick, but the Swans didn't need it. That's a bold statement of the power of the collective from a man who himself is one of football's outstanding individuals. Still, if it were up to me, I'd have probably left him on.

Final Thoughts

Positives: At the risk of being obvious - the Swans winning the League Cup! Seeing the entire team meet the occasion and not be overwhelmed by it; The scoreline, the players, the manager, the fans.

Negatives: Shame about that red, Bradford deserved better. Not that it would have made much difference.

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