Sunderland are expecting a Swansea side buoyant and focused on victory tonight, but John O’Shea is still confident of victory. Stuart Rayner reports
RAPID rises are nothing new in the history of Swansea City, but the last was followed by an equally dramatic and sudden fall from grace.
For eight astonishing seasons in the 1970s and 80s, the Swans swapped divisions every summer, rising from the Football League’s bottom tier to its top and back in the shortest possible time.
The latest chapter in the history of the Welsh club has been boring by comparison, taking seven whole years to drag their way up from League Two to the Premier League. But there has been no repeat of the slide which took in a High Court winding-up order on the way. Not only have Swansea stabilised (not that Martin O’Neill believes they are anywhere near being able to take top-flight status for granted), they have progressed, reaching a first League Cup final last week.
They arrive at the Stadium of Light this evening an emerging force in the British game. Sunderland defender John O’Shea has little doubt where the credit lies.
“I think when they lost Brendan Rodgers (who left to become Liverpool’s manager in the summer), people maybe expected them to struggle or have a dip in form but credit to Mr Laudrup,” he said. “He’s playing fantastic football again and they’re getting a little bit more physical as well.”
Tapping the Spanish market for bargains such as Michu, Michael Laudrup has added steel without losing the artistry ingrained under Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and Rodgers. Defeating Chelsea in a two-legged League Cup semi-final only underlined the progress.
Many is the team – particularly in the comfort zone of mid-table – to qualify for a final and take their eye off the ball in the league, a competition Michu has not scored in since Christmas.
Laudrup and O’Neill have both reached their fair share of finals as managers and players, and neither has detected any signs it is about to happen to Swansea.