In June last year I put a bet on us to avoid relegation from the Premier League. It was only a £5 and was more of an act of faith rather than confidence; a proverbial two fingers to all the people predicting we would crash and burn. When I collect my winnings they will go straight onto a bet that we will survive again next season. But this time the bet will be placed with confidence. The press will talk about “second season syndrome” but I believe we will be much stronger because unlike this time last year Swansea City has four extra things in its favour:
1. We know now, (and have effectively done so since the Blackburn game in mid April), that we will be playing Premier League Football next season.
“Fail to plan and plan to fail” is the old saying and only knowing you’re in the Premier League at the end of May doesn’t give you long to plan. Don’t underestimate this as it’s a huge bonus to have 7 or 8 weeks longer to prepare for the new campaign than we had last year. Already Brendan knows how much money he is able to spend and is reported to be happy with the overall budget that has been agreed by the Board. No doubt targets will have already been identified and negotiations with clubs and agents will have started in some instances.
2. We have proved we can survive in the Premier League and have done it in style.
We all knew how good the football we played was and now the world knows it as well. This will be of huge benefit to Brendan as he targets new players. These players and their agents will have heard of Swansea and will know we have a realistic chance of staying up again next year.
3. We have no key players out of contract.
Last year De Vries, Pratley and Rangel were out of contract. Key players in key positions and we subsequently lost two of them. Let’s face it De Vries was so key that we had to sign three players to replace him! If any player leaves this time it will be because we want him to, or the money offered will be too good to turn down. Either way we are in control of the situation and the only concern is that Scott Sinclair has not yet committed to extending his current contract which only has a year to run. I’m sure he will but if Scotty doesn’t sign an extension before the start of the season then he should be sold in order for a replacement to be brought in.
4. Lessons will have been learned
Remember how we were overrun at the Etihad on the first game of the season? Remember how angry Brendan was at half time at home to Man Utd as we gave them so much respect they were strolling to victory without breaking sweat? This won’t happen next season. I’m not saying we won’t get beaten but we won’t be in awe of teams to the same degree as last season. The players have proved to themselves that they can compete and they will have played at all the stadia and against the world class players. There will be hard earned self confidence in the squad next season. Lessons will have also been learned off the pitch as well. Everyone from the Chairman downwards will have benefited and grown from the experience and will be better prepared for what is to come. That goes for a manager as well, who despite his calm exterior must have found the last 12 months a great learning curve himself.
All reasons for confidence – but not over confidence. Don’t get me wrong, next season will be tough. It’s the Premiership after all and we may well find it a struggle. But if you’re a betting man, which I seem to be these days, I’d like to think the odds are a lot more in our favour than they were last year.