Despite the fierce rivalry between the two biggest football clubs in South Wales, Cardiff City fans should set aside their bias and acknowledge how well run Swansea City is as a club. Whether that be at boardroom level, backroom staff or the playing squad, the Swans are the template for sustained success in the top flight of English football, and Cardiff should be advised to set aside any underlying bias and absorb all the information they can from their rivals.
Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins, who grew up in the city, should garner extensive amounts of praise for his part in establishing his club as a force in the Premier League. His loyalty to the club is unwavering and he has gained himself a reputation as a shrewd financial manager, turning profits each season without risking the club’s on-field status, which has been pinpointed in the Swans debut Premiership season where they saw a record profit of £14.6m and finished a respectable 9th in the table.
At the Cardiff City Stadium, Vincent Tan, Cardiff City’s owner, has conveyed his lack of expertise at the day-to-day running of a football club. Other than the controversy surrounding the change of the identity of Cardiff City, Tan has also shown an uneven input of finance, as he pumped in money since taking over in 2010, but has scaled back this financial help this past season despite the club trying (and failing) to push back up to the Premier League.
Tan’s loyalty to the club has also been under scrutiny in recent weeks, as news of his taking over of his fifth football club, Belgian side K.V. Kortijk, has been confirmed. City fans are increasingly desperate for chairman in the same vein of Jenkins, one who puts his heart and soul into his club rather than one that looks at them as an investment.
Swansea have also been able to be as steady on the field as they have off it, despite various changes of manager. Starting from the hiring of former player Roberto Martinez in 2007, the Swans have gone through four different managers. Their current boss is another former Swansea player – Garry Monk. Although there has been a lot of change at the helm, each manager has kept the style that Martinez established at the club, and Swansea are now well known for their approach of dominating possession and utilising free-flowing passing football.
Cardiff, however, have endured a different time when transitioning between managers. Dave Jones and Malky Mackay were well known for using rather negative tactics that didn’t really ignite the passions of City fans, while Ole Gunnar Solskjær seemed to be inept at adapting and countering opposing managers’ tactics. Current manager Russell Slade has put all his eggs in one basket with ineffective long ball play, even when the large strikers needed to hold up the ball in this style were not available to him at the tail-end of this campaign. While changing team tactics is a natural part of the transition between managers, former bosses and Slade alike have neglected to the squad’s strengths, and instead seem intent on forcing their philosophies down the players’ throats no matter the circumstance.
Along with their tactical approach to the game, Swansea has displayed an effectiveness in the transfer market that Cardiff has lacked. Swansea have a knack for capturing already established Premier League and other foreign quality players at bargain prices, with goalkeeper Łukasz Fabiański and Gylfi Sigurdsson proving to be key components in their fantastic eighth-placed finish this year.
A side-by-side comparison that could be made with Cardiff are the signings of Wilfried Bony and Andreas Cornelius, with both signings arrived at their respective clubs in 2013. Young striker Cornelius bombed for the Bluebirds, scoring no goals and only playing eight games despite an alleged record £8million transfer fee after a solid season at F.C. Copenhagen, and was then sold back to his first club after his only season at Cardiff.
Swansea obviously got the better deal, as Bony, experienced in the more competitive Dutch league with Vitesse, signed for £12 million. Bony’s career took a dramatically different direction to that of Cornelius, as he scored 25 goals in his 54 games spanning into 2015, easily settling into life at Swansea and establishing himself as one of the top marksmen in the league, eventually moving onto Manchester City for an initial £25 million fee. This is only one example of Cardiff’s troublesome transfer history, with other players signed from abroad proving as ineffective at the club as Cornelius, such as Magnus Wolff Eikrem and Guido Burgstaller.
If Cardiff want to get back into the Premier League, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to look up to their closest rivals and see where they can improve.