Early Doors

Culture shock awaits ‘Swanselona’

Early Doors

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Like white dog poo, shellsuits and cassette tapes, ED thought having a Welsh team in the top flight of English football was a symptom of a bygone era, a relic of a time when men were men, and a boozy night out prior to a big game could be construed as a vital training exercise.

In fact, the last time Swansea found themselves in such rarefied air, M*A*S*H was the biggest TV show in the world and Spandau Ballet were top of the UK charts with 'True'.

But their 4-2 victory over Reading in Monday's Championship play-off final at Wembley ensured Welsh participation in the top flight for the first time since an altruistic group of chairmen grasped greedily at Sky's millions and changed the face of domestic football when establishing the Premier League in 1992.

On the evidence of said play-off final, ED can confidently assert that Swansea will be a superb addition to the elite. Like Blackpool, Burnley and Tony Mowbray's West Brom before them, they arrive in the first tier in some style, smothered in plaudits for the stylish way they approach the game. And look how those teams fared. Oh, right.

Swansea will certainly be entertaining though, whatever their fate next season. They have been described in somewhat optimistic terms as the Barcelona of the Championship - an analogy Sky Sports' David Jones took to an extreme when comparing Stephen Dobbie and Leon Britton to Xavi and Andres Iniesta, no pressure then lads - but it is a comparison that manager Brendan Rodgers embraces.

"People started calling us Swanselona because of the number of passes we make in matches," he said prior to the win over Reading. "With my education as a young coach I spent a lot of time in Spain and the Barcelona model was a great influence and inspiration.

"At Swansea our average this season has been 526 passes over 90 minutes and our average possession is 61 per cent. Nine times out of 10 if we make a certain number of passes we will win the game."

Those who lament the growing fetishisation of passing statistics will not welcome that kind of discourse, but ED can appreciate the beauty in numbers. Plus, Swansea's arrival in the Premier League will now surely solve that defining question posed by football sage Andy Gray: how would the pretty passers of Barcelona fare on a "wet and windy night at Stoke". Such a task would no doubt prove beyond Lionel Messi; perhaps Scott Sinclair will fare better.

Despite their claims to the Total Football legacy espoused by Johan Cruyff, Swansea are well aware of the task awaiting them. As Rodgers explained in the warm glow of victory, the club have come a very long way in a very short space of time.

"Eight years ago the club beat Hull City 4-2, with one player scoring a hat-trick with two penalties, to stay in the league," Rodgers said. "And now we're the first Welsh team in the Premier League [in the same way]. The footballing gods were with us. They didn't have the money to pay the electricity bill at the Vetch. And eight years later we've just won a £90 million game."

Given their rapid rise through the leagues, a culture shock surely awaits Rodgers and his players, so ED thought it best to help ease their transition and provide a quick cut-out-and-keep, five-point guide to a stage that has eluded them for so long.

1. Prepare to be patronised. Legions of pundits will enthuse over what a breath of fresh air you have been to the league as you secure a few surprise victories and find yourselves challenging for Europe after 10 games. Remember, though, that as of Monday, Sky were still confusing your badge with that of the hated Cardiff. Oh, and be prepared for a long wait on Match of the Day.

2. Avoid outdoor team-talks. Brendan, when the inevitable dismal slump arrives after Christmas, don't go all Phil Brown on us and self-implode in comical fashion. It's not a pleasant sight. Steer clear of any pink sweaters and certainly don't try and claim that you talked someone out of hurling themselves off the Severn Bridge.

3. Watch out for vultures. Harry Redknapp will declare Scott Sinclair to be a "triffic" player on an almost weekly basis, repeating the refrain that he never likes to talk about other clubs' players, but that Nathan Dyer's a bit tasty as well.

4. Block calls from agents. Benni McCarthy's Mr 10 per cent has probably already been on the phone, but be wary of any agent hoping to hop on the Premier League gravy train and get a nice slice of that £90m for a tidy Lithuanian left back, who inside three months will insult the female population of South Wales and demand a transfer in the bowels of Old Trafford.

5. Start saving up. Now you find yourselves in the wonderful world of the Premier League, prepare for rampant commercialism on a scale that may at first seem horrendously at odds with the working-class roots of the game, but will soon seem part of the natural backdrop to this haven of capitalism. Up to £72 for a ticket for the QPR game? No problem. About £8 for a slice of pizza and a pint at Arsenal? Sounds reasonable to me. Certainly the notorious 39th game won't be an issue, should it ever be inflicted on us, as 19 of your away games require travel to a different country anyway.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If somebody would describe to me a crisis? What is a crisis. Football is not in a crisis. We have just seen a beautiful Champions League final with Barcelona, with fair play. We are only in some difficulties. And they will be solved inside our family." - FIFA president Sepp Blatter auditions for the position of Iraqi information minister during his remarkable press conference/PR disaster in Zurich on Monday.

FOREIGN VIEW: "Doctor Leoz is an old man and to go to England just to meet the Prince and go to the cup final is not reason enough. If this is combined with, say, the naming of the [FA] Cup after Dr Leoz then that could be reason enough." - Alberto Almirall, advisor to FIFA Ex-Co member Nicolas Leoz, as quoted in the FA's report into Lord Triesman's accusations regarding the World Cup bidding process.

COMING UP: Our live transfer ticker kicks off today so make sure you keep up to date with the likely comings and goings as we embark on a long summer of speculation. Andy Murray is also on court in Paris to finish his match with Viktor Troicki in the French Open. It stands poised at two sets all after Monday's action.

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