Where are they now: the Swans side that secured Championship promotion against Gillingham in 2008?
This was partially inspired by the fact we played Gillingham in the FA Cup all those weeks ago, and that triggered positive flashbacks to when we were a well-run club.
It was 2008 and fluid possession football under Roberto Martinez fired Swansea up the League One table. In the Spaniard’s first full season with the Jacks, the side went on an eighteen game unbeaten run and drew plaudits from up and down the football pyramid for their slick football, the genesis of the ‘Swansea Way’.
In April of this season, Swansea needed their thirteenth away win of the season to confirm their promotion to the Championship. The promotion party could have started the previous week at the Liberty Stadium had relegation-threatened Bournemouth not stunned the ground (and kid-me) with two stoppage-time goals to secure a 2-1 win. Thus, hopeful Swansea fans and I travelled to Gillingham.
Gillingham themselves were on the brink of demotion, and the spirited Kent side tore the script up as they took the lead in the twenty-second minute through Dennis Oli. It all happened in front of a drenched Swans support with Gillingham neglecting to build a roof in the away end. But, Swansea equalised in the forty-fourth minute as striker Guillem Bauza bundled home a parried effort from Andy Robinson. Just moments later, Bauza bagged his brace before the half-time whistle after more excellent work from Robinson led to Bauza firing across the keeper.
It proved to be the winner as the flair of the first half fizzled out for the rest of game. Swansea ensured they would play in the second division for the first time in twenty-four years, and the actions of the green-and-black heroes on the pitch laid the foundations for several successful Swansea years. Gather round, children. Let’s find out what happened to the fourteen featured players.
Dorus De Vries (Celtic)
The Dutchman signed with the Swans once his contract with Scottish side Dunfermline Athletic expired in 2007. That year, Swansea lifted the League One title and De Vries appeared in fifty-eight of Swansea’s fifty-nine matches that season. His success continued into the Championship as the six-foot one keeper surpassed Roger Freestone’s clean sheet record with twenty-five shut-outs under Paulo Sousa in the 2009/10 season. A character with his foghorn-like call to organise his defence, De Vries made a total of 203 appearances for the Jacks with his final appearance coming in the 2011 Championship Play-Off Final.
He joined fellow Premier League team Wolves when his contract expired in the summer, but failed to nail down his place in the side, making just twenty appearances in two years. The Dutchman travelled sixty-one miles across the Midlands to Nottingham Forest, where he recorded sixty-three starts and was voted Player of the Season in 2015/2016 for his services on the pitch. He joined up with former Swans Brendan Rodgers and Scott Sinclair at Scottish Champions, Celtic. Despite falling down in the pecking order with the Hoops, De Vries has started in goal in both the Champions League and Europa League.
Ashley Williams (Stoke)
Once a waiter, the current Wales captain could not have dreamed how his football career would pan out when he joined Swansea on-loan from Stockport County in the midst of the 2007/2008 season. The centre back successfully integrated into the defence and made his move permanent in the summer for a then-club record transfer fee of £400,000. Williams’ skill at the back for the Swans led to him being named in the Football League ‘Team of the Decade’ after several successful seasons in the Championship, culminating in the promotion season of 2010/11.
One of the club’s greatest servants, Williams recorded a total of 322 league appearances with the Swans and captained the side as they won their first major trophy, the League Cup in 2013. There was few in football that can perform consistently from League One to European football, and all the way to the international game. As we all know, an ageing Williams joined Everton in 2016 but a currently unsuccessful stint there has seen him shifted out to Stoke on-loan for the rest of the season.
Alan Tate (Retired)
Present in the historic 4-2 win over Hull that kept Swansea in the Football League back in 2003, Tate spent two stints on-loan to Swansea from Manchester United before signing permanently in 2004. It was two years later that Tate was part of another iconic twenty-first century Swans moment as he held aloft a flag with the words ‘Fuck Off Cardiff’ following the team’s win the Football League Trophy Final. A versatile player, Tate preferred the right-back position but featured across the back, and even in goal once for Swansea. The defender played a major part in promotion to the Premier League but suffered a broken leg via a golf cart in August 2011.
From then on, Tate rarely featured for the Swans though still boasts 240 appearances with Swansea. He went on play for Leeds, Yeovil, Aberdeen and Crewe in spells before joining local Welsh Premier League side, Port Talbot for a few games after being released by Swansea. Now an academy coach with club where he made his name, Tate was finally given a testimonial in 2017, four years after it was originally scheduled.
Denis Lawrence (Retired)
The lanky centre-back (standing at an impressive 6ft 8”) signed for Swansea from Wrexham in 2006, after playing every minute in Trinidad and Tobago’s FIFA World Cup campaign. Originally signed as cover for the back, Lawrence made 93 appearances with Swansea in under three years. He also spent a season on-loan to Crewe Alexandra after the Swans won promotion to the Championship. Released in 2009, the big man went back to Trinidad and finished his playing career there in 2010. But he’s had a successful coaching career since retirement. First, he linked-up with former boss Roberto Martinez as a coach at Wigan Athletic, then followed the Belgian to Everton, where he became a development coach.
Now, Lawrence manages the national football team of Trinidad and Tobago, and has so since 2017. He might have returned to coach Wrexham, had the Trinidad Football Association not blocked any contact between him and his former club.
Marcos Painter (Retired)
A graduate of his local Birmingham City academy, Painter made four appearances in the Premier League as a nineteen year old with the Blues. He joined Swansea in November 2006 in a loan deal that was later made permanent in January 2007 for a £25,000 fee. Going on to represent Ireland at youth level, Painter became the first choice left-back for Roberto Martinez but a cruciate ligament injury sustained in the 08/09 season meant first team opportunities would be few and far between upon his eventual return. In January 2010, Painter joined Brighton for a loan spell and signed a contract with the Seagulls at the end of the season. He made sixty appearances for Swansea, and wore the shirt seventy-one times for Brighton.
Following his release from Brighton in 2013, Painter joined administration-ravaged Portsmouth in League Two and ended his career there after a single season at the age of twenty-seven. It appears he returned to Birmingham City as a coach with the club.
Andy Robinson (Retired)
Despite his squat stamp (sorry, Andy), Robinson was a deceivingly good winger that signed for Swansea after his release from Tranmere Rovers. In five years at the club, Robinson won two promotions with the Swans as well as lifting the previously mentioned Football League Trophy. The winger possessed an excellent strike and ability to pick out a pass and such talents were noticed by Leeds United, who he joined after Swans won promotion. His decision was a gamble as Leeds were yet to confirm their promotion to the Championship, with their Play-Off Final still to come. It backfired as the Yorkshire club lost, and Robinson remained in League One.
At Leeds, Robinson went through a torrid time after limited opportunities in the side and had his contract terminated by mutual consent in 2010 after thirty-eight appearances in two years. He was perhaps, one of the first Swansea players of the twenty-first century to suffer the new club curse.
The winger returned to Tranmere for two loan spells and later made the move full-time in 2011 after his experience with Leeds. He left the club by mutual agreement in 2014, and joined Shrewsbury for a season. That also ended by mutual consent. In 2015, a restless Robinson retired from football due to injury but returned to play with semi-professional Stockport three months later. He departed the Manchester club almost five months later. Now, Robinson can be seen as an occasional pundit for television and radio-covered Swansea matches.
Darren Pratley (Charlton)
Identifiable from his striding runs up and down the pitch, the midfielder joined for Swansea from Fulham in 2006, having played against the Jacks in the League One play-offs with Brentford. The energetic Pratley can boast two iconic Swans moments due to his actions on the pitch; the wonderful double against Cardiff in 2009 that was followed with a ‘Swim Away’ taunt, and the halfway line strike against Nottingham Forest in the Championship play-off semi final that sent Brendan Rodgers running down the touchline in celebration. He departed the club on a free despite the Premier League promotion, and a career-best ten goals in twenty-eight appearances, citing the need for a ‘fresh challenge’.
He joined fellow top division side, Bolton Wanderers and spent seven years there as the club bounced from the Premier League to League One and back to the Championship. Following 178 league appearances at the Trotters (one better than his time with Swansea), he signed for Charlton Athletic on a free in 2018.
Leon Britton (Llanelli Town)
The club legend moved to South Wales permanently from West Ham in 2003, having aided the club in avoiding relegation from the Football League. Excellent in midfielder whether the ball was at his or the opposition’s feet, Britton won the team’s Player of the Year award in 2003 and 2006. Britton notched over three hundred league appearances for Swansea before he departed for Sheffield United in 2010, a move rumoured to have happened due to a falling out with boss Paulo Sousa. Leon would only spend a tumultuous six months with the Blades before returning to Swansea in January 2011. He would end the season by opening the scoring in the play-off semi-final with Nottingham Forest (with an uncharacteristic drive from outside the box), and defeating Reading at Wembley. Britton returned to Wembley for the 2013 League Cup Final.
A former club captain, Britton became the assistant coach to Paul Clement in November 2017 as his career started to wrap up, then became the Caretaker Manager just a month later after Clement was sacked. Britton finished his professional career with Swansea last season after 536 appearances for the Swans. This year, he joined Welsh Premier League team Llanelli Town but broke his foot in only his second appearance.
Paul Anderson (Plymouth)
Contemporarily on-loan to Swansea from Liverpool, the young winger made his first appearance in senior football with the Jacks. The pacey player would be named Swansea’s Young Player of the Year with an impressive ten league goals in forty-one appearances. Boss Roberto Martinez looked to sign Anderson permanently for the following season, but the youngster made the decision to join Nottingham Forest temporarily. His loan spell at Forest did not reach the heights it did in South Wales yet Swansea still attempted to sign Anderson at the conclusion of the 08/09 season.
He looked set to rejoin Swansea had Roberto Martinez not departed for Wigan Athletic, as personal terms were already agreed. Upon his return to Swansea with Nottingham Forest, Anderson was heckled by the home fans with chants directed at his agent-father, something he called ‘pathetic’. Since Forest, the winger has bounced around the likes of Bristol City, Ipswich Town, Bradford, Northampton and Mansfield with the thirty year old now playing football for Plymouth.
Jason Scotland (Retired)
Another Trinidadian international on the books, Scotland signed with Swansea after a successful stint with St Johnstone in his namesake. The striker proved to be an instant hit in South Wales as he finished top scorer in League One with twenty-nine goals to his name, and all for the bargain price of £25,000. He boasted great strength on the ball and an excellent turn whenever playing with his back to goal, allowing him to bag fifty-three goals in two seasons. Scotland followed Roberto Martinez to Premier League Wigan Athletic for a £2,000,000 fee but was unable to repeat his scoring feat.
It was a move he would later come to regret, and he was shipped out to Ipswich Town after one season in the North-West. Scotland spent three years with the Tractor Boys and was somewhat regarded as an impact substitute before being sold to Barnsley, his last English club. Following stints back in Scotland with Hamilton and Stenhousemuir, the striker returned to his native Trinidad where he later retired.
Guillem Bauza (Retired)
The doctor will see you now. The striker was one-third of the ‘Three Amigos’ (with Andrea Orlandi and Angel Rangel) as Roberto Martinez brought the former youth international to South Wales from sunny Spain. While never a consistent first-team player, Bauza was a competent (and curly-haired) forward who wrote himself into the history books with a brace against Gillingham that secured Championship promotion. Bauza bagged nine goals in his time with Swansea, and was released in 2010. The Spaniard then found limited opportunities at (now defunct) Hereford United, Northampton and Exeter. He returned to South Wales with Port Talbot Town and seemingly finished his playing career with Merthyr Town.
But, Bauza is perhaps the most successful of the Swans alumni, having graduated from Swansea University with a first-class degree in Medical Genetics. He still studies at the university as a PhD student. Check out his LinkedIn, yo.
Tom Butler (Retired)
The Irish winger was substituted onto the pitch in the 73rd minute, replacing Andy Robinson. Swansea purchased the man once on the books of Sunderland, from Hartlepool in July 2006 for an undisclosed fee. Accomplished on the ball, the nippy wide-man spent six years with the Jacks but made a relatively-small 144 appearances in all competitions for Swansea due to frequent injuries. While in the Premier League, then-boss Brendan Rodgers offered Butler the opportunity to join Dutch affiliate ADO Den Haag on loan to satisfy the player’s desire for first-team football. However, Butler chose instead to terminate his contract in January 2012, and retired a few months later having been unable to find a new club due to a thigh issue. Since Swansea, Butler has become a consultant for a sports management firm, and had a short stint as manager for Newcastle Women’s Football Club.
Febian Brandy (Retired)
The on-loan youngster entered the pitch in the 77th minute to replace Jason Scotland. In the Manchester United Academy from eight years old, Brandy never made a senior appearance for the Red Devils, instead making his first team debut with Swansea. Brandy signed with Swansea in January 2008 and contributed three goals in his first stint with Swansea as he was often utilised as an impact substitute due to his supposed pace. He returned to Swansea the following season for yet another six-month loan but failed to find the net. The Saint Kitts international led a nomadic career with spells at Hereford, Gillingham, Notts County, Walsall, Sheffield United, Rotherham, Crewe, Rochdale, Ebbsfleet, a Greek club without pay and Ubon in Thailand. He finished at non-league Droylsden. Now thirty years old, Brandy reappeared in sporting news lately to promote his new social network site designed around scouts and potential footballing talent.
Owain Tudur-Jones (Retired)
The Welshman’s inclusion purely comes from a 90th minute replacement for Bauza. The Jacks plucked the towering midfielder from the Welsh leagues, purchasing him from Bangor for a fee of £5,000 in 2005. But while Tudur-Jones was tough in the tackle as he protected the defence, a recurrent knee injury plagued his time with the Swans. He later made starts for Swindon, Norwich, Plymouth and Brentford, then moved to Scotland for games with Inverness, Hibernian and Falkirk. Capped seven times by the Wales national team, Tudur-Jones retired in 2015 at the age of thirty. He now has a weekly blog with Swansea, a podcast and presents Sgorio on S4C. Busy man.
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(OC) The US & Canada's "awkward phase" between NASL and MLS: The APSL, CSL, and other weird leagues of the 80's and 90's.
"Open wide for some soccer!" - The Simpsons
On 23 May 2020, just two days ago at the time I'm writing this, Bayern Munich defeated Eintracht Frankfurt 5-2 to go 4 points a top of the Bundesliga, ahead of second-place Borussia Dortmund. In said game, left-back Alphonso Davies got both an assist to Thomas Müller in the 41st minute to put Bayern up 2-0, and scored one himself to make the scoreline 4-2, twenty minutes later. Alphonso is Canadian, born in a Ghanaian refugee camp, but raised in Edmonton, Alberta. About 7 months earlier, on 26 October 2019, Chelsea had a Premier League match against Burnley away at Turf Moor. Chelsea won the match 4-2, but, if anything, the match is remembered for Christian Pulisic's perfect hat-trick in that game, Not only did that make Pulisic the youngest Chelsea player to score a hat-trick for the club, as well as the first to do it since Didier Drogba in 2010, but it also made him the second American to score a hat-trick in the PL, the first being Clint Dempsey's 3 goals against Newcastle in 2012 to seal a 5-2 victory for the Cottagers.
If you hopped in a time machine and told an avid football fan from 1985 that a Canuck would be a regular feature for one of the best clubs in the world, and a man that would score 5 goals in 3 games shares the same hometown as The Hershey Company itself, you'd currently be residing in Demented Hills. After all, in 1985, Canada and the United States held Elo Ratings of 36 and 60 respectively - there's no way so much could change.
While, as demonstrated earlier, things have gotten much better for both countries footballing-wise, the immediate years following 1985 were horrific for the United States Soccer Federation and the Canadian Soccer Association, however, they were extremely interesting, so I'm gonna talk about them.
So why was 1985 such an influential year for the USSF and CSA?
Do you remembeknow about when Pelé, Beckenbauer, and Chinaglia played for the New York Cosmos? When George Best played for the Los Angeles Aztecs, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, and San Jose Earthquakes? How about when Johan Cruijff played for the Aztecs and Washington Diplomats?
All these players played in the North American Soccer League, or the NASL. The NASL, founded in 1968, featured a plethora of teams throughout the US & Canada, and while it was primarily loaded with foreign players, it also gave opportunity for some American talent to arise. Such players include Rudy Glenn, Kyle Rote Jr., Rick Davis, and future Super Bowl winner Chris Bahr. Unfortunately, in 1985, the league folded after deteriorating from 24 to 9 teams, losing teams with great names such as "Calgary Boomers."
While the NASL did give a tunnel for Americans like the ones already mentioned to play high-level domestic football, generally, it did a pretty bad job of developing American players. For example, the 1990 World Cup roster featured 0 former NASL players; not one. This wasn't helped either by the fact that, at the time, the USMNT barely ever played games, playing maybe a couple times a year. Canadian players were developed slightly better, the 1982 team, for instance, was a game shy of reaching the World Cup, and only had NASL players to boast.
Either way, the importance placed on big name foreign players and other foreign players who either couldn't quite cut it in their national league, or wanted a bigger paycheck, combined with the lack of a salary cap, put American & Canadian soccer in a very tough spot, one with a huge void, one that we'd see try to be filled several times. Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL); b. 1977, d. 1992
Since the only outdoor soccer teams left were U.S. Open Cup teams in regional teams with long-lasting history, but haven't made much progress due to the lack of promotion and relegation in the US (I'm talking Greek-American, Milwaukee Bavarians, Maccabi Los Angeles, other teams with ethnic names, etc.), the first nationwide league to sweep up the best American talent was one that already existed; the MISL.
MISL was just a little bit different than your average football league though. While most football leagues encourage tactical play, physicality, technicality, all that good stuff, the MISL was like if you took the NASL and put it in an arcade machine. Minifootball, it's called around the world, alters o jogo bonito
in several significant ways. Smaller pitch with turf, smaller goals, less players, walls; it's somewhat of a cross between futsal, five-a-side, and ice hockey. While there were certainly more Americans and Canadians in this, Joey Fink, Bruce Savage, Juli Veee (amazing name), and many more. However, that doesn't mean they were... good. It also didn't mean that the league was stable either, the only two teams played throughout the entire competition, attendance rarely reached 9,000, and their best ever player was a Yugoslavian who wanted to play in NASL but was banned from FIFA competitions because he defected from his native country. Very cool, FIFA.
Inevitably, the lack of financial stability from the get-go, as well as not being a FIFA-sanctioned league, on top of not really being the same sport as actual association football, were all just too much for the MISL too handle. It folded in 1992, with 7 teams left, halving the 14 teams in the league at it's peak. If anything, the best thing to come out of the MISL was that it inspired the creation of Arena Football, an equally financially unstable version of American football, prioritizing fast pace, big hits, and touchdowns, baby. Canadian Soccer League (CSL); b. 1987, d. 1992
We now head to our northern brethren to view the short-lived Canadian Soccer League, the first professional football league predominantly in Canada since the days of Toronto City in the Eastern Canada Professional Soccer League of the 1960's, featuring legends of the game like the late Sir Stanley Matthews. The main separator between the CSL and other Canadian leagues of the past such as the old 4 major leagues (The Pacific Coast League, The National League of Ontario/Quebec, the aforementioned ECPSL, and the Western Canada League), is that the CSL was nation-wide
, something the countries hadn't really seen before. This was done as an effort to bring popularity to the sport in Canada, as the 1986 team didn't feature any players playing in Canada - because there were no professional Canadian teams to play for. After the NASL, they just... didn't exist, or were on hiatus. The CSL wanted to change that.
This new CSL league was very brief though, with a rather interesting league structure. Due to travel concerns, instead of playing round robin home-and-away like many leagues, the CSL went round robin for the teams in your division, and one game for those in the opposing division, resulting in 20 games from 8 teams. The top 3 teams per division would make the playoffs, with the 1st seed getting a bye into the semifinal Although the league never really caught on with the Canadian public, it did show some promising signs. The Vancouver Whitecaps were in this league, as well as in the NASL and the next league I'm going to talk about, and still exist today. Justin Fashanu, the first openly gay footballer, was second leading goalscorer in 1989. However, despite those small flashes, the CSL inevitably folded in 1992, leaving the domestic league void wide open in Canada. A-League, born American Professional Soccer League (APSL); b. 1990, d. 1996, rs. 1996, d. 2004 I'll just preface this by saying that this section will only go over the APSL, as the A-League was never a first-division league, since the MLS had been founded by 1996, successfully ending the "awkward phase."
Soccer in the US & Canada was in a really strange place in 1989. The champions were taken by taking the champions of the two major regional leagues; this year being the east-coast Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the American Soccer League defeating the Western Soccer League's San Diego Nomads. A year later, in 1990, the ASL and WSL merged to create a super league of sorts; the American Professional Soccer League. Just like when the NFL had it's merger in 1970, the two leagues that formed the APSL were transformed into conferences; the American Conference and the Western Conference. The league started out bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with 22 teams, but, like every other league mentioned here, the lack of attendance numbers combined with exposure issues and travel costs and player salaries - it seemed doomed from the start, in retrospect. There were 32 teams total to ever play in the APSL, but most of them only played one or two years with a sassy name like Los Angeles Salsa and New York Centaurs... Centaurs? Really? Anyway, most of the lasting teams were old NASL clubs (like the Washington Diplomats), most of which still exist today as phoenix clubs in the MLS and USL (the CSL's Whitecaps, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Seattle Sounders, Impact de Montreal, etc.) The league wasn't all bad, then. A lot of clubs that are central to the core of American and Canadian soccer likely wouldn't have still existed without the APSL; it walked so MLS could run. Conclusion
Soccer in the US & Canada was weird. It was exciting, and it added flavor to the adventurous sports diet. Although all these leagues seemed to fail miserably, they did just
enough to keep the sport alive, and now, neither country qualified for the World Cup, so what's the point of anything anymore. Goodbye.
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