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A year to remember: Marc Davies reviews a wonderful season for Welsh club football.

Saturday 13th July 2013
Back on the 2nd of November Marc Davies wrote an article about the fortunes of the top four Welsh clubs plying their trade in the English leagues and predicted how all four clubs could potentially experience success at the end of the season. The season has since reached its climax and provided what turned to out to be a spectacular season for all four Welsh clubs.

Swansea City

After comfortably securing Premier League survival in the previous season not many expected Swansea City to achieve as much success in their second season in the top flight. In fact many feared the worst after the club lost Manager Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool, while key players such as Scott Sinclair, Joe Allen and Gylfi Sigurdsson all made high profile moves away. However any fears were soon allayed after the impressive Managerial appointment of Michael Laudrup who had the knack of spotting talented individuals. Laudrup wasted no time in getting this into top gear by signing the likes of Michu and Jonathan de Guzman, with the former proving to be an outstanding signing and a constant threat to Premier League defences. The Swans started their season in fantastic form by hammering QPR and West Ham 5-0 and 3-0 respectively as they took the league by storm. The club continued to perform admirably throughout the league season which included an impressive victory away at Arsenal and draws against Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool.

The balanced approach directed by Michael Laudrup managed to lead to a respectable 9th spot finish, although this wasn't their biggest achievement of the season. Laudrup's magic touch also managed to help the Swans claim their first ever major silverware by winning the Capital One Cup after knocking out Liverpool and Chelsea en route to Wembley where they hammered Giant Killers Bradford City 5-0 in the final. Ultimately it was a season to remember for the Swans and the most successful one in the Club's history. However rumours have been rife over unrest within the club following a disagreement between Laudrup and Chairman Huw Jenkins over transfers and also the latter's decision to cut all ties between the club and Laudrup's agent Bayram Tutumulu. Such rumours can potentially lead to the club becoming de-stabilised with the fear of Laudrup becoming disillusioned at the club. Such developments could also potentially lead to an exodus of the club's top starts with players such Ashley Williams and Michu currently attracting a lot of attention for the top clubs.

The club will ultimately have to resolve their problems and remove any uncertainty by the time they face their opening Premiership game against Manchester United if they are to achieve any kind of success next season.

Cardiff City

As the Bluebirds prepared for the start of last season, much of the attention was on their Malaysian owners' controversial decision to change the club's home kit colour from the traditional blue to red which caused a mass amount of furore. What many people failed to notice was Malky Mackay's productive pre-season activity which included some smart signings as the Bluebirds finally looked to clinch promotion to the top flight. Signings such as Craig Bellamy, Kim Bo-Kyung, Etien Velikonja and Nicky Maynard helped strengthen an already strong Championship side as the Bluebirds aimed to finally erase their recent play-offs hoodoo and go one better through achieving automatic promotion. An indifferent start to the season saw Malky Mackay's side collect 4 points in their opening 3 league games of the season after recording a win, draw and a defeat respectively. The side finally clicked into gear when they went on to secure three successive wins against Wolves, Leeds United and Millwall respectively. A disappointing 3-2 defeat at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace shortly followed as the Bluebirds started a rotten run of four away defeats in five which also included a dramatic 5-4 slump against Charlton Athletic.

While their away form became a concern, the same certainly could not be said at home where City an enjoyed an immaculate run of form. The side enjoyed a fantastic run of nine successive home wins which cemented their spot at the top of the table before suffering a shock 2-1 defeat against bottom of the table side Peterborough United during the run up to the festive period. However City didn't let this affect them and bounced back with seven wins and two draws in their following 9 games to leave themselves well clear at the Championship summit. City also bolstered their firing options by signing Sunderland striker Frazier Campbell in the January transfer window and the player made an immediate impact by scoring a winner on his debut for the Bluebirds in a 1-0 victory over Leeds United at Elland Road. Having already been knocked out of both domestic cup competitions early, the Bluebirds had no distractions in their quest for automatic promotion and despite a late wobble the club managed to secure top flight status for the first time in 51 years. Automatic promotion was sealed by the Bluebirds following a goalless draw at home to Charlton Athletic where the final whistle was greeted by wild celebrations from the City faithful. Four days later the club managed to wrap up the Championship league title with a 1-1 draw against Burnley at Turf Moor as they went up in style as champions.

It was a truly remarkable season for the Bluebirds with the club looking to build on their success as a Premier League club next season for the first time in their history. Whether or not the club can replicate the achievements of their South Wales neighbours remains to be seen, but they must continue to strengthen the team if they are to maintain a challenge in the top flight.

Newport County

It's been a long and windy road for everyone connected to Newport County for many years after witnessing their club being condemned to liquidation and suffering an absence of 25 years outside the football league. However the club have finally managed to rise from the ashes over recent years which started when the club clinched promotion to the Blue Square Bet Premier in 2010. The Exiles started off the 2012/2013 season in superb fashion after winning their first five league games of the season and established themselves as the early pacesetters of the Blue Square Bet Premier. The club managed to maintain a decent run of form throughout the first half of the season and found themselves in 2nd spot at the halfway stage. However County started 2013 in disastrous fashion after being hammered 5-0 at home to Forest Green Rovers and suffered a dismal run after which included an embarrassing 2-0 home defeat against bottom of the league side Barrow A.F.C. Justin Edinburgh's side did manage to pick themselves up and maintained an unbeaten run of seven games which included a 2-0 win over eventual Blue Square Bet Premier champions Mansfield Town. However County went on to lose two successive away games at Kidderminster Harriers and Stockport County before facing an uphill task of playing 10 matches in just 26 days due a high level of previous postponements. The Exiles however took this on their stride and went on an unbeaten run of nine straight games to finish in 3rd spot and clinch a semi-final play-off spot against a Grimsby Town side who they comprehensively lost 3-0 to on the final league day of the season.

County didn't allow the defeat to hurt them though as Justin Edinburgh made seven changes to the side for the play-off 1st leg away at Blundell Park and watched his side claim a valuable 1-0 victory courtesy of an 89th minute goal from Ismail Yakubu. The side went on to finish the job in the second leg at a sold out Rodney Parade stadium where Christian Jolley secured another 1-0 win against the same opponents to clinch a Blue Square Bet Premier Play-off final spot against fellow Welsh side Wrexham at Wembley. The final proved to be a highly tense affair and seemed to be heading into extra time before Christian Jolley robbed the ball from Wrexham's David Artell and calmly chipped the ball over the Robins' ‘keeper Chris Maxwell to give County a priceless lead. Things got better for County as they managed to hit Wrexham on the counter attack and score a second goal through Aaron O'Conner as they clinched an historic 2-0 victory to seal promotion to the npower League Two. The victory produced wild celebrations from both the club's staff and supporters as they embraced Newport County's return to the Football League for the first time in 25 years. With the club maintaining a good financial backing, strong support and a successful management there's seems to be no reason why County can't continue their rise through the leagues and create famous history.

Wrexham

It's debatable as to whether or not last season can be described as a success for Wrexham although it certainly can't be described as a disaster. Having finished the previous season in 2nd place in the Blue Square Bet Premier with a massive 98 point tally, the club were cruelly denied promotion back to the football league after a semi-final play-off loss to Luton Town. As a result the club were desperate to overcome that failure by securing promotion in the 2012/2013 season and return the football league which they participated in for 87 successive years before their relegation in 2008. The Dragons weren't able to match the blistering form they produced during the 2011/2012 season and struggled to maintain a consistent run of results throughout the season. Despite this their challenge for a play-off spot was never in serious doubt although they struggled to maintain a strong push for the Blue Square Bet Premier title as they finished the league season with 18 points less than their previous season's tally and 15 points shy of title winners Mansfield Town. One of the possible reasons for Wrexham's shortcomings in the league could have been their successful run in the FA Trophy competition which they managed to win following a penalty shoot-out victory against Grimsby Town in the Final at Wembley.

While winning the FA Trophy was certainly a memorable success for the club, their main aim was to achieve promotion. A 5th place league finish meant that Wrexham entered the Blue Square Bet Premier play-offs for the third successive season having lost the semi- final ties to Luton Town in the previous two seasons. The Dragons were hoping to be third time lucky this time round as they were paired with 2nd placed Kidderminster Harriers in the play-off semi-finals and managed to secure the advantage in the 1st leg after a brace from David Artell clinched a 2-1 win over Harriers at the Racecourse Ground. Andy Morell's side eventually sealed a spot in Wembley for the 2nd time in the season after securing a 3-1 win in the 2nd leg at Kidderminster's Aggborough Stadium to clinch their place in the Blue Square Bet Premier play-off Final courtesy of goals from Brett Ormerod, Lee Vaughan (own goal) and Neil Ashton. The Dragons were however unable to repeat the success they managed in the FA Trophy Final joy turned to despair following a 2-0 defeat against Welsh rivals Newport County in the play-off final. The season will have ultimately felt like a failure for the Wrexham faithful after failing to secure their return to the football league for the 5th successive year.

The club should however remain positive following what was a relatively successful season following their FA Trophy win and securing a spot in the Blue Square Bet Premier play-off final. With the club continuing to attract a strong support and retaining the services of Andy Morrell as manager and the majority of their experienced players, they should eventually manage to regain their Football League status in the very near future.
Marc Davies
Marc is a passionate Arsenal supporter and keen follower of Welsh football. Marc has experienced the highs and lows of supporting the Gunners and regularly attends their matches both home and away. As a native of Cardiff, Marc also regularly attends games involving the Welsh sides in both the English and Welsh football leagues. Marc also travels around the globe to follow the Welsh international side. Marc’s favourite moments include the Arsenal’s 'Invincibles' 2003/2004 season and the Welsh International side's run to the 2016 European Championships Semi Finals. Marc’s favourite players are Aaron Ramsey, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira. Marc has achieved a BA (Hons) Degree in Broadcast Media and Popular Culture and a Masters in International in Journalism.

Total articles: 42

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