Contrasting fortunes for South Wales rivals

South Wales rivals Cardiff and Swansea City both made the headlines on Monday, with the Swans beating Reading in the Championship play-off final to reach the top flight for the first time since 1983 and Cardiff sacking manager Dave Jones after he failed to earn the Bluebirds promotion.

Despite year on year progress under Jones, a humiliating 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Reading – a second successive play-off elimination – sealed his fate as fans and critics alike finally turned on the prickly Scouser. Hired by Sam Hammam amidst financial meltdown, Jones steadied the ship and worked his way up the table during his six year reign, despite further financial difficulties. He leaves the club in a far healthier state, with a new stadium and training complex, although the playing squad requires reinforcements, with a dozen players leaving as free agents or returning to their parent clubs as loan agreements expire.

The high profile loan signing of Craig Bellamy, subsidised by Cardiff’s Malaysian owners, added significant pressure on Jones to gain promotion this term and despite his significant input, the Bluebirds came up short once more. Bellamy was one of many high profile signings scattered throughout Jones’ reign; Robbie Fowler, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Jason Koumas all raised expectations but unbalanced the side as Premier League status remained elusive. Jones’ refusal to talk to the local press and talking down to locals also became increasingly problematic. Cardiff never managed to generate the momentum required to propel a Championship side towards promotion, with the three sides promoted this season all doing so under managers in their first year in charge, Cardiff will hope for more of the same next season.

Meanwhile, Brendan Rodgers finished the job started by previous incumbents Roberto Martinez and Paolo Souza at Swansea by defeating Reading 4-2 in the play-off final. The Swans aesthetically pleasing and incisive passing game will not look out of place in the Premier League and, playing a similar brand of attacking football that won Blackpool so many admirers in the last campaign, but with the defensive steel sadly lacking in Ian Holloway’s charges, Swansea are capable of attacking with pace while remaining resolute at the back. Ten years after winning on the final day of the season to avoid relegation from the Football League, they find themselves in the top flight with a new stadium and in a healthy financial state.

With a seasoned back four and benefiting from a continuity of a playing squad that has evolved organically and matured with every passing season, Scott Sinclair has proved to be the inspired high profile signing that has elevated the club to promotion. The bargain of this or any other season at £500,000 from Chelsea, Sinclair has contributed 27 goals in 50 games from the left wing, terrorising opposition defences with his blistering pace and mazy runs and working in tandem with Nathan Dyer on the right flank.

Swansea have provided Cardiff with the template for Championship promotion; a solid defence, an attacking style of play geared around a system as opposed to individuals, an ethos that the whole club adheres to and the right manager to knit everything together. Swansea have what their fierce rivals so desperately want, that should be all the motivation that Cardiff City need, as they start from scratch next season.

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