Swansea’s League 1 Champions: Where are they now?
Posted by Matt Walters | Published on April 22, 2016
Swansea’s team of 2007/08 was the most dominant in recent memory. They were in and around the play-off spots for the first third of the season but a run of 6 consecutive wins took them to the top of the league. A position from which they would not be removed for the rest of the season, finishing 10 points clear of Nottingham Forest in second. Five of the squad were named in the PFA League 1 Team of the Season, making up half of the team and two made the Football League Team of the Decade: Angel Rangel and Ashley Williams. The players in the team have gone on to have mixed fortunes, some would become club legends, other cult heroes and some would enjoy success they could only dream about.
Dorus De Vries:
The Dutchman replaced the iconic Willy Gueret between the posts for Swansea and made the most appearences for the Swans in that season with 58 in all competeitons having been picked from Dumfermline Athletic at the start of the season. The goalkeeper made 181 league appearences for the Swans, remaining their first choice keeper until ther promotion to the Premier League where he joined Wolverhampton Wanderers on a free transfer. He was second choice to Wayne Hennessey. Hennessey was injured towards the end of the campaign and, having confirmed their relegation; Wolves picked him too play Swansea at the Liberty. He would concede 4 goals in a stunning 4-4 draw and receive a mixed reaction from the home fans, some of whom felt betrayed by his decision to leave after making his intention to stay clear. After Wolves were relegated from the Championship, De Vries joined Nottingham Forest but has not been first choice at the club until this season.
The Spaniard was brought in from Terrassa by compatriot Roberto Martinez as the first of many players to make the switch from Spain to South Wales. The full-back immediately made an impact, making 52 appearances that season and over 300 in his Swansea career. He remains an important player for Swansea and is their current longest-serving player (Leon Britton would be if not for his 6 month spell at Sheffield United). He recently extended his contract until 2017 to ensure he can celebrate 10 years at the club.
The Englishman is the first of three players in this article to have appeared in each division of the Premier League. The defender was captain of Manchester United’s Under-21s and reserve teams before two loan spells at Swansea. He made the permanent switch and scaled up the pyramid playing in just about every position on the pitch. He was a dedicated player and even played with an injury just to make the squad for the South Wales derby. He was normally deployed at left back after the signings of Ashley Williams and Angel Rangel but thrived in his unnatural position. He was involved in several spats with managers such as Paulo Souza (though many players did in his short spell at the club) and Michael Laudrup after an altercation in which Chico Flores allegedly threw a brick at Garry Monk. This saw him constantly loaned out to clubs until the expiry of his contract last season.
The story of his scouting is a fascinating one. Rumour has it that then Wales manager John Toshack was attending a non-league game when he noticed a surname on the Stockport County team sheet; ‘Williams’. After watching him play, Toshack approached the Wolverhampton-born defender and asked if he had any Welsh blood in him. The young Williams confirmed this and by March of that year, 2008; Williams was an international footballer on loan at Swansea. He went on to become their record signing in the Summer at a mouth-watering £400,000. Since his permanent signing, he has played 28252 minutes of 28980 possible minutes in the league. He replaced Garry Monk as captain of Swansea under Chris Coleman and in the last two seasons, he has only missed a game when Garry Monk let him start his holidays after the end-of-season dinner and gave him the game at Selhurst Park off.
When Roberto Martinez left the club only to replace Kenny Jackett as manager, there was a rift. Swansea lacked a real leader, a fighter, someone who would stubbornly refuse to give up no matter how slim the odds were. That man was Garry Monk. A reject of the Southampton youth team, Garry Monk was signed to drag Swansea out of the basement league. He was one of the most underrated players of this team, a permanent member of the Swansea backline that boasted a defensive record Jose Mourinho would have been proud of. Another player to have played in every division of the Football League pyramid for the Swans.
An often forgotten member of the class of ’08 but undeservedly so. The Irishman served the Swans valiantly and consistently at left back, making 36 appearences that season before leaving for Brighton in 2010. He signed for Portsmouth in 2013 but retired at the end of that season.
If you look up “Cult Hero” in the dictionary, you will see the smiling face of the iconic Dutchman. Roberto Martinez signed him as a replacement for himself as a midfielder to sit in front of the defence and the fact that he played for sister club ADO Den Haag aided Swansea in getting his signature. He made just over 50 league appearances for Swansea in 5 years but he was loved as a legend by the whole city for his work ethic, loyalty and knack for a 30-yard screamer. FourFourTwo placed him 11th in their “Top 50 football league players” and described him as a “box-to-box player, strong in the tackle with an uncanny knack for scoring important goals and excellent decision making skills.” He stayed at the club to help them earn promotion and retired in 2012 due to an injury that had impeded his potential throughout his Swansea career. He now works as a coach for his first club ADO Den Haag and an overseas ambassador for Swansea in the Netherlands.
Similarly, look up Swansea in the dictionary and you will see the city’s own pint-sized Pirlo. In 2003, Brian Flynn rebuilt the squad halfway through the season in a bid to rescue the club. The loan signing of Leon Britton, a young winger for West Ham was essential. Due to the club being on the verge of administration, the Swansea City Supporters’ Trust went around on matchdays with buckets to ask for donations. Since that day, Britton has remained the Swansea fan’s man. Recently making his 500th appearance for the Jacks, he has played more games for a single team than most could dream to in their whole career. In 2012, he had a passing accuracy of 91%, outdoing Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Xavi.
As much as it pains several Swansea fans to admit, Darren Pratley was a key part of Swansea’s team. Many remember the Jamaican for the decision to join Bolton Wanderers after Swansea’s Premier League promotion, others for his key goals including a brace against Cardiff, a winner against Cardiff and the infamous halfway line goal against Nottingham Forest which sealed Swansea’s place in the play-off final. He recently continued his habit of scoring against Cardiff for the club he now captains, Bolton.
Another criminally underrated player, Orlandi was a player Martinez wanted due to his experience in the Spanish League and at Barcelona where he played alongside the best in the world. A tricky number 10, the Spaniard’s influence was overlooked due to his lack of goalscoring ability. The midfielder stayed with Swansea until he signed for Brighton, he now plays for futsal club Anorthosis in the Cypriot League.
Owain Tudur Jones:
The Welshman was popular with local media agencies due to his ability to speak Welsh. He was popular with the fans due to his aerial ability and strong tackles. He had a brief spell at Norwich during which he made 5 league appearances before playing for several Scottish teams, retiring in 2014.
There were few better sights as a Swansea fan than watching the scouse Ginola bursting down the wing before cutting in and scoring or laying the ball off to a teammate. He was one of the few players to stay in this team having been promoted from League 2. However, following this season, the fan favourite would leave at the end of this season and joined Leeds after making over 200 appearances for Swansea. He spent most of his career after Swansea with Tranmere Rovers and retired in 2015.
The dreadlocked striker only spent two years at Swansea but he is well-remembered at the club as a talisman. The Trinidadian marksman scored in every other game he played and finished as top scorer. He was strong, skilled and clinical. When Roberto Martinez left for Wigan, he took his main man with him. However, he failed to get going for the Latics, scoring a single league goal before leaving. He moved to the Scottish Championship with Hamilton Academical and won promotion under current Norwich manager Alex Neil. He now plays for Stenhousemuir.