I remember it like it was yesterday. But it wasn't. It was a year ago.
Yes, one year ago today (or yesterday if you are reading this tomorrow), Swansea City walked out onto that Wembley field to take on Reading in the Championship play-off final in front of 40,000 excited Swans fans (and a few Reading fans). Swansea won and then it was all a blur!
A year on and plenty has changed. However, before I spend the summer writing about hopes for next season, I felt it necessary to focus a blog post on the starting eleven who battled hard in that incredible game.
Where are they now? How was the past year for them? Let's have a look.
Dorus De Vries
The departure of the likeable keeper was the biggest shock of last summer, and left a bad taste in the mouths of many Swans fans. He moved to Wolves "to be able to find [his] true potential" - potential that was left bottled up on the bench as Wolves spent most of the season in the relegation zone, finally sent back to the Championship in May. He made only his second Premier League start against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium in an odd 4-4 draw, and was jeered a number of times by the Swans fans. He'll spend next season in the Championship, probably on the bench. Sorry Dorus, but it wasn't our choice.
Rangel had a good first season in the Premier League. He didn't make the headlines, and generally took a little longer than others to settle into the big league, but was eventually able to replicate his strong defending and pacey wing-back role in the big time. Always one of the first on anyone's team sheet. He had a few poor moments, notably his mistake which gifted Man United the only goal in the game at the Liberty. Still, we all love Rangel.
The iconic centre-back captained the Swans in that memorable play-off final and deservedly lifted the trophy. However, Monk played a lesser role throughout last season thanks to the inclusion of Steven Caulker at centre-back. Mind you, he still started 14 games, and played his part in the clean-sheet victories over Fulham, West Brom and Stoke. His career is not over yet, though it is starting to wind up. Much of it is summed up in his published autobiography, Loud, Proud and Positive (available from all good book shops or the internet I assume!).
Williams had a huge season for the club, starting all 37 Premier League games and all three cup matches, captaining the squad through much of it. There has been little in the way of struggling with the step up, as Williams kept world-class strikers quiet for many games. Always the first name on the team sheet and will take the captain role again next season.
I always forget Tate was playing in that play-off final, instead of the banned Neil Taylor. Unfortunately for Tate, his now infamous golf buggy incident ruled him out for much of the season with a broken leg. He eventually made a comeback and, while never making the pundits drool, gave his all, as he always does for Swansea City. He was subbed-on for the last few minutes of the game against his former club at Old Trafford, and deserved every last note of “we all dream of a team of Alan Tate's”.
Britton has become Swansea City's unlikely poster boy this season, being dubbed the Xavi of South Wales, and totting up some impressive passing statistics. He's been a vital part in the midfield engine and I predict the same next season. Why not check out my detailed article that I wrote for the Sabotage Times earlier in the season, centring on the rise of Leon Britton.
Allen established himself well in the Premier League and was a vital ball winner in the centre of the field. Overall he looked much more developed and less prone to frustrating mistakes (although he has picked up a few cards during the season). He was also able to contribute with the goal scoring – four this season, doubling his tally from last year.
His play created the second goal, then he scored the third for Swansea in the play-off final, but Dobbie just never got started in the Premier League. He had his chances to make an impact, but in his eight appearances (two starting, the rest as a sub) he looked a shadow of his Championship days. In March he rejoined Blackpool on loan, where he, albeit unsuccessfully, helped them in the battle for promotion. He may well stay with Blackpool next season, though will always be fondly remembered by Swans fans.
His slippery dancing won the penalty which led to the first goal in the play-off final. He had a great start of the 11/12 season, emulating his Championship form in the early days against the likes of Man City and Arsenal though saw his role swapped with Wayne Routledge occasionally in the latter stages. The most important thing seems to be his ability in front of goal has improved – he scored six in total, and is looking much more the finished package.
Last season's poster boy scored an incredible hat-trick in the final. However, some may say that final was the last great game he had for the Swansea after losing a lot of form this season. While it is true he hasn't had the same impact down the wing as last season, he is a solid player and his composure from the penalty spot is still highly desirable. He's still the club's second highest goal scorer after Danny Graham, with eight goals this season. I reckon he has had his second season syndrome, and will shine again come August.
Probably the most successful ex-Swansea striker and member of that play-off winning team. Borini left immediately, to head to his home nation of Italy to join Parma, though he spent most of the season with Roma. His fine Serie A performances saw Cesare Prandelli hand the youngster his debut appearance for the Italian national squad and he's off to Poland this summer to (hopefully, for me anyway) take Italy to glory! Forza Borini! Forza Swansea!