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Swansea City aim to write a chapter in Michael Laudrup success story

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: February 23, 2013

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ICHAEL Laudrup has lived in Rome, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Madrid.

Coming to Swansea City has meant settling into work in the Premier League — and to life away from the bright lights.

"To live in a smaller community is new but it's nice," Laudrup says.

"As my wife says, the only downside to living in Swansea is that the airport is too far away."

That could soon be more of problem.

If Swansea win in the big city tomorrow, Laudrup and Co will be boarding the plane more regularly next season.

Should they do as the bookmakers expect and overcome Bradford City in London, Swansea will return to Wales with the club's first ever major trophy in the bag.

On top of that, of course, they will be looking forward to a Europa League campaign next season.

"Just to win the first trophy would be fantastic," Laudrup adds.

"But it would also mean that we go into Europe next season.

"That would be great for the fans and the for the club — I think they would enjoy the chance to play what you could call international games.

"And it might also persuade some players to come and play for Swansea City.

"It could make the difference for players if we are in the Europa League, so it could be important for the club."

Swansea have played more significant games than Bradford, like that unforgettable collision with Reading when they last walked out under the arch a couple of years back.

But the message from the club's hierarchy is that tomorrow brings a chance to step forward, to continue the spectacular progress made since Brian Flynn's Swansea dodged the drop the Conference a decade ago.

Some clubs in Swansea's position would be daunted by the prospect of a European campaign running alongside the Premier League calendar.

Top-flight survival will be the initial goal in SA1 once more next season, after all.

But Huw Jenkins is typically bullish when he discusses the prospect of the Europa League.

"If we get there, we will try to prove everybody wrong again by doing well in that competition," the Swansea chairman says.

Laudrup agrees that his team can give Europe a go while continuing to thrive domestically, for he is convinced Swansea will be a stronger force next season after a summer of squad restructuring.

Before all that come Bradford, a team the bookies say will not give Swansea too much trouble but who will have other ideas.

The Bantams, after all, were not supposed to beat Watford in the second round of this competition.

They were not expected to trouble Wigan Athletic, and they definitely weren't supposed to humble a near full-strength Arsenal side in the quarter-final.

Even after the Gunners were eliminated, the consensus was that Bradford had no chance against Aston Villa because the semi-final would be played over two legs.

An upset could happen in a one-off game, we were told, but not when the big club was meeting the smaller club twice.

But Bradford did it again, taking a 3-1 first-leg lead to Villa Park and then losing only 2-1 even as Paul Lambert's men cranked up the pressure on their own patch.

Swansea might have expected as much, for they are another club who know all about jabbing the pundits in the eye.

They have been tipped to struggle almost all the way through their climb from the bottom tier to the top level, but they have kept on proving people wrong.

This weekend Swansea are faced with a different scenario.

For once the serial underdogs are the heavy favourites.

"I think it's a very unusual final, because normally there is at least one of the big clubs in there," Laudrup points out.

"You could say it's a final between the underdog and the under-under-underdog.

"But both teams have earned their place at Wembley — between us we have put out Chelsea, Liverpool, Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa, and that's just the Premier League clubs."

Might the weight of expectation affect his team?

"In a final you never know how players will react because there is so much at stake," Laudrup adds.

Not many within the Swansea camp have experienced such a grand occasion.

Then again, there will be considerably more big-game experience in the Swansea dressing tomorrow room than there will be in Bradford's.

Hence Laudrup suggests that most of the country will be backing Phil Parkinson's team from their armchairs tomorrow.

"We accept that the majority of people will go with Bradford because we are the favourites," the Dane says through a smile.

"But fortunately we have a lot of fans in Denmark, in Spain, in Holland and in South Korea, so we will have some people behind us as well."

The world will be watching as Swansea, a club who were barely on the football map not so long ago, aim for one of the English game's top prizes.

Will they get the job done? Liverpool, with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge in tandem, may be more formidable opponents than Bradford, but Swansea must improve on last weekend's miserable effort at Anfield.

They surely will.

A leisurely week in Dubai and a much-changed Swansea team meant the focus was questionable from the outset on Merseyside.

That will not be an issue tomorrow, when perhaps the biggest danger is that Swansea are too keen to impress.

"I can assure you I will not forget about what happened at Liverpool," Laudrup says.

"But we have to park that game to one side. My focus is only on the cup final."

And the plan will be to pass Bradford off the pitch.

Swansea's possession game has been too good for many of the top sides in the country, so Laudrup's men are confident it will also account for the Bantams if they get it right.

"The danger is that the game is only 90 minutes, and in one game you can always lose," says Michu, the man Bradford will be most keen to stop. Laudrup knows as much, for he has lost finals in the past. But Swansea's manager has been on open-top bus tours of all the big cities he has called home down the decades, for silverware has never been far away throughout his career.

And so to Wembley, and the chance to land yet another prize.

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  • TheSwanseaWay  |  February 23 2013, 10:16AM

    Hey everyone - check out my blog at http://tinyurl.com/aebdd8m Despite not getting paid, I generally don't miss letters out of the Swansea manager's name in the headline of an article, the day before the biggest game in Swansea's history.

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