Competition: Football League Championship Play-Off Final
Date: Monday 30th May 2011
The Swans become the first Welsh team to gain promotion to the Premier League after a Scott Sinclair hat-trick.
The 2010/2012 season was in terms of success, the biggest in the club’s history. The promotion to the Premier League through the play-off final was massive in terms of its effect on the football club, local community and economy. After a strong season in the Championship, the Swans reached the play-offs and beat Nottingham Forest in the semis. They were not seen as favourites in the final, despite finishing the season in third place. Reading were expected to provide tough opposition, after beating Cardiff in the semi-final, and with Shane Long on strong goal scoring form. Often referred to as the biggest prize in football, with an estimated financial gain of £90 million, the match itself was anticipated by the entire population of Swansea.
On reflection, the first half came as somewhat of a relief to the thousands of Swans fans as Swansea were awarded a penalty for an unfair challenge on Nathan Dyer by Zurab Khizanishvil. Scott Sinclair converted the penalty in the 21st minute and scored again from open play in the 22nd. This two-goal advantage made Swansea City’s possession-based style of play highly effective against Reading, and the Swans added a third through Stephen Dobbie in the 40th minute. This dream first half for the Swans gave them a lead which was always unlikely for Reading to be able to come back from. Reading’s afternoon deteriorated further during the break when substitute Tabb and assistant manager Gibbs were both given their red cards for off the field incidents.
The Second half however was an altogether nervier affair for the 40,000 travelling fans and those watching back home. Joe Allen’s own goal in the 49th minute, and Matt Mills powerful headed second for Reading in the 57th minute showed Reading’s dominance after the break. The game was considerably open for a final, with both teams committing players forward for the win. However after Jem Karacan hit the post from a drilled effort for Reading, Swansea were able to absorb Reading pressure effectively. In the 80th minute Sinclair completed his hat-trick after Phil Dowd awarded the Swans a second clear penalty which put the game to bed.
Reading could have no complaints about the spot kick, which was awarded after Andy Griffin clumsily fouled Fabio Borini on the left flank of the box and the Swans played out the final minutes with relatively few concerning moments to complete an incredible journey from League Two to the Premier League in just six years. The entire city celebrated the famous victory, not only for the return to top flight football but also for becoming the first Welsh team – ahead of rivals Cardiff City – to reach the Premier League.
The hero of the game and Swansea’s player of the year was undoubtedly Scott Sinclair, who deservedly dominated the headlines with his hat-trick “Man of the Match” performance to cap a 27-goal season. Brendan Rodgers too became a true Swans’ legend. The manager earned the credit on a national scale for the job he had done at Swansea, for not only taking the Swans to the Premier League but also the manner in which they played in order to achieve their goal. Their possession-based style was a true example of the ‘beautiful game’ and would undoubtedly become a credit to the top flight.
Financially the club was to become very much better-off due to the Premier League television rights and sponsorship deals. In addition, ever since promotion was achieved there has been a knock-on effect on the profile and income of the city as a whole. Swansea Council leader Chris Holley had this to say in the aftermath of the game, “The Premier League attracts world-wide audiences which will help raise Swansea’s profile on the international stage and attract interest from sports fans and potential visitors from all over the world.” For a club which once had massive financial strain and was sold for £1, the stature and security of the club is likely to be underpinned for years to come as a result of the season’s achievements, culminating in the win over Reading.
Scott Sincalir had this to say about the day’s events, “The boys have talked to me a lot about the Hull game in 2003, and what it meant for the club to stay in the Football League. The club have gone through a lot emotionally since then, but we all know of the steps forward made. And now we can look forward to the Premier League, and the city can really celebrate. We’ve made history by becoming the first Welsh club to do it, and the scenes around the stadium and in the changing room were unbelievable.” (Evening Post)
Possession: Reading 47%- Swansea 53%
Picture: Evening Post
Highlights from the game can be seen by following this link: