Good times keep coming for Swansea City
WHEN a triumphant Swansea City climbed the Wembley steps after that memorable play-off win over Reading, there were those who were already predicting their rapid return from English football's top flight.
Certainly, there weren't many who were ready to put on money on Garry Monk and Ashley Williams lifting silverware at the same spot less than two years later.
But yesterday afternoon, tied alongside the black and white ribbons on the Capital One Cup was a firm message that the Swans are now a Premier League side oozing Premier League class.
Chairman Huw Jenkins had spoken beforehand of this being a day to enjoy in comparison to the nerve-shredding play-off final of 2011.
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And how his words rung true as Michael Laudrup's men dominated one of the most one-sided Wembley finals in recent memory.
And how the fans lapped it up.
Hymns and Arias reverberated around the ground at the final whistle to signal another momentous day in the history of Swansea City Football Club.
Moments later, with a 5-0 rout showing on the scoreboard, Spanish defender Chico Flores, forced to miss the match because of an ankle injury, faced the Swans fans and played the Matador to the cheers of ''Ole, Ole'' from the Jack Army.
It was party time in the capital.
To their credit, Swansea also played a classy tribute to the efforts of a Bradford side outplayed by a country mile on the day by forming a guard of honour as they made their way down from the stands with their losers' medals.
It has been a remarkable cup journey for the Bantams, but this was one Premier League scalp they never got close to.
From the moment Nathan Dyer poked home after Matt Duke had failed to deal with Michu's left-footed shot, the League Cup always looked like it was heading to South Wales for the first time.
It was sublime at times from Swansea, a victory that would have been fitting of any of the Premier League heavyweights, regardless of the strength of the opposition.
It was also fitting of a side who will be plying their trade in Europe next season.
In the pre-match build-up there had been so much talk of fairytales you half expected Cinderella to don those fabled size fours of hers and take her place alongside Ashley Williams in the back four.
Some would say the presence of Ki in Laudrup's central defence was just as surprising.
It had been dubbed the Feelgood Final, an indication of the remarkable Roy of the Rovers-style passage that has been made by these two clubs to this stage — a cup final to provide that warm, fuzzy glow to melt the icy chill of North London in mid- February.
On most days this would have been all about Swansea's rise from the brink ten years ago, an epic and often eventful journey that has twisted and turned its way to a first domestic final in their history, and in their centenary season to boot.
However, even the most dyed-in- the-wool among the Jack Army would tip their caps to the feat of the League Two side and a dream cup run that had seen off three Premier League sides en route to Wembley.
Beforehand the Bradford PA issued the rallying call of "We are Bradford, we are Yorkshire, we are England", much to the delight of the thousands decked out in Harry Potter-esque claret and amber scarves.
The response came from Swansea's club chaplain Kevin Johns, who told a tale of a friend who was bringing his five-year boy along to his first game.
"In 30 years that little boy will be able to tell his child he was there the day the Swans brought the League Cup back to Wales," he said.
If the plummeting temperatures weren't enough to bring out the goosebumps, that certainly was.
It all added to a vibrant occasion lit up by two sets of fans determined to make the most of their big day.
Heading along the M4 yesterday morning, a banner was draped across a bridge just before you caught sight of the Severn Crossing.
It read "Swansea City, a great 100 years, make this the best".
You then only had to stop in one of the service stations at Leigh Delamare or Membury to realise the scale of the black and white exodus that had left South Wales.
All that was missing was Morriston-born Swans fan Steffan Rhodri — better known as Dave Coaches from television show Gavin and Stacey — to be behind the wheel amid the convoy.
Rhodri was among the 32,000 packed into the Welsh end of Wembley, along with rugby great Gareth Edwards and former Swansea and Wales No. 8 Stuart Davies, who had diverted their flights from Rome to Heathrow to see the game.
Truly, these are heady days to be a Swans fan.
A play-off triumph, Premier League stability, a League Cup success achieved with one of the greats of world football at the helm, and now European football on the horizon.
Let the good times continue.