Ball-boy does his best to overshadow Swans’ success
Forget local Danish legends Hummel and Jan Mølby. Because last night Michael Laudrup broke into the very highest echelons of his host city’s folklore, right up there alongside Dylan Thomas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
A 0-0 draw against mighty Chelsea, with a little help from a mischievous ball-boy, was enough to see the Swans through 2-0 on aggregate after a brilliant win at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago – the club’s first at that ground for 87 years.
And now Swansea can look forward to their first ever major English cup final appearance on Sunday February 24 against Bradford City, a club from the fourth tier of English football who have defied the odds to make it all the way to Wembley. Swansea are unsurprisingly strong favourites to win at 4/9 (Ladbroke’s).
The final will be the most important game in Swansea’s 101-year history. Founded in 1912, the closest Swansea had previously come was the FA Cup semi-finals in 1925 and 1964. Considering 43 of the 92 clubs in the English League have won one of the big three, that’s quite an omission.
Given Swansea’s achievement last night, Laudrup probably won’t mind that the world’s media isn’t singing his praises and is instead concentrating on an incident that occurred ten minutes from time involving Chelsea’s Belgian forward Eden Hazard and a ball-boy.
After the game, it transpired that the ball-boy had tweeted he was going to do his best to time waste, and when his opportunity came, he didn’t disappoint. Sensing the presence of Hazard behind him, he lay on the ball.
The Belgian, who in his defence has probably never been to Wales before and might have thought it was a quaint local custom, methodically proceeded to toe-poke the ball out of the teenager’s grasp. He succeeded, leaving the ball-boy clutching his ribs and raising an arm to protest – to the referee, presumably for some kind of freekick. A moment of consideration followed before the official raised a red card to a clearly bemused Hazard.
It took the gloss off what was a historic night for Swansea, but perhaps that was in keeping with a Dane who has impressed many in English football with his modesty.
He had remained humble earlier in the week when commenting on whether the Chelsea match was the most important in Swansea’s history.
“I don’t know,” he admitted to the BBC. “I’ve only been here seven months. Obviously for me it is: it’s a cup semi-final, the last step before a final. But I think that question should be asked to people who have been following this club for five, ten or 50 years − they could put this game on Wednesday into perspective.”
As well as the cup, Laudrup also has another record in his sights: Swansea’s highest ever placing in the English top flight. The current record is sixth (1982), and Swansea, in ninth place, are just five points behind Everton who sit in the Euro League-claiming fifth position.
But despite the glowing ever-growing reputation, Laudrup wouldn’t be drawn into judging the season until all 38 league games are played.
“In regards to myself over here, I am naturally very satisfied with the season thus far. But there are still four months left, so the final evaluation will not be until May,” Laudrup told The Copenhagen Post.
When that appraisal comes, Laudrup faces tough opposition becoming the most influential Dane in the history of Swansea City. The aforementioned Jan Mølby took the Swans to the Division Three playoff final as player-manager in the 1996-97 season. And Hummel sponsored the club during the 1984-85 season.
Only joking! Laudrup has already eclipsed them both.