THE BLOG

Love Thy Neighbour? No Chance, but Maybe We Can Learn From Them

22/06/2013 21:45 BST | Updated 22/08/2013 10:12 BST

Two years ago, Swansea City gained promotion to the Premier League. Perhaps unsurprisingly, i can recall the day with great clarity...

As a supporter of Cardiff City, Swansea's local rivals, I woke up on the morning of their play off final against Reading - our semi final conquerors - with a sense of foreboding. I just knew that 'they' would 'make it up.'

In my own mind, it was a fait accompli. I spent the morning busying myself with a trip to the park with my youngest son and an aimless meander around Sainsburys - looking for nothing in particular. I made a conscious effort to avoid thinking about 'The Jacks' potential elevation to the big time.

But, like a scratch that you've just got to itch, eventually I succumbed...

I looked at the dining room clock, i reckoned that it would be about half time at Wembley. I took a deep breath and switched on the little Sony portable radio that had been the bearer of so much away day bad news for my beloved bluebirds over the years. Almost instantly, i wished that I'd left myself in blissful ignorance...

Latest score from Wembley...Swansea City 3 Reading 0.

Three nil! Three bloody nil and it wasn't even half time!

The commentator excitedly uttered something along the lines of, "the Swans, now with one foot in the Premier League" and that was that, the radio was abruptly switched off. Despite a spirited second half rally from Reading, the inevitable happened and Swansea duly clinched promotion. I immediately (and rather petulantly) vowed to avoid the local television sports news and 'Match of the Day' until our South West Wales cousins were relegated.

Two years on and Swansea City are still a Premier League team. Their slick passing game has won plaudits galore and they are held out as an example of what can be achieved with relatively limited resources.

Don't get me wrong, it still irks me that our near neighbours receive so much praise for both their style of football and their financial management and it has to be said that many neutrals tend to forget that Swansea City did enter administration twice before finally getting their finances in order.

So, why should Cardiff City, traditionally viewed as the larger of the two clubs, follow their local rivals lead?

First off, I think it unlikely that Malky Mackay's Cardiff City will start playing the style of football that has been lauded at The Liberty Stadium over the past few years and nor should they. Mackay's teams tend to be solid, dependable and unspectacular. Big on work ethic but relatively small on flair. I see no reason why these battling attributes can't be an asset in their quest to stay in the Premier League.

Where I think that Cardiff City can learn from the Swans and the likes of Norwich and West Brom, for that matter, is when it comes to playing budgets.

In their first season in the Premier League, Swansea's wage bill of £35M was the lowest in the division, equating to around half of their turnover for the season. Likewise, they employed a policy of only paying transfer fees that the club could realistically afford. The club finished eleventh.

Interestingly, two of the three relegated teams that season, Blackburn and Bolton both had wage bills in excess of £50M and rock bottom Wolves decided to gamble by paying out large transfer fees for Roger Johnson and Jamie O'Hara. Over the past two seasons, QPR have proved that simply throwing money at high profile signings on huge salaries can be anything but productive.

Unfortunately, one has only to spend a few minutes reading Cardiff City's Internet fan forums to see that there is already a clamour amongst many supporters to spend big. A clamour, which to be fair, is probably equally prevalent amongst fans of fellow promotees, Hull and Crystal Palace.

Another compelling reason for Cardiff City to show real restraint in their transfer dealings and wage negotiations is the opportunity to finally get to grips with the football clubs existing debt levels. It's estimated that the bluebirds current debt burden is around the £100M mark. A perilous financial position that controlling shareholder Vincent Tan ruthlessly exploited just over a year ago, when he decided that the club was to be rebranded. Out went the traditional blue home kit and the predominant bluebird badge and in came a red strip and a dragon emblem. Many City fans believed that it was 'red or dead,' as Tan made ominous warnings about the clubs future wellbeing, if the rebrand was rejected. There was little resistance.

Next season, due to the lucrative new TV deal, the club that finishes bottom of the Premier League will actually receive more in prize money than Manchester United did for winning the title this season. In addition, the three relegated clubs will also receive additional 'parachute payments' of nearly £60M over the following four years. This financial bounty gives clubs like Cardiff City a real chance to address their long term debt issues, whilst still remaining competitive on the pitch.

Is it an opportunity that the club will take?

Sadly, the signs aren't promising. In the past week, it's been announced that work will soon begin on significantly increasing the stadiums capacity and plans are already at an advanced stage for a brand new multi million pound training ground.

For a club that has already established itself as a Premier League outfit and has the stability of several years of top flight money to boost its coffers, these would probably be wise moves. For a football club in huge debt and embarking on its first season at footballs top table after more than half a century, it looks to be a big gamble and certainly more than a bit premature. Similarly, the sort of transfer targets that have been linked with the club so far seem to indicate a profligate attitude towards player acquisitions rather than a pragmatic one.

So, whilst their bitter rivals from South West Wales have signposted a sensible route to stability, on and off the pitch, it seems to be a path that Cardiff City FC have little intention of following.