The likes of Wigan Athletic, Stoke City, Rushden & Diamonds, AFC Wimbledon and Portsmouth can all vouch for Swansea's claim that a lot can happen in ten years of the modern game; as a decade after a 4-0 defeat to Hartlepool Swansea face Bradford in the League Cup final.
Ten years ago Swansea City were losing to Hartlepool 4-0 and were bottom of the Football League while Bradford City were playing in the Championship’s equivalent. This weekend the two face off in the League Cup final with both teams in extremely different circumstances. The Swans are flying high in the Premier League while The Bantams struggle to make the play-offs in League Two.
It proves that cup football is a leveller but also that a lot can change in ten years of football. We take a look at five key indicators of just how fragile the modern footballing world is by assessing just what happened in the 2002-03 season; not including Swansea’s narrow escape from non-league football.
Stoke City stayed up on the final day and appointed Tony Pulis manager
In November 2002 Tony Pulis was appointed manager of Stoke City who looked destined for a return to the third tier of English football after just one season.
In the end a final day goal from Ade Akinbiyi against Reading was enough to see them stay up at the expense of Sheffield Wednesday.
Pulis was kept on as manager before being sacked by the Icelandic board for quite ridiculous reasons. After one season at Plymouth in 2005-06 he returned to The Potters and earned them promotion to the Premier League in 2008; where they have now established themselves as a permanent fixture.
Portsmouth were promoted to the Premier League
Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth side, inspired by Svetoslav Todorov and Paul Merson, won the league and promotion to the Premiership by 18 points.
From there they went on to play seven consecutive seasons in the top flight including an eighth placed finish two FA Cup Finals including a win as well as a famous Europa League tie with AC Milan.
Today the club are on the brink of financial collapse and looking a certainty to face relegation to League Two.
Wimbledon finished tenth in the First Division
That’s correct the team that is now AFC Wimbledon finished not far outside the play-offs in what is now the Championship the same season Swansea almost got relegated from the Football League. The next season they finished bottom of the league and were dissolved to form MK Dons.
Since then the real heirs to the history of Wimbledon FC have rose from the bottom tier of English football all the way back into the Football League; but face a battle to stay there this season.
Rushden & Diamonds won Division Three
Everybody’s favourite team on Championship Manager 2001-02 were Rushden and Diamonds because they had an absolute plethora of resources for a team playing in the Conference. In reality by 2002-03 they were in the Football League and won the title to gain promotion to English football’s third tier.
However they were relegated straight away and the once secure finances of Max Griggs and the Dr. Martens brand that owned the club began to falter.
They eventually suffered relegation back down to the Conference and eventually dissolved in 2011. A new phoenix club, AFC Rushden & Diamonds, is currently playing in the United Counties Football League Division One - level 10 on the football pyramid.
Wigan Athletic won the old (but not that old) Division Two
They have since gone on to establish themselves as perennial survivors in the top flight and face yet another fight for Premier League survival this season.
What has been the biggest transformation in your eyes from the last ten years of football?
image: © Matthew Wilkinson