FORMER Celtic midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng admitted he got the shock of his life before Swansea City’s 5-0 demolition of Bradford City in the Capital One Cup final.
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup opted to play Ki as a makeshift central defender – preferring him ahead of former Rangers loan player Kyle Bartley and club captain Garry Monk to replace the injured Chico Flores.
“I didn’t expect it, but I thought it went okay for me,” said Ki. “I haven’t played there much before but I was happy to do something for the team. The boys played brilliantly and I thought we controlled the game. It was a great day.”
Ki is now looking forward to playing in the Europa League with Swansea next season and he added: “It is great for the club to be in Europe. I have played there for Celtic and every player enjoys a new experience playing different clubs. It is a chance for everyone and reward for all the players and the fans, who have been amazing.
“You don’t get many chances as a player to play in front of 82,000 fans. It is the first time we have won a major trophy, it is very meaningful for me, for all the players and for the fans because they always support us well, wherever we play.
“This group of players just gets stronger and it has done that through this cup competition. Everyone is working hard and we have had more belief with every game, beating Liverpool, then Middlesbrough then Chelsea in the semi-finals. We will enjoy this.”
Team-mate Angel Rangel believes Laudrup should be named manager of the year after leading Swansea to the first major silverware of their 101-year history.
Swansea produced a consummate display of attacking football at Wembley and man of the match Nathan Dyer (two), Jonathan de Guzman (two) and Michu got on the scoresheet to the delight of the 33,000 Swans fans who had made the journey to London.
When Laudrup succeeded Brendan Rodgers at the Liberty Stadium last summer, the doom-mongers were predicting a season-long battle to retain their top-flight status. But, after a blip at the start of September, the Dane has guided the club into the top half of the Premier League.
Sunday’s unprecedented triumph at Wembley only adds to the lustre of what must rank as the greatest season the club has ever known. Attention will inevitably turn to whether Laudrup ignores the string of reported suitors – among them Real Madrid, who he represented as a player – keen to secure his services and remains in south Wales beyond the end of the season.
Whatever happens, Rangel is in no doubt Laudrup’s achievements deserve to be recognised.
He said: “I would say he 100 per cent deserves to be manager of the year. If we stay in the top ten having won the cup, I think it is just about the best Swansea can achieve and from our point of view he has to be the best. He has made a big difference. When he came here he knew we could play football, but we lacked the cutting edge to score lots of goals and create chances.
“We are more aggressive in attack now. We create more chances, we are really comfortable and the team is very balanced.”
Rangel, 30, joined Swansea when the club was still in League One, but will get the chance to test himself in European competition next season as their cup success comes with a Europa League spot.
“If you had told me we would be here when I joined six years ago I would not have believed you, but we are getting better and better and we performed brilliantly in this final,” he said. “We will have to show we belong in Europe. We have not played there before and maybe we will be a bit naive.
“But we have European players who have played in these competitions before so hopefully we can show we are a good side. It was one of those things I never thought I would get to and now we have a chance and we want to prove ourselves.”