I know it is going to be very tough," said Swansea City chairman Huw Jenkins as he contemplated the remainder of the club's second Premier League season. It will certainly be tough on Saturday when they visit champions Manchester City, inoculated against complacency after losing last season at the Liberty Stadium.
It is a clash of opposites – money-no-object City against a club which has lived on limited resources while rising from the bottom of the league to the top division in less than a decade.
Jenkins, 49, has chaired the club throughout that journey. He is quietly spoken, understated and careful in his choice of words. "No illusions" describes his style, along with Ralph Waldo Emerson's line about there being no limits as to what can be achieved when it does not matter who gets the credit.
Praise for Swansea's upward mobility has inevitably focused on managers. But it is Jenkins who has been the point of continuity as progress has continued in spite of a succession of managers having left for richer clubs, with first Roberto Martinez, then Paulo Sousa and most recently Brendan Rodgers – who will confront his former club as Liverpool manager for the first time in the League Cup on Wednesday week.
Memories remain vivid of taking over, together with a consortium of local businessmen and the Swansea City Supporters Trust, which has a 20% share in the club and nominates a director.
Anyone buying a ticket with a credit card in those days found their account debited to Casey's Roofing – Jenkins' firm. "We hadn't got the facilities at the club," he said. "We scraped around every week for money to pay the bills and keep the club going."
Then, the club's annual turnover was £1.7 million. Last season it was £65m, including a healthy profit. Swansea spent more money on transfers in the summer of 2011 than in their previous 99 years of history, and this summer took players from Celtic and Valencia. It seems like a different world. But what is striking is what has not changed.
"The board is the same group of people who came together a decade ago," Jenkins said. "We're all fans, which is important. We get on well and we all put the club first."
This, he argues, may be the unique factor that other clubs struggle to replicate.
"The history of this and other clubs is littered with boardroom rows, intrigues and takeovers, and people who want to dominate. That's not happened here."
Instead there has been stability and a tight-ship philosophy. "We haven't looked for outside funding or issued new shares, but have kept stable relationships on the board," he said.
Neither have highly paid executive posts proliferated: "We've kept it tight, about 12 to 15 main people on top of the playing squad. Some clubs have chief executives and a whole range of management. Here it's only me."
That continuity features in other areas. Elsewhere, a change of manager means wholesale changes in personnel and culture. Swansea expect a new manager to fit into existing structures. A condition of Michael Laudrup's appointment was being prepared to work with established staff, such as assistant manager Alan Curtis.
"Finding out if potential candidates were prepared to do that was a good first check when we were looking this summer. You don't want five new people coming in at once," Jenkins said.
That approach helps explain the apparently seamless transition from Martinez to Sousa to Rodgers. The Northern Irishman served Swansea well, but he was also fortunate to inherit a club with a sophisticated footballing culture built on that coaching continuity.
The price of success has been the loss of managers and, this summer, players such as Scott Sinclair – who moved to Manchester City – and midfielder Joe Allen.
"You don't want to lose your manager or your better players, but sometimes it will happen," Jenkins said.
But when it happens there is no point trying to match the salary offers of the Premier League's plutocrats.
"If you want to prosper in the long term you have to maintain the integrity of your salary structures. Having a few players on much more money is no good for your finances, motivation or fairness."
Where Jenkins and Swansea have excelled is in accepting the inevitable, getting the best possible price – a reported £7m in compensation for Rodgers, and £15m for Allen – and investing wisely in replacements.
"Ki Sung-Yeung more than covers the loss of Joe. He's an exceptional player," he said of the South Korean, who cost a reported £5m from Celtic, but Jenkins expects a battle as Swansea have lost five first-team regulars from last season.
"New players will take time to adapt to our approach and style of play," he said, while rejecting the view that a ground capacity of just over 20,000 permanently dooms Swansea to being top-flight poor relations – and not just because of plans to increase the Liberty Stadium's capacity.
"The television deal coming in next year will dwarf income through the gate. It won't close the gap with the top six, but it does mean that we can hope to compete on more even terms with the rest of the league," he said.
Being human, Jenkins probably does care who gets the credit. But as a priority it clearly ranks a long way behind creating a sustainable model for his club. Other clubs, and chairmen, take note.
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