Jack to a King – The Swansea Story is a love song to the supporters of Swansea City AFC, who saved the club from obliteration. Director Marc Evans tells an intricate story of how Swansea survived and then rose to the Premier League.
In 2001, the club was near bankruptcy and near relegation to amateur status. It was sold for £1 to Australian Tony Petty, who immediately cut costs. In response to his unpopular moves, the community pulled together.
Fans formed the Swansea City Supporters Trust to raise enough money to buy 21% of the club. Another nest of fans put in at least £50,000 each. A few fans took it on themselves to threaten the new owner; these men give interviews in balaclavas but comically use their real names. Perhaps they are the most persuasive in getting Petty to quit.
It’s fascinating to learn that Roberto Martinez and then Brendan Rodgers are a big part of the turnaround as Swansea transitions from tennis-style football to Spanish-style. In 10 years, Swansea gets a new Liberty stadium and the Premier League.
New owners a few years after the film
But what a difference a few years make. In 2016, the individual owners sold 60% of the club to American sports owners Jason Levien (DC United) and Steve Kaplan (NBA Memphis Grizzlies). Neither are soccer guys. It’s not personal, it’s business. Levien and Kaplan stated that:
“…we looked for a club that possessed a particular style of football on the pitch that we believe will give rise to sustainable long-term success. We also wanted to be a part of a club that was at the very heart and soul of the community in which it plays.”– new owners Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan
So then they hired Bob Bradley as manager, without informing the Supporters Trust.
And perhaps that is what is most head-scratching about this 2014 documentary. Did Bob Bradley, Jason Levien or Steve Kaplan watch this film before hiring him?
If they had, they would have easily recognized that Bradley and his defensive style of play could not be the right coach for this club. Secondly, maybe Bradley would have realized that Swansea has a history of firing managers as soon as they have a run of bad form, no matter who that guy is or how many wins he’s had with the club.
How the film was made
The film was partially funded by the Swansea City Supporters Trust, but Director Evans was pretty much allowed to do whatever he wanted. He is also not a soccer guy, but Producer/Writer/Musician Mal Pope is a long-time Swansea fan. The result is a film, like Sons of Ben, that focuses a great deal on the fans (known as The Jacks), and their love and support for the team. That focus was also dictated by the fact that, as a 4th division team, Swansea didn’t have much game footage for the early years.
I was very glad to learn about Swansea and the Jacks. However, the film is a bit slow, and there were times I tapped my foot, saying “get on with it!” to the telly. And I would have liked to understand how/why the city of Swansea managed to build a new stadium for the club.
But Jack to a King is worth watching, especially if you are interested in Bob Bradley, or want to know how to make 100 times your investment in a failing football club.
7 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 7