Enter the Dragons: Have you heard? Welsh football's on the up...

With Swansea still sky-high after lifting their first-ever silverware, Cardiff preparing for their debut Premier League campaign, Newport County back in the Football League and Wrexham on the cusp of success, football writer Scott Johnson discusses a momentous 12 months for Welsh football.

As a Welsh football fan, you expect plenty of rough before you get to enjoy any smooth.

But this season has been different. With four Welsh club sides winning silverware in the English pyramid, there is plenty of reason for cheer among fans of Swansea City, Cardiff City, Newport County and Wrexham.

Swansea may be the most high profile, but Newport are certainly worthy of top-billing. “I thought I was too old for fairy tales,” County manager Justin Edinburgh said after their Blue Square Bet Premier play-off triumph. The win over Welsh rivals Wrexham saw The Exiles end their 25-year absence from the Football League.

The journey to their play-off victory was a truly remarkable feat. Relegated from the old Third Division in 1987, they dropped out of the Fourth Division the following season, ending a 60-year stay in the Football League.

Unable to fulfil their Conference fixtures, they were booted out of the league and went out of business in 1989. The club was reformed later that year by 400 supporters and commenced their ascent from the eighth tier as Newport AFC.

Edinburgh? Forget Scotland, it's all about Wales...

They were forced to play in Gloucestershire throughout their first season, having been prevented from using their former ground by Newport Council due to outstanding debts. When they returned to South Wales, the Welsh FA banished them back to Moreton-in-Marsh after refusing to join the newly formed League of Wales. They took legal action and won, protecting their league status and allowing them to again take residency at Somerton Park.

They progressed from the Hellenic League, through the Southern League Premier Division and reverted also back to Newport County in 1999. In 2010, they were promoted to the Conference under Dean Holdsworth, only for their manager to up sticks for Aldershot eight months later.

Short spells at the helm for Tim Harris (as caretaker), Anthony Hudson and Lee Harrison (also as caretaker) followed before the arrival of Justin Edinburgh in October 2011. County went on to finish the season in 19th place, with the former Tottenham defender also taking his new charges to the FA Trophy Final - their first Wembley trip - where they were defeated by York City.

Ahead of their centenary season, Les Scadding took over as Chairman in August after winning £45.5m in the EuroMillions lottery. His good fortune appeared to rub off on Newport who maintained a promotion push throughout the campaign, but a backlog of games proved their undoing and eventually they settled for a play-off place.

Unfortunately their 2-0 victory in the final was at the expense of Wrexham, the first club to receive a 10-point deduction for being put into administration almost 10 years ago. Subsequently, they tumbled down the leagues but survived relegation to the Conference on the final day of the 2006/07 season.

The following year they failed to repeat the feat and, after 87 years, dropped out of the Football League under Brian Little. After a pair of mid-table finishes, Wrexham fell in consecutive play-offs, defeated on both occasions by Luton Town.

Losing to Newport made it a bitter hat-trick of disappointments - but there has also been plenty of success.

Winning the Football League Trophy in 2005 was eclipsed by managing to rid themselves of former chairman Alex Hamilton. Throughout the following campaign he was determined to evict the club from the Racecourse Ground to enable redevelopment of the site. The situation was resolved in court, where it was deemed that Hamilton had improperly acquired the freehold and had no right to force a move from the home Wrexham have occupied since 1872.

Since November 2011 the club has thrived under the ownership of the Wrexham Supporters Trust. In March they became the first Welsh club to lift the FA Trophy after beating Grimsby Town on penalties.

But despite dominating Newport, they failed to take their chances in the game that really mattered and player-manager Andy Morrell has the unenviable task of lifting his team for a fourth attempt at securing promotion.

Finger on the pulse: Wrexham aim to join the Football League party in 2014

However, they need only glance at Cardiff City, who won the Championship title after three consecutive play-off failures. Heavily subsidised by owner Vincent Tan, the Bluebirds spent in excess of £10 million to achieve promotion.

Money doesn’t guarantee success but the Bluebirds topped the table from November onwards, spreading goals throughout the side while remaining resolute in defence. A pre-season rebrand, which saw them adopt a red kit to appeal to the Asian market, enabled the lavish spending spree but remains divisive.

Tan has earmarked substantial sums to enable more transfer activity but retaining manager Malky Mackay is a priority. Previously linked with jobs at Everton and Stoke, the former Scotland international is Cardiff’s prized asset after reinvigorating the club during his two years in charge.

But Mackay has his work cut out if Cardiff are to replicate the impact Swansea City have had during their two-year Premier League stint. Under Brendan Rodgers they wowed neutrals with their patient passing game before finishing a respectable 11th.

Rodgers’ departure to Liverpool, coupled with the exits of Joe Allen and Scott Sinclair, threatened to undo their impressive efforts but somehow they have managed to improve under Michael Laudrup. Finishing two places higher and winning the Carling Cup, they can look forward to a Europa League campaign next year and retain a healthy bank balance.

Adding to an already impressive haul of achievements was Gareth Bale’s dominant player treble – that is, the PFA Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year awards.

The national side has also risen in the FIFA rankings from 81st to 49th since the turn of the year as the likes of Bale, Allen, Aaron Ramsey and Jonathan Williams have become more influential. Next up is knocking rugby off its perch - and a top-flight South Wales derby can only help boost Welsh football’s growing profile.

But a trophy-laden season such as this is unlikely to be repeated or forgotten any time soon.

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