As with most clubs up and down the country, fans are split in to two camps. Those who allow time, patience and a grasp of a process gradually taking shape, and those who are hungry for immediate results and success. Those in the latter group are subsequently thirsty for blood if things aren’t immediately going to plan.
An air of melodrama surrounds some supporters, cries of “he’s out of his depth”, “the players aren’t interested”, “he’s lost the dressing room” or “the owners aren’t interested and won’t spend money”.
Let’s look at the facts. The appointment of Russell Martin was a coup, prising him away from a job where he was happy, settled and further along his process was not easy. He has had little time in the job. Is basically using league and cup fixtures as a pre-season process of implementing ideas and getting fitness up to scratch. He has also been given funds in the transfer market.
Martin, was seen as the ideal man, based on his exploits at MK Dons to reinvigorate the Swansea way. More of an evolution not revolution appointment. Previously, the Swansea owners have been constantly accused of taking the cheap option and appointing managers on the cheap. Well in this instance that’s not the case. Martin was happy and settled, and MK Dons were obviously reluctant to let a manager go, who had instilled an exciting and attractive style of play. That style is what alerted Swansea to his work, and therefore they went out and got him, paying the required compensation to acquire his services.
So the myth of the cheap option on this occasion can be dispelled. On the money front, within a week they’d acquired Flynn Downes. A great, young prospect from the league below who had been lauded for his performances at Ipswich and attracted attention in the past from bigger clubs than Swansea. Although with a lot of transfer fees these days, the word “undisclosed” is bandied around in terms of fee, it’s unsure what the exact figure was. However, it is believed to be around the £750,000+ mark. Again, with transfer fees these days it’s difficult to know whether that was all up front or in instalments. However, the transfer shows a real intent to give the new manager the tools he wants and needs to put his stamp on the team.
Additional funds were made available for the purchase of Michael Obafemi on transfer deadline day, a fee thought to be over £1,000,000. A player who nearly joined the club on loan in the January window but for injury. Don’t forget that Swansea had spent a figure believed to be around the £1,000,000 mark for PSV’s Joel Piroe early in the summer. So those that say the owners aren’t spending any money is not that accurate, although it is a grey area. Nothing in this world is black and white these days. Yes, they have to sell to be able to buy, as do most clubs everywhere. Unless you’re backed by multi-billionaire owners a la Man City or Chelsea, PSG or other big clubs then you’re essentially always going to be a selling club. That’s just the way of the world.
The owners have been accused of being businessmen and not football men. The business acumen whether from the 2 original owners or the introduction of Jake Silverstein has really helped Swansea get on to a level footing financially. The over-exuberance to spend big fees and big wages in a desperate attempt to maintain their Premier League status has had long lasting effects on the finances and running of the club and their ability to compete financially in the transfer market. Especially with the ending of the parachute payments it has meant Swansea have had to think outside the box in terms of recruitment.
Steve Cooper’s appointment and his many contacts from working with so many youngsters with the FA was probably a shrewder stop-gap appointment than the club may be afforded credit for. It may also be a massive coincidence. But the lack of information in the public domain relating to Cooper’s departure leaves unanswered questions and an air of anything is possible.
Cooper was brought in, and at the time the club were accused of taking the easy option for a young manager who was unattached and therefore free of compensation. He fitted the profile of previous managerial appointments in terms of a young, hungry manager. His contact list was extensive and utilised the loan market well. Signing young, hungry talent who were chomping at the bit for an opportunity to play regular “mens” football. The development and opportunities presented to many of these players as a result of their time in SA1 is evident for all to see:
Marc Guehi – big money move to Crystal Palace
Rhian Brewster – big money move to Sheffield Utd
Conor Gallagher – loan move to Premier League clubs two seasons in a row
Freddie Woodman – Starting for Newcastle at Old Trafford in the Premier League
The accusations around finances, was also thrown at the club in terms of these loan signings. Not signing players, getting them in on loan, a team full of borrowed players. That’s what the financial restraints afforded Swansea, and Cooper was the ideal man to steady the ship during that period. His little black book was well overused and the club benefitted from two successive play-off appearances, the players as mentioned above benefitted from someone giving them a chance and the parent clubs benefitted in some instances by receiving big money transfer fees for players who barely featured in their own first team.
Is this merely a coincidence? Or was Cooper the interim captain to steady the ship in financial uncertainty and as the owners described “hard medicine” which needed to be taken to get Swansea in to a more financially viable and sustainable operation. Add to the fact that the style of play came into some criticism as being too pragmatic and Cooper seemingly exhausting the contacts and players he’d previously worked with from that successful under 17 World Cup winning team with England, was this merely a parting of ways or something shrewder.
At the end of a hard season, ending in ultimate heartbreak of a play-off final defeat, a pragmatic and unattractive style and possibly becoming more sustainable as a business was this the reason for parting company with Cooper.
In a far better position following the hard medicine ingested, was it now time for Swansea to start moving forwards? Appoint a young hungry manager – standard MO, return to the Swansea way, evolve the style to be more attractive, pay compensation for a manager, only 2 players on loan, and transfer fees paid for a number of key players for the future. Piroe, Obafemi and Downes are all young, up and coming footballers with huge potential. These are investments for the future. Add in a few free transfers for good measure for more experience in terms of Ntcham, Paterson and Walsh and then 2 starlets from top 4 clubs. When you look at it that way, how can you disagree with a transfer policy like that.
The slur of a “borrowed team” is no longer relevant as Swansea have more players out on loan than they have actually borrowed themselves.
Martin has clearly had an impact and progress is evident. The style of play has improved massively and the possession stats show a dominance that maybe hasn’t resulted in the end product up to this point but the potential is there for all to see. A hindered pre-season, thanks to games being cancelled due to COVID, arriving at the club late in the day, priority of transfers in and out in terms of moulding a squad suitable to the style and a COVID outbreak hitting some first team players have all added to the results.
I for one am in no doubt, that once the players are match sharp, match fit, start scoring goals forcing opposition (especially at the Swansea.com Statdium) out of their shell and forced to play more attacking football then Swansea will be able to exploit and dismantle a lot of teams in the Championship. Last week’s comeback against Luton could possibly be the boost and turning point required as another important step in the process Martin and his staff are trying to implement. Here’s hoping that this process is in full swing come October 17th.