Swansea will have to get ugly to survive

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 22 December 2017, 16:16

SWANSEA CITY have long been the romantic’s choice in a harsh world of brutal numbers.

Those of us who do not fear relegation for our teams as much as we are told to, those people who love football for what it is rather than as a pure business model.

There are still thousands who can live with the down days, the defeats, the disappointments because they see through the doctrine that football is a results business.

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Sadly the fading philosophy of watching our national sport for entertainment rather than victory at all costs took a major knock this week with the sacking of Swansea boss Paul Clement.

A succession of managers at the Liberty Stadium adhered to the belief that the game should be played as much on the deck as possible, between honest players doing their best to keep the supporters engaged.

They lost a lot of matches but also won a fair few following the ideals of short, quick passing without the need to resort to pumping the ball aloft and as far forward as possible under the ‘route one’ system.

Unfortunately these proud principles and other factors have finally caught up with Swansea.

The dismissal of Clement is no surprise. After all, in the five years since Brendan Rodgers left the club to take over at Liverpool, he is the fifth permanent manager to get the bullet.

This is part of the problem of course. A trigger-happy chairman who is afraid to follow his convictions all the way through is no help at all.

Huw Jenkins is just like the rest these days. His team hits trouble and so he hits the nuclear option which is to fire the manager. They all do it now.

Newcastle, also in the relegation zone just two places above City, deserve some praise for sticking with the boss who took them down the season before last.

The difference between Swansea, Newcastle and current Championship giants Aston Villa, is that the Welsh club lack the financial and reputational clout to carry them back up again.

Jenkins is terrified that going down would sound the death knell for a club which outside of Cardiff became the country’s second favourite team.

There is now the real prospect of seeing the two warring Welsh clubs trade places.

Cardiff are second in the Championship and aiming for promotion while City are nailed to the foot of the Premier League and destined to spend Christmas in the bottom three.

It means a tough choice for Jenkins.

According to regular Swansea watchers, Clement’s football wasn’t all that pretty to watch but that comes with the territory when your team is struggling.

But as Jenkins searches for a successor he is going to have to sacrifice what notions he had of keeping the game attractive in order to climb out of trouble and defy massive odds that his team is already doomed.

That is why Frank de Boer and Slaven Bilic probably don’t fit the bill right now.

De Boer lasted just four matches in charge of Crystal Palace at the start of this season; Bilic is a great manager but his preferred ‘European’ style of football with the emphasis on slow passing out from the back, is not going to win you a dogfight.

Jenkins is going to need an ‘attack dog’. The kind of manager that drills players into submission, that defines clear borders of what is acceptable and what isn’t.

Swansea are going to have to get pretty ugly between now and May if they want to survive and that is the greatest shame of it all.

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Michael Collins
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3rd September
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