Exeter, Devon UK • Feb 22, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home SportGlobal A Premier League swan song at the Liberty?

A Premier League swan song at the Liberty?

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Francesco Guidolin’s reign at the Swansea helm came to an abrupt end last week as the Italian paid a heavy price for Swansea’s slow start to the season. The club’s questionable summer in the transfer market, alongside early results, has been enough to see Swansea priced as serious candidates for relegation this season. It was just two summers ago that pundits were touting Swansea for a Europa League place, with the club showing no signs of halting its development. How wrong they were. The decline of the club has been by no means meteoric, but there has been a clear trend at the Liberty Stadium over the past 12 months. And it is not a pretty one.

Garry Monk’s failings in the early part of the 2014/15 season were staggering and unexpected by all those associated with the club given what he has achieved in the previous season. Huw Jenkins and the board were left with no choice but to sack Monk after the Swans’ dismal run but they didn’t know what came next, and this was a problem. They were rejected by Brendan Rodgers and Marcelo Bielsa amongst others and it was well-known that Guidolin was their last resort. Although the Italian steadied the ship for Swansea, it always seemed somewhat unlikely that he would be capable of taking the club to the next level. This is something that Jenkins and the Swansea board finally accepted just seven games into the new season, making his awarding of a two-year contract just five months earlier even more confusing.

The failure to go in for Joe Allen frustrated many Swansea fans. Image: upload.wikimedia.org

The failure to go in for Joe Allen frustrated many Swansea fans. Image: upload.wikimedia.org

A recent failure to recruit well in a succession of transfer windows has been another big issue for Swansea. Swansea’s current key players are those that have been at the club for a number of years, rather than those who have arrived more recently. The captures of Fernando Llorente and Borja Baston this summer were necessary, but the Swans have failed to sign anyone capable of helping the club progress. Joe Allen and Wilfried Bony were two players on the move over the summer and they appeared to fit the bill, but it is claimed that the club didn’t even make an attempt to secure their signatures. This is something that simultaneously baffled and frustrated Swansea fans, especially given that both players have previously proven themselves in South Wales. It is precisely this lack of ambition that surely played a factor in Andre Ayew and Ashley Williams both envisaging their future away from South Wales.

But, it is not by accident that Swansea’s recent failures have coincided with an undertone that has long been ringing around the corridors of the Liberty. It is an undertone that many Swansea supporters didn’t really want to hear, but one that board members did. This is the undertone of US investment. Swansea have long prided themselves as being one of the few clubs playing at the top level that are owned by the fans. But, the board members looked to cash in when they heard what the Americans had to offer. They described this as an opportunity to take the club forward, to expand their horizons and secure long term stability. Swansea fans accepted that this could well come true, but were also wary of how foreign investment has failed spectacularly at other British clubs. This led to much of the fan base taking the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ line whenever US investment was mentioned.

Swansea currently are a club deep in adversity

But over the summer, the US consortium led by Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien finally moved in to the Liberty to assume their role as 68% controlling stakeholders at the club. This put a delay on transfer dealings and distracted from Swansea’s preparations for the new season, particularly as a harsh internal split emerged within the boardroom.

The Supporter’s Trust, who now own a 21.8% stake in the club, were not consulted prior to the takeover. This is something that upset the Trust and fans alike, particularly as the Trust’s stake in the club is low enough so that any potential majority stakeholders could come in and dissolve the Trust if they felt it necessary. Furthermore, the Trust have recently released a statement detailing how they were not consulted before Guidolin’s dismissal. This lack of communication between the two parties is something that must be addressed if the takeover is to be a success.

Swansea is clearly a club currently littered with lingering issues that make it a difficult place to succeed as a manager, as proven by both Monk and Guidolin. Bob Bradley’s appointment was not particularly well-received by Swansea fans, for reasons related to his shared nationality with the new investors and his lack of experience in the Premier League. But overall, Bradley is an experienced coach who has proven he has the ability to deal with adversity. And there is little doubt that Swansea currently are a club deep in adversity

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