|A New Hope At the Liberty?|
Written by BarneyLW on Wednesday, 28th Dec 2016 17:17
A feeling of déjà vu rose with the sun over Swansea this morning. Another manager out the door, another few days of links, speculation, supposed sightings of candidates spotted outside Rossi’s sampling the scampi. But for the first time in recent memory, there is hope in the air.
There was no warmth for Bob Bradley, only cautious and somewhat desperate hope for him to succeed, at best. Predominantly though, there was confusion and frustration at a nice man who spoke well of the game and was as dignified as he was genuinely knowledgeable. But the truth is the first American was never the right man to take over from Francesco Guidolin. The somewhat bizarre social experiment was doomed from the start, with seven defeats in eleven games and a hatful of goals conceded from a previously solid back line. While the American is by no means the sole point of reference of culpability for Swansea’s current league position, the West Ham horror show highlighted the team had not only gotten worse under Bradley, a man who had been caught well out of his depth, but he represented a choice from unpopular owners who have done little to cement positive relations with the fans.
So what now? Well, the usual, yes. But so much more than that, there is hope; there is optimism from a fan base that more than likely would like to collectively consign the last few months to history. The links to a third manager only halfway through the season are not only more qualified than Bradley, but they show progress from the board to appease the fans. The sceptics will say they caved, having wanted to stick with Bradley, but the harrowing atmosphere at the West Ham game on Boxing Day will have changed their mind. However, you would have to go back to the days to find such resentment and pure anger aimed at the club’s hierarchy, even longer to find anger aimed at the manager in such a way. The Supporters’ Trust have released a statement confirming they are to be consulted on the new appointment, which few could argue is not justified, as they not only have a legitimate stake in the club’s running as shareholders, but as fans have been here long before Steve Kaplan and Jason Levein and will be there long after them. There have been assurances of money to spend in January, whoever it is in the dugout.
The early favourites range from Ryan Giggs, Chris Coleman, Alan Pardew, Harry Redknapp and Gary Rowett. With Giggs, it is difficult to see why he is linked, with Bradley’s main criticism being his lack of experience. Being a fantastic player does not necessarily translate into being a great manager until they have plied their trade. Previous discussions have also shown there has not necessarily been instant mutual chemistry between the club and Giggs. Chris Coleman would not only be an incredible lift to a club going through a slump in confidence and morale, but his efforts with the Wales national team show the local boy can get the team rapport back on track despite his up and down record as a club manager. Alan Pardew has experience of taking over a club mid-season and steadying the ship, although he may be a short-term fix with his record usually starting well and tailing off, with his Crystal Palace side having the worst 2016 record in all four divisions. While Harry Redknapp’s self-enforced link to the job would be a media sensation, especially with the January transfer window conjuring up images of the experienced manager leaning out of his Range Rover. Although it is not the obvious choice, with more preference seemingly placed on the man who pipped him to the England job, Roy Hodgson. The final strong contender, Gary Rowett has a touch of the Garry Monk effect about him. A young British manager, hugely unlucky to be dismissed from a Birmingham job which he largely excelled in. He has no experience managing in the Premier League, but he has taken a team from obscurity and relegation threatened to play-off chasing. The jokes will remain that such skills will come in handy next season for a Swans side with three Premier League wins in 18 games, but there is no getting away from the feeling that the club has turned a corner. It is difficult not to feel sympathy for Bob Bradley, a man who did nothing wrong coming into a difficult job which would be tricky enough without fan resentment, but it looks to be that the club that has a reputation for getting the big decisions right may be back on track- Off the pitch for now at least.
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Letters from Wiltshire #48 by wessex_exile
“[i]And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain…regrets, we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention[/i]”. Not quite right Paul Anka, probably more than a few, but otherwise a fair assessment of where the U’s are today. It’ll be interesting to see how we perform with the relegation monkey finally off their back – I’m not expecting miracles, particularly with Tranmere needing at least a point to guarantee making the play-offs, but they’ll certainly be more nervous than we will be, so can we make that count? This will be my last blog of the season, and not yet sure what I may or may not do for next season, but suggestions are always welcome.
Letters from Wiltshire #47 by wessex_exile
Here we are, at the penultimate game of the season, and our last game in front of the cardboard U’s faithful at the JobServe. It has been a long, difficult, and definitely strange season, which frankly I’ll be glad to see the back of. That’ll we’ll be here again in August is definitely going to be something to celebrate, but I suspect we’re facing a summer of significant rebuilding both on the pitch, and possibly off it too. I won’t be the only one, but the biggest oddity for me has been being able to watch every single game – not always easy viewing, but something I’ve never done before, and probably never will again. But it doesn’t really make up for not being there in person, the long train journey away-days, meeting fellow U’s and other supporters, and of course sharing a beer or three. Fingers-crossed we can return to the terraces in 2021/22.
Letters from Wiltshire #46 by wessex_exile
That was quite a week for us all then. In the space of four short but remarkably tense days we have gone from having to take shoes and socks off to check how many more points we need to guarantee survival, or whether we would even achieve it, to breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we’re almost there. But close of play this afternoon, whether by our own actions or the failure of others, I am sure survival will be confirmed. Of course, Tuesday night not only all but guaranteed it, it also virtually condemned local rivals Southend United to non-league football for the foreseeable. Looking at the host of fully professional former football league sides currently battling it out for the two promotion slots out of the National league (including Hartlepool, Torquay, Stockport, Wrexham, Chesterfield and Notts County), it is not going to be a walk in the park for Southend to return any day soon.
Letters from Wiltshire #45 by wessex_exile
Tonight, Colchester United face Southend United in what may not necessarily be the most important game of our respective histories (though it’s certainly very close), but is almost certainly the most important Essex derby ever. However this season pans out, by the end of it there’ll either be only one team in Essex, or worst case scenario, none at all. If the U’s win, then Southend will be 9pts behind with just three games to go, and a minimum of a -12 goal difference to overturn if they want to overtake us. Certainly mathematically possible, but that would rely on a remarkable turnaround in their form, form that they’ve shown precious little sign of achieving so far this season. The stalking horse is Grimsby, with their game in hand, who have rather belatedly shown an improvement in form, so their match against automatic promotion chasing Morecambe tonight is equally important, particularly if we want to avoid the unthinkable, with both Essex clubs dropping out of the league.
Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.