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Barnsley 0 v 1 Swansea City
SkyBet Championship
Monday, 17th May 2021 Kick-off 20:15
Steve Cooper play off press conference & Belgian striker linked
Sunday, 16th May 2021 09:00 by Keith Haynes & Steph Thomas

The swans are just a day away from their first leg play off against Barnsley at Oakwell on Monday night. Steve Cooper has answered his critics, gained valuable credibility on his own CV for the future, and his cool exterior is far different to last season that’s for sure.

“We are all in the mix “ Swansea City Manager Steve Cooper
“It’s one phase done in the league and we all start again in the play-offs – four teams and we all start in the same spot. It’s whoever performs in the two games to start with, one will get through from both ties and then there is another game after that. It’s four teams in exactly the same position all vying for the same thing.Whether we’re favourites or fourth favourites, it wouldn’t make a difference to me,” Cooper said.

Tricky end to the season
“I guess our results, the difficult period came in the latter part of the season so it’s probably quite present in people’s minds. So maybe it’s come from that. But it hasn’t had any bearing on our preparation or focus.”

Swansea were level on points with second-placed Watford after winning at Luton on 13 March, but ended up fourth having won only three of their last 11 regular-season games. Cooper feels his players deserve credit for reaching 80 points, 10 more than last season and the same total Brendan Rodgers' side reached before winning the Championship play-offs in 2011.

"We had a good go at automatic promotion even though at the end we found it difficult because of what we were up against and some of the strength in depth we haven't got," Cooper added. The play-offs give you a second chance of getting promoted. We've got to back ourselves and believe in what we do. We have to look at all the good things we have done this season and bring it to the two ties. If we do, we give ourselves a chance.We hope that will help us, but it's not just last season," said head coach Cooper, reflecting on their play-off semi-final defeat last term ahead of Monday's first leg at Barnsley.

Conor Hourihane has a wealth of experience of big games

"Conor Hourihane, for example, has had a lot of play-off experience, some of it at Barnsley. Hopefully the players use that experience wisely. But it's not just the play-offs. It's the bigger games in general, that's what experience is."

Swansea squeezed into the play-offs on the final day of last season, edging out Nottingham Forest on goal difference. Cooper's side then suffered a 3-2 semi-final aggregate defeat to Brentford after winning the first leg at the Liberty Stadium 1-0.

"They are obviously bigger games on a bigger stage than normal," Cooper said. It's about focusing on the performance and not letting the scrutiny on the games seep in. "It's important how you manage the first and the second legs and the differences they can give you. Notoriously play-off games are frantic at times, and it's about calm heads but being committed at the same time.MYou've got to the use the disappointment of previous experiences as motivation. But equally you've got to know what you can achieve as motivation as well."

No injury worries for Ayew

Swansea's 16-goal top scorer Andre Ayew has been declared fully fit for the Oakwell clash after hamstring trouble. Ayew started the final game of the season at Watford last weekend but has not completed 90 minutes since April 13. Wales Under-21 defender Brandon Cooper misses out after suffering an ankle injury in training.

Swansea were in pursuit of a top-two spot for most of the season but Cooper, who has operated on a tight budget and saw Joe Rodon leave for Tottenham in October, believes making the play-offs again is a notable achievement.

Steve Cooper :: "A lot of stuff here has been against the odds:”
“We had a good go at the automatics, even though we found it difficult at the end to keep up because of some of the strength of depth we haven't got. But we equalled our record amount of points at this level in what has been a congested season to say the least. We've got to take confidence from all of the good things we've done this season, hone in on it and use it well in these next two games."

Thomas Henry ?
Meanwhile press reports in Belgium are linking the swans with a striker who has found the back of the net regularly this season. The swans are weighing up a summer move for French striker Thomas Henry at Leuven. Much may hinge on how Steve Cooper's side fare in their play-off clash with Barnsley this week as Swansea make a final push for promotion to the Premier League. Henry is highly valued by his club Leuven as he has been prolific in the Belgian League scoring 21 goals in 31 games.

Photographs licensed from Reuters : Henry photo Getty images

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