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Is there any reason why these MK Dons player links should be cause for concern ?
Saturday, 1st Jan 2022 15:36 by Keith Haynes

In certain cases it seems that Russell Martin’s continued links with ex players at MK Dons are causing some concern amongst swans fans. And you can see why, to an extent. But it’s only fair we examine, and try and understand why this is happening.

The three players currently in question are goalkeeper Andrew Fisher who we first reported had a move pretty much done between the two clubs, but in recent days the figures for him to move permanently to Swansea are so far apart it could cause the deal to collapse. The second is Matt O’Riley ( Sean ) a twenty one year old attacking midfielder from London who has impressed albeit in League one with nine goals for MK from forty five matches played. His links with the swans are tenuous, but his name has cropped up in discussions. He is tall and a very strong and committed midfielder. The final link as of today is Harry Darling, again a much admired player at League one level, and at twenty two a ball playing centre back / utility defender with forty one MK appearances under his belt.

Of course we can understand why Martin is interested in these players. He knows them well and has some experience of working with them. However, ‘experience‘ is another key word being bandied around currently. It is said Russell Martin’s lack of it at Championship level when managing ex premier league players, and of course players aspiring to return to the top flight or get there for the first time is pretty much at zero. Martin has struggled with certain players trying to implement his varied training regimes and for them to accept his open learning style. It hasn’t sat that well with a handful of the swans first team squad resulting in Jay Fulton completely disregarded, albeit a mutual agreement. Michael Obafemi has been disciplined and dropped from selection consideration and Joel Piroe had a few disciplinary issues early on in Martin’s time at Swansea. Morgan Whittaker struggled as well.

Russell Martin seemed to deal with them well enough, his teaching style does open up a player to learn not only cognitively in a more didactic way but to to learn emotionally in an affective state from within. This most certainly will be the area the players will be rebelling against, being in an open environment where they have to question their own areas for development won’t suit an ego driven footballer. And Martin being a keen believer in one to one personal development sessions where the player has to visit areas they would rather not is also extremely challenging. This isn’t groundbreaking stuff in a learning environment but it will be for professional footballers, they won’t like it one but. For anyone interested take a look in to this aspect of learning in the ‘Johari Window’ created by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham, It has to be delivered by pretty well versed educators with a decent history in managing the fall out of these in depth sessions. Where Russell Martin and his staff feature in their own qualification to do this I’m unsure, but I would personally say a professional and lengthy certificate in education and associated qualification is a must.

The management of players when certain teaching styles fail, or are rebelled against can see a manager more involved with five per cent of players, ninety five per cent of the time. For me, this has clearly been the case. So, managing that plus all the new experiences he is having with a family move, a completely different environment, and day to day management is going to be considerably hard to do. Even if you do have your favoured coaching staff at hand to assist.

Of course the effect on Russell Martin should also be analysed. He seems to me to be a natural educator, his verbal reasoning is exceptional, however some reactions he gets post press conferences seem confused. Martin obviously talks in the way he trains and educates players, and to a press pack looking to source news that’s going to challenge them as well. They won’t grasp the full content of what he is explaining, and many fans seem to be more and more in the same camp. Some of those recent negative comments surround his repetitive nature of explaining roles and personalities within a group. The fact he reiterates why his team do certain things within a game reflects his own frustration with those who aren’t getting it. And then trying to transfer that to a football related discussion doesn’t always work.

To appoint Martin was a huge gamble, for some it is paying off, for others who are struggling with the whole journey Martin wants to take the club on it’s getting quite frustrating. They want to see immediate results, well, we all pretty much agreed that wasn’t going to happen this season. A ‘season in transition’ was the experience most seemed agreed upon. However, after only three or four games there were a few dissenting voices, and they have slowly grown, especially after a 4-1 home defeat against ex manager Steve Cooper. Certain elements just don’t see the progress on the pitch which have been highlighted in home wins against Cardiff City emphatically, West Brom and Peterborough. It doesn’t seem to be enough for some fans. Others will, and are being far more patient, they see progress in a passing game, a game which if certain phases are actually completed can result in many goal chances. And there are, but what we are seeing, especially in the 3-2 home defeat to Reading are players who just don’t seem capable of taking those chances to win games.

That isn’t Russell Martin’s fault, the very fact he has set the team up and they produce chance after chance but fail to convert these opportunities isn’t down to him. And it’s not defending him, we have seen so many chances to win games fall by the wayside you have to look at the players. And for all Martin’s inexperience this is what he has done, and this is why he is turning now to players he knows, people who do perform well in groups, and understand how he trains and educates off the pitch. It isn’t desperation, it’s called managing a club and it’s assets, then bringing in better staff and players than you have. Of course, some will disagree here, how can he know this ? Well, that’s why he is a manager I suppose, he will succeed or fall on these key January and summer decisions.

I can understand fully why fans are frustrated, but I also can see why fans are excited as well, and I’m swaying more towards the latter camp. Personally I can see what he is doing, I can hear and understand what he wants to achieve, and this is why I think he needs as much time as possible. Apart from the fact we all know he will be going nowhere any time soon, a club wouldn’t invest as heavily as the swans have both financially and supportively without having a long term view. In Russell Martin and his coaching staff Swansea City have a committed and hard working group who are enhancing a players experience of learning in different ways. So, maybe when we look at the players Martin wants and then at where they are coming from it shouldn’t come as a shock.

Leaving aside the finances, player exchanges which we first reported on In October, the freeing up of salaries and loan spots - and the myriad of other expected roles in Marin’s position then yes people should reference his inexperience.

But when all is said and done, and if people do get a closer understanding of how things are done these days at the swans, then the question of his inexperience is easily answered. The fact he is so inexperienced, and the fact this is brand new territory for Russell Martin it seems to me he isn’t doing half bad at all. And of course he is gaining experience all the ‘time’. Which is exactly what Russell Martin needs. Time, and plenty of it.

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ReslovenSwan1 added 16:55 - Jan 1
My concern is the playing of 32-34 year old's other than up and coming players. Investing development time in Hamer, Bidwell, Bennet, Naughton and Smith (29-34 years) with new contracts on offer while young players like Benda, Williams, Whittaker, Obafemi, Brandon Cooper and Cullen are frozen out does not augur well. (19-23 years)

I thought the saying was "you cannot teach and old dog new tricks". Well Martin is struggling to teach young dogs new tricks and the old dogs are doing fine. The trouble is they are on bigger money and in a season or two their legs will have gone. This is not the club philosophy.

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