Russell Martin : Pato the madcap maverick, character, behaviour and leaders …
Saturday, 21st May 2022 13:32 by Keith Haynes
An in-depth interview with Swansea City boss Russell Martin doesn’t necessarily explain away those unfortunate games which were either lost or thrown away towards the end of the season. However, it does go some way in gaining an insight into those managerial challenges he faces each day.
We review Russell Martin reviewing the 2021/22 Swansea City season.
Russell Martin of course had to comment on certain games that deflated the swans travelling support at Nottingham Forest and Reading, and the giveaway game at home to Bournemouth. It shouldn’t be seen as an excuse when the swans boss references management of players at differing stages of their career as problematic. Especially when he has a cluster of players who have knowledge of their departure from the club. As the manager he still has to either select them or include them in a match day squad.There’s far more to the behind the scenes dealings than anyone will ever know, or be afforded knowledge of. As we have said before we review what we know, then check with sources before we reference our thoughts on this website. And of course some calls can be wrong or misjudged, but bravery in your adopted profession is crucial.
Still lost on a few we know.
Russell Martin wants that from his players, he wants them to be brave enough to accept the challenge of new ideas and new ways of thinking. As he says “We are not going to sign anyone who lacks in character or hasn't got the right character for this group. The biggest trade for us is someone who see’s the big picture here, and wants to be here. We have a certain amount of targets in all positions”
This we all know has been said before, but he needs the backing.
On the season Martin knows his frustrations at key moments have at times annoyed him, but he also see’s development in many of his players. “We may have had a different season, but I’m also excited for next season because I feel we are much closer to the team we want be. But I want more. What we are trying to achieve is different, but you don’t always get the time you need to try and implement that. But fortunately we have been given time and real patience to reward that next season”
What Martin does acknowledge is that the uncertainty of certain players hasn’t helped him towards the end of the season. “There’s a lot of people you know, who are conscious that their season is coming to a close, next season is uncertain for them, so that changes the dynamic a little bit and it’s difficult to manage” That clearly impacted on those final games. “I think people were right early on, we did try and implement something to the players that the ball is ours, we need the ball, and to dominate the ball as far away from our goal as possible. Early on it did lack speed, or did lack purpose, and that lacked chances in front of goal. But to implement this you have to build up properly, clean, organised and to be able to win it back quickly. At some point the guys just let go of the fear and the vulnerability. Moving Naughts to the middle of the back three certainly helped. They got braver and braver as the season went on. Players were just being themselves which was beautiful and brilliant for us as a group of coaching staff”
Development, behaviour, understanding, character and fun
This of course was Martin’s first full season as a championship coach and manager, and only his second in his career. And let’s not forget Covid has hit both of those seasons as well. “We are heading in the right direction I really feel that and the statistics back that up, which is nice. We just have to make sure we keep on improving, and that’s the aim for anyone. We have a very clear process and plan and the way we want to do things”
As we have reported on here, and it’s at times challenging for some people to understand what development is as an individual. Understanding where you can improve doesn’t always sit well with the ego driven 280 twitter character head scratchers. Either because they see themselves as the voice of everything that they know and impose it on others, or just basically the fog will never clear for them. So they resort to abuse and try and undermine who or what they perceive as an enemy. Let’s look at that as Russell Martin also met with a similar attitude in two players at the start of the season. And it’s a mark of his man management skills for such a young man that both Joel Piroe and Michael Obafemi became the clubs star players as the season progressed. Initially they may have well just been Twitter commentators not understanding where they can get to and rebelling against the tide. To win you need hard work, and they soon realised that if they listen to a manager who clearly knows about personal development, things can work incredibly well.
And didn’t it just ?
Martin explains, “That comes down to key areas for us, we haven’t got the biggest team in terms of presence and height, it’s down to us to put more focus on the players, we prioritise performance and how the team is going to look and the identity of the team. There’s loads of other little bits that are probably not that tangible in terms of data but for us it’s day to day and how we work definitely. I’m really comfortable with the way we behave culturally as a group of staff or with the players. I don’t see warmth or kindness as a weakness really ( never forget that ) For my own learning it’s just making sure ego never gets in the way really, I think it’s so important, football can change people. For me it’s about being able to adapt without losing what we really believe in. Ultimately it’s about the moment”
Not getting worried about what happens next is crucial to focus and development.
Matt Grimes, brave and a leader
The swans boss also recognises those key players who lead by example every day of their working life at the club. Matt Grimes is one. “The skipper leads it, no ego, willing to take on new things all the time, so brave and then it just filters down. Naughts so brave, Pato so brave albeit in his madcap maverick way, Michael his energy and then the young lads like Ben Cabango, Flynn Downes, finding themselves and making their way so people have to come and fit in to the group”
On players. “We are really clear on what we want, I don’t know if we will get all of what we want, I don’t know if we will get some of it, I don’t know of we will get any of it. We have to be care on what and why we want certain things and I’m certain that will all become clear in the next six, seven, eight weeks. We are back in for pre season in four or five weeks so I think we just need to focus what we actually want and what we are doing. I want to try and avoid signing players at the last minute because we feel we have to do it”
That’s possibly a nod in the direction of ex employee Mark Allen and Nathanael Ogbeta.
Pre season planning is already going ahead. “Yes, fixtures are already being finalised, I’m really excited to have a pre season with the group, it’s such an important time to implement things tactically” And going back to development and ‘understanding’ how Russell Martin does things, it’s really important we grasp his final thoughts on Swansea City in the coming months. “How we are going to behave together, how we are going to work, psychologically and for the team to work out what’s important for them, what they want to stand for, what they want to be known for. To build conditioning for the players to play in the Swansea Way, yes, conditioning from day one. We have six weeks of hard work, really intense work but we hope it will be fun as well. There’s so much to look forward and be excited about”
Russel Martin has come through a really tough season as a swans manager. He has tried to express his desire to play in a certain way and also to explain how that works to followers of the club and people in general. Some actually do get it. He of course needs the clubs support to do that, and it’s looking like some of his wish list will come true. For us to have a manager so dedicated to his role at the club, and to getting things exactly right for long term success is refreshing. We have no doubt some more ruthless decision making is ahead, but of course he now needs to deliver.
The new season will tell us so much more.
Russell Martin was talking to Swans Official.
Photographs open source
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