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The versatile midfielders at Swansea City’s disposal for next season
Wednesday, 29th Jun 2022 11:54 by @Cornish67David & Keith Haynes

Russell Martin has been delighted with the progress of his academy products who have been training with the first team squad this closed season. With two midfielders, Liam Walsh and Jay Fulton not forming a part of any real plans going forwards the swans boss does have some very viable options.

As Martin says “If you’re coaching an under-six, the first thing you want them to do is get them comfortable with the ball. It’s not run, it’s not run the channel, it’s not kick it really far, it’s not ping it or shoot, it’s try and control the ball with two feet. That principle, as basic as it sounds, is the same here.” This principle didn’t start with Russell Martin at Swansea, to a degree these were the same thought processes under Steve Cooper and Graham Potter. In Martin’s case it’s a total philosophy, “If you don’t believe in what we’re doing, no problem, but we really do,” he says. “If it doesn’t work and I get sacked, at least I get sacked doing something I believe in. I don’t get sacked regretting that I have bowed on my principles.”

Russell Martin has long been associated with managing his players ‘in to’ his formation and strategy and clearly see’s the benefit in a player being able to play in and out of whatever role they are designated to play in. No longer do we see a player classed in to a fixed position, to retain the ball a player needs to be flexible in and out of possession. He needs to move out of his designated role to become attacking or defensive dependent on the match situation. As Russell Martin stated at one of his lectures at Brighton university in conjunction with the Russell Martin foundation “ Players need to be adaptable, a midfielder isn’t just that, they need to retrieve, start and prevent the opposition getting the ball. To that end I expect any player to be comfortable in possession and on any part of the pitch”

Anyone who see’s it differently would not be considered of any use to his strategy, and maybe that’s why certain players are no longer of value to Swansea City, they just don’t fit the flexible role. Players who do are already impressing at Under-23 ( last season) on loan and in the senior side. Cameron Congreve is an excellent example, he very much prefers to attack and set up play from an advanced midfield role. In fact last season he was being encouraged to learn from the adaptability of Flynn Downes, an all round midfielder. As a result he is now seeing himself as much more than just a midfielder. The eighteen year old Blaenau Gwent product has been with the swans since he was nine years of age. Martin see’s him as a real plus to the senior side, albeit only making five appearances last season, “I’ve watched him a lot in the under-23s this season, and we’ve had a few of those guys training with us regularly now to see if they can be part of our plans a bit quicker than expected “ said the swans boss. Cameron has a clear vision for himself training within the first team set up, “Russell Martin has been great. He is top class to work with, he’s been great with me and all the young lads. The sessions he puts on are brilliant, and there’s a great atmosphere among the squad and the staff at Fairwood. I’m loving it, and I hope I can keep being a part of it.”

Those sessions demand players to feel uncomfortable, and to do that they are presented with situations they would normally not be in. On and off the pitch. That style of psychomotor learning will ensure the player learns from those areas of development and apply them on the pitch when not being a ‘normal’ midfielder in a ‘normal’ expected role. Players need to see the teams gain line and how they can be a part of it.

That’s an all rounder.

Another player with a real talent to do this is Ollie ( Oli ) ( Olly) Cooper, now featuring in the first team squad for this season he is another player who understands about disrupting the game at source and retaining possession. Noted whilst on loan at Newport last season the twenty two year old was in amongst much of what the exiles tried to do. Recovering the ball deep, passing out of his own defensive areas and then popping up in an attacking role, Cooper possesses all the qualities Russell Martin requires next season. A player who this time around will want to push on and display his qualities in the first team. Anyone who see’s a Swansea player as someone who only uses his midfield space hasn’t been watching the swans with their eyes open that’s for sure.

These are two flexible and adaptable midfield players who have been schooled within the so called ‘Swansea way’ others will also feature we are sure. Notwithstanding injury ( Dan Williams) spent his time at Dundalk in Ireland this year before succumbing to a very bad ankle injury. Williams has showed character in abundance, two years ago a broken metatarsal kept him out for five months. He is no stranger to rehabilitation and from that now possesses a determination Martin admires a lot. The twenty one year old will want a successful return from his latest injury and more involvement this term at the swans.

Despite the connections to Swansea City we read about this summer and barring a return to the club by Joe Allen there’s a lot of talent just waiting to prove themselves this season, be that on loan or fighting for a first team spot. The academy has ensured these three ‘midfielders’ are more than that and the proof is they still remain at Swansea. All three are true academy products, being a part of the swans set up is all they know, and that loyalty and dedication surely now could easily prosper at the highest level.

They just need the chances to prove it.

Photographs licensed from Reuters

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