A debate has sprouted on the Swanmail mailing list this evening (Sunday 6th April) regarding the potential longevity of Brian Flynn’s stay at the Vetch irrespective of the outcome to our season. Whether this is the time to be discussing such issues is almost irrelevant now, as the question has been asked, and no doubt all variety of responses will be generated.
The whole debate revolves around whether Flynn has done a good job since his arrival or not. One early response suggested that, with the support in both judgement and cash that he has received, most would have been able to achieve what he has, and many with possibly better management (that’s man-management – motivation) skills may have done better. That’s hypothetical anyway, because we can only measure what we have, and to fantasise about what others may have accomplished would be trite at this stage.
However, as we meander through the final chapters of this season’s tough campaign, I think that there is an issue almost greater than whether Flynn, specifically, will remain in situ or whether Molby would have taken over had we lost at Southend, and an issue quite critical in terms of the type of manager that we, or any other lower division club may be seeking in the future.
This season has, in my mind, seen the start of the demise of team building for the future as we know it. It has also seen the shift in emphasis in the management criteria (that’s football management this time) required for someone to take on a lower division club.
For as long as most can remember, a solid and consistent squad of players, built up by a manager over time, was the perceived cornerstone of any side, and the success or failure of a season depended on the quality of judgement of that manager, and his ability to coach and motivate the players.
That theory has now been shot, and when vacancies are advertised in the future, the requirement to submit a CV might well be replaced by the need to forward a certified copy of your personal telephone number contact list for assessment.
Assessment for what? Well their potential for securing good loan players of course, and with the League rules now allowing up to five loan players in the match squad of sixteen, the regularity of appearance and importance of loan players can only increase.
The need for an established squad of say 22 players, to be supplemented in cases of emergency by the generosity of benefactor clubs, has been removed almost overnight, and smaller squads, placing lessening demands on the day to day financial machinery at the clubs will, I’m certain, become the norm, with the flow of loan players through the clubs moving faster than the cars in the drive thru’ queue at Morriston’s McDonalds.
With financial help often available from the higher status clubs when loaning players, as it often benefits the lender by giving the player some competitive football, the carrot to reduce permanent squad sizes down to bare bones levels will be very attractive to some boards of directors.
So is this the way forward? If we look at our passage through this season, we have utilised around 9 loan players – when is a loan player not a loan player – of varying abilities and influence. Our survival may or may not be totally dependant on their skills, that will always be a subjective view, but the harsh reality of what operating with a high numbers of loan players means will hit home at the end of the season when we are left with the players we started the season with, less those that have been ejected along the way to allow the new admissions.
Is that when the cycle starts all over again? We assemble a reasonable squad, at say £600 a week per man, and then go back into the loan market at the very outset with slightly larger cheques prepared to buy and play our way through the season a month or so at a time. Possibly we will get a few loan players who can stay for the duration of the 2003/2004 season, but then at the end of it we start again, and each season ends with a clear out, and each new campaign is preceded by full use of that telephone list.
For those that want to face each season as a stand alone exercise, and have the chance to see a few different players along the way then maybe this system will be to their liking, but whatever happened to the youth policies, and squad growth and development plans that have enabled teams move onward and upward.
Although in the end we all support the club, surely there is the element of getting to know and supporting the actual team as well; preferably not a different team each year. The novelty of seeing some ‘better’ players through use of the loan system can soon wear thin when the results do not match the fans’ expectations.
There is too much short term thinking in using loan players to the extent that we and many other clubs are starting to, and whilst our plight this year has called for some drastic action, I’m still not sure that the continued loan acquisitions on each occasion that some one was needed, was the best way forward.
Of the 9 or so players that we have taken on loan, how many have played regularly with the attitude that it is their club? Three, maybe four? Now I know that the same accusations could be levied at our own players in a very harsh way and rightly so, but we have sought out the loan players with a view to saving our league status, and to make up for the poor attitude and application of our squad members, and yet the response from some of the players has certainly not reflected this ambition.
The reality around all of this is – do you want see eleven Swansea City players take the field next season, and in subsequent seasons for that matter, or an often rotated assortment of Man Utd, Arsenal and Liverpool players in Swansea City kit?
If it’s the latter which lights your candle, and that’s the dangerous path we have stepped onto, then is this really any different to that much derided breed that leaves every Saturday morning on their way to Old Trafford, Anfield and all points premiership?
The fact that certain players do not train with the squad on a regular basis can do nothing for the team spirit, and possibly the huddles at the start of each game are being used as a means to introduce the players to each other before kick off.
For financial reasons alone, I do not see the current trend being reversed, and although there are a lot of noises being made about youth policies and the future of clubs, I can only envisage the developing youths forming the mainstay of future squads and the loan and possibly non contract players making up the remainder and bringing in the experience.
I am not convinced, what do the Trust think?