Perhaps it was always expecting a little too much of Jan Molby to live up to the headline which proclaimed his arrival from Liverpool 19 months ago. The new Tosh was splashed across the Post where his widely-read column appeared once a week.
There was good reason, and while the banner headline was accompanied by a suitable query there were no such doubts from the man who appointed him and then cast him adrift to fend for himself.
But there is a world of difference between expectation and realisation as Molby will appreciate only too well as he reflects on his turbulent short reign from his home on the Wirral – the latest victim of the whirlwind of change sweeping the Vetch Field.
There was a world of difference, too, in the challenges which faced John Toshack in 1978 and Jan Molby 18 years on. Toshack took over the reins of a successful side, including players of the calibre of Alan Curtis and Robbie James and moulded a team which raced from the old Fourth Division to the top of the First in four seasons.
Molby inherited a team struggling for survival in the Second Division with the worst defensive record in the league. His brief was simple: Keep the club up. He almost achieved it, but 10 weeks was never quite enough to alter the fortunes of a club which had become a national laughing stock during the brief stay of Kevin Cullis when Molby himself made a cameo appearance as a spectator.
Had he been appointed a month earlier, Molby might have just saved Swansea from the drop because his immense influence on the field certainly stopped the rot while his sterling PR work off it helped to restore damaged pride.
But Molby was inexperienced in the way of management and, just like his illustrious predecessor, he leaned heavily on the support of his chairman.
New players were brought in, funded by the sale of £350,000 John Cornforth to Birmingham, but Shaun Garnett, Linton Brown and Colin McDonald – the latter two signed by the chairman not the manager – failed to match the impact made by the more experienced Lee Chapman.
Doug Sharpe promised Molby a partnership just like the old board had with Toshack but the chairman’s renewed enthusiasm and ambition had already started to evaporate before Notts County sent Swansea down. Instead of support when he most needed it what Molby got was a complete breakdown in communication with a chairman who preferred summer sangria to summer spending.
The long silences eventually led to a war of words culminating in the David Seal transfer fiasco last spring when Molby seriously considered walking away from the club and the players he loved so much.
Having been persuaded by his wife Mandy to stay on, Molby and his players almost completed the comeback of the season by reaching the playoff final at Wembley.
Takeover talk was already sweeping the city before Northampton clinched the last promotion spot with a late winner. By the time the deal was completed the season was ready to kick off with Molby left with half a team. Gone were skipper David Penney, David Thomas, Carl Heggs, McDonald and then on the eve of the season Steve Torpey, sold to Bristol City for £400,000.
Swansea were also forced to start the season without the experience of Mark Clode and last season’s player of the year Steve Jones, both sidelined with long term injuries. Molby barely had time to rush through the transfers of Tony Bird and Dave O’Gorman from Barry before the season started, but it was obvious early on that Swansea were short on experience in all departments.
It was equally obvious that Molby was not on the same wavelength as the ambitious new board judging by the comments both from the boardroom and the manager’s office. The writing was probably on the wall long before Barry and Peterborough exposed the inexperience of a young side low on confidence which makes it all the more baffling why the new board sanctioned the signing of Steve Watkin.
Six defeats in 10 games is a miserable start for the new men in charge who invested heavily to buy the club and expected a better early response. But the record is no worse than last season when Swansea were lying second from bottom in the last week of October and still reached Wembley.
Molby’s new pay-masters obviously felt otherwise. They clearly thought the rot had set in and needed to change both the style and the management personnel. That apart, there were rumblings weeks ago about Molby’s laid-back approach, even his attitude to scouting while a six-figure salary for a player-manager who had not played until last Saturday because of injury may also have entered the equation.
Whatever the reasons, Molby’s legacy will live on in the young players in whom both he and the equally hard-working Billy Ayre had so much faith while the great sadness of Molby’s short tenure must surely be the lack of support he never got from those who made him the highest paid manager outside the first division.
No doubt that will be discussed in greater detail in his forthcoming autobiography due out next spring. The manuscript is already with the publishers. Now there is one more sad chapter to write for the manager who wanted so desperately to make a success of his first job in management.