Andy Scott Interview
A significant amount has changed at Swansea City since Andy Scott was appointed as the club's head of recruitment in July 2019.
The Englishman has overseen four transfer windows during his time at the club, the most recent of which saw the Swans recruit a total of six players.
However, a raft of changes have been made behind the scenes at the Liberty Stadium and Fairwood during the course of the former Sheffield United, Brentford, Oxford United and Leyton Orient man's tenure in south Wales.
In an exclusive interview with WalesOnline's Swansea City correspondent Ian Mitchelmore, Scott discusses his time at the club so far and gives a clear insight into how dramatically the operation has changed in just 18 months.
A mess inherited
Little more than a month after Steve Cooper was appointed as head coach, Scott joined Swansea to head up the club's recruitment department.
However, after a season of stabilising under Graham Potter, the Swans were still adjusting to life in the Championship when Cooper and Scott arrived ahead of the 2019/20 campaign.
And Scott - working under a remit issued by the club's ownership group and then chairman Trevor Birch - quickly realised drastic squad changes needed to be made.
"When I first came in, I inherited a recruitment department that was non-existent. Kyle [Macaulay] had left with Graham to go to Brighton and we were left with no analysts, no scouts, no reporting system, so we had to build something from the outset," he said.
"Trevor had hired Steve and there was a clear understanding that we wanted to go back to player development, use players coming through the academy and reduce the wage bill because it was unsustainable."
First-team stars Daniel James and Oli McBurnie were sold to Manchester United and Sheffield United respectively for significant sums in the summer of 2019 while big earners including Wilfried Bony, Leroy Fer, Luciano Narsingh and Martin Olsson were released.
It was a process that became only too familiar for the Jack Army, particularly in the first four transfer windows outside of the Premier League while the fifth saw Joe Rodon join Tottenham.
"The club were coming to a point where parachute payments were coming to an end," explained Scott.
"We didn't want to be a club that had to sell its players, but if we chose to then we would get the best prices."
The turning point, and the success that followed
As Swansea continued to trim their wage bill while bringing through more and more players from the academy, the picture became increasingly positive as the club progressed in the Championship, particularly under Cooper who has had the Swans banging on the door of the Premier League.
And Scott's first full transfer window at the club represented something of a turning point.
"In January 2020, we managed to get a lot of the big salary earners out of the window and that was a really productive one, we saved a lot of money off the budget in that window, but we still recruited Conor Gallagher, Marc Guehi and Rhian Brewster who made a huge difference to us to allow us to get into the play-offs along with the players we already had," he said.
"That was probably a bit of a turning point in the squad succession planning and the building of what we've got now.
"What was initially a really difficult situation to come into with the size of the squad, the amount of players we had that weren't contributing and obviously the salaries we inherited, I think we've turned that around in the windows we've been here.
"We've improved the quality and size of the squad in every window. That's my main goal, to provide Steve with the best players we can and to give him the tools to get the results.
"It's been a little bit easier this season than the last two windows after the success of last year, obviously the work that Steve does and playing young players and having success attracts more agents and players, that does help.
"I think we've got to a point now where everyone believes Swansea have got a style of play and a type of player they want to bring in that fits with a lot of pathways of good, talented young players.
"We've married that with some experience as well that have supplemented the group and really complemented the characters we've got.
"I can't have asked for a better amount of windows and that just comes with the support of everybody in the senior management team and the first-team coaching staff to be able to do the job properly."
Significant contract restructuring
The Swans - famed for signing quality players for modest sums during their rise up the football pyramid - made some expensive transfer mistakes in the latter stages of their seven-year Premier League stay.
Jason Levien recently held his hands up when it came to admitting to some of the Swans' failures in the transfer market following the change in ownership at the club in 2016.
As such, contracts given to players in SA1 had to look somewhat different to those dished out in the top-flight era.
"As the squad morphs into what you want it to be, it makes it easier because, I don't think we've got any players who are twiddling their thumbs and not contributing at the moment, whereas, when I first came in I think there were a number of players who were earning good salaries but weren't being considered for the first team because they either weren't good enough or didn't sit right with how we play," said Scott.
"We've tried to streamline that, and we've done a lot of work in recruiting players, but part of recruitment is to make sure we tie down our best young players to longer-term deals.
"That's something myself, Julian [Winter] and Steve have been really conscious of, that we want to go to our best young players, offer them better contracts and show we value them.
"We want to reward them for what they've done. We've restructured all of the contracts and how we build the contracts to make it more sustainable, but being more incentive driven and based on success."
Ollie Cooper, Brandon Cooper, Tivonge Rushesha and Liam Cullen are all recent examples of players who have had their efforts rewarded with improved deals.
And it's fair to say the club's united stance has been pivotal in the turnaround on key squad matters.
The relationships behind an overhaul
During his time as chairman, Birch was a key cog in the link up between those on the ground in Swansea and the top brass in the United States of America.
Current chief executive Winter now operates as a vital piece in the jigsaw when it comes to solving the puzzle of improving Swansea's squad along with improving the state of the club's finances.
During Scott's time as head of recruitment, there has also been a significant shake-up at boardroom level, with Steve Kaplan relinquishing his position on the club's board of directors.
Nevertheless, those behind the scenes as well as the stars on the pitch have continuously aimed to pull together to achieve one common goal - promotion.
Dwindling parachute payments along with the loss of both Premier League TV income and matchday revenues - the latter of which has been an unexpected repercussion in the world of football owing to the coronavirus pandemic - have all ensured the entire operation has been testing to say the least.
But they haven't damaged the aims. Quite the opposite, in fact.
"We've got a clear identity of the profile of player we want to bring in, we know what character we want to bring in, we've got a clear financial plan, so if you've got that together with a group of senior management and coaching staff that understand that's the strategy, it makes it a lot easier because everyone is on the same page," revealed Scott.
"Julian has taken over Trevor's role. They're two very good people in what they do. I've found both of them really helpful in my role. That's all you can ask for in recruitment, that you're backed and that if you're making decisions, they trust you.
"I can only speak as I find, and ever since I've been at the football club, I've had a really good relationship with the ownership group. I speak to them regularly. They're been really supportive and have made it clear of what we can and can't do.
"They discuss situations with me, Julian and Steve. They get our opinion and don't make rash decisions. They understand what we're trying to do.
"Morgan Whittaker is a prime example. It's another really good deal we felt we could do with Derby being in the situation they're in. He's a player we've looked at a lot and we felt he would be a huge asset for us going forward.
"We went to the owners, and they backed us 100%. I can't ask for more than that."
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