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  • edited February 2019
    Swansea City: a model club’s descent into bitterness

    by Gregor Robertson

    The Journeyman visits. . . Swansea City

    In the next decade Swansea left the decrepit Vetch Field for the £27 million Liberty Stadium, funded by Swansea council, and with a sense of unity and ambition and the adroit appointments of Kenny Jackett, Roberto Martínez and Brendan Rodgers as managers they moved into the Premier League.

    Michael Laudrup and Gary Monk led the club to League Cup success in 2013 and an eighth-place Premier League finish two years later. More recently, though, the hiring and firing of Francesco Guidolin, Bob Bradley, Paul Clement and Carvahal in the space of two years, and some calamitous dealings in the transfer market, led Swansea to surrender their top-flight status meekly in May.

    “We were the model club, I suppose. For any club that isn’t the biggest, to get themselves into the top flight, to gradually build every year. We had a philosophy, ‘The Swansea Way’, but we’ve lost our way,” Steven Carroll says.

    However, it is the effects of the decision of Jenkins and his fellow investors to exclude the trust from negotiations to sell a majority stake in the club, in 2016, to Levien, the managing general partner of the Major League Soccer side DC United, and Kaplan, principal of Oaktree Capital investment fund, and vice-chairman of the Memphis Grizzlies basketball franchise, and their US-based consortium that may have the most lasting impact on Swansea.

    “Everything we worked for — as a group of people, not just the trust, all shareholders aligned, trying to do the best for the football club — one decision to sell the club behind the trust’s back took that ownership model and destroyed it overnight,” Phil Sumbler, the supporters’ trust chairman, says. “I think we probably became just another Premier League football club, struggling to survive on a season-by-season basis.”

    The trust is in a period of arbitration with the club concerning the sale. Members may soon be balloted to determine whether or not legal action, for what they believe to have been unfair prejudice as 21 per cent stakeholders, is the necessary course of action. “The Americans bought roughly two-thirds of the football club,” Sumbler says. “They should have been buying two-thirds of everybody’s shares on a pro-rata basis. That would have put something in the region of £12 to £15 million in the trust’s coffers, sitting there, ready, for a rainy day, of which we have had too many over the years.”

    Jenkins and his fellow investors, meanwhile, made millions — as much as 100 times their original investments. Many feel that Jenkins, who stayed on as chairman with a six-figure salary until last week, should have left some time ago, but he retained the support of Levien and Kaplan until last week, when some sharply worded statements suggested a breakdown in relations.

    Frustratingly, there have been enough encouraging signs on the pitch to suggest that, with even modest investment to supplement a squad full of talented young players, Potter could be the man to bring back the slick, progressive, passing football with which Swansea were for so long synonymous, and spearhead a return to the Premier League which, after all, is the only way the owners will see a return on their investment.

    James, the jewel in Swansea’s crown, was back to his effervescent best on Saturday after being left out for the defeat by Bristol City last weekend, two days after spending the evening at Leeds’ Thorp Arch training ground waiting for confirmation of a transfer that never came. He is not, however, the only young player to have risen to the task this season.

    Matt Grimes, an elegant midfielder who spent last season on loan at Northampton Town in League One; Connor Roberts, an industrious Wales right back; Ollie McBurnie, a languid, old-fashioned centre forward with 13 league goals; Bersant Celina, the Kosovan No 10 who joined from Manchester City for £3 million in the summer; and Joe Rodon, a home-grown centre back, have all flourished under Potter’s tutelage. All are 23 or younger.

    George Byers, a 22-year-old midfielder, settled the game with a first-half volley that deflected beyond Jordan Archer, the Millwall goalkeeper, and after the trip to face Leeds United at Elland Road on Wednesday night there is the visit of Brentford for a place in the FA Cup quarter-final to look forward to next Sunday. Still, a cloud lingers over the Liberty.

    “Trying to turn the environment into a more positive one was always the challenge,” Potter says. “We’re going through a process . . . I’ve always seen my role as working with the players, to help them, to carry on building a team that connects with supporters. That’s the most important thing at a football club.”

    Perhaps Swansea’s owners would do well to remember that.

  • There is no mention of the summer fire sale nor the intended fire sale this jan window. That is the alarming situation now at the liberty. All old news.
  • That isn't the full article, it misses quite a lot of important bits previous to where it begins in the post above.
  • Anyway of getting the full article then?
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