Swansea struggles to attract new coach behind keeping Curtis on
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | January 8, 2016
What do Marcelo Bielsa, Carlos Carvalhal, Roberto Di Matteo, Unai Emery, Ryan Giggs, David Moyes, Gus Poyet, Brendan Rodgers, Alejandro Sabella and Jorge Sampaoli all have in common? They were all linked with succeeding Garry Monk as Swansea City head coach, but none took the job on.
Despite Liberty Stadium chairman Huw Jenkins’ best efforts, including an ultimately fruitless trek to South America where he is understood to have interviewed ex-Argentina boss Bielsa, he has been unable to attract anyone to step into the breach. That leaves Swans caretaker Alan Curtis in charge for the rest of the season.
Jenkins jinx after awesome appointments
This is a rare failure for shrewd businessman Jenkins, who has previously almost always got his man. Swansea, who are 10/3 with Coral to be relegated, have appointed a string of ambitious young bosses stretching back to Kenny Jackett in 2004.
He steered them out of League Two, was then succeeded by Roberto Martinez, who took the Swans to the League One title, with Paulo Sousa following on only to be poached by Leicester City.
That meant it was left to Brendan Rodgers to earn Premier League promotion via the Championship play-offs and, once they were consolidated in the English top-flight, Liverpool came calling. Michael Laudrup secured Swansea a League Cup crown, but then quit the club with Monk moving from player to manager.
Media are “trying to expose weaknesses”
Doom-mongers will says Jenkins’ inability on this occasion to get a new boss means we could be seeing the Swans starting a downward curve, and the chairman has previously attacked media naysayers who he feels have been waiting for such a moment.
Writing in a matchday programme in November, Jenkins said: “I’m afraid that after our rise over recent years and our continued involvement in the Premier League, I’m convinced there are plenty of people sitting waiting to have their say against us if our performance levels start to drop.
“We have to accept this will never change while we take part in the Premier League. With many of the current media articles trying to expose weaknesses and instability within our football club, it’s vital that everyone connected to the club keeps their own counsel in order to stop adding fuel to a fire ready to ignite at any time.
“We have battled against all the odds over the last 12 years or so and everyone connected to Swansea City should never be surprised how quickly people will turn against you and take pleasure in saying: ‘I told you so. I knew it could never last.'”
Winds of change?
Jenkins’ words still look like something of a bizarre rant, hinting at an ‘us and them’ mentality. The footballing world is not against the Swans, but the tide may be.
It’s been a fair wind guiding the south Wales side which came close to the oblivion of dropping into non-league back in 2002/03, but the crest of a wave can only last for so long.
Whether or not the media take pleasure in the downfall of clubs is a moot point. Swansea have won a lot of fans during their remarkable journey through the divisions and by playing with panache in the Premier League.
All things are relative; a point no better emphasised than by comparing the summer signings of 2004 with 2015. In their League Two promotion season, the eye-catching arrivals (with hindsight) were soon-to-be Wales international defender Sam Ricketts and future manager Monk.
Contrast that with this past summer when Ghana international attacker Andre Ayew – a man who has played in two Africa Cup of Nations finals, the Champions League and at a couple of World Cups – joined on a free transfer. It’s unfathomable to think the Swans could’ve signed someone like that from where they started out under Jenkins.
Spin cannot disguise paucity of coaches
A long association with Swansea started for Curtis way back in 1972. He played over 400 times during three different spells, and returned to the club after hanging up his boots, filling various backroom roles before Laudrup made him first-team coach in 2013.
Synonymous with the Swans as he is, winning just one Premier League game in five matches before being handed the reins until the end of this season – and then losing an FA Cup tie to League Two team Oxford United – is hardly an auspicious start for Curtis.
Appointing from within has been a last resort for Jenkins, whatever spin he tries to put on it.
“It’s a unique situation for us and I think we are only now appreciating what other Premier League clubs in our position have gone through in the last five years,” he said.
“We’ve spoken to a lot of potential managers. Some didn’t want to leave the clubs they were at this late stage in the season, while others didn’t want to put their reputation on the line by joining a club at the wrong end of the table.
“In the end, we felt the best decision was to keep things in-house and change as little as we can until taking stock in the summer. We have all been impressed with the way he [Curtis] has improved performance levels over the last five games. The players have obviously responded to him because we have seen an uplift in performances.”
Relegation battle should be absorbing and agonising
Averaging a point per game from his Premier League outings to date, Swansea would end the season with 38 points under Curtis if he can keep that rate up. That is a tally which has been enough to keep teams up in recent campaigns, but not always historically.
With Aston Villa already looking doomed and Sunderland struggling to keep in touch with safety, it looks like being one of Bournemouth, Newcastle United, Norwich City or the Swans joining them in next term’s Championship.
The Canaries and Cherries have already strengthened their squads in the January transfer window, and it would be very surprising if Steve McClaren’s Magpies didn’t follow suit. Sam Allardyce, meanwhile, is entrusting his Black Cats backline to giant German defender Jan Kirchhoff.
Getting Gabbiadini would help
Ambitious as ever, Swansea’s search for a striker seemingly overlooks obvious options like Charlie Austin and instead they are now linked with a £14m move for Napoli attacker Manolo Gabbiadini.
If Jenkins can pull such a deal off, it’ll be the first time the Swans have turned to an Italian up front since a young Fabio Borini’s loan spell propelled their Rodgers vintage into the play-offs with six goals in nine Championship games.
Gabbiadini has saved his best for the Europa League this term with four in as many matches, while manager Maurizio Sarri has used him sparingly in Serie A.
An extra X-factor in forward areas is essential, as Swansea have scored more than once in just two outings since August. This Gabbiadini gambit would be Jenkins’ job, as Curtis has previously admitted having no say in transfers.
Could Curtis be permanent boss?
Although his focus is on the survival bid, the interim Swans boss has not ruled out staying as head coach beyond the end of this season.
“It’s difficult to say, in the past I’ve never seen myself as a manager, but you can quickly change,” said Curtis. “I suppose once you get tasked with the opportunity to make sure the club stays in the Premier League obviously you can switch into manager mode.
“It’s difficult because I’ve never really aspired to be a manager. We’ll see how this period goes, the most important thing is that the club retains its Premier League status. These last 18 games are going to be vital to the club and to the surrounding area.”
We’ll only know how wise it was to wait until the summer before bringing in another permanent Swansea boss by where they end up this season.