May 14, 2018 / 11:35 AM / 3 months ago

Soccer: Swansea identity lost in downward spiral

LONDON (Reuters) - Buried deep in a morose statement from Swansea City’s American owners before the dust settled on their Premier League relegation was one damning admission.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Swansea City vs Stoke City - Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Britain - May 13, 2018 Stoke City's Jack Butland makes a save on the goal line REUTERS/Rebecca Naden

“Perhaps the club has lost its unique identity, the special essence that made Swansea City different — better,” wrote Stephen Kaplan and Jason Levien who took over two years ago.

“In many ways we need to rediscover that identity both on the pitch and off it if we are to make the community proud of this football club again.”

Two points from their last seven matches, including five straight defeats, condemned Swansea to relegation just when it appeared they had gained a stay of execution.

A 2-1 defeat by Stoke City sealed the Welsh side’s fate but the rot set in several years ago when they lost the blueprint that made them a model club.

Promoted under manager Brendan Rodgers in 2011, Swansea finished 11th in their first season back in the top flight. The passing game installed by Roberto Martinez remained and the scouting network kept finding gems.

Rogers moved to Liverpool but Swansea hired Michael Laudrup and the Danish great took them into Europe after they won the 2012-13 League Cup.

When things went sour for Laudrup and he was sacked early in 2014, club stalwart Garry Monk took over, first as caretaker manager, then on a full-time basis.

Monk steered Swansea away from trouble in 2013-14 and the season after took them to eighth place — their highest finish in the Premier League. Then, the wheels fell off.

REVOLVING DOOR

Monk was sacked just before Christmas in 2015 with Swansea 15th in the table and while Francesco Guidolin kept Swansea safe the revolving door was spinning out of control.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Swansea City vs Stoke City - Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Britain - May 13, 2018 Swansea City manager Carlos Carvalhal and Andre Ayew look dejected after the match as they are relegated from the Premier League REUTERS/Rebecca Naden

The Italian was fired after a poor start to the following season and replaced by American Bob Bradley who lasted 85 days.

Paul Clement turned the ship around and delivered a seventh successive top-flight campaign but was replaced by Carlos Carvalhal in December last year with the club bottom.

Fans groups are so disenchanted they have called on long-standing chairman Huw Jenkins to resign — blaming him for his part in the 2016 takeover and a botched recruitment policy.

There were protests during the game on Sunday.

“As a football club we have lost our footballing way and our footballing identity, making poor, usually reactionary, decisions time and time again,” a statement from the Swansea Supporters trust said last week.

“The Swansea Way, for so long a source of considerable pride, has not existed for some time.”

Compared to the dire straights the club was in in 2003 when they retained their Football League status in the last game of the season, Swansea are still in good shape.

They have a modern stadium, and the financial blow of relegation will be soothed by Premier League parachute payments totalling around 100 million pounds ($136 million)over three seasons.

The problem is that unless they find the instruction manual on running a club that seems to have been thrown out with the dirty laundry, they could find themselves in the sort of downward spiral that has swallowed up the likes of Sunderland.

“We know this club has not been truly unified off the pitch for a while even though the supporters who come to the matches home and away have been magnificent,” the owners said.

“There have certainly been mistakes along the way and it is down to the owners to shoulder much of the responsibility.”

Carvalhal is expected to leave as the club begin the process of rediscovering their lost identity.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Swansea City vs Stoke City - Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Britain - May 13, 2018 Swansea City's Angel Rangel salutes their fans after the match as they are relegated from the Premier League Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

($1 = 0.7355 pounds)

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond

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