The Swans missing out on Premier League is an opportunity to develop Welsh talent
Dr Alan Sandry
As a Swansea City fan my initial reaction to the Swans defeat against Brentford was one of huge disappointment.
But, as the hours slowly drew by, I began to think that their failure to re-enter the English Premiership is not at all a bad thing. Indeed, it presents us with a significant opportunity.
If the Swans had won the match they would have been back in one of the richest leagues of any sport on the planet. Great, you may think. Yet membership of this glossy club is extremely costly, and not always in purely economic terms.
A promoted Swansea City would have needed to invest tens of millions of pounds on 6, 7, or 8 proven top-level players, who, subsequently, would have commanded astronomical wages.
That pay out may – just may – have guaranteed their survival at the end of season one. However, if they had wanted to finish in a ‘respectable’ mid table position, you would probably add an additional 40-70 million pounds to the balance sheet.
In other words, you immediately enter the perilous pay-to-survive arena; like something out of a video game with players, coaches and owners running in all directions as everybody takes a potshot.
An alternative, and realistic, future is to stay at a level where you can keep these pressures at bay, hold your own against opposition and comfortably thrive as a club on your own terms.
The Swansea City Academy has provided some excellent players, with Connor Roberts, Ben Cabango and Liam Cullen on the pitch at Wembley, with past protégés including Daniel James and Joe Rodon.
The aim of the Swans, and of our other football and sporting sides, should be to bring through homegrown talent, and to ensure that opportunities exist for them to display their skills at the highest relevant level.
This article primarily concerns Swansea, but the aim and objective of self-sustenance should also apply, given their context and particular circumstances, to Newport, Wrexham, Connah’s Quay Nomads, Newtown, and so forth.
Embedding, and advancing, the internal ladder would be beneficial on so many fronts. It would provide a pipeline of artistry, where youngsters can represent their community and district teams and gradually move up to international representation.
The Basque model is often quoted, where traditionally the likes of Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao only played those who were Basque-born; though the former dropped that rule in the late 1980’s, and the latter is easing its qualification status year on year. Notwithstanding this example, the Gaelic Athletic Association rubric may be more relevant, as it identifies people with their County of birth and residence.
This is more akin to how our rugby regions nurture their juniors and is evident, for instance, in the spatial umbrella of ‘Ospreylia’, which is a brand constructed on the actual clubs across the geographical entity that the Ospreys cover.
Whilst we may not wish to be too restrictive or prescriptive on all this, and we should certainly include players from all the world within our sporting teams and environments, it would seem sensible and prudent to maximise our homegrown flair by nurturing our own, and fully supporting their development by routinely playing them.
There is no point in having a bench brimming with young Welsh ardour, whilst some non-Welsh journeymen stroll around the park. Change can happen if there is collective will by the clubs, in conjunction with their supporters, sponsors, and communities.
This should be topped off with some guidance and direction from Dawn Bowden MS, Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Sport. Was she at Wembley for the Swans and Newport play off matches? If not, why not.
For the Swans, meanwhile, it will be another year in the second tier, and we can savour, yet again, the cultural and visual delights of an internecine derby with Cardiff City.
But let us see, in a few months’ time, how many Welsh players feature for both of our Championship clubs. The more the better, for them, for us, and ultimately for Wales.