Bouncing back from the agony of promotion heartache can be tough.
Many Championship sides who’ve experienced disappointment in the play-offs often find themselves languishing in mid-table the following season, unable to regroup and replicate their form over yet another gruelling 46-game campaign.
Having adopted the role of ‘Championship side who win their last 17 games to grab a late play-off place’ last season (well, maybe they weren’t that good, but their end-of-season form was still impressive), Swansea were many people’s tip for promotion.
The Swans came up against a stellar Brentford side in the semi-finals of the knockout competition and ultimately saw their Premier League dreams shattered, but boss Steve Cooper looked far from disconsolate following the defeat.
“Tonight’s a really disappointing night but we do know that we’re building and looking into the future a little bit. We will stick to that plan. Preparations are already in place for next season, but it’s disappointing at the moment.”
– Steve Cooper following play-off defeat
There was an air of calmness to the former England youth coach as he completed his post-match interviews, and that’s because he knew Swansea were so much more than a flash in the pan – the Swans were in the midst of a process and said process has them well set for promotion this season.
Consistency is the key to success in any league, but none more so than England’s frantic second tier.
Swansea’s ability to bounce back from defeats and produce consistent performances since Cooper took charge in 2019 has been without doubt their most impressive quality. Only once in the Welshman’s tenure have they suffered back-to-back defeats, and it’s this ability to steady the ship and not panic following a loss which sees them in with a great shot of promotion.
Credit must go to Cooper for this mentality and attitude. All too often in the Championship teams crumble as soon as they suffer a loss, as doubt begins to creep into the players’ minds and with such little time between games to work on any major tactical tweaks.
More than anything, Swansea’s consistency is proof that the players trust their manager and the plans he’s put in place.
Much of Swansea’s success this campaign has been built on their defensive solidarity. No side in the division has conceded less than the 19 shipped by the Welsh side in their 30 league outings, a stat made all the more impressive when you consider the club cashed in on their young starlet Joe Rodon last year.
Naturally, to be vying for promotion in any division you need to be able to score goals, and in Andre Ayew and Jamal Lowe Swansea have two frontmen who always look capable of grabbing a goal, and with the industry and endeavour of the likes of Matt Grimes, Korey Smith and Jay Fulton in midfield, Swansea are a well-drilled unit who’ll take some stopping this season.
While the Swans were already set for a promotion push prior to the January transfer window, the addition of Conor Hourihane has proved to be something of a masterstroke.
The one thing lacking from the Swans’ midfield was a goalscorer, and the Irishman’s quality on the ball along with his ability from range looks like it may just be the final piece of the promotion puzzle.
Having bounced back their potentially damaging defeat to lowly Huddersfield with a win over Coventry (y’know, because that’s just what they do), Swansea have the chance to go five points clear of Brentford if they win their two games in hand, and you’d be a brave person to bet against them doing just that.
There’s no denying that the quality of this season’s Championship is lower than what we’ve come to expect, but that shouldn’t take away from the mental toughness and ability needed to prevail in one of the toughest leagues in the world.
Cooper has instilled a discipline and a ruthlessness in his Swansea side, and after nearly two years at the club, he may just be about to lead them back to the big time.