Graham Potter has defended Swansea City’s deadline day exodus as resolutely as his players defended in their 1-0 victory over Preston.
The Swans are in fourth spot in the early Championship table after a hard-fought victory decided by Jay Fulton’s only goal of the game. It was not always convincing in their first game of the campaign at the Liberty Stadium, but the result soothed what could have become a more fractious atmosphere following the selling spree on Thursday.
Four players left the club, making it 12 in total during a downsizing summer which has improved the bank balance by £48m. Only four players have arrived for a quarter of that figure.
But Potter – who is making the most of the hand he has been dealt – insisted players who wanted to leave were not worth keeping.
“We have got to be careful with deadline days,” said Potter. “This time last year, the supporters thought we had achieved a good one. But the only time we can tell is at end of the season.
“We have brought in four players for not too much money. But there is also a point in every window when you have to move out players who don’t want to be here. I understand the frustration, but the loan window is still open.
“The reality of it is that we have to make sure the players here want to play for Swansea City.”
This was a significant victory for Potter who already deserves the thanks of the club’s American owners for giving them breathing space.
With only one recognised senior centre-back left at the club – following the decision to sell Kyle Bartley, Alfie Mawson, Jordi Amat and Federico Fernandez – it was important that debutant Joe Rodon looked like he might be capable of filling the void. He passed the audition.
So, too, did Erwin Mulder when the Dutch goalkeeper came off the bench to replace the injured Kristoffer Nordfeldt after only a quarter of the match. Like Rodon, it was Mulder’s first game for the club, even though he arrived over a year ago.
Mike van der Hoorn marshalled a retreating defence impressively late on as the players ahead of him wilted, Bersant Celina was influential on his home debut, and Oli McBurnie did not allow the setback of a missed penalty to discourage him up front.
There will be much tougher opponents ahead than Alex Neil’s Preston, who were inhibited and toothless for 50 minutes, but it was an encouraging home start.
“I am very proud of the players and the supporters. They were both tremendous,” added Potter.
“It was a really difficult game. I thought Alex’s team were very good and made it difficult for us.
“We had to ride our luck. Our substitute keeper had to make saves and we were under pressure. But when we lost our keeper, we could have felt sorry for ourselves and we didn’t.
“We had flashes of quality, we were not perfect but people keep talking about how tough the Championship is and I agree with them. You have to be resilient.
“If you don’t do that then you’re dead in any league. You can have an identity, but you have to respect the opposition.
“We were trying to hang on for the victory. We did it and the environment here today was one to be very proud of.”
Potter confirmed goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt had been forced off by a groin injury but said the Sweden international would need to be assessed before the severity of his injury could be revealed.
Leroy Fer, on his first appearance since February following Achilles surgery, was tasked with shoring up the Swansea midfield and McBurnie should have made it 2-0 in the final 10 minutes, but the Swans still held on to continue their perfect start to the season.
Preston manager Neil said: “We lacked belief in ourselves in the first half as much as anything.
“Our quality just wasn’t there and we didn’t move the ball well enough. I was really disappointed with us defensively for the goal.
“At half-time I told the lads we could either sit in and not believe we are good enough or we could get up against them. We did the latter, we moved the ball much better, and the quality was miles better. Overall I think we deserved more.”
Swansea City: Nordfelt 6 (Mulder 22, 8); Roberts 6, Rodon 7, van der Hoorn 8, Olsson 6; Carroll 6, Celina 7; Fulton 7, McKay 6 (Fer 74, 6), Asoro 6 (Grimes 56, 6); McBurnie 7.
Unused subs: Montero, Dyer, Naughton, Dhanda.
Preston: Rudd 7; Fisher 6, Clarke 6, Davies 7, Hughes 6; Browne 7, Pearson 6; Harrop 6 (Burke 62, 6) Robinson 6, Barkhuizen 5 (Barker 71, 7); Nmecha 7 (Gallagher 80, 5).
Unused subs: Maxwell, Moult, Ledson, Huntington.