Swansea City have been relegated and the inquests are likely to continue for some time. The man who first took them up to the highest level, John Toshack, brings further bad news, as he tells Graham Thomas that their new division is among the toughest in Europe.
John Toshack sips his coffee and looks concerned as he surveys the sail boats in Swansea Bay.
The club he began his 40-year management career with, the one he pulled and heaved from the old fourth division to the first, have slipped out of the Premier League.
It may not lead to the same full throttle, rapid descent they suffered at the start of the 1980s – where they ended back where they had begun – but Toshack is unequivocal about the task that awaits the Swans in the Championship.
“I’ve said it numerous times now – if you look at recent history and teams who drop out of the Premiership, it’s not just a simple case of coming straight back up.
“It’s very, very difficult in the Championship, it’s as tough as any league in Europe. There are 46 games, it’s Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday and with the disappointment of going down it’s going to be tough.
“It’s been 40 years since I started here and I’ve only seen Swansea three or four times this season, but I still say ‘we’.
“But the future of Carlos Carvalhal is uncertain and the way football is now, the Premiership is just huge. So, the division a football club is playing in can influence a lot of things; the manager, the players, and the future of the city itself.
“It’s the future of businesses, hotels, the Premiership has really become a massive part of this city and there’s a massive responsibility there.”
Swansea supporters – or at least a sizable section of them – have no doubts where that responsibility lies. The final anti-climactic display against Stoke on Sunday would have been far more muted, were it not for the anger and bitterness directed towards the American owners and the man who sold the club to them, chairman Huw Jenkins.
Toshack knows a thing or two about the relationship between owners, chairmen, and supporters, experiences gathered in various European cities, some glamourous like Madrid, others less so.
“When you look at the situation when Carvalhal arrived, it was pretty desperate. In fairness he did turn things around, but not considerably.
“There’s talk about Huw (Jenkins) and the board going too and the Americans thinking along other lines. We just don’t know. It’s a big decision.
“It’s been a difficult season, especially when you change managers like the club did halfway through. The club were five points adrift when Paul Clement left and they were obviously in trouble then.
“It looked like when the new manager came in – as so often happens – there was a new spring about the team and they got a couple of results.
“Strangely, they’ve done better against the top sides. In those games they’ve played collectively, made themselves difficult to beat, and counter-attacked.
“When they’ve had to take the initiative – as so often happens – they’ve been found wanting. It looked at one stage like they would get out of it, but the last couple of months have been disappointing.
“They say it’s not the punches on the jaw that soften up a champion, it’s the pats on the back.
“After a little bit of a revival, one or two received a few pats on the back and they’ve gone backwards in an alarming manner.”
Carvalhal won plenty of acclaim when he achieved battling home victories over Liverpool and Arsenal, but the nine-match winless streak eventually undermined the escapology.
The home defeat to Southampton was critical, as was the loss at Bournemouth, but drawn matches against Everton and West Brom also exposed a lack of belief, says Toshack.
“When I look at this Swansea side, the players pass it back to their goalkeeper 20 yards inside their opposition half.
“There is a lack of responsibility and whether you make a mistake or not, this is a serious business we’re in. That’s probably what’s disappointed me more than anything; home advantage is crucial in the Premier League but the pressure of playing at home has been a little bit too much.”
The other on-field issue, he says, has been leadership – or rather, the lack of it.
“What I have seen are players who lack a real captain. I was fortunate. I played at a club and in a team where there were top, top captains; people like Tommy Smith and Emlyn Hughes.
“These were players who didn’t necessarily need to be performing well themselves to get other people going on the field when things were getting a little bit difficult.
“When I look at the Swansea side I don’t see anybody there who is going to lift it.
“I’m afraid it’s going to be very, very difficult times.”