By David Williams
Steve Cooper has insisted he will not be distracted by links with Crystal Palace as he attempts to guide Swansea City to a Wembley play-off final.
The Swansea head coach has been heavily tipped to take over at Palace this summer following conformation that Roy Hodgson in standing down this weekend after the Premier League club’s final match of the season.
Some bookmakers have made Cooper favourite to replace Hodgson, but Frank Lampard, Eddie Howe and Valerian Ismael – boss of Swansea’s play-off semi-final opponents, Barnsley – have also been been tipped to move in at Selhurst Park.
Asked about the link today, Cooper made no comment about whether the job would interest him but was clear the vacancy was not diverting attention from the second leg at home to Barnsley on Saturday.
Cooper – whose team will defend a 1-0 lead earned at Oakwell on Monday night – said: “It’s not a week for any individual topics or conversations.
“This week is just about the second leg in the play-offs and doing everything we can to get the right outcome.
“Nothing will distract me or anyone else because it’s too important, this week. Nothing else is on our mind.
“I’m a really big believer in focusing on what I’m in control of, and that’s your daily work. It’s about recovery, preparation and being as ready as we can.
“I’ll always do my best, I said that from day one. I just wanted to make sure I give my all and that I do it in a way that I believe in.
“That won’t change and if it gets good returns then great, but as we’ve seen this year, it’s up and down! First-team football management, it’s never a one-way strategy.”
As well as Cooper, Ismael, Lampard and Howe, Palace have also been linked with Scott Parker of Fulham and former Arsenal star Freddie Ljungberg.
The Swans host Barnsley in the second leg of the play-offs with supporters attending a game at the Liberty for the first time since March 7, 2020.
Around 3,000 members of the Jack Army will be in attendance, with the fixture one of a number of pilot events targeted at getting spectators back to sporting and cultural events.
Cooper says he and his players cannot wait for the return of supporters, particularly having played in front of Barnsley’s fans in Monday’s first leg at Oakwell.
“The first thing when the final whistle went on Monday was knowing we now have opportunity to do the same in our own stadium, in front of our own fans,” said Cooper.
“It’s something to look forward to, we’ve missed having supporters in stadiums, particularly our own.
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“Having some supporters back is long overdue, it’s an important game and it is something to look forward to and cherish.
“We have to be motivated and ready to play in front of them, it’s just not been the same without them.
“The atmosphere on Monday made everyone realise that is how thing are supposed to be, and it will be even better and more appreciated when we get full crowds back.
“But we have to focus on giving the supporters something to cheer and get behind. We will also be thinking about those who won’t be able to get in too, because in normal circumstances there would not be an empty seat in the place.
“So as players, coaches and staff, we have to represent this community and show our unity and what Swansea City is all about.
“If we do that it should make for a positive performance and result, but only we can do that. It is in our control to do that.”