Steve Cooper, Swansea City . . . And The Elephant In The Room

Steve Cooper admits it was a crowded room when he sat down to be interviewed for the Swansea City job.

There was recently appointed chairman Trevor Birch, club president and all-round legend Alan Curtis, new consultant Leon Britton, and a rather large elephant which Cooper says he needed to get rid of.

“The elephant in the room was the fact that this would be my first senior job and that I’d not worked before with senior players,” says the Welshman who left the English FA and a comfortable and successful job with England U17s.

“Whenever a manager or head coach is appointed there are always questions and the obvious one with me is that it’s my first senior job.

“I wouldn’t put myself in this position if I wasn’t ready. The first person I asked if I was ready to work at senior level was myself.

“The only stumbling block for me was being ready to work with senior players, but I am absolutely am. The experiences I’ve had up to now have all been ones with managerial responsibilities.

“At the World Cup in India, I had 25 members of staff reporting to me. If you don’t get that right or show good leadership or self-worth, then it can quickly fail.

“I’ve been working towards that for a long time. I feel absolutely ready and 12 months or so ago I was about 96 per cent there. Now I’m 100 per cent ready. Yes I’ve still got to go and do it, but I’m fully equipped to do so.”

The switch from coaching kids, or at least young men, to adults ranging from 18 to 35-year-olds – Cooper himself is only 39 – is something that the successor to Graham Potter wanted to approach head-on.

Having dealt with it in his interview, Cooper was said to have delivered such an impressive presentation that he immediately became the outstanding candidate.

The question now, however, is whether he can combine those pure coaching abilities with a recruitment strategy and man-management skills to turn a young squad into promotion contenders from the Championship.

The Swans were well-coached and astutely managed by Potter last season, but they still carried too many deficiencies to make the play-offs, never mind be in the fight for the two automatic places.

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Cooper understands that the club’s poor recruitment in recent seasons and drastically reduced income means low cost options and loan signings will be his main area of operation when it comes to the transfer market.

“The club has a football culture and identity and that’s very attractive, particularly in the loan market,” he says.

“Clubs have to be very particular with where they place their players and with any player that comes here on loan it will be agreed that the trust will be there.

“That can be priceless and football culture can get you over the line in certain games. I’ve watched a lot of Swansea games and I tend to watch football in silence.

“When I watched these ones I kept the sound on to get a sense for what the fans were feeling and I got the feeling they were with the team.

“I know what they want to see and they will be even better this year. If you want to play this way, you have to fundamentally believe it in and I do.”

That means no change in the possession-based, passing game the Swans played under Potter, although Cooper is keen to make the tactical adjustments that might make them more sound defensively.

For all the good football played last season, the team was regularly undermined by the ease with which opponents could score simple goals from set-pieces delivered into the goalmouth.

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Cooper adds: “The likes of Connor Roberts and Joe Rodon, they’ve got that season under their belts now, and they can go to the next level again while still playing with that youthful enthusiasm and hunger to succeed.

“That’s really important, that we build the right culture and play with the style around that, with young players wanting to make things happen and be brave on the ball.

“My job is to turn that into good tactical order, get the right tactics in place while making the players believe they can do this.

“Younger players are now different, it’s a different generation, and it’s something I understand a lot. I’ve put a lot of work into trying to understand what goes on in these young players’ heads.

“Everyone needs a bit of self-belief and motivation, that’s certainly how I want to lead and I believe if you do that then players will take themselves to where they’ve not been to before, emotionally and physically.

“When you do that and you get over the line, whether it’s winning games or if it’s getting to a certain part of the league, then there’s no better feeling because it’s come from within, and it’s something I really want to focus on this year.”

 

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