By Paul Jones
Rhian Brewster and Conor Gallagher will be re-launched at Championship rivals today as Swansea City bid to achieve an unlikely promotion.
Head coach Steve Cooper – who takes his team to Middlesbrough for their resumption of the campaign – hopes he can keep the young starlets in Wales next season, too.
Liverpool forward Brewster and Chelsea’s Gallagher – both 20 – are on loan at the Liberty Stadium and their deals to stay in south Wales expire at the end of June.
With the season resuming after the three-month break forced by the coronavirus pandemic, Swansea have agreed both Brewster and Gallagher will stay with the Welsh side until the campaign ends.
It means they will be available for all of Swansea’s remaining nine fixtures which begin at Boro.
“The boys are on loan until the end of June so there is still time on that, but we don’t think there’ll be problems,” said Cooper.
“I spoke to Frank Lampard and Jurgen Klopp over lockdown. It’s been positive and I feel we’ve committed to what we’ve said we’d do.
“There aren’t loads of clubs who are looking at plans for next season because of the nature of the situation we’re in, but it goes without saying that if there was an opportunity to continue for next season and it was right for the club, then we’d be interested.”
It will be their first match since the goalless draw against West Brom on March 7, which moved Cooper’s side within three points of the play-off places.
With all sides having faced a long break, followed by a relatively short period of training and the prospect of a hectic fixture schedule, it represents a real step into the unknown for all clubs.
It makes for what could prove an intriguing and unpredictable run-in, and the Swans head coach feels it makes for an enticing few weeks of football to come.
“There’s everything to play for. If any of the players are not motivated by what can be achieved over these nine games, then it isn’t going to be for me,” said Cooper.
“There’s everything to play for. If any of the players are not motivated by what can be achieved over these nine game, then that isn’t going to be for me.
“We’re three points off the top six, that gap can quickly be closed and it can get bigger, we know that.
“If the first few games go well, and you get a good start, it can change, we’re going to give it a go.
“It is a step into the unknown, but our approach is just to focus on ourselves and everything we’re doing in preparation is about us being at our best.”
With nine games to go, Boro are just two points clear of the Championship drop zone.
🌈 A rainbow emblem
🩳 A logo on their shorts
👏 A period of applause
— Swansea City AFC (@SwansOfficial) June 20, 2020
Boro manager Jonathan Woodgate admits it’s going to be a vastly different experience for everyone at the Riverside Stadium.
“It’s new for every single player and nearly every single manager so we can only judge it when the players are out there,” he said.
“They have to lift themselves because if there’s an atmosphere in the stadium it can sometimes lift them.
“But you can look from another angle as well, if a player gives the ball away the fans might boo or whatever, but now they’ll have no one in there so it might give the player more confidence on the ball if they haven’t got that (pressure) in the background.
“We need to start quick: that’s the biggest thing. As the games go on players will get tired so need to start quick.
“I always wanted the season to finish. I always said that; let’s finish it the right way. The integrity of the league comes first.”