Swans in a flap
American ownership, American management and a home unofficially renamed as the Statue of Liberty Stadium. Times are changing at Swansea City and the locals are bitterly unhappy.
You have to go back to the early Noughties to find a time when there was so much grumbling in the stands. It has taken on a nasty edge with the likes of Huw Jenkins absorbing personal abuse alongside other directors who sold some or all of their stakes to US pair Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien.
The fact that the squad has produced some diabolical performances and Bob Bradley has moved very gingerly out of the starting blocks has poured petrol on a fire that started with the summer takeover. Above all else, it is sad to see a club that for so long has been the model of stability and sensible ownership descend into such difficulty and unrest.
The curious aspect in it all has been the suspicion towards the Americans. There was no obvious flaw in the plan of Jenkins and co to sell – Swansea, it is generally accepted, need greater financial muscle if they are to continue to compete. And there has been no evidence as yet that the Americans have made any major errors, beyond the accusation from the Supporters’ Trust that they lacked transparency in the takeover and sacking of Francesco Guidolin.
That is not to unduly protect the Americans, more an acknowledgement that they cannot be fully judged until they have a chance to prove themselves via squad investment. The time for that is the January transfer window. Without hard cash spent in the transfer market, this proud club will most likely be playing in the Championship next season.
All Change at Cardiff (again)
He is loud, brash and a potential argument in any room he enters at any given time. And yet he is exactly what Cardiff have needed for years - the appointment of Neil Warnock is one thing Cardiff have got right in the past few seasons of uncertainty. More than that, it was an acknowledgment by the club’s decision-makers that the Championship is a rare beast, with its own players, its own challenges of travel and schedule and a division that calls for a specialist. One of the great fallacies that has been repeatedly exposed over time is the idea that folk of the Premier League have a broad enough understanding of football to step down a rung and thrive. That’s a nonsense (the success of Rafa Benitez at Newcastle this season notwithstanding) that naively ignores the nuances of the Championship. Witness how hopelessly Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got on after relegation. Warnock, by contrast, has never convinced in the Premier League, but he is a master of the Championship, a manager with two promotions from the division (among seven in his career) and seven second-tier manager-of-the-month awards. It is no surprise that he has quickly stabilised a side that was sinking rapidly. Cardiff have taken plenty of flak the past few seasons but they got this one right.
Cleverly Hits Back
Credit to Nathan Cleverly, an excellent talent who never gave up. He spoke with RedHanded not long after losing a stinker of a rematch with Tony Bellew in 2014 and it was hard to detect any great motivation for more fighting in his tone. A third career defeat to Andrzej Fonfara a year ago appeared to signal the end of a career that peaked with a light-heavyweight world title but had burned out. Now, following his win on foreign soil against Juergen Braehmer, he is a two-time champion, more than three years after he last won a belt. With it he resoundingly answered the lingering question of whether there was more to this man than just a talent for throwing punches.
What a Cheek!
It was interesting that during RedHanded’s interview with Sam Warburton he wouldn’t commit to certain opinions. He would not, for instance, be overly bold on the subject of the British Lions, arguing that selection for such an esteemed squad could not be taken for granted. Likewise, he didn’t want to insult any rivals for Wales selection by appearing confident of playing in the Autumn Internationals, despite his proven worth to the team. His reasoning? ‘Hard sport, rugby, you never know what’s going to happen to your body. The minute you make plans or get ahead of yourself, anything can happen to knock you down. I’m not going to jinx anything.’ A week later, Warburton fractured his cheekbone and missed the Australia test. Sport, a place where best intentions often mean absolutely nothing.