Who is to blame?

Sunday, 12 November 2000, 0:01
3 mins read

The fact that this performance meant defeat at the hands of an Oxford side that hadn’t won away since March is neither here nor there.

It is well known that the Swans have an uncanny knack of appearing potential First Division candidates when playing against tough opposition, but when faced with league strugglers they crawl into their shell and wait for the final whistle to blow.

No, the result was not as huge a surprise as some will make out, it was the performance that was disturbing. All the more disturbing because it is the kind of display that is becoming all too common at “Fortress Vetch”. No passion, desire, commitment or tactical n§us is very hard to take if you have paid £10 to stand and watch it on a cold and wet Saturday afternoon.

So whose fault is it?

Last year it was widely recognised (although perhaps not from within the club) that we were promoted without being a fantastic side. That sort of statement is often taken the wrong way – it is not meant to belittle the achievements of the side, but is simply a realistic assessment of what was a hard fought championship victory in a very poor league.

We won the championship because of two principal factors: good team spirit and a very good back five. Perhaps there is the answer of who is to blame straight away. It is widely rumoured that Steve Jones is missing from the side because of a falling out with the manager.

He requested to have an operation on a long-standing groin injury earlier this month – some say he did this so that he will be fit enough to get a contract with a new club when he becomes a free agent in January. I really hope that that is not the case. Steve Jones is an extremely fine defender, best at full-back, but versatile enough to play in the centre of defence as well.

Jason Price’s inability in the full-back role is a big cause for concern in the current side and I find it difficult to blame anybody but John Hollins for that problem. But is unfair to put our current plight purely down to the full-back problem. It goes far deeper than that, the problem is right through the whole defence for a start, with the possible exception of Mike Howard. Smith and Bound are not showing the sort of consistent telepathic partnership that they were exhibiting a year ago.

True, they are playing against far better opponents, but we are still conceding bad goals – goals that would not have been conceded with S and B in their typical form. The team’s inability to create and score goals is therefore being exposed in it’s full, gruesome glory.

The additions of David Romo and Giovanni Saverese will almost certainly improve the situation in future, but they need time. Until they settle in (and the weather improves enough for Romo to play the passing style of football that he clearly prefers) the inadequate midfielders of last season need to get it sorted. Cusack and Thomas rarely, if ever, control the middle of the park any more – without anything in the middle, our star player Stuart Roberts can’t get into the game properly and the strikers don’t get enough chances to be able to hit them home often enough.

So it’s the players’ fault then, too many players playing badly at the same time. Or is it? Is it because they are being played out of position? In which case that would clearly be the fault of Hollins and co. The obvious example is JJ Price, a player who I have been reluctant to criticise all season, because he simply is not a defender.

When he gets forward he looks dangerous and a quality player (at times), at full-back he looks inept and visiting teams are increasingly exploiting that weakness. I would argue also that Lee Jenkins is out of position when played on the right or left of midfield. His strengths are his passing, tackling and running forward through the middle.

Steve Watkin is also not a striker and should sit behind the front two as holding player – although on yesterday’s display, the only place he should be sat is on the bench. As usual, it seems the problem cannot be blamed on a single group of people. It’s interesting to see that some people on the message board are trying to blame Mike Lewis!

That is extremely appealing, I have no problem with people blaming Lewis for world starvation if they want to – some people are just targets who should be hit (metaphorically of course), but I fear that whilst Lewis has a lot (a hell of a lot) to answer for, our current ineptitude on the pitch cannot be principally put down to him. There is no doubt that several players need to take a long hard look at themselves and the performances they are putting in week in, week out.

At the same time, JH does not inspire confidence by getting the formation of the team wrong and by making totally inexplicable decisions such as the refusal to take Watkin off against Oxford, preferring instead to withdraw our top scorer. The fans of Swansea have shown their loyalty be returning -n masse to The Vetch despite witnessing the Oxford farce on more than one occasion previously.

They will not continue do so, and rightly so. That is not a threat of a stay away protest, simply a warning that if you repeatedly pay somebody a proportion of your hard earned cash and they reward you by kicking you in the knackers, after a while those people might choose a less painful past time and stay at home.

Images courtesy of Getty Images, Athena Picture Agency and Swansea City Football Club.

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