April 9, 2011. Mark Gower was the unlikely headline act.
Little more than a decade after being on the receiving end of a Brendan Rodgers masterclass, Russell Martin is poised to take charge of the club who ripped his Norwich City side to pieces en route to securing a glorious promotion.
In what was his first full season with the Canaries, Martin helplessly watched on as a Gower thunderbolt – along with efforts from Tamas Priskin and Fabio Borini – blew the 2010/11 Championship automatic promotion race wide open.
“I was on the receiving end of it many times. We had a game here when we got beat 3-0 with Norwich,” recalled the newly appointed Swans boss.
“We actually did OK at times, but there were some good battles. There was one game when Brendan Rodgers was manager. We were 3-0 down really quickly. That was a long afternoon and Swansea had a great team with Scott Sinclair and all those guys.
“After speaking to people and asking what the fans expect, they’ve been indoctrinated in this style for a long time.”
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The S-word was by some distance the biggest criticism of the previous regime.
Results were hugely impressive over two seasons that ended in play-off campaigns, although – following a progressive year under Graham Potter – the fare played out on the TV screens of those watching on from their homes regularly tempted punters for a swift channel change.
But that’s about to change. For better or for worse.
For Martin, there is only one way. His way.
“You try and take a little bit from everyone,” said the 35-year-old on his preferred style of play.
“I played in teams who were dominant with the ball and loved it. I also played in teams who didn’t have much of the ball and hated it.
“My style is probably shaped by that and the teams I’ve enjoyed watching play football like Barcelona, Manchester City and Spain.
“I’ve tried to replicate that at the level I’m at and with the players I’ve had.
“If I didn’t do that I probably wouldn’t have gone into coaching or management. The aim is to put the vision of the team we have on the pitch.”
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After memorable campaigns under the likes of Rodgers, Roberto Martinez and Michael Laudrup, Swansea lost their way after a record eighth place finish under Garry Monk in 2014/15.
The shift from their famed Swansea Way style eventually caught up with them in 2018 as the Swans’ seven year stay in the Premier League came to an end.
Potter admirably steadied the ship following a fire sale at the Liberty Stadium, and it’s fair to say that Martin holds the manager of his hometown club Brighton in high regard.
“They’ve been very honest about that and Graham came in. I love the way his teams play football and I loved watching that Swansea team,” said Martin.
“I love watching his Brighton team as that’s my hometown team. The fans were very happy with the football he played here which some might find strange as they finished 10th in the first season outside of the Premier League.
“But they were really happy with what they saw on the pitch and that tells me everything about what the supporters expect. Hopefully we can deliver something similar.”
Absorbing the city’s culture and its beauty spots – including Langland Bay, Pennard, Three Cliffs and Mumbles – was key for Martin during the early days of his tenure as Swansea boss.
But as far as matters on the pitch are concerned, or the training ground to be more specific, Martin’s sole focus has been on relaying his modus operandi to his new squad.
Social media was awash with clips and soundbites that highlight just why there is so much excitement over the appointment of Martin as boss.
It’s all ensured that the topic of style will never be far from the mind when the current Swansea boss is being discussed, even when the good times are proving hard to come by.
“There was temptation last season [at MK Dons] from other people outside of our group for us to go a bit longer and change things a little bit,” he said.
“We’re not stupid. We know we need to win matches and we’re not here just to put a team that looks good out on the pitch.
“We want a team that’s able to win, but we’re not going to compromise on stuff that’s important to us.
“The minute you give people an out and a bit of ambiguity, that grey area becomes really dangerous.”
There will no doubt be hairy moments.
Hearts will be firmly in mouths at times.
But when the methods click, the end product can be simply sumptuous, as the clip of a 56-pass move leading to a goal during his stint at MK Dons demonstrated.
“I guess I am yes (proud of that). It’s not easy to attain,” Martin said.
“I was proud of the players because of they way they implemented what we wanted them to do on the pitch.
“There are not just two ways to play football. It’s not play football or lump it and be direct. There are loads of different ways, but I can’t do something I don’t believe in.
“Some of the stuff they achieved last year was amazing because there were difficult pitches and no fans. Teams were trying desperately to stop us with an aggressive press so it was a source of pride and I made sure it went up on the wall at MK not for us, but for the players.
“People still react to that and say it’s boring, but everyone has a different opinion. It’s something the players are proud of and rightly so. We were proud of them too.
“The more we have the ball, the more we can control the game and take the fight out of opposition teams.
“It’s a 90-minute game plan to try and dominate the ball. The more you do that, the more you take out of the opposition’s legs. We were fighting against a lot of 30-minute game plans last year. Unfortunately for us sometimes it was successful because we were only just starting out and some of the players weren’t ready, but more often than not we came out on top.”
A new dawn beckons.
Results may slide and erratic performances could well be the order of the day at times.
But whatever the outcome, it certainly won’t be boring to watch. Martin will make sure of that.
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