Russell Martin from Swansea: “If you don’t believe in what we do, no problem” | City of Swansea


IIt’s fair to say that Wednesday’s five-a-side league level has recently improved at Penyrheol Leisure Center, where Swansea supporters clashed with familiar faces including head coach Russell Martin and l technical coach, Matt Gill. . Unsurprisingly, the team of staff are at the top of the league, put together by longtime gardener at the club’s training base in Fairwood, Kevin Roberts, who typically takes on the role of referee. “I blamed our kit man Mike for playing too many Hollywood passes last week,” Martin laughs. “” Be simple! He was fuming. We play like swans.

Over the years, Roberto Martínez, Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup and Graham Potter have created Swansea to dominate. Martin also believes in a possession style and fans appreciate what they see. The team have had a greater share of possession in every league game this season – only Potter’s Brighton profited more from the ball against them, in the Carabao Cup match in September – and in the victory over Peterborough in the month last, they made 779 passes. They average 537 short passes per game – almost double the total of Saturday’s visitors to Blackpool – but Martin knows not everyone agrees with his thinking despite four wins in the last six games. “If you don’t believe in what we’re doing, that’s fine, but we really do,” he says.

They rank first in the division for forward passes and successful passing in the final third, but one of the most important things, Martin says, is “ball speed” and ball retention. on the line – they have 54 minutes, a league record, four more than average. “You always have people who say ‘possession doesn’t mean you win’, but if you have the ball and you have it far from your goal, your chances of conceding become much smaller,” said the player. 35 years. , the youngest manager of the first four levels. “For us, it’s about taking as much combat as possible in the game and controlling it with football.”

In March, his team MK Dons set a British record, since the start of such records, for most consecutive assists leading to a goal, Will Grigg rounding up a 56-pass move. A week later, a video of Martin firmly reiterating his desire to tweak Plan A rather than adopt Plan B has gone viral. “If that doesn’t work and I’m fired, at least I’m fired doing something I believe in. I’m not fired regretting that I stuck to my standards.”

Will Grigg, MK Dons No 9, celebrates after completing a 56 pass move. Photograph: James Chance / Getty Images

The clip has accumulated nearly 400,000 views. “It wasn’t a big deal for me – it was just common sense. It helped us build the siege mentality a bit. It was like, “Look, nobody believes we can do it and nobody wants us to do it. This is the British mentality towards football. Traditionally it was about rolling up your sleeves and fighting, but slowly but surely that is changing.

His impressive work in League One led to Swansea coming up to call this summer. He spoke to Potter and Owain Tudur Jones, with whom he played in Norwich, before moving his family to South Wales. “We love it. I swim in the sea as much as I can, after training or on days off. His 10-year-old, Reno, has joined Swansea Academy and his youngest, Leo, is in pre-academy with elder midfielder Korey Smith and son of former winger Nathan Dyer. “If you’re coaching a kid under six, the first thing you want them to do is get them comfortable with the ball. It’s not running, it’s not running the channel, it’s not hitting it very far, it’s not pinging or shooting, it’s trying to control the ball with both feet. This principle, as basic as it may sound, is the same here. “

Swansea's Ethan Laird keeps the ball moving in the victory over Peterborough in which the team made 779 passes.
Swansea’s Ethan Laird keeps the ball moving in the victory over Peterborough in which the team made 779 passes. Photograph: Ashley Crowden / Huw Evans / Shutterstock

Martin is an engaging company. The conversation ranges from asking MK Dons to invest in recycling bins to Marcus Rashford pushing the envelope and Cop26 appearing as a check mark exercise. “There were two weeks of many conversations, but of little consequence. It was like, “We’ll get together in this room, we’ll talk about it, show people that we care about us, and then we’ll see what happens.” This tends to be the way of the minute rulers. When you have the opportunity to try, at least show people that you are really trying.

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At least it looks like football is ready to tackle big issues, be it the climate crisis, racism or human rights. It’s something Martin has tried to tackle on a personal level through his foundation, which uses football to address broader social issues.

“We have been saying to footballers for so long: ‘You are role models, you have to behave properly.’ But when they put their heads above the parapet and say something that some people don’t agree with, it’s like, “No, no, no, you’re a footballer, get back in your box.” When footballers show a lot more decency than the Prime Minister and a lot of government officials, then there is a little problem.

“Speaking of politics now, I get angry,” he says, and the conversation therefore comes back to football. After all, there’s an 8 p.m. kickoff in the Phil Owen Memorial League on the horizon. This week they won 10-4. “We go up to a zero and keep the ball forever,” he said. “It can get a little tasty. But I appreciate it. It’s such a great place in terms of people, how friendly they are, how supportive they’ve been. I think they can see that we are trying to do something that is really aligned with what the club has done before, in its modern history.


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