Ian Hart: Swans trip shows to be careful what you wish for

Saturday saw an extremely enjoyable away day, with the visit to Wales, an impressive win, another three points towards the '˜survival' target and the Albion finishing the weekend eighth.

Friday, 10th November 2017, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 3:28 am
Action from Albion's clash at Swansea last Saturday. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography).

It would be very easy to get carried away with some of the recent performances but I, like almost everybody, still views that magic number of 40 points as a survival figure.

It’s certainly never dull supporting the Albion and this season is clearly no different. The trip to Swansea and witnessing what’s happening at the Liberty Stadium highlights all the pitfalls of the Premier League dream.

It’s well documented that little over 20 years ago Swansea City almost dropped out of the Football League, the club was in disarray but a local businessman Huw Jenkins and others put a rescue package together at the turn of the century. They got the club back on track, delivered a new stadium, Premier League football and silverware in the shape of a League Cup win, the first time a Welsh club had ever won the trophy, and the resulting return of European football to South Wales.

Jenkins, while remaining as chairman and CEO, has overseen the buyout of the club by an American-backed consortium.

Without wishing to take anything away from a great Albion performance, all the travelling faithful witnessed a home side in free fall. From effectively being owned, albeit under Jenkins’ stewardship, by a supporters’ trust, the American money has come in, on the back of the Premier League being a global product, and has on the face of it ripped the whole heart of the club out. It was a toxic atmosphere and just how long manager Paul Clement can survive in his job is questionable.

But my whole point is, Swansea thought the American buyout would take them to the next level after the initial success of the last few years, but it hasn’t. A classic case of all that glistens is not gold,and they aren’t the only club that has gone down that road. Everton’s new Iranian ‘saviour’ now faces questions from the BBC’s Panorama.

This highlights how lucky we are at the Albion, there’s no doubting our owner has the funds to compete at the level we are now, but it’s his lifelong passion that makes the difference. Albion are not only British owned, they are Sussex owned.

Never say never but with the Albion heritage in his family I can’t see him or even his children ever selling the club in the way Swansea and others have done. That to me should be equally celebrated as much as the performances on the pitch.

It remains to be seen how a much depleted England squad will benefit from the upcoming friendly matches against Germany and Brazil. With more fallers than the Grand National, Gareth Southgate must question as an exercise will this weekend really help next summer’s World Cup campaign.

While the play-offs were always scheduled for this weekend, once England didn’t need them, would it have been better just to give our top players a rest after 11 games in the Premier League? Or is it equally about money-making fixtures than the development of our national team?

And, finally, Kev Clarke and I recorded a, dare I say it, excellent podcast on Monday, with the Albion legend that is Bob Booker. Clearly I’m always going to be biased but speaking to Bob, not just about his football career but his life journey, was an amazing experience.

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