Swansea were last in the top six after a 2-1 win over Wigan in January but sneaked in at Nottingham Forest’s expense after a 4-1 win away at Reading on the final day. People have called it a miracle – would you agree?
You can definitely call the situation on the final day a miracle! Who on Earth would’ve said that those scorelines and that goal swing against Nottingham Forest would happen? But in terms of reaching the play-offs on the whole, they’ve been in the mix all season and you only have to look at their brilliant start. They were top of the table on two occasions and, even after some poor runs here and there in the middle of the season, they still managed to keep up the pace. It’s a phenomenal achievement.
With the manner in which they reached the play-offs, is it fair to say their confidence levels will be pretty high heading into the first leg?
Yes, but I think they are pretty high anyway because they’ve been playing some really good football since lockdown. Steve Cooper changed the system and they now play three at the back, though that’s been largely enforced because of injuries, but if you look at the form table since the restart, they’ve got the fifth-best record in the league. They’ve been playing some really good stuff, had some really good results and even in one of the games they lost, against Leeds, they put in a very impressive performance. There have been lots of positives and you can tell the mood in the camp is really good but the win against Reading and what it helped them achieve is only going to lift their confidence levels even more.
Liverpool loanee Rhian Brewster has starred since the restart and has scored six goals in the last nine games. What have you made of his performances?
He’s been nothing short of sensational and is a Premier League player in waiting already. It’s easy to forget he’s in his first season in senior football, with just a handful of first team appearances for Liverpool to his name before he headed out on loan to Swansea. To score 10 goals in 20 matches in your first season in senior football is one hell of an achievement. But it’s not just the goals he scores; his attitude and work-rate has been key because there have been so many games when he’s not had so much in the way of chances in front of goal and yet he’s still made a massive contribution to what they’ve done. He’s been a real breath of fresh air and has well and truly galvanised their play-off hopes since he came in in January.
Who would get your vote for Player of the Season, as things stand?
That would be Andre Ayew. He’s scored 17 in all competitions and has been absolutely outstanding. It’s an incredibly young squad and he brings that vital experience they need. Steve Cooper always talks about his influence on and off the pitch so I think that’s just invaluable. When you score as many goals and provide as many assists as he has, it’s no less than he deserves. Had Brewster been there for the whole season, he’d have been in with a shout and Freddie Woodman has been excellent as well but he’s now injured.
How are Swansea likely to set up at the Liberty Stadium?
I suspect it will be the same team, providing there were no issues from the Reading game, so it will probably be three at the back and a four-man midfield, with Jay Fulton and Matt Grimes in the middle and Jake Bidwell and Conor Roberts as the wing-backs. He could even go with exactly the same 11 from Wednesday night, which was: Mulder, Cabango, van der Hoorn, Guehi, Roberts, Fulton, Grimes, Bidwell, Gallagher, Ayew, Brewster.
What’s your score prediction for Sunday’s game?
I think it’s going to be very tight, so I’ll sit on the fence and say 1-1. As it’s over two legs, I can just see it being very cagey.