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FEATURE: On Swansea’s demotion; sink Andre, save Jordan

Abedi Ayew never raised his boys for mediocrity. Sons of one so accomplished as a footballer, wallowing in inferiority surely wasn’t among the plans they’d had thought out for their future; oh, they were built for better!

Abedi gave them the best football education a dad — in this case, Ghana’s finest player of all-time — could ever hand down to his kids. And at French giants Olympique Marseille, the club where Abedi made a name for himself, he ensured the boys received special attention and quality grooming to set them on course to reach the highest level.

The boys, Andre and Jordan, didn’t disappoint. For Marseille, they starred, before both finding themselves in the exciting English Premier League in summer of 2015. There, they split (actually a separation occurred even before they left France when Jordan moved from Les Phoceens to Lorient a season prior), but three years later, they share a dressing room again, this time at Swansea City.

That dressing room isn’t the most pleasant right now, though, following Swansea’s relegation on Sunday at the end of the 2017/18 Premier League season. That pill is bitter enough, but it’s rendered even harder to swallow by the fact that rivals Cardiff City — with whom they contest the fierce South Wales Derby — will take their place as the top-flight’s only Welsh outfit.

Swansea can only blame themselves for their predicament. Bluntness at one end of the pitch and startling generosity at the other, generally negative football, and one bad day too many have left them in such a sorry state — the inevitable product of a cocktail so terrible even two managers couldn’t make any less toxic during the just-ended campaign.

Carlos Carvalhal, the second of those, appeared to have succeeded at first, grinding out results admirably early in his reign, but a failure to win any of his last nine games quickly sunk Swansea back into the vortex that eventually swallowed them whole. The Portuguese himself may well depart, with his contract only of a short-term nature subject to a renewal he hasn’t exactly earned, but so could some of Swansea’s key players who remain of Premier League quality.

Chief among those is Jordan, Swansea’s Players’ Player of the year. In a season when Swansea scored less than any other club in the division, Jordan got a fourth of their 28 league goals, often proving the difference between a good/bad result and worse. Valuing Jordan solely in terms of his goal scoring contributions, though, only paints an incomplete picture: his overall play, linking up well with colleagues who rarely matched his relatively lofty standards, also raised him notches above the depressing mediocrity that loomed around him and which eventually sunk the Swans. Eighty-two tackles — the most by any forward in the league — is a testament to Jordan’s keen awareness of his defensive responsibilities, highlighting just how much he exerted himself in the fruitless bid to keep his team up.

Swansea’s top-scorer and best player in so many games this term, the 26-year-old wouldn’t lack suitors and may well find a quick path out of the Championship in very much the same fashion he did earlier this season when Swansea ‘rescued’ him from similar misery after he’d dropped a tier with Aston Villa at the end of 2016/17. Even if he wouldn’t get to provide evidence of his superior quality and make a stronger case for an escape from the Liberty Stadium at the upcoming Fifa World Cup (his national side, Ghana, didn’t qualify for the event), he’s already done enough to prove that he is no Championship material. To Swansea, he has paid his dues several times over.

Ironically, it was during a recent three-game stretch in the most intense leg of Swansea’s fight for survival — with Jordan absent due to a ban — that the Ghanaian’s worth was felt strongest, as has been Carvalhal’s own admission. The former Besiktas and Sporting Lisbon trainer has described Jordan as “one of the Premier League’s best attackers”, and while that may be slightly generous praise, in the context of his team’s ultimately futile quest to hold on to their top-flight status, Carvalhal would have traded Jordan for no-one.

No — not even for his older sibling and Swansea’s record signing, Andre. At 28 and off his prime, he isn’t the ablest footballer anymore, and Swansea splashing a whopping £18 million in the winter on reclaiming him from a forgettable spell at West Ham United in the hopes that he could lead the charge to save them from relegation in the manner he did back in 2015/16 could, at best, be described as a deadline day act of desperation.

That he failed to inspire such a revival is hardly complimentary and his status as Swansea’s most expensive player surely entitles him to a greater serving of the blame than most. Andre, unlike Jordan, may not have many more high-profile moves to look forward to in what remains of his career, and the one that brought him back to Swansea might just be his last.

It doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere anytime soon, anyway, having just re-settled on the Welsh coast that was his first home on the British Isles after arriving from France. The least fans of Swansea would expect is that Andre puts his huge price tag to use in lifting their club from the misery of lower-league football if he couldn’t keep them from getting there in the first place. It’s nothing less than he owes them.

Whatever the immediate future holds for the Ayew boys, though, you can be sure they aren’t pleased with what now is their lot, especially at a time their seemingly frozen international careers require thawing. Not that either player is new to the experience of competing at such depths: Andre spent time in France’s Ligue 2 at Arles-Avignon when on loan from Marseille, while the younger Ayew acquired his own experience during the brief stint with Villa in the Championship mentioned earlier.

Still, if any deserves to be spared this bitter cup of demotion and all the uncertainty that comes with it, it’s brilliant Jordan; sub-par Andre can sink for all we care.

 

 

Thetoughtackle

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