After two seasons with the club, Steve Cooper has officially left Swansea City by mutual consent. This comes after weeks of speculation linking him with moves away from South Wales. Cooper was a target for Crystal Palace and Fulham, but neither club were willing to cough up the £3 million compensation fee required to prise him away.
Cooper was said to be frustrated with the lack of financial backing. ‘The Swans’ have sold a significant number of first-team players since their relegation in 2018, with more exits likely before the transfer window closes. Andre Ayew has already left the club, while captain Matt Grimes has also been heavily linked with a move.
With Cooper gone, the Swans’ board will need to find a replacement soon, with the Championship season kicking off on Saturday 7th August. According to reports, they were extremely close to doing just that. QPR’s assistant manager John Eustace was the clear favorite, and seemingly guaranteed to become the next Swansea boss. The 41-year-old has held his current role since 2018, and has worked under several managers since his arrival in West London. However, due to undisclosed personal reasons, Eustace reluctantly rejected the offer.
His career so far
Prior to his management roles, John Eustace played almost twenty years as a midfielder for various British clubs. He began his career at Coventry City in 1996. Two years later, aged 19, Eustace joined Dundee United on loan. He made 11 top-flight league appearances for the Scottish side, scoring once. He was named Young Player of the Year by Dundee United’s fans.
Upon his return to parent club Coventry, Eustace made his senior Coventry debut, appearing in 16 Premier League games in the 1999-00 season, scoring his first goal for the club in a 4-0 win over Bradford City in March 2000. He became a regular starter in the following season, making 31 appearances and scoring twice, but they were relegated out of the Premier League.
Eustace was named captain shortly before the 2001-02 campaign kicked off, but was sidelined for seven months with a knee injury early on. He returned in April 2002 as the club finished 11th in the second tier.
After starting the 2002-03 season strong, Eustace joined Premier League Middlesbrough on loan in January, but made just one substitute appearance before returning to Coventry a month later. In total, he made 32 appearances for the Sky Blues, in what would prove to be his final season with the club. He left to join fellow second-tier side Stoke City ahead of the 2003-04 season.
He enjoyed a positive start to life in Stoke, scoring five goals in his first season. However, persistent injury problems restricted him to a limited number of appearances. He played just seven times in 2004-05 before picking up another knee injury which saw him miss the remainder of the campaign and the entirety of the 2005-06 season.
Eustace joined League Two side Hereford Town in October 2006 to gain regular first team football to aid his recovery. There, he quickly became a key member of the team, but was recalled by his parent club Stoke after their midfield was ravaged by injury. He made eight league appearances for Hereford, and a further 15 for Tony Pulis’ Stoke side, who finished 8th in the Championship.
He remained with the club until January 2008, when he joined fellow Championship club Watford for a fee of £250,000. The Hornets were playing their first season back in the league, after finishing 20th in the Premier League in the previous season. A little over a year later, he joined relegated Derby County on loan, with the Rams struggling with injuries in their return to the Championship.
Upon returning from his loan spell, Eustace became a regular starter for Watford, making 42 league appearances in the 2009-10 campaign, scoring four times. Over the following two seasons, he played 80 times in the league, scoring 10 goals. He was named captain by Malky Mackay in 2010, and even scored Watford’s goal of the season, an overhead kick against his former club Coventry.
He left the club as a free agent in June 2013 after refusing a player/coach deal, indicating he wanted to remain a full-time player for a few more seasons. He returned to Derby County on a permanent deal soon after. There, he made 35 appearances in his first season back with the club. However, after sustaining yet another serious knee injury, Eustace chose to retire in June 2015.
Following his retirement, Eustace turned his attention to coaching. Less than a year later, he became the manager of Kidderminster Harriers in the National League. While at the club, he transformed their style of play, with some even dubbing them the “non-league Barcelona”, something that was no doubt music to the ears of Swansea fans hoping to see a return of “the Swansea Way” following Cooper’s exit.
Eustace led Kidderminster to the play-offs in his first two seasons, but left to join QPR in May 2018, becoming Steve McClaren’s assistant manager. 11 months later, McClaren was sacked, with Eustace taking over as caretaker manager until the end of the season. In his seven games in charge, the side won twice, including a 4-0 hammering of Swansea City. They picked up seven points, which proved to be enough to save the West London club from relegation.
He resumed his original role as assistant manager at the end of that season, when Mark Warburton was appointed as manager. Warburton had attempted to sign Eustace while in charge of Rangers four years prior. Since his appointment, Eustace has worked towards obtaining his UEFA Pro License, as he looks to further his career.
The Swansea Way
While Steve Cooper achieved good results in his two years with Swansea, his style of play was a far cry from the patient passing football known as ‘the Swansea Way’, which dates back to Roberto Martinez’s time in charge. The Spaniard revolutionised the style of play, which saw great success for the Welsh club.
This way of playing was continued and adapted by the likes of Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup, but fizzled out under Garry Monk. While the club were synonymous with playing attractive football, they lost their identity in their final few seasons in the Premier League as they struggled and ultimately failed to avoid relegation in 2018.
There was a brief return to that style when Graham Potter was appointed in 2018, but he left the club after one season to join Brighton in the Premier League. The first few months under Steve Cooper looked promising in that regard, but Cooper too changed the style to maximise results under a strict budget.
When Eustace was supposedly close to joining the club, there were hopes of a return to the passing football which made Swansea City famous.
What is next for Swansea City?
Now that their pursuit of Eustace is over, the club must act swiftly to appoint a new manager before the Championship season kicks off next weekend. At the time of writing, there are two frontrunners for the job.
The first is Jody Morris. The 42-year-old is currently out of a job, and was most recently Frank Lampard’s assistant manager at Chelsea. He began his playing career with boyhood club Chelsea, playing for the first team from 1996 to 2003. He then went on to play for Leeds United, Rotherham United, Millwall, St Johnstone and Bristol City, before retiring in 2013.
A year after retiring, he returned to Chelsea as a youth coach, before becoming the Under-18s manager in 2016. He held the post for two years, winning the treble in his first season and the quadruple in his second, receiving great plaudits for his side’s exciting brand of football.
He left in May 2018 to become Lampard’s assistant at Derby County. A year later, the two reached the play-off final, but were beaten by Aston Villa at Wembley. Less than a month after reaching the final, Lampard was appointed as Chelsea manager, with Morris as his assistant. They remained in West London for 18 months, before Lampard was sacked in January 2021.
The other manager who has been heavily linked with the vacant role is Russell Martin. The 35-year-old former Scotland international has held the Milton Keynes Dons post since November 2019, the same club he had joined as a player-coach a little over a year prior.
Martin spent most of his playing career with Norwich City, and played a key role in the side that secured back-to-back promotions from League One to the Premier League in 2010 and 2011. In 2013, Martin was named club captain, and made 45 appearances in 2014-15 as Norwich were promoted back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
When he left Norwich in 2019, he had made 284 league appearances for the club, scoring eighteen goals as a defender. He also enjoyed spells with Wycombe Wanderers, Peterborough United, Rangers and Walsall, before finishing off his playing career by helping MK Dons achieve promotion to League One in 2019.
Since becoming a manager, Martin has received praise for his possession-based style of play, something which would make him an ideal replacement for Steve Cooper at Swansea City.
While both men have enjoyed different careers, both provide plenty of reasons for Swansea City fans to be optimistic about the future, with the prospect of a return to an attractive style of football.