Saturday 24 March 2018

Clement hails amazing fans as Swansea's players pay for tickets

Swansea City manager Paul Clement. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire
Swansea City manager Paul Clement. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

Jim White

With five minutes to go and Swansea clinging to a lead which would take them clear of the relegation zone for the first time in a month, the Liberty Stadium rocked to a chorus of Hymns and Arias.

It was louder and more passionate than the one which soundtracked the last Welsh Six Nations triumph.

In his technical area, head coach Paul Clement enthusiastically applauded the massed choir.

"They were amazing at the end. When the players are tired and the tank's running on empty, just to get that lift was a big, big help," said the Swansea head coach. "I've been with Real Madrid with 85,000 there and it was never as loud as that."

And, as Clement's players staggered over the line at the final whistle, holding on to the advantage given by Fernando Llorente's close-range header in the 28th minute, it unleashed unfettered celebrations.


Swansea City's Spanish striker Fernando Llorente celebrates after scoring the opening goal. Photo: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images
Swansea City's Spanish striker Fernando Llorente celebrates after scoring the opening goal. Photo: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images

In the directors' box, chairman Huw Jenkins seized a fellow board member in a triumphant headlock.

Coupled with Sunderland's unexpected win at Hull, Swansea's destiny is in their own hands: win their two remaining games and there is nothing anyone can do to prevent the club starting a seventh successive Premier League campaign in August.

The first of those fixtures is next Saturday against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

"I'm really glad they won - for two reasons," said Clement of his next opponents. "It meant with our win that we've gone out the relegation zone, but it also shows they're not to be underestimated.

"Our players need to understand they (Sunderland) have a different objective now they have been relegated, slightly more freedom in their mind to play and enjoy their football and give their fans a show. We have to expect a really, really tough game."

Swansea's form this season suggests Clement is right to be cautious. Not the form shown in their last three games - against Stoke, Manchester United and Everton. But the stuttering, goal-shy form in the fixtures before those.

"Against Hull, Bournemouth, West Ham, Watford - games you think here's a real chance - we didn't take it," said Clement. "Then games against arguably stronger opposition we've done well. Strange."

But the coach is confident that, buoyed by a return to the winning ways that characterised the initial games when he took over the club in January, Swansea have it within them not be derailed next Saturday. "If it was easy to explain it would be easy to find the remedy," he said when asked why results tailed off so dramatically.

"There's a lot of variables, injuries, referee's decisions, very complex. I'm just glad to say over the last few weeks we've put together some performances."

Swansea will not lack for enthusiastic support at the Stadium of Light. The players have clubbed together the £60,000 required to pay for match tickets so 3,000 Swansea fans can attend the game.

"We want to have our support there because we need it at Sunderland," explained Llorente, glowing after his 13th league goal of the season. "I think the captain Leon (Britton) is preparing the details."

It was Britton who came up with the idea of the subsidised trip, to demonstrate the connection between players and fans, a connection which was evident every time he was involved against Everton.

A chant of "Leon, Leon" sounded out whenever the captain made one of his bruising midfield interventions. © Daily Telegraph, London

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