Championship: Swansea City 2-1 Millwall

Even by Swansea City’s turbulent standards, yesterday was eventful.

So much so, that a win over Millwall to cement an unbeaten start to the Championship season wasn’t even the story.

It should have been, for multiple reasons. For the fourth successive game, Steve Cooper opted to start without a recognised striker - and yet team selection was subsequently justified by two unusual goals from unlikely sources.

A side thus far perceived this season as defensively sound yet lacking a cutting edge, were still defensively sound, and glossed over the latter notion with Jake Bidwell’s first strike for the club, and Ben Cabango’s second.

Bidwell’s goal, after 44 games in a Swansea shirt without one, was more acute than it appeared. After a first half where the home side were on top and yet clear openings were scarce - moments into the second the left back did well to wrap his leg around Millwall’s Mahlon Romeo and steer a Morgan Gibbs-White cross home.

The lead only lasted five minutes as Tom Bradshaw fired a less than unstoppable angled shot past keeper Steven Benda, the keeper’s only blemish in an otherwise promising debut after coming in for the unwell Freddie Woodman.

Cabango came up trumps midway through the half though after Jamal Lowe’s volleyed effort prompted a scramble, Bidwell’s back heel was blocked, and the chaos culminated with the centre half hammering home the loose ball at the second time of asking.

Cooper’s casual bombshell:

The post-match press conference shouldn’t have been short on talking points anyway. During the 90 minutes there had been a clash between the again excellent Andrew Ayew and Millwall’s Jake Cooper.

Whatever went on, with Cooper later claiming the winger had been caught with an elbow, was missed by officials and the volume of Ayew’s reaction would have been heard in Langland Bay. It’s fair to say the Swansea boss and opposite number Gary Rowett disagreed somewhat with their incident perceptions.

But it was Cooper’s admission that winger Kristoffer Peterson was due to be in his squad before being informed otherwise by new chief executive Julian Winter that hit the headlines.

Yesterday morning, news emerged that the Swedish international is set to join Fortuna Dusseldorf for around £400,000.

"I had a message off Julian this morning to ask for him not to be involved. He was in the squad and would probably have been on the bench, and that's as much as I know about it to be honest.”

Later that evening Twitter, in its own imprudently fictitious way, was rife with rumours of Cooper quitting. It was utter baloney, the story seemingly started by a fake (and later removed) account, but the willingness with which he put the Peterson saga out into the open underlined a growing frustration.

Swansea fourth amidst a familiar theme:

It’s now the club’s third season back in the Championship since Premier League relegation, and despite going into the international break fourth in the table with 10 points from 12, a familiar theme resonates.

Results on the field, are masking an ungainly mess off it.

The tenure of Trevor Birch brought much needed stability, but it proved short term. His departure to Tottenham paved the way for Winter, and developments yesterday reflected a deal being done without the interests of Cooper or the team considered.

Indeed, the manager also adding “Some clubs work differently to others” when asked why he had no knowledge of the transfer was as damming as it was provocative.

His squad is thus far performing, but remains threadbare. There was a brief cameo from new loan signing Viktor Gyokeres yesterday, and enough to suggest he will add a physical edge up front. There has been an apparent reluctance from the manager to start with his other available out and out striker, youngster Liam Cullen, something he insisted will soon change.

“He will get an opportunity this season I guarantee. We are going to use everybody. We have high hopes for him and he has our backing.”

Cooper’s work at Swansea has not been universally appreciated since taking over in the summer of 2019, with some fans citing bewildering tactics as a means to criticise.

Regardless, he continues to over-achieve with his squad in spite of a crumbling structure, and in Jason Levein and Steven Kaplan two flawed club owners, behind him.

Without unlikely reinforcements, defying the structure long enough to sustain a tilt at promotion will be nigh on impossible.

Swansea City: Steven Benda, Connor Roberts, Ben Cabango, Joe Rodon, Marc Guehi, Jake Bidwell, Korey Smith, Matt Grimes, Morgan Gibbs-White (Jay Fulton 80), Andrew Ayew, Jamal Lowe (Viktor Gyokore 75).