Former Swansea City and Wales captain Ashley Williams says the top brass at the Liberty Stadium need to reveal their hand on boss Steve Cooper’s future at the club.
The Swans are facing a number of big decisions this summer following their play-off final defeat at the hands of Brentford at Wembley, with the club facing several key departures.
The likes of Freddie Woodman, Marc Guehi and Conor Hourihane are all due to return to their parent clubs, while talismanic striker Andre Ayew is set to leave after seeing his contract in Landore expire.
And there are also growing questions over what the future now holds for Cooper too, amid persistent links with Crystal Palace.
Williams has been impressed by the job done by the former England Under-17s boss, but admits the club cannot move forward if the uncertainty over Cooper continues to linger.
“Steve Cooper’s done an excellent job with the players there,” Williams told Gist Vile.
“Going forward, I would like to see Steve Cooper with a new contract, a bit longer. That allows him to build what he wants to build. I think they probably need a few more bodies in.
“Wayne Routledge might leave. Andre Ayew. Marc Guehi at the back. Are they going to be there next season? I’m not sure.
“So if Steve Cooper’s the man they want, let’s get him tied up because I think he’s an excellent young manager and everyone seems to like him. He obviously has a good relationship with the players. I think he’s worked wonders this year.
“Let’s get rid of the conversation ‘Is Steve Cooper going to be around?’
“Let’s settle that and let him go and do his thing. I think if you look at what Brentford have done, next year could be the year for Swansea. I think maybe it was just one game a bit too far for them at Wembley and by their own standards, I don’t think they played as good as they have done this season when they really needed to.
“But they’ve done amazing to get there and I’m excited for next season. I would just like to see a bit more backing for Cooper, really.
“He’s earned that with the job he’s done so far.”
Keeping Cooper is one thing, but Williams, who led the Swans to the Premier League the first time round back in 2011, believes the board need to offer more support to their boss in the upcoming transfer window.
The Swans are understood to be closing in on a move for League One star Kyle Joseph, but are unlikely to splash the cash over the coming months, and may find it difficult to compete with some of their other promotion rivals.
However, Williams insists that Cooper won’t need mega bucks to build something special in SA1.
“He needs money but I think he knows the younger players very well and the younger generation, so he doesn’t need to go out spending eight, nine, £10million on a player,” he said.
“I just want to see the club come out and say ‘Steve Cooper’s our man. Go and build a team and get us promoted’.
“They need a couple of players. Two or three. I like the team but Andre Ayew’s a big player. What’s going to happen with him?
“I like Ben Cabango but he probably needs someone next to him a bit more permanent who’s maybe more of a seasoned player that he can learn off.
“Obviously the midfield’s done well. Grimesey’s (Matt Grimes) been flying all season, but do we need something else in midfield? Yes, probably in the centre, and I think that’s it.
“One of the only criticisms I’ve got is we didn’t really ever have much, even at Wembley, to change the game. Even off the bench. So we probably need three starters and some different type of players off the bench if things aren’t working.
“I’m sure Cooper would want that also.”
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Williams himself is set take on punditry duties as part of the BBC’s Euro 2020 coverage this summer, and is clearly excited to see how Rob Page’s men get on, particularly after a spirited showing against world champions France on Wednesday night.
Having been a part of the side that enjoyed a magical run to the semi-finals during the last European Championships, hopes will be high among members of the Red Wall that Wales can make a similar impact this time around.
However, Williams believes it’s important not to start drawing too many comparisons between this side and the class of 2016.
“It’s going to be tough as it always is when you get to a major tournament,” he added.
“I don’t know if it’s really fair to compare with 2016, although I know that’s only natural. It’s two different squads. We were together for a very long period of time, we knew each other’s game very well and we knew at least our starting 10.
“Now, there are a lot of decisions to be made. There’s probably a bigger crop of players who are pushing for a starting XI [place] and so it’s more difficult to pick who starts in what game. The average age is a lot younger and they haven’t been together as long as we had.
“The thing I don’t want to do is say that this team has to get to the semis and that if they don’t get there it was a failure.
“They’ve done unbelievably to get there as it is. I’d personally like to see them get out of the group. That would be a massive bonus because it’s such a tough group.
“Then knockout football is what it is, and Wales, the way they’ve played the last two games, they’ve shown they can hang with anyone and dig results out.”
Nurturing the next generation of Welsh talent is seemingly a key part of Williams’ future beyond this summer, with the former centre-back recently being involved in the Wales Under-17s set-up, with a notable high point being a 3-2 win over England.
And he’s also continuing his role as an ambassador for McDonald’s Fun Football, an initiative he says has become all the more important in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve been down to a few of the sessions before and they’re great. I’ve got kids myself and it’s different to when I grew up,” he added.
“These days you want to put your child in a safe environment and we all know how important that is at the minute, with the distractions of iPads, consoles etc.
“Kids have particularly struggled for the last 12 months. They can’t go and do normal kids things. There are a lot players that we’re now seeing who have come through this initiative and it’s one I feel proud to be involved with.”
Ashley Williams is calling on families to sign up for McDonald’s free Fun Football sessions, which will get thousands of children playing football this summer. To find a local session go to: mcdonalds.co.uk/football