‘It’s just a dream’ – The true lure of Swansea City and the torment of facing a Russell Martin side

“First of all, it’s a massive club. Speaking to the gaffer and the way he wants to play, it’s just a dream.”

As endorsements go, they don’t get more glowing than that.

And it’s clear to see why Flynn Downes felt Swansea City were the perfect fit for the latest chapter of his exciting career.

The central midfielder impressed on his debut in a 0-0 draw against Sheffield United on Saturday night having completed a permanent move to south Wales from Ipswich Town four days earlier.

It was the Swans’ first point under the new regime, and they achieved it without players such as Korey Smith, Connor Roberts, Liam Walsh, Jay Fulton, Kyle Naughton and Ryan Bennett.

“Basically, we were playing a Premier League team who haven’t lost many players since last season,” said Downes.

“But I thought we dominated and had the better chances.

“We were just missing the final little bit. When that comes together, it will be just fine.”

READ MORE: Russell Martin’s transfer talks with owners as Swansea City boss reveals what to expect from Man Utd’s Ethan Laird

It’s that hope that has been filtered throughout the club since Martin was named as Steve Cooper’s successor on the opening day of August.

The pull of a club which spent seven consecutive seasons in the Premier League was evident to Downes.

And his own situation reflects that of the club at present. Plenty of promise, but still a work in progress.

“Playing out there tonight was the most enjoyable game I’ve ever played in. So, I’m looking forward to being here,” he said.

“Before Thursday, I hadn’t moved for about a week. It’s been quite hectic, but that’s football and when you’re called upon you’ve got to be ready.

“I didn’t feel 100 per cent tonight [against Sheffield United], but I’ll get there.”

Swansea have dominated possession in their three games under Martin to date, although the key now is to turn that control into victories.

“You get a lot of the ball and as a player that’s what you want,” explained Downes.

“You want the ball and to be able to do things. When you haven’t got the ball, you’re sprinting about, you’re blowing, it’s horrible.

“We are not just keeping the ball for the sake of it. We are keeping the ball to move the opponent.

“At Ipswich, sometimes we used to move the ball but it was so slow, so there was no purpose in it. This has got purpose and it’s a pleasure.”

Downes knows only too well how tough a task it is to chase a Russell Martin side around the pitch for 90 minutes.

The 22-year-old came up against MK Dons twice last term – with both games ending in a draw.

But they were not enjoyable experiences. Far from it.

“It was the worst,” said Downes.

“MK Dons, the boys used to say, “Oh no, we’ve got to go to Camp Nou today! We’re playing Barcelona!

“That is literally the reputation he’s got. It’s horrible to play against – just horrible. You literally can’t stop it. It’s crazy.”

Downes’ exit from Ipswich was far from smooth. In fact, his departure came after he had earlier handed in a transfer request.

The Englishman was made to train with the Tractor Boys’ Under-23s at one stage, although that tough experience has made him appreciate his opportunity to shine with the Swans.

When asked what happened at Portman Road, Downes responded: “Honestly, I wish I could tell you.

“I literally found out a few days before I went back, from Kieron Dyer who said I was going to be with the U23s.

“I was like, ‘Oh, okay. That says a lot’.

“I spoke to the gaffer at Ipswich last year and we came to an agreement that I wanted to leave. I think that had a part to play in it. That’s fair enough.

“It is what it is. I wish I’d had a better pre-season but there you are.

“I’m buzzing to be here. Being with the U23s has made me appreciate this even more. I can’t wait to get going.”

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Downes now faces the tough task of nailing down a regular spot in a Swansea midfield which includes the likes of Smith, Walsh and Jay Fulton.

He made his Swansea debut alongside captain Matt Grimes who is the subject of interest of clubs including Fulham and Watford.

Both men shone in the centre of the park in the goalless draw with the Blades on Saturday.

And while Grimes’ situation remains unclear, Downes could not hide his delight at being afforded the opportunity to play alongside such a talented player.

“I don’t know what’s going on there. But he’s some player,” admitted Downes.

“I can learn a lot from him and the way he plays. He keeps it simple and I can definitely learn a lot from him.

“He’s a pleasure to play with and when you play with people like that it makes the game so much easier.

“There is a lot of competition here but I think that’s healthy. In a big squad, you need competition so that everyone is on their A-game.

“I will relish that. I like a challenge. It will be good when all the players are fit and back.”


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