Looking as sharp as he is in front of goal, Joel Piroe beams as he proudly carries the two trophies collected from Swansea City’s annual awards ceremony.
The Dutchman was voted the supporters’ player of the season while he also took the top goal-scorer of the campaign prize having netted 24 times in his 46 appearances for the Swans. After receiving his second award in the Swansea.com Stadium’s plush Sinclair Lounge, a second round of applause erupted from those in the opposite end of the almost segregated suite in what was a real show of gratitude for the man who has time and time again sparked parties in the stands since joining from PSV Eindhoven.
But there was no escaping the fact that even the elephant in the room was blowing its trunk. Kev Johns did an impressive job of keeping the 600 or so attendees in jovial mood throughout, but, after deploying a similar tactic with Flynn Downes, he asked the question all Jacks wanted the answer to.
Read more: Russell Martin confirms Swans duo will leave this summer
With the cameras firmly locked in on his smiling face, Piroe was understandably noncommittal on his Swansea future on the stage. But away from the spotlight, the 22-year-old was probed further on what the future holds amid interest from Leicester City.
“It’s always nice to hear that you are being seen at the higher level, but on the other hand I am just really happy to play loads of games,” he said. “That’s the most important thing right now. I just want to finish the season very well. We will see what happens after that but I am very happy here.”
There will be yet another significant squad turnaround in Swansea this summer, with Russell Martin confirming Ben Hamer and Korey Smith will depart when their contracts expire next month. Others including Ryan Bennett, Yan Dhanda and Steven Benda are also expected to move on.
But it is also likely that the club will be required to sell at least one of their key assets to ensure they remain financially stable in what appears to be an increasingly chaotic and cash-strapped Championship owing to a combination of the Premier League dream being chased along with the crippling impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
When it comes to attracting the largest sum of money, Piroe is the man who fits the bill most within Swansea’s squad at present. And the frontman admits his dream is to play Premier League football, although he believes the Swans have every chance of securing promotion next term.
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“I think it’s a good learning season for the group with a different gaffer and another playing style,” he explained. “I think it’s been a good season overall and I think we can have a real good season next season.
“It should be easier and of course my team-mates, everybody, they know me and they know what to expect. I think we can play for promotion, 100%, direct or through the play-offs. We will see next season.”
It seems unfathomable that things were not all rosy at one stage for Piroe in south Wales. Signed prior to Russell Martin’s arrival at the club, the striker failed to impress the current head coach during the pair’s early interactions. You can read more on that here.
After missing the 2-1 defeat at Blackburn Rovers on the opening day of the campaign, Piroe was handed his chance to impress in the Carabao Cup against Reading. And the rest, as they say, is history.
“It’s exactly how he said it,” said Piroe when asked about his tough discussions with Martin in August. “Our first conversation was that he wanted to see more intensity from me, especially in the training sessions.
“I got the chance to play in the Carabao Cup against Reading and that was my selling point. I did well enough to impress the gaffer. We didn’t know each other before and we spent more time together. Now he knows what he has with me.”
Read more: Swansea City’s 2021/22 award winners in full as Joel Piroe among stars to scoop prizes
Piroe has created a highlights reel of his own this term, and, regardless of where he ends up in the future, it’s one that fans and the forward himself can look back on with immense joy and pride. “It makes me feel very happy,” said the former Netherlands Under-20 international. “I know I had a great season and I am very happy that I got the recognition from the fans as well.
“Of course you set some targets at the start of the season and to fulfil them at the end is wonderful. The numbers, the games I have played, they were all more than I expected so I am very pleased.”
For the short-term at least, Piroe’s aim is to sign off a memorable campaign in style by helping the Swans see off Queens Park Rangers on Saturday. Victory could see Martin’s men end the manager’s debut season at the club in the top half of the table. Piroe has a simple message for the fans, one that is echoed throughout the dressing room.
“I will speak as a group. We’re very happy with how they’ve been backing us up through the whole season and we want to perform one last time with quality for them and with a good win,” he said.
Transfer speculation will be rife for several months, and as far as the Swans are concerned, Piroe is likely to be at the heart of it. The striker has held regular talks with his agent, and while the interest from potential suitors is clearly flattering, the marksman did his best to allay the fears of fans by once again stating how much he is enjoying his time with the Swans.
When asked about talks with his agent, Piroe responded: “Nothing official. Of course you hear a lot but I am very happy to be here.”