The Swans’ difficult season on the pitch has had an impact on those who work with the players behind the scenes, but the club’s performance support staff can take a bow.
Here, the Swans’ performance director Richard Buchanan discusses roles of the staff who put in the hard yards behind the scenes to ensure the players had the platform to produce on the pitch.
There have been some traumatic days on the pitch and there has been turbulence in the dugout.
Yet behind the scenes, Swansea City’s performance support staff have continued to function with a laudable degree of success.
It has not been easy. A season which has seen the Swans employ three different bosses has, inevitably, seen plenty of changes on the training ground.
But despite the turmoil, the Swans have had another strong year in terms of making sure the majority of their players have been fit and available most of the time.
And for that, the numerous members of staff who do not often come under the spotlight can take a bow.
“Everyone – the fitness guys, the doctor, the physios, the soft-tissue therapists, the data scientist, the analysis boys – they all deserve a huge, huge pat on the back,” says Richard Buchanan, the Swans’ performance director.
“They all contribute massively to what we do and when the end-of-season audit on injuries and hours lost to injuries comes out Swansea City are in a favourable position compared to other clubs.
“That’s crucial, particularly when results aren’t going your way. You have to optimise your potential to turn things around and that means making sure players are available.”
Buchanan has been a member of the Swans staff for eight years.
During that time, there have been big steps forward off the field just as the club have progressed on the pitch.
As performance director, Buchanan’s role is to oversee and co-ordinate the work done by the Swans’ various performance support staff to ensure an integrated approach.
“The team behind the team, if you like, is made up of lots of top professionals in their fields, from physios to doctors to fitness and conditioning staff to analysis guys to soft-tissue therapists and data scientists,” Buchanan explains.
“Everyone contributes in their own way to providing fit and healthy players for the coaching staff to work with, which is how we gauge our success.
“Over the last few years, Swansea City have stacked up against all our competitors really favourably in terms of player availability and I think we have done that well again this year.
“If you consider the fact that we have had three different managers with three different training regimes within one season, plus the move to a new training base, the task for the support staff has certainly been challenging this year.
“All managers want different things and they all work in different ways, so all the staff have to adapt and flex to what the manager requires.
“But we pride ourselves on providing best-practice services with the adaptability to give the manager exactly what he wants. I think we have managed that this year.”
The Swans feel they are making strides behind the scenes by ensuring that a high-performance culture is established amongst support staff.
That means information each professional discipline has on each member of the playing squad is openly shared.
Strong communication between the performance support staff is a key aspect of producing strong, healthy players.
Every one of the Swans’ various specialists is an expert in their field.
The idea is that if all those specialists work in unison, Paul Clement will usually have a large pool of players to pick from at the weekend.
“First of all we have to know what the manager wants, then we have to communicate clearly within the support staff to make sure everyone is working towards that,” says Buchanan.
“There is a whole range of things involved in what we do.
“It goes from the sports science guys checking wellness or hydration, to the doctor doing medical screens, to the physios doing their daily physical screens, to injury prevention programmes, to making sure training is of the right intensity so the players are not over-trained or under-trained.
“What we try to do is make sure they are in the physical sweet spot we are looking for.
“The club make a huge commitment to having all these different members of staff with different specialisms on board to give the players every level of intervention they can possibly have.
“I think we compare favourably with every Premier League club.
“Some of the big clubs might have more people doing the things we are talking about, but it’s not about the number of people, it’s about the process of how you use their skills.”
The Swans’ injury record has been amongst the most impressive in the Premier League for a number of years, which is a feather in the cap for all those who work at Fairwood.
The support staff “are always striving to improve”, Buchanan says, yet they are already getting a lot of things right.
“You will never be able to say you have the finished article because things will always have to evolve,” Buchanan adds.
“But some of the feedback we have had from people on the outside who have come in and seen what we do and how we operate – from the high-performance manager at the Football Association, to data analytics people, to medical providers – has been really positive.
“They are all very impressed by what’s going on at Swansea.”