Football: Molby laments the lost Swans

Grahame Lloyd looks at the plight of a side who cannot seem to settle on a manager
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Nearly a year ago, Jan Molby was sitting in the dug-out at Cardiff City's Ninian Park masterminding Swansea City's 3-1 win over their arch rivals. This afternoon, the former Liverpool and Denmark international will be relaxing in his armchair at home on Merseyside watching the Welsh derby on television.

Last season's victory helped propel the Swans into the play-offs after a disastrous start had seen them lose four of their first five League games. The then club chairman, Doug Sharpe, kept his nerve and Swansea eventually ended up losing to Northampton at Wembley through a disputed twice-taken injury-time free-kick.

As history repeated itself, seven defeats in Swansea's first 10 League matches this season again put the Dane under pressure. Sharpe's successor, Steve Hamer, failed to share his faith and sacked Molby and his assistant Billy Ayre.

A fortnight later, Swansea were looking for their seventh manager in two years when Micky Adams resigned. His assistant, Alan Cork, immediately stepped into the breach by accepting promotion and a two-and-a-half year contract.

"I've had enquiries from five clubs, ranging from the Premiership to the Third Division," said Molby yesterday. "But I can't do anything until Swansea release my player registration. That won't happen until my contract is settled and negotiations are still taking place."

It is believed Molby is owed more than pounds 100,000 under his contract which runs until the end of June. Meanwhile, as he puts the finishing touches to his autobiography, the club are paying his pounds 12,000 monthly wage.

A month after Molby's sacking, the local Swansea paper, the South Wales Evening Post, the club's sponsor, has called for an end to letters to the editor on the managerial merry-go-round at the Vetch Field. Whole pages have been devoted to the debate with most readers supporting Molby and many questioning the motives of the club's new owners, Silver Shield, a Coventry-based car windscreen replacement company.

On the field, the rot has finally been stopped. Swansea's decline continued with three successive defeats under Adams before Cork guided the inexperienced cygnets to their first away win at the bottom club Doncaster 10 days ago.

The former Fulham manager apparently walked out when Silver Shield failed to honour a promise to provide money for team strengthening. Molby also complained of boardroom interference and lack of respect for his judgement of players. A six-figure pay-off from Mohamed Al Fayed undoubtedly made it easier for Adams to leave and he now maintains a silence on the reason behind his resignation.

"We felt that Jan had lost the support of the dressing-room," said Hamer. "We will only know at the end of the season, but we feel we were correct. It's not nice to see any club being mocked as a laughing stock, whether it's us or Doncaster, whose manager Dave Cowling lasted only 10 days. With a little more faith and confidence, we wouldn't have been dumped so unceremoniously by Micky. He was fully aware of our rebuilding plans - I can assure you there were no broken promises on our side."

Both Swansea and Cardiff, are finding it difficult to justify their billing as pre-season promotion favourites. Today's match may lack the prestige of a Merseyside derby, but it will be no less intense. Away supporters are being allowed to attend for the first time since the corresponding fixture in 1993 produced a mini-riot. Seven coach-loads of Swansea supporters will be shepherded into the open Grange End at Ninian Park and supervised by a hundred stewards.

"I'm really looking forward to my first Welsh derby," said Cork. "Everyone tells me they've been a bit nasty in the past but the police seem to have got everything well-organised this year. The fans keep saying 'whatever you do, beat Cardiff and that's your season done'. But it's not like that - I was more worried about beating Doncaster."