Lee Trundle despairs at Swansea's plight as they miss out on a play-off spot
By David Dulin
While supporters will be naturally disappointed that Swansea City fell at the final hurdle in their Championship play-off quest, it would be wrong to write off the season as a failure.
Yes they squandered a play-off position on the penultimate weekend after a run-in of three wins from 13, having been in the top six since December and been 10 points ahead of the chasing pack at one point.
And yes, they would have climbed back in to the top six on Sunday had they beaten Doncaster Rovers on the final day of the season after rivals Blackpool were held at home by Bristol City.
But despite all of this, the Swans achieved their highest league finish for 27 years - seventh - set a new club record for clean sheets with 24, and enjoyed more time in the top six than last season, which was no more than 48 hours.
And when you turn the clock back to last summer, most supporters would have grasped this season's fortunes with both hands.
Much doom and gloom surrounded the Liberty Stadium following manager Roberto Martinez's exit to Wigan Athletic in June last year.
The Spaniard was considered a hero after leading the Swans to the League One title in his first full season as a manager and then to the brink of the Championship play-offs at the first time of asking.
Sousa fumes at '£60m' calls
But when he left, Martinez took his key coaching staff, medical staff, scouting set-up and top scorer Jason Scotland with him to the DW Stadium.
He also snapped up second-top scorer Jordi Gomez, who had spent a successful season on loan at the Swans from Espanyol.
So when Paulo Sousa was appointed as his successor, he immediately had to replace the backroom team as well as filling the large void left by Martinez.
Sousa, a two-times Champions League winner as a player, predicted a top-10 finish on his arrival, while many pundits were suggesting the Swans would be facing a long, hard season above the drop-zone.
Initially, the latter appeared to be right after Sousa made a slow start to life in the managerial hot-seat both on the pitch and off it with rumours filtering out that there was unrest in the camp.
But the team's fortunes soon changed after embarking on an 11-match unbeaten run which helped them reach the top six going into the Christmas period.
That was where they were to stay until the penultimate game of the season before agonisingly missing out altogether on Sunday.
One of the main factors of the success this season was Sousa tightening up the defence which went on to set that club record number of clean sheets.
But it was his failure to find a striker who could put the ball in the net on a regular basis which ultimately cost them dear.
Despite their seventh-place finish Swansea were the Championship's lowest scorers with a meagre 40 goals. Midfielder Darren Pratley was top scorer with just seven.
Skipper Garry Monk holds back the tears after being held by Doncaster
Some would argue the lack of goals - they failed to score in 18 games - was down to not having a clinical striker and others would say it was down to playing one up front.
But the decision to allow lively striker Stephen Dobbie to go on loan to Blackpool at the end of January is perhaps the most baffling.
Blackpool were in the play-off mix at the time along with Swansea, and Dobbie was deemed surplus to requirements despite not being given a fair crack of the whip since joining from Queen of the South.
And he has since gone on to score goals that helped the Seasiders reach the play-offs at Swansea's expense.
That is by-the-by now as you cannot turn back the clock and the chance of promotion to the Premier League has gone at least for another year, perhaps longer.
But what is more concerning is that despite turning around a sluggish start, the rumours of an unhappy camp have never seemed to go away.
And it will be interesting to see what happens over the summer.
The future of Sousa will be the one to look out for.
He has already been linked with other jobs including Burnley and Hull City - the latter being a more likely destination.
And speculation over his future has not been helped by his outburst over the club's failure to bring in players during March when the Swans went on a seven-match winless run.
Sousa is due to meet Swansea City's board this week to discuss plans for next season, which he says is more about player budgets rather than his own future.
Tongues have already started wagging, however, over possible successors should Sousa go and the presence of Gus Poyet - the man widely believed to have been pipped to the post for the Swans job last summer - at the Doncaster game will only add to the speculation.
But the Uruguayan, who is now in charge at League One side Brighton and Hove Albion, insisted his visit to the Liberty Stadium was to look at players who may be released by Swansea and Doncaster and nothing else.
Another name being mentioned is Ian Holloway should Blackpool - who sneaked into the play-offs at Swansea's expense - fail to win promotion.
Holloway openly admits he has adopted Swansea City's brand of attractive football and masterminded the 5-1 thrashing of the Swans in March.
Whether Sousa stays or goes, the club could see departures of key members of the squad which was largely held together last summer.
Midfielder Leon Britton is the one deemed most likely to depart as he is is out of contract and could end his seven-year stay to fulfil his ambition of playing in the Premier League.
Wigan would appear to be the expected destination where he would team up again with former boss Martinez. It is understood Britton was on his way there in January until the deal collapsed at the last minute.
Then there is influential midfielder Pratley - a target for Nottingham Forest, defender Angel Rangel who was interesting Fulham and fellow defender Ashley Williams, who has been widely tipped for a Premier League move.
Youngster Joe Allen is another who could be targeted in the summer, but what Swansea do have in their favour is a chairman in Huw Jenkins who will not be walked over.
He has demonstrated in the past, most notably with £5m-rated star midfielder Ferrie Bodde, that if a player is under contract, the club does not have to sell and can, and will, turn down bids for players.
One thing is for sure is that life at Swansea City is never dull and it could be a busy summer ahead at the Liberty Stadium.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.