Belfast Telegraph

Paul Clement says reality beats 'fantasy football' in Swansea survival mission

Paul Clement has given up playing "fantasy football" as he attempts to steer Swansea to Premier League safety.

Swansea face relegation rivals Middlesbrough on Sunday with only goal difference separating the Welsh hosts from the drop zone following Hull's 2-1 victory over West Ham.

It is an opportunity for Swansea to put further distance between themselves and Middlesbrough, who are currently five points worse off with a game in hand and the lowest scorers in the Premier League.

Swansea start as big favourites having won their last three home games, but manager Clement gave up predicting results when he was Carlo Ancelotti's assistant at some of the biggest clubs in Europe.

"I've done a list on where the teams are and who has got who in the run-in," head coach Clement said of the relegation battle.

"But I don't predict the results because it never works out anything like that in reality.

"In the past, with Carlo, we've had our fixtures out and we'll say, 'We're going to get three there, three there, a point there, there's three'.

"But afterwards it doesn't look anything like what we've predicted.

"That is fantasy football. It's not real, so I don't do it.

"I don't say there is a definite three points, or one point, or none. It's a waste of time."

Middlesbrough have not won in the league since beating Swansea 3-0 at their Riverside home on December 17.

Both clubs have changed managers since then, with Clement replacing Bob Bradley at the start of January and Steve Agnew succeeding Aitor Karanka last month.

This will be Agnew's second game in interim charge and Clement says he was not surprised that Boro chose to change their manager so late in the season.

"They had come off the back end of some bad results and it's the last throw of the dice for them," Clement said.

"They were thinking, 'C an they get that bounce back by bringing in someone new?'. And they thought that was a risk worth taking.

"When we played Leicester (Swansea won 2-0) it was Claudio Ranieri's last Premier League game.

"Maybe, if we had caught them in Craig Shakespeare's first game, you might have said it was a different situation.

"You could look at it and think, 'Oh we got fortunate with the timing of the Leicester situation - it worked for us there'.

"But you can't get too tied up with things that goes on outside your team."

Swansea's American owners Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien are in south Wales over the next few days.

The businessmen will attend the home games against Middlesbrough and Tottenham on Wednesday and meet with Clement to discuss future plans.

"We're aware what happens when a club goes from the top tier to one level down," Clement said.

"The budget implications are massive and we have players who will want to continue to play at the top level - whether that be here or in another country.

"I would be naive to think there aren't players speaking to the families and agents about what happens if we go down.

"We have to be open to that - it happens all the time - but we are focused on staying in this league."


From Belfast Telegraph