Russell Martin's simple yet effective half-time talk pays dividends
No hairdryer treatment. No shouting, no pointing the finger of blame. Just some words that struck the right chord.
Russell Martin is talking to the media about his half-time team talk at Kenilworth Road – a discussion that took place with his Swansea City side trailing 3-0 and, at that stage, looking likely to be heading home with their pride dented.
Asked if he had to let rip on his players for the performance they had put in during a forgettable 45 minutes against Luton Town, Martin smiled and spoke eloquently about what was exchanged inside the changing room.
“There was no blaming or shouting. It was about asking them how they want people to leave this game feeling about them – not as players, but people,” said the Swans boss.
“We’ve all been in situations where we’ve been 3-0 down, whether you’re 15 or 33. The least people expect – those who have travelled – is a bit of fight. It would have been really easy to feel sorry for ourselves with how bad the first half was.
“I told them to fight, stick to what we’ve been doing, and trust in each other and our work.
“If we’d still shown that fight and not scored those goals, then I’d still have had hope.
“Now we must use this as a spark for us to kick on.”
A composed figure in his post-match press conference, Martin had experienced all the emotions during a simply chaotic encounter in Bedfordshire.
An early strike from Luke Berry and a brace from Elijah Adebayo handed the Hatters a deserved 3-0 lead after 24 minutes.
But the Swans looked a different side in the second half, with Martin’s triple change at half-time – sending on Ben Cabango, Olivier Ntcham and Joel Piroe – paying dividends.
Ntcham set up Jamie Paterson to cut the deficit just past the hour mark, before the Frenchman blasted an unstoppable strike into the top corner late on.
Then fellow sub Piroe sent the away fans wild as he collected Ethan Laird’s pass before finding the bottom corner to level matters in stoppage time.
Having failed to find the net in the previous two games, along with the manner of the comeback at Luton, it was a reaction that reaffirmed Martin’s belief in his system and squad.
“The last two games, all we’ve missed is a goal. If we scored one on Wednesday against Millwall - Michael’s Obafemi’s shot goes in - everyone goes away talking about how well the guys played.
“And I said that to the guys; everyone played brilliantly. We’ve just lacked that last little bit.
“But we knew there were goals in the team, and the difference in the second half was they lost all anxiety because they had nothing to lose.
“We need to play with that mentality in the final third. And that’s really difficult to attain because no one wants to be the one to give the ball away, no one wants to make mistakes, but that’s the mentality you need to live at to be at the very top.”