Season in review 2020-21 | Swansea City Under-23s
The 2020-21 season proved to be yet another productive one for Swansea City’s under-23s squad.
Following the club’s decision to downgrade to a category two academy last summer, the under-23s played in the Professional Development League for the first time since 2015-16.
For the first half of the season, the development side’s fortunes were overseen by Jon Grey, who returned to his primary role as academy head of coaching at the start of March.
Former Swans midfielder Kris O’Leary returned to the club to take over the reins for the final stretch of the campaign, with under-18s coach Anthony Wright stepping up to assist him.
The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic meant that training bubbles observed strict protocols at Fairwood and Landore.
Although this would regularly affect team selection and results, it resulted in several under-23s players gaining invaluable experience of training with the senior squad and consequently, under-18s were given the opportunity to step up to the development side on a frequent basis.
In fact, well over 40 players were utilised during the season by the under-23s, who finished seventh in Professional Development League South.
Among them were a whopping 18 scholars, while 16-year-old schoolboys Joel Cotterill and Ben Lloyd gave very impressive accounts of themselves.
First-year pros Ali Al-Hamadi, Jacob Jones, Ryan Bevan, Jake Thomas and Bradley Gibbings were also among the regulars in the development side.
Despite missing most of the campaign with injury, Al-Hamadi still made his mark; top-scoring with nine goals including a hat-trick in a 4-3 win at Charlton.
Other notable moments during the campaign included a 5-1 rout of Cardiff on the opening day, as well as the long-awaited return from injury of Jordi Govea, who had last appeared against Tottenham in April 2019.
A series of injuries – including lateral collateral ligament damage and hamstring problems – meant the former Real Madrid full-back went a staggering 687 days between appearances for the development side.
But after missing the entire 2019-20 season as well as the first half of this campaign, he made his comeback for the final 20 minutes of the 2-0 win at Millwall in March; scoring the all-important second goal within nine minutes of his introduction.
Elsewhere, academy graduates Cameron Evans and Ollie Cooper, who began the campaign with the development side, would go on to make their first-team debuts in the FA Cup win at Stevenage, while left-back Matthew Blake got the opportunity to boost his experience of senior football during a brief loan stint with Cardiff Met.
Off the pitch, goalkeeper Lewis Webb signed a new contract in December, keeping him at the club until the summer of 2024.
Webb’s fellow stopper Jamie Searle was a new arrival three months earlier; the New Zealander appearing regularly between the sticks for the development side following his departure from Aston Villa.
The under-23s also completed the signing of left-back Lincoln McFayden.
The former Preston man arrived following a successful trial during the back-end of the campaign, which the development side finished in solid form with just one defeat from their final 11 games.
O’Leary will hope his players can carry on their momentum heading into the 2021-22 season; and what will hopefully be another hugely productive campaign in their respective development and progression.