Steve Cooper's century | 100 up for Swansea City head coach
Sunday’s game against Reading brought up a landmark for Swansea City head coach Steve Cooper, and securing a place in the play-offs was a fine way to mark the milestone.
The Madejski Stadium contest was the 41-year-old’s 100th game in charge of the Swans following his appointment in June of 2019.
The result in Berkshire ensured the former Liverpool academy boss has led the club to a play-off place in each of his two Championship seasons at the helm.
He also becomes the first Swans boss since Roberto Martinez to rack up a century of games in charge, with Paulo Sousa, Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup, Garry Monk, Francesco Guidolin, Bob Bradley, Paul Clement, Carlos Carvalhal and Graham Potter all having had stints at the helm in the intervening period.
Cooper's current win percentage of 45 is also the best by a Swans boss since Martinez won 50 per cent of his 126 games at the helm.
Here, we look back at a handful of notable and important results that have been among the highlights of Cooper’s tenure to date.
Swansea City 2 Hull City 1
Championship, August 3, 2019
Steve Cooper got off to a winning start as Swansea City head coach as two second-half goals in the space of two minutes secured three points against Hull.
The Swans had trailed at the interval as Kamil Grosicki’s deflected strike gave the Tigers an early lead they held with relative comfort.
But it all changed in the first four minutes of the second period as Borja Baston’s first Swansea goal in 1,022 days levelled matters, before Mike van der Hoorn nodded in what proved to be the winner.
It gave Swansea a first win in seven attempts against the team from East Yorkshire and a second successive opening-day triumph having seen off Sheffield United by the same scoreline 12 months ago.
Cooper had handed debuts to keeper Freddie Woodman and full-back Jake Bidwell, with Borja making a first league start in Swansea colours in 950 days as he led the line following the sale of Oli McBurnie
Leeds United 0 Swansea City 1
Championship, August 31, 2019
Wayne Routledge grabbed a 90th-minute winner to give Swansea City a first victory at Elland Road in 70 years and extend their unbeaten start to life under Steve Cooper.
Substitute Routledge swept home a deflected Matt Grimes cross via the inside of the post to send the Swans top of the Championship table.
The visitors were under the cosh for long spells of the afternoon but, in truth, keeper Freddie Woodman did not have too many saves to make as those in front of him made block after block and clearance after clearance to ensure a third clean sheet of the season.
Homegrown products Connor Roberts and Joe Rodon were among those to stand out, while the Swans will also had cause to feel they could have made more from a handful of promising attacks, with Bersant Celina and substitute Sam Surridge unable to convert the best of them.
But it did not matter as Routledge converted to give the visitors just their second ever win at the home of the Yorkshire club, and extend what was the best start to the reign of any Swans boss in the club’s history.
Swansea City 1 Cardiff City 0
Championship – October 27, 2019
Ben Wilmot wrote his name into South Wales derby folklore as he marked his first league start for Swansea City by scoring the winner at a jubilant Liberty Stadium.
The on-loan centre-half – playing with Joe Rodon out injured – timed his run perfectly to glance home Wayne Routledge’s cross in the 24th minute.
In truth the margin of victory could – and perhaps should – have been far greater, as Swansea spurned a number of chances to put the game to bed.
But no-one seemed to mind too much when the final whistle went to spark the celebrations.
It was the Swans' first win in five attempts at the Liberty as Steve Cooper marked his first derby day with three points.
The result meant the Swans had secured back-to-back league victories over their rivals for the first time in 23 years.
A night of drama brings up the half-century
Reading 1 Swansea City 4
Championship – July 22, 2020
Wayne Routledge’s last-gasp header saw Swansea City secure a play-off spot with a handsome victory over 10-man Reading on a dramatic night.
Steve Cooper’s side knew they had to win at the Madejski Stadium to have any hope of a top-six finish, and Rhian Brewster’s 10th goal of the season gave them an ideal start.
The sending off of Yakou Meite then gave the Swans a man advantage, but the Royals equalised before the break through a George Puscas penalty.
The Swans restored their lead through a classy finish from substitute Routledge, before Liam Cullen showed great composure to steer in his first goal for the club.
And when Routledge popped up at the death to complete his brace it put the Swans into the top six as Nottingham Forest suffered a 4-1 defeat at home to Stoke, meaning Swansea got into the play-offs on goal difference.
It was some way to mark the head coach’s 50th game at the helm.
Swansea City 1 Brentford 0
Championship play-off semi-final, first leg – July 26, 2020
Swansea City secured a first leg victory in their play-off semi-final against Brentford, thanks to Andre Ayew’s late winner at the Liberty Stadium.
With the Swans having been involved in a night of huge drama at Reading just four days earlier, there was no shortage of incident to be found in this first leg either.
Ayew was denied from the penalty spot in the second half after Pontus Jansson had fouled Rhian Brewster.
Moments later, Brentford had Rico Henry sent off, and Steve Cooper’s side made the most of the opportunity when Ayew dispatched his 18th goal of the season high into the net with his left foot.
It settled an entertaining and intriguing contest on the night and, while the Swans would lose the second leg 3-1, this was a Liberty performance and result of considerable substance and quality.
Derby delight 2
Cardiff City 0 Swansea City 2
Championship – December 12, 2020
Jamal Lowe secured the South Wales derby bragging rights for Swansea City as the striker’s brace settled matters at Cardiff City Stadium.
Lowe opened the scoring in the sixth minute, firing home from close range to give the Swans the ideal start.
And he went on to seal the win with 18 minutes to go with a fantastic slaloming run through the Cardiff defence.
The result meant Swansea were unbeaten in four South Wales derbies, and had not conceded a goal in any of that quartet of fixtures.
This was also a 10th clean sheet of the season as the Swans ended Cardiff’s run of four Championship wins in a row, with the home side ending with 10 men after Joe Ralls was dismissed in the second half.
And a dominant performance delivered on the promise from Steve Cooper and his players to give the Jack Army a showing to be proud of, despite them not being able to cheer on their side in person.
Swans sting the Hornets
Swansea City 2 Watford 1
Championship – January 2, 2021
Jamal Lowe struck a superb double as Swansea City came from behind to start 2021 with victory over Watford, and climb to second in the Championship table.
Tom Cleverley had given the Hornets the lead, but the Swans took control of the contest and levelled with a lovely strike from the in-form Lowe.
And the striker completed the turnaround in the second half as he headed home his eighth goal of the season.
After the frustration of the previous game – a draw with Reading - this was a performance that got its deserved reward with three points as the season reaches its halfway point.
The Swans were forced into a late change as Joel Latibeaudiere – who had been set to start in place of Ryan Bennett – was injured in the warm-up.
Ryan Manning came in, with Jake Bidwell moving to centre-half and Ollie Cooper being promoted to the bench, but the hosts shook off the reshuffle to claim a win against a side boasting a squad loaded with players who had featured in the Premier League last term.
Rampant Swans run riot
Swansea City 5 Nottingham Forest 1
FA Cup – January 23, 2021
Matt Grimes and Liam Cullen scored a brace apiece as Swansea City marched through to the FA Cup fifth round with a thumping victory over Nottingham Forest at the Liberty Stadium.
Ollie Cooper was also on target, with his first senior goal helping Steve Cooper's side book their place in round five of the competition for the third time in four years.
Cullen opened the scoring with a neat volley after just seven minutes, while a 25-yard thunderbolt from Grimes doubled the lead on the half-hour mark.
Although Anthony Knockaert pulled one back for the visitors after the break, the skipper grabbed his second from the penalty spot before Cullen completed his double with another brilliant first-time finish from close range.
And substitute Cooper put the icing on the cake when he drilled home six minutes from time as Swansea set up a glamour fifth-round tie against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
Swansea City 2 Norwich City 0
Championship – February 5, 2021
Goals from Andre Ayew and Conor Hourihane saw Swansea City return to second in the Championship table and beat another opponent fresh from a season in the Premier League.
At the end of an even first-half Ayew netted his ninth goal of the season as he turned and coolly finished from close range after Norwich had failed to deal with a set-piece.
Hourihane then scored for the third game in a row with a superb strike early in the second half, with the Swans then defending resolutely to collect a 15th clean sheet of the Championship season.
The result meant the Swans were unbeaten in a dozen games in SA1, and had taken seven points from a possible nine against the three Championship teams who had dropped down from the top-flight.
The Swans bounce back
Millwall 0 Swansea City 3
Championship – April 10, 2021
Swansea City returned to winning ways in emphatic fashion as goals from Andre Ayew and Jamal Lowe sealed a dominant victory at Millwall.
Steve Cooper’s side had entered the game on the back of a run of four straight defeats without scoring, having only previously suffered consecutive league losses once in the head coach’s near two seasons in charge.
But, once they settled into this contest, that run always looked like coming to an end.
They took the lead right on half-time as Ayew superbly curled home his 15th goal of the season from just inside the area.
And Lowe then netted his 10th goal of the campaign with a sweet finish after running on to a pass from the excellent Wayne Routledge, who showcased all his skill and nous in his first league start of the current term.
That ended Lowe's wait for a goal, and another was not long in coming as he rifled the ball into the top corner with five minutes to go.
Play-offs secured, century reached
Reading 2 Swansea City 2
Championship - April 25, 2021
Swansea City conceded a stoppage-time equaliser but goals from Jamal Lowe and Andre Ayew still secured a place in the play-offs in Steve Cooper's 100th game in charge at Reading.
The Swans had trailed at the Madejski Stadium as Yakou Meite headed in a 30th-minute opener for a Royals side needing a win to keep their top-six hopes alive.
The visitors, meanwhile, needed a point and Lowe put them on course for that when he knocked in his 14th goal of the season from close range.
Substitute Andre Ayew had helped to create the equaliser, and the Ghanaian then put his side ahead when he calmly fired home from a Jake Bidwell pull-back for his 16th goal this term.
Lowe hit the post, and Reading made the most of the fortune as they levelled through Tomas Esteves in time added on, but it was not enough to prevent Swansea ensuring they will finish in the top six.