Swansea City boss Russell Martin hailed summer signing trio Olivier Ntcham, Rhys Williams and Flynn Downes for their respective performances in the 0-0 draw against Hull City on Saturday afternoon, speaking to the club’s media team in his post-match press conference.
Central midfielder Downes, 22, was the first to arrive after being left out in the cold by Paul Cook amid a huge rebuilding job at Portman Road.
He was previously seen as a key player in Suffolk in the middle of the park and was even subject of multiple bids from Premier League side Crystal Palace last summer.
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But on his return to pre-season training just a few months ago, he was sent to train with the Tractor Boys’ Under-23s team, though his transfer request 12 months ago amid interest from the Eagles may have played a role in that bold decision.
Rhys Williams also linked up with the Swans in August, although his move from Liverpool is only a temporary one and he came in on transfer deadline day, ready to be a regular starter in Wales after making an unexpected 17 appearances for the Reds last term.
This was largely due to an injury crisis in central defence at Anfield – but the 20-year-old handled himself well in the circumstances and will be hoping to utilise his top-flight experience to his and Swansea’s benefit for the remainder of the campaign.
Free agent Olivier Ntcham joined a month after being released from Celtic – and has Champions League and Europa League experience from his time north of the border – coming in to bolster what already looked like a strong midfield with the likes of captain Matt Grimes, summer signing Downes, Korey Smith and others for company.
Despite drawing 0-0 at home to fellow struggling side Hull, manager Russell Martin was pleased with all three players’ contributions and said: “They were brilliant, I thought Olivier (Ntcham) was fantastic. He probably played a bit more than we had planned.
“When he gets fitter, stronger and sharper, he’s going to be a really exciting player. I thought he was really good today.
“Rhys Williams settled in brilliantly, he played like he had been here for a long time.
“I thought Flynn Downes was great, we really missed him. For him to play the way he did so early on after joining, then for him to be out for a while. I thought he was outstanding today.”
Key departures aside, these three are probably the most eye-catching additions for the Swans so it’s no real surprise to see all three do well early on in their careers in Wales.
After failing to secure a move up to the Premier League last year, Downes would have settled for a spot in the Championship under a promising manager and from the looks of it, he will be one of the first names on the teamsheet for the remainder of this campaign and beyond.
Williams is also an excellent addition and with injured centre-backs for Liverpool returning to the fold, Jurgen Klopp’s side are probably just eager to see the 20-year-old play regular football. With this, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they subsidised the vast majority of his wages.
And the signing of Olivier Ntcham was the cherry on the top of what was a successful summer in terms of incomings. With his experience in Europe with Celtic and title-winning pedigree in Glasgow, this can only bode well for Martin’s side who will want to get as high up the table as they possibly can.
The addition of these three, considering Downes only cost around £1.5m, shows that you don’t have to splash out on the most expensive players to build a great team. £1.5m is a bargain for a regular starter in the Championship, even with Covid-19’s impact on the market.
But the money they have generated in recent seasons could be utilised in other areas to continue helping manager Martin in his quest to build a top-quality side.