Mark Pitman reports from The Marstons Stadium as Afan Lido take on a Swansea City XI in a low-profile match that seems set to confirm a high-profile exit from the Liberty Stadium.
Swansea City sent a young team to play a low-key friendly and Welsh Premier League side Afan Lido on Tuesday night. Alan Curtis took his place in the dugout as Tony Pennock watched on from the sidelines to oversee a rare opportunity that his players had to show how they can perform against senior opposition. In-amongst the young Swans side were Shaun MacDonald to offer some experience at centre-half, even though he is still only 23, while Tom Butler continued his rehabilitation after a long-injury with a place in the starting line-up. The seniority list was completed however by David Cotterill, an almost forgotten by-product of Swansea City’s recent success, and a player who’s career has covered more ground than his young years but not his hairline suggest.
What many outside of the Swans fraternity fail to realise is that David Cotterill, like Shaun MacDonald, is still just 23. While MacDonald has only ever left his hometown club for a series of loan-spells at Yeovil Town, Cotterill has been the subject of a number of big-money transfers that include a £2m switch to Wigan while he was still a teenager as well as breaking the Swansea City transfer record at the time in a £600,000 move from Sheffield United. He has also played for Bristol City and more recently was loaned out to Portsmouth having failed to hold down a place in the Swans starting line-up. His impressive career stats also include 19 caps for Wales since making his debut for his country 2005.
While MacDonald has worked hard for his chance with both Swansea City and Wales, making the most of his opportunities with the club he grew up supporting and the country he has shined for at Under-21 level, Cotterill was making a name for himself for all the wrong reasons at the age of 20 when he publicly criticised then-manager John Toshack for leaving him out of the squad. Although later re-instated to wear the Welsh shirt by Toshack, it was another significant moment in an already eventful career, and one that the once-capped MacDonald would never be expected to add to his CV.
But on Tuesday night, the duo were both named as part of the young Swans starting line-up in a sparsely-filled Marstons Stadium while their team-mates prepare to take on Celtic at the Liberty Stadium the following evening, and their inclusion could prove to be significant in their careers. MacDonald has found his level in League One with Yeovil Town in recent seasons and has become a fan-favourtie at Huish Park having already played more than twice as many games for the Glovers than he has for the Swans. It seems likely that MacDonald will pay the price of Swansea’s promotion to the Premier League and his sixth return to Yeovil will more than likely be a permanent one.
As for Cotterill however, despite still being just 23, it seems he has already enjoyed the best moments of his career. A lack of form cost him his place in the Swansea City side as they pushed for promotion from the Championship and against Afan Lido on Tuesday night he cast nothing more than a shadow of the £2m teenage striker that Wigan Athletic signed in 2006. His two efforts on goal failed to trouble Afan Lido goalkeeper Chris Curtis and it was his young team-mates who looked more likely to open the scoring than the games highest-profile player. While MacDonald eased his way through the game as a ball-playing defender and a calming influence over his young peers, Cotterill cast a frustrated figure, failing to adapt to surroundings that he obviously believes belong to a career other than his own.
The game turned on two goals by the games two 30 year-old veterans however. Former QPR and Cardiff City enigma Leon Jeanne recently became a surprise addition to the Afan Lido squad and showed all his quality and class with a second-half free-kick that left talented young Swans goalkeeper David Cornell with no other option than to pick the ball out of the net. Tom Butler, the games other Football League veteran, had tried his luck from the same spot in the opening half but could only rattle the crossbar. Butler made amends with his side a goal down however, and after trapping a crossfield ball inside the area, he knocked it over the advancing keeper to level the score the equaliser.
Afan Lido made a series of substitutes as the second-half progressed and their change in personnel allowed Swansea City to take advantage of a couple of positional changes as the visitors pushed for a winner. Some desperate defending kept the score level but with two minutes remaining the frustrations of Cotterill came to light as he retaliated to an off the ball challenge by kicking out at his opponent. Frustrated at the challenge? Indeed. Frustrated at the score? Unlikely. Frustrated by his own performance? Probably. Frustrated by the fact he finds himself playing for the clubs youth team in a midweek friendly while his club prepare for the Premier League without him? Definitely.
David Cotterill has enjoyed some memorable moments playing for Swansea City but his drop in form coincided with Swansea City’s form heading in the opposite direction. Now, not only out of the team, but out of the squad, and very much out of favour, the former teenage sensation appears destined to for a move away from the Liberty Stadium and his last kick for the club appears likely to be one that was aimed at an Afan Lido defender. MacDonald by comparison appears to have the best years of his career in front of him, although, like most of the young Swans on display, they are likely to at least start at a lower level.
The career contrast between the two 23 year-old players is huge, but then so is the contrast in careers between Leon Jeanne and Tom Butler, the two 30 year-old goalscorers on the night. The visit of a Swansea City XI to Afan Lido may have failed to attract a crowd anything like the numbers that attended to see Brendan Rodger’s senior stars in action ten days before, but the match could prove far more significant for David Cotterill, and for all the wrong reasons.
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