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Sports News of Saturday, 29 May 2021


Andre Ayew's future hinges on Swansea's play-off success

Swansea City forward Andre Ayew play videoSwansea City forward Andre Ayew

The passing statistics from Swansea City’s semi-final play-off success over Barnsley made for interesting reading: the Welsh outfit completed 47 percent of their passes in the narrow first-leg success, a return that fell to 43 percent in the 1-1 stalemate at the Liberty Stadium.

Compare this to Brentford, the side they face in Saturday’s decider, whose average pass completion against Bournemouth was 78 percent.

Without a doubt, the seemingly contrasting styles suggest it wouldn’t be out of place to suggest that the unbiased supporter will be rooting for the London outfit over the Swans.

Throw in the Bees’ defeat by Fulham at Wembley Stadium last year and the fondness for Thomas Frank’s team probably doubles.

Having said that, Swansea and Andre Ayew are unlikely to care about extraneous factors when they cross the white line at the Home of Football. They’ve been away from the Premier League since 2018 and were denied a playoff final place last year by…you guessed it…Brentford.

Despite their flawed style against Barnsley, they’ve battled to be where they are and have earned the right to play in Saturday’s momentous final, looking to match the elation felt in 2011 when they beat Reading 4-2.

On that day, Scott Sinclair netted a hat-trick against the Royals to end an incredible campaign on a positive note and Ayew is looking to do likewise.

Despite not scoring as many as the ex-Chelsea player’s 22 Championship goals (including the play-off final hat-trick), the forward has a whole lot riding on Saturday’s game.

The Ghanaian is the club’s leading scorer this term — with 16 goals in the regular season and that amazing strike in the narrow 1-0 triumph at Barnsley taking his league total to 17 — but he’s out of contract at the Welsh side and is likely to depart if they lose on Saturday.

Having failed to make the desired impact upon his return to the club in January 2018, the West African is motivated to give it another shot in the big time after going 12 games without scoring following his deadline day comeback which ultimately ended in relegation.

Andre Ayew Swansea City 2019-20 “It’s very important to me to get this club back to the Premier League,” Ayew said, as reported by his club’s official website. “I wake up every morning with that thought – it’s always on my mind – and it’s what keeps me going.

“Finals are not there to be played; they are there to be won. There is a big prize on offer. We are one game away, and we have to be ready on that day.”

While promotion to the Premier League at Brentford’s expense may not necessarily guarantee the Ghana forward’s stay in Wales, victory at least increases the possibility of player and club negotiating new terms for the 31-year-old.

Success on both fronts will be gratifying for Steve Cooper, whose faith in Ayew convinced the West African to remain at the club in the summer of 2019 after a loan spell with Fenerbahce in 18/19.

“The manager said, ‘I want you - you don't have to move; the club is ready to keep you',” the Swansea man told FourFourTwo in April via Wales Online. “That message was big for me. A few things came in, but whether it was the league, the club or maybe not what I wanted financially, I never felt like everything was there, so I continued at Swansea.”

Games between both sides in the last two seasons have tended to go Brentford’s way, with the Londoners winning three of six meetings between the pair, including that 3-1 playoff semi-final turnaround post-lockdown last year.

Having said that, the respective departures of Said Benrahma and Ollie Watkins to West Ham United and Aston Villa last summer has seen Frank’s team fail to punish the Swans twice this term, despite dominating both games and creating the better chances.

After last year’s extra time disappointment against Fulham, Brentford will believe they are primed for a debut Premier League season. It will be an amazing story for the club, and they may even have neutrals on-side due to their tactical approach and general modus operandi.

Swansea, though, will be unperturbed about that and focus on upsetting the Bees hoping to return to the top flight for a second adventure. Ayew influence has, by and large, brought the Swans this far and, on Saturday, he gets the perfect opportunity to finish the job.

Success wouldn’t only mean promotion and all the financial benefits, but it could see the club hold on to their talisman for another year, as they look forward to rubbing shoulders with the big boys again after a three-year wait.