Paul Clement, the third manager to take the reins at the Liberty Stadium this season for Swansea, never played professionally but, while working as a PE teacher in Sutton during the 1990s, he studied for his coaching badges and obtained his UEFA 'A' licence.
The 44-year-old became a member of Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink's backroom staff in 2009 before his association with Italian manager Carlo Ancelotti began. He was Ancelotti’s understudy at Chelsea, PSG, Real Madrid and then Bayern Munich. Under the Italian, Clement travelled across all of Europe and gained a lot of experience in most major European leagues and won everything there is to win and saw closely what it took to achieve success at the highest level.
Carlo Ancelotti on former assistant Paul Clement: "We had a great time. I wish him all the best in England. He's a good coach." pic.twitter.com/gwPcfWtnMz
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) January 19, 2017
Working alongside Ancelotti at Bayern Munich and looking forward to a place in the quarters of the Champions League sounds like a reasonable gig. On the face of it, it appears a lot more appealing than taking over at Swansea, who had just sacked their second manager in the space of 85 days and were anchored to the foot of the Premier League table.
Yet Clement was never going to be satisfied with spending the rest of his career as a No 2. Those who have worked with Clement talk about his meticulous attention to detail as well as the way he diligently goes about his job, placing great emphasis on being organised on and off the pitch.
Although Clement has talked about sharing the same footballing philosophy as Swansea, he is also a pragmatist. Perhaps one of the most relevant aspects of Clement’s work at Derby is the way he made the team hard to beat for a period. Derby kept 12 clean sheets during a 19-game spell when they lost once and climbed to the top of the Championship table. The English coach has started in similar fashion in the Premier League and has taken a club stranded at the bottom of the Premier League to 4 points clear of the drop zone.
— Premier League (@premierleague) February 12, 2017
Swansea have won 3 out of their last 5 matches in the league having won just 4 of the previous 20 and now sit 15th in the table. Considering that the 2 losses came against Manchester City and Arsenal and one of the wins came in a thrilling 3-2 win at Anfield, it’s fair to say that Clement totally deserved his Premier League Manager of the Month award.
Organisationally the Welsh club have become superb, stubborn in resistance, firm but flexible with an understanding that you would think has come after months of work rather than a six-week crash course in how to survive when all looks doomed.
The players are brimming with confidence and new leaders have emerged from within the squad. More tests are to come but the impact and demands, physically and mentally, made by Clement suggest that they will now relish rather than reel away from the fixtures in front of them. After that trip to Chelsea, there are games with Burnley at home and away days at Hull and Bournemouth before the international break.
Paul has got the fans and the players believing again. It's nowhere near the time to order the Champagne, but that won't stop people now toasting Clement's name.