There is a sadness to Swansea City’s decision to dismiss Michael Laudrup, and not just because he was such a wonderful player and has always seemed such a reasonable, likeable man.
Huw Jenkins, the club’s chairman, seemed as despondent as anybody as he spoke of his “reluctance” to oust Laudrup and described last-ditch talks to see if a solution could be found.
Few other chairmen would give their managers the opportunity.
But Jenkins is not a normal chairman and Swansea are not a normal club. For a decade, they have been the poster-boys for what is possible.
Since recovering from near-financial ruin a decade ago, they have slowly risen despite no major investment, always staying within their budget.
They have always appointed a coach to fit the philosophy and so have avoided the culture of splurge and cull that has seen so much money wasted at other clubs. In that time, they rose from the fourth tier of English football to the top, capping their ascent with victory in the League Cup final last February.
Since, then, though, the trend has been downwards. They have won just eight of 35 league games since and, although they have beaten Manchester United and Birmingham City to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup, their League Cup defence ended at the first hurdle – against Birmingham.
There has been progress in the Europa League, but even with an attractive tie against Napoli to come, that has felt like a drag – and has had a negative effect on league form.
Results, though, are not the only issue – and it is safe to say that a club like Swansea would not pay a £3 million (Dh17.9m) compensation package to be rid of their manager without good reason, particularly given it had been widely accepted he would move on at the end of the season anyway, with a year of his contract still to run.
Laudrup, after all, had been strongly linked with the Chelsea job last season; he is ambitious and well-respected.
Relations between Laudrup and the board have been strained since the summer, when ties were severed with the Dane’s agent, Bayram Tutumlu, amid concerns he was having too great an influence over signings. There was also a sense that Laudrup had become frustrated at the restrictions placed on him and that prompted a defeatist attitude against wealthier clubs, which in turn frustrated the board. Almost as soon as Laudrup had been appointed, replacing Brendan Rodgers in the summer of 2012, there were suggestions his regime was too lax, although it is only recently the fractures have become public.
The defender Chico Flores and the coach Garry Monk, who has been appointed interim manager, clashed on the training field last month. The captain Ashley Williams was openly critical of Laudrup’s failure to devise a plan to handle Andy Carroll during Saturday’s defeat to West Ham United.
Laudrup responded to that defeat by giving his squad a couple of days off and flying to Paris to visit his daughter.
That defeat seems to have come as the final straw. With Swansea just two points above the Premier League relegation zone, the board have decided it cannot risk the trend continuing.
That does not alter the general assessment of Swansea as an admirable club who, by and large, do things the right way, but it does show that nobody is infallible.