Jack Cork: Not Clement's decision to sell me
Written by Simon Austin — November 21, 2017
JACK CORK has given a fascinating insight into Swansea’s recruitment process, suggesting it was NOT manager Paul Clement’s decision to sell him to Burnley this summer.
The 28-year-old moved to the Clarets in a £10million deal described by Sean Dyche as “a no brainer”. Cork has gone from strength to strength at Turf Moor, winning his first England cap and driving Burnley to seventh in the Premier League. He even scored a goal in their 2-0 home win over his former side last weekend.
Swansea spent big money on midfield reinforcements after Cork went, with Roque Mesa arriving from Las Palmas for £11m, Sam Clucas for £15m from Hull, and Renato Sanches coming in on loan from Bayern Munich. None has consistently impressed though, with Mesa dropped from the Swans' matchday squad at the weekend.
After that game, Cork suggested it had not been Clement’s decision to sell him.
“I think it maybe wasn’t his decision,” he said. "They bought me for £1.5million, the bid came in from Burnley, which was a lot more than they paid, and they were obviously trying to raise money to bring more midfield players in.
“He said to me, ‘look, you’ll probably play more games there, the club will probably accept the bid, what do you want to do?’ “As soon as he said it, I thought ‘yeah, why not?’"
The midfielder has been close to the Swans boss since their days together at Chelsea, when Cork was coming through the Academy and Clement was assistant manager. The midfielder captained the Swans last season as they escaped relegation.
He added: “I’ve known him [Clement] for years, we’ve been close for a few years. I was with him for a few years at Chelsea, going back to when I was a kid at 15, 16.
“He’s been a really big part of my career and when I was coming through the youth team. I’ve always been close to him. It was one of those things when I ended up leaving, but he said he still looks out for me and told me ‘well done for England’.”
Which all raises the question: who did decide to sell him?
American analyst Dan Altman has been 'Senior Adviser for Football Operations' at the club since December 2016, when he was brought in by compatriots Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien, who had taken over five months earlier.
Altman is a Harvard University graduate with a PhD in economics who set up North Yard Analytics - his ‘vehicle for statistical analyses of soccer and other professional sports’ - in 2013.
He has been described as a final filter for transfers, before final decisions are made by Kaplan, Levien, Clement and chairman Huw Jenkins. Speaking to a Supporters Trust fans’ forum in April, Kaplan said: “The analytics are not a replacement for what Paul Clement can bring to the club. He is integrally involved.
“What analytics allow us to do is have another check, another thing to look at and try and ensure we are not making a mistake. Mistakes are too costly for a club like ours.”
But the sale of Cork - and the midfielders who were subsequently brought in - does look to be a costly mistake. The new recruits could come good in time, but time is not a commodity relegation-threatened teams have.
From the outside at least, there do seem to be parallels with Fulham, where another American analyst, Craig Kline, had significant influence before leaving in controversial circumstances at the start of this month.
Clement has said: “I am a believer that statistical analysis should be part of the jigsaw puzzle that goes to help to recruit players and assess our own team. It is my belief it should be used as part of the due diligence process.”
Few would disagree, but the balance between analysis and human subjectivity is always a fine one, as Altman himself admitted when he said: “Analytics can complement rather than replace traditional ways of making decisions."