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Grimes could be hard to shift.

Byline: ANDREW GWILYM Football correspondent andrew.gwilym@walesonline.co

IT may seem strange given he has been a Swansea City player since 2015, but Matt Grimes' current run of starts is already his longest for the club.

That the sequence only stretches as far as three matches tells part of the story about the 23-year-old's time on the books in South Wales; a tale of frustration and countless loan spells - some more successful than others.

At one stage the former England Under-20 cap was so far on the periphery it would have been easy to forget he was on Swansea's books.

He even started the season looking more likely to see action at leftback rather than in his preferred midfield role.

And yet, while his chance has come due to injuries, there would be a case for him retaining his place even when manager Graham Potter has a full complement of players to choose from as Leroy Fer, Jay Fulton and Tom Carroll work their way back to fitness. Like so many this season, Grimes looks determined to seize an opportunity that would likely have never come were Swansea still in the Premier League.

He has been in perpetual motion in that Swansea midfield, always busy, always wanting the ball and looking to knit play together. In short, the sort of presence a team looking to get back to a possessionbased

game could do with.

Of course, it's only three games and this sort of form will need to extend over a longer period if we are to see Grimes fulfil the sort of potential that convinced Swansea to beat the likes of Liverpool for his services nearly four years ago.

But, in a game where Joe Allen and Ryan Woods - who could so easily have been wearing Swansea rather than Stoke shirts - rightly took many plaudits, Grimes could claim to have held his own.

He has certainly caught the eye of his own manager.

"I thought Matt was fantastic for us. In terms of a positive from the game I felt he showed incredible responsibility and courage too," Potter had said following the draw with Nottingham Forest, although the same could easily apply to his showing at Stoke in midweek.

"He wanted the ball, even when he made a mistake he wanted to be back on it again.

"He is a guy who worked incredibly hard during pre-season, really put a big effort in. He is enjoying his football, he is one of those guys who has really dug in and helped us.

"He has filled in at left-back when we have needed and now into midfield and he has got on with. Anything you ask him to do, he does.

"He is a tremendous character and I am really pleased he is in the team and helping us.

"He is a team player, he will do what is required and guys like him are good people to have around.

"You can sense he has had some time away, he has had to fight for this opportunity and the bottom line is he deserves to play.

"He does everything to the best of his ability and I am pleased for him."

The statistics speak for themselves. Grimes had a pass completion rate of 90% at the bet365 Stadium, with 61 of his 68 passes finding their mark.

Woods had a completion rate of 96%, and Allen 87%, but Grimes attempted more passes than either of them, an indicator of the differing approaches of the two teams. Grimes was dispossessed just once and also won three tackles.

All in all, he was a pretty safe pair of hands - or feet - in keeping Swansea ticking over, feeding a front four who were constantly in movement during an encouraging opening half hour. His set-piece deliveries have also been decent, he nearly teed up Mike van der Hoorn on a couple of occasions, including the last-ditch chance that even left Ashley Williams with his head in his hands.

He was also on fine form against Nottingham Forest, where he was arguably Swansea's best player. He made six tackles, again was dispossessed just once and regularly dropped in to try and build attacks from deep.

Even against Millwall - where injuries meant he found himself at left-back after a while - it was he who kicked off the move for the winning goal. Spotting the chance to free Jefferson Montero from a free-kick on the edge of his box as the hosts complained.

It is all a long way from the player who - by his own admissions - nearly had his confidence broken by a nightmare loan spell under ex-Swans boss Garry Monk at Leeds.

But a season of regular football at Northampton in League One last term - even though the Cobblers were relegated - has done Grimes the power of good.

Game time and responsibility have proved restorative. "I have needed games and experience under my belt because I felt like my career was staggering a little bit," Grimes said when speaking during pre-season.

"I took a bit of a knocking going to Leeds, it just didn't happen for me.

"It was hard but I think it did me some good. Things aren't always going to be great and you have to deal with that and be strong enough to handle it. I have been here a few years and I want to make my mark.

"I really pushed myself and playing over 40 games last season was perfect. Now I am ready and want to give my all for Swansea.

"It's a fresh start, the manager has stamped his authority and told us how he wants to play and I am hungry to show him and the club what I can do."

He can certainly feel he has made a good start on that score.

Let's hope there is more to come for a young man who, like so many others at Swansea in recent years, had seen short-termism and relegation worries deprive him off a chance to kick on.

> Matt Grimes has impressed at both left-back and in midfield
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 21, 2018
Words:1014
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