There’s a diagram on the wall at the MK Dons training ground depicting the team’s goal final season that came at the end of a 56-pass movement, a British record.
If you haven’t seen the target, it’s a file A masterpiece of tolerance. MK Dons players have had possession of the ball for more than three minutes at Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium, changing positions and changing direction of attack with unerring focus.
The action starts with a deep throw in their own half, slows down a few times and keeps regenerating prior quickening the pace to pass the tees with one touch to Will Grigg to shoot into the base corner.
Russell Martin was the head coach in charge of this spectacle, and now he aims to instill the alike spirit into his unused club, Swansea City.
“It’s not simple to accomplish,” he says. “I was elated of the players because of the way they implemented what we want them to do on the pitch.
“There are not only two ways to play football. It is not to play football or to be direct. There are a lot of distinct ways, but I can’t do something I don’t believe in.
“Some of the things they achieved final year were distinguished because there was difficulty in the stadiums and no fans.
“Teams were desperately trying to quit us with powerful pressure, so it was a source of pride and I made sure of it [the diagram] Climb up the wall in MK not for us, but for the guys.
“People still react to it and say it’s boring, but everyone has a distinct opinion. It’s something the players are elated of and rightfully so. We were elated of them too.”
Implementing a complicated possession-based gameplay with limited resources in League One was a challenge and didn’t produce immediate results for Martin.
Martin stormed into management in November 2019 when he was still a MK Dons player, and had to gradually prove to his team, supporters and the club hierarchy that his approach was working.
At the end of final season, his first packed career, MK Dons finished 13th in the Premier League, with Manchester City and Barcelona the only ones with a higher possession percentage per game in Europe.
Although Swansea are a championship team with a recent history of embracing a similar philosophy, this will be another challenging task for the 35-year-old.
With money in short supply, the Pelicans lost the backbone of their squad this summer with the likes of Andre Ayew, Freddy Woodman and Mark Gouyi all leaving following the final defeat final season.
Then there was the mayhem of the former few weeks, with previous coach Steve Cooper leaving and QPR assistant coach John Eustace turning down the job.
As a result, Martin was given less than a week to prepare for Swansea’s season opener at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.
But following he started studying for coaching badges when he was just 22, this was an opportunity Martin worked for a decade ago.
“I feel ready. If you had told me when I just finished playing I would be manager of the Swansea side in the Championship in two years, I would have thought you were a little daft,” he says.
“It’s something I felt comfortable the moment I walked into the office at MK. I went from teammate to manager, and that transition wasn’t the easiest, but I felt prepared because of the work I did earlier.
“I started my badges when I was 22 and wanted to get them when I was 35. I was competent to do it. It’s forever been a motivated thing to do.
“I was fortunate to get a chance at MK that gave me that opportunity at Swansea. I’m so elated and grateful for that.”
Martin was only in Swansea within days, and had already taken to the area, having visited the sandy beaches of the nearby Gower Peninsula.
“Benard is lovely, Langland is distinguished, we’ve been to Three Cliffs and Mumbles too, which is distinguished,” he adds.
“It’s a lovely place and I’ve been sending videos to my wife and kids. They’ve already decided where they want to live but I think I’ll have to release a player to get a house there!”
For now, trips to the beach can wait. Martin wants to revive the “Swansea way” of fluent football – but only with a triumph.
“We’re not unintelligent,” he says. “We know we need to triumph games and we’re not just here to put a team that looks pleasing on the pitch.”
“We want a team that can triumph, but we will not compromise on things that are significant to us.”