2013 is nearly over and it has truly been an eventful and unforgettable year at Swindon Town. Brendan Hobbs jumped at the chance of writing our review of 2013, which has turned into an epic feature of writing; you’ve now made it to part five…
June & July
Although Swindon missed out on any Play Off orientated silverware, the club did win a prestigious award in the close season, with Marcus Cassidy receiving the plaudits as groundsman of the year for League One.
I think a lot of people take pitch quality as a given these days, especially armchair fans who frequently watch the endless bowling greens of the premier league. However if you’ve been to any away games in this division and seen some of the rubbish prepared elsewhere by our rivals you can really appreciate the brilliant nature of our pitch.
Marcus and his team thoroughly deserved the award and in some sense a share of any success we had on the pitch, because without his dedication and hard work us fans would’ve probably spent most of last season craning our necks upward to watch the long balls fly, rather than the ‘on-the-deck’ stuff we’ve been treated to.
The shock waves of all the recent boardroom upheaval and the inevitable financial pinch that followed was starting to be felt as Town were already asking office staff to step forward for voluntary redundancy. But it wasn’t all bad as we were informed that extra income streams were already being explored with Steve Murrall conducting Business Plan presentations, and earlier the announcement that a series of summer concerts were to be held at the County Ground. Some vast income sums were being bandied about, in some outlets it was reported that Town were set to clear a million pounds, guaranteed.
The line-ups were not exactly inspiring on either of the arranged days, certainly not to my taste but I was convinced the people of Swindon would provide a healthy attendance as concerts involving Bryan Adams and Elton John had previously been a roaring success in the past. Maybe not on this occasion though, whether it was down to poor advertising or poor weather conditions neither day looked well attended – with some of the images coming out from the CG suffering a power cut painting a pretty depressing picture. Like some cutting edge news reporter I did speak to an eye witness who attended the Revival Tour evening, who said and I quote “The best entertainment I had all night was when two girls engaged in some ‘foxy boxing’ over a bottle of tango, I threw money” classy stuff.
Away from the concerts, also joining the various office staff in leaving were two of our best performers from the previous season, with Aden Flint completing his protracted move to Bristol City and Alan McCormack packing his bags to join our recent Play-Off foes Brentford.
Also going, was the often cited ‘big earner’ [definition required] Gary Roberts, as he cleared his locker and was released by the club, straight into the welcoming arms of League Two Chesterfield. He was soon joined by fans favourite Simon Ferry and horrifyingly for this writer, Joe Devera who both eventually joined him in League Two with the financially frail Portsmouth. Tommy Miller and Raffa De Vita also found themselves unemployed, with Raffa only enjoying temporary visits to the Labour Exchange as he quickly joined ambitious Bradford City.
A few fans scoffed at the calibre of club that all of our released players ended up at, as many were always branded as ‘Championship Quality’, but they all joined good clubs, whereas in the past our released players tended to join only Supermarine or Chippenham.
So with office staff leaving, players leaving, some of our new board decided to get in on the act with Hooper and Rice, all part of Jed McCrory’s original consortium, leaving to pursue that always mysterious and oft cited “other business interests”.
Like some reasonably priced, disease free prostitute, it seemed the exit door was currently the only thing getting some constant action, so it was a relief when Swindon finally started bringing in some new talent with Fulham utility man Alex Smith the first in, presumably nodding to Gary Roberts et al whilst they made their way out.
It was evident that Town were pushing for a more youthful set up for the new season, with Spurs youngster Jack Bartham and former loanee Nathan Byrne joining on free transfers. In some quarters fans immediately and mistakenly translated the term ‘youthful’ with ‘cheap’ and the various forums and comments sections already started getting clogged up with some gluey despair.
Some bright moments pierced the gloom however, Foderingham signed a new contract, keeping the stopper at the County Ground until 2015, or until someone offers a big fat cheque for his services. Also bolstering the ranks were further Spurs youngsters Grant Hall, Ryan Mason and Alex Pritchard.
Portuguese Free Agent Tijane Reis was snapped up and it was reported that Town acted like some back-alley slapper having ‘beaten off’ many big clubs to secure his signature. The Tottenham influence also grew with Massimo Luongo returning on loan, having enjoyed Swindon hospitality the previous season. Town also added in the boardroom with Sangita Shah and Lee Power joining McCrory’s team.
Things seemed to be settling down nicely, the squad of talented youngsters was offering intrigue and maybe a little bit of hope to supporters and a few were getting quite optimistic with the new season looming into view.
So Kevin MacDonald decided this was the perfect time to quit, astonishing stuff. I’m not sure what annoyed me more about his resignation, the turmoil it would cause within the squad or the damage it would do to the new season prep? It was going to be neither of these, because the one thing that drives me insane more than anything is ‘new manager rumours’. Every out of work manager starts being linked (Steve Cotterill), or ex-Town players (Shaun Taylor, Luc Nijholt) or one that falls into both categories (Martin Ling), the barmy suggestions (Poyet – yes this was a serious suggestion by certain fans) or the inevitable, the perennially linked Paul Tisdale.
The Spurs links were unavoidable, with many suggesting that any one of Tim Sherwood, Les Ferdinand or Chris Ramsey were nailed on for the top job. The Adver saw it differently, announcing that Paul Hartley or a returning Glenn Hoddle were favourites for the position. Mark Cooper was put in temporary control of the team as managerless Swindon didn’t hang around in the transfer market, adding Yaser Kasim, Rossi Branco, Ty Belford and Ryan Harley to the ranks.
With no manager in place, it became apparent that these transfers were made by the Director of Football Lee Power, maybe in consultation with Mark Cooper. Many fans were outraged that a managerless club could make such signings – and that no manager would join a club in which they seemingly had no say in the transfer market. A large percentage seemed totally unaware that most European clubs and global giants operate in exactly this way; it’s a way to ensure continuity and provide control, stopping any future Di Canio style scenarios – expensively splurging on players quickly followed by an equally expensive mass exodus when it all goes wrong.
Big summer sessions image from swindonadvertiser.co.uk