Twenty Years Since Wembley ’93: Leicester City – Finding the Foxes…

220px-Leicester_City

We continue our special anniversary feature celebrating twenty years since Swindon Town’s 4-3 victory over Leicester City in the Division One Play Off Final with Brendan Hobbs’ search for the Foxes XI twenty years on…

The Washbag ‘twenty years’ celebrations have now been running for the a few weeks and so far it’s all been quite Swindon-centric – with not a lot of thought given to our vanquished opponents on that day.  So do you ever sit back and ponder what became of those Leicester players who were left face down on the Wembley turf, choking on their own tears?

Nah, me neither, but in an effort to fill a few column inches and to give a sense of balance to this series I flexed my favourite CTRL & C fingers, flipped open Wikipedia and away I went.

So what would I find? Hopefully some of the Leicester 1993 vintage would now lead crazy lives worth reporting, David Oldfield could own a snail farming business back in Australia. Or perhaps, in an irony drenched twist, folicly challenged Steve Agnew could run a hairdressing salon – granting me the sort of story that is often revelled in by delighted local news stations. The pristine anchor would give it the full “And finally” bit before running the VT. And on completion, carry out a load of sarcastic, knowing nods before making a quip about ‘hair-raising’ stuff  and signing off with a condescending wink.

Perhaps I would strike comedy gold and discover that Julian Joachim is now a woman, well read on and you will soon find out whether any of the above is true.

220px-Leicester_City

Amazingly, goalkeeper and professional Steve White cropper, Kevin Poole only gave up playing the game in 2012. And I don’t mean on a part-time basis for some non-league side whose name probably involves the words Arms, Welfare or Colliery, I mean professionally – in the football league. He played several times whilst in his late 40’s for Burton Albion and was on the bench when Town were beaten 2 nil in Staffordshire in 2011. How he must have marvelled at Mattia Lanzano’s performance that day. When he finally called time on his playing career he was left to concentrate on his other role with the Brewers, being the first team goalkeeper coach.

Gary Roland Mills is one of the higher profile players in this list, I base this mainly on the fact that he always used to take over as manager of Swindon in Football Manager when PDC used to bugger off early in the game. (Well, him or Pat Bonner)

Mills had a good career as a player, starting out at Nottingham Forest where he became the club’s youngest ever league player – making his first team debut at the age of 16 in 1978. He played in the victorious 1980 European Cup Final, which made him the youngest finalist in European Cup history.

After quitting the professional game he dipped his toes into the murky waters of player-management with Grantham Town in 1996. He led the team to the Southern League Midland League title in his second season but left shortly afterwards following the club’s takeover by a local businessman. This was the start of an amazing managerial career in which he hopped regularly between clubs using only the Midlands Explorer bus route.

He subsequently had a spell as player-manager at King’s Lynn from 1998 to 2000 before being appointed player-manager of Tamworth in 2001. He made the step back into the football league when he took over as first team coach at Coventry City.

Mills kept the Midlands-centric theme going when he was handed his first managerial role with Notts County in 2004, but was sacked later that year after the club were relegated.

He then turned up as manager of Alfreton Town but returned to Tamworth in 2007 where things finally took an upward turn. He was unable to prevent the club being relegated in his first season but he led Tamworth to the Conference North title the following year. He then left the club in 2010 to become York manager. In his first full season in charge, Mills oversaw York’s victories in the FA Trophy and Conference play-offs in 2012, thus winning promotion to League Two.

It didn’t end well as he was sacked in 2013, with York sitting four points above the relegation zone. Now there’s gratitude for you.

Mike Whitlow’s career spanned a decade between 1987 and 2007, it was his gut busting run and miscued cross that set up Steve Thompson’s dramatic equaliser at Wembley.  As well as Leicester, Mike turned out in the Premier League for Bolton Wanderers before moving to Sheffield United and Notts County.

On hanging up his boots he also moved into coaching, working for Derby County‘s youth academy, before being appointed head of youth development at Mansfield Town in May 2009. He stayed at the stags for a year before hooking up with fellow former Fox Kevin Poole at Burton – where he is now Head Youth Coach.

Richard Smith is a Leicestershire boy through and through, signing professional forms with his boyhood team in 1988. He made 98 appearances before ending up at Grimsby Town where he played a further 78 times. His career was prematurely cut short through injury and he retired in 2001.

Back in 2011, in an interview with Leicester fanzine “Leicester Till I Die” he rated the Wembley defeat as his best ever game in a Foxes shirt. Also in the same interview he mentions his wife’s battle with Breast Cancer, so I did some extra research and was very pleased to find out that she has overcome her illness, good news. Link.

Smith now runs and owns BASH Skip Hire based in Broughton Astley, Leicestershire, so if any Town fans live in the area and need a skip, give him a call. (You might not get a discount if you mention the Wembley game though!)

Leicester - Richard Smith

Steven Walsh spent 14 years with Leicester City, but also turned out for Wigan, Norwich, Tamworth and Coventry City in a career lasting 21 years.

His ‘regular’ position was as a crunching defender, elegant in the air and tough in the tackle (he is the record holder for the most red cards in the Football League with 13) a team of eleven Steve Walsh’s would certainly be a formidable proposition. Especially if it was against a team of eleven David Geddis’ – as Walsh once received an eleven match ban for breaking said former Town players jaw in 1986.

Walsh was often utilised as a striker, he scored 16 goals in the 1993 season and was voted seventh best in that position by The People newspaper.

Steve now runs his own soccer academy in partnership with another one time Fox Muzzy Izzet http://futurefoxes.com/about-steve-walsh.html

Colin Hill stayed with Leicester for a further four years after the Wembley defeat, before finishing his career at Northampton Town via a one season stop off at Swedish outfit Trelleborgs. He now passes his time being Commercial Executive at the Professional Footballers’ Association

Alas no snail farming for David Oldfield, but he did spend some time wallowing around with some pigs in poo and by that I mean he played for Oxford. David made 188 appearances for Leicester during a five year stint with the club, he then moved on to Luton, Peterborough and Oxford before finishing his career in the non-leagues.

In 2007 following a very brief spell at Tamworth (1 appearance) he was appointed manager of Brackley Town where he stayed for one year before becoming reserve team manager back at Peterborough. He managed the first team for one match between the tenures of Gary Johnson and Darren Ferguson. In 2011 he left the Posh and joined West Brom as a development coach.

Steve Thompson started his playing career with Bolton Wanderers, playing 335 games for the Trotters before joining Leicester via a very brief spell at Luton Town. He won the Leicester player of year award twice and his silky Wembley is still the stuff of legend, as illustrated here.

After his Leicester stay he moved onto Burnley, Rotherham and Halifax before finishing up at the defunct Leigh RMI.

Thompson began his coaching career at Blackpool’s Centre of Excellence before becoming Head of the Youth Department in 2005. Following the appointment of Simon Grayson as manager Thompson was promoted to first team coach in 2006.

When Ian Holloway took charge he appointed Thompson as his assistant, a role he still holds today and has taken caretaker charge of the first team on two occasions.

Julian Kevin Joachim scored 25 goals in 99 games for Leicester, not many better than this cracker though.

He moved onto Aston Villa where he spent five Premier League seasons before dropping down a division to play for Coventry City.  He then went on to play for multiple clubs, including Leeds United, Walsall, Boston United and Darlington before moving into the Non-League game to play for King’s Lynn, Thurmaston Town, Quorn, Hinckley United, Holbeach United and Coalville. Over the course of his career in professional football, he has scored over 100 league goals and accumulated over 450 league appearances.

In April he turned out for Freiston Reserves in the Boston Saturday football league, read all about it here.

Steve Agnew is another former fox who finds himself in an assistant manager’s role, this time at Premier League returnees Hull City.

As a player he was a graceful midfielder, his career spanned almost 2 decades from 1983 to 2002, notably in the Premier League from Blackburn Rovers, Leicester City and Sunderland. He also played in the Football League for Barnsley, Portsmouth and YorkCity before finishing his career in Non-league with Gateshead.

It was in 2002 that Agnew first moved into coaching, becoming assistant manager of Gateshead before resigning after the playing budget was cut.

Agnew continued his coaching at the Middlesbrough Academy then joined Leeds United as Reserve Team Manager before becoming assistant manager at Hartlepool United in 2005.

However, in 2006, Agnew quit his position at Hartlepool and re-joined Leeds as Under 18′s manager.

His coaching career then completed a full circle when he re-joined Middlesbrough as reserve team coach in 2007. He also tried his hand at the Caretaker game when he was put in temporary charge of the first team following the resignation of Gordon Strachan in 2010. He joined Hull in 2012.

Lee Philpott was part of the jarring, anti-football John Beck Cambridge revolution, making 178 appearances for the ‘U’s before joining Leicester. The tricky left winger stayed with the Foxes for four seasons before moving to Blackpool, Lincoln City and Hull City. He finished his career in Non-league football with Weymouth, Harrogate Town and Hinckley United. During his career he made almost 500 league and cup appearances.

Whilst at Harrogate he tried his hand at coaching where he was player/assistant manager before becoming caretaker player/manager in 2005.

After suffering the reoccurrence of a persistent injury Philpott decided to get out of football coaching and move across to the dark side and became a licensed football agent. Lee Philpott Management Limited was established in May 2008. In September 2012 Philpott became affiliated with Mel Stein and Ian Montone’s Stone Mountain Management Limited, and now practices from his bases in Yorkshire and London.

So finally, the gaffer – when Brian Little was appointed as Leicester City manager in 1991 he was 37 years old and considered hot managerial property – the next big thing if you will.

So I was surprised to find when researching this piece that Brian Little no longer manages in the Football League. I always thought he was still around, managing at Rochdale or Northampton or somewhere or other.

After finally guiding Leicester into the Premier League in 1994, Little moved on to Aston Villa where he spent a hectic four years in charge, this amazingly proved to be his longest managerial stay of his career.

After resigning from Villa in 1998 Little then spent a year in charge of Stoke and West Brom, two years at Hull, three at Tranmere and one at Wrexham before dropping out of the Football League and off everybody’s radar.

In 2009 he was then appointed head honcho of Conference North side Gainsborough Trinity. Little began building a squad of professionals, picking up many players from the Football League and other ex-League players from the Conference National, but despite boasting a large squad of experienced players Trinity narrowly avoided relegation to the Northern Premier League during the 2010–11 season. On 22 August 2011 following one win and two defeats in the opening weeks of the 2011–12 season, Little was sacked as manager of Trinity with Steve Housham taking over as caretaker manager.

And that’s it, no real surprises, no bizarre career choices, no individual who manually masturbates rare animals for artificial insemination (© Clerks). At the end of the day, and not unsurprisingly, they were just a bunch of young footballers then, who now do adult footballing things now, oh and arrange reasonably priced skip hire.

So let’s not forget that amongst all this Swindon-orientated, back-slapping congratulatory nostalgia I think it’s important to remember these Leicester City players and their fantastic contribution to the day. Without their titanic effort and amazing comeback this encounter would’ve faded away from memory. I’m not talking about Swindon fans here obviously, we’d remember it to our graves regardless of the score, I’m talking about neutral football fans in general.

No one really remembers the routine wins, but they do remember the ding-dong, topsy-turvy encounters. The ones with plenty of goals and stunning comebacks, without Leicesters never-say-die attitude on that day, the game wouldn’t have been remembered let alone celebrated. For proof you just need to look here, here, here and here.

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Twenty Years Since Wembley ’93: Post Match Celebrations

Twenty Years Since Wembley 1993

We continue our special anniversary feature celebrating twenty years since Swindon Town’s 4-3 victory over Leicester City in the Division One Play Off Final with another video treat courtesy of swindon-town-fc.co.uk

Following the play off final victory at Wembley, the Town witnessed celebrations akin to those in 1969 as the whole community came out onto the motorway bridges, streets and the County Ground to welcome home the squad.

For me, I entirely missed the celebrations along the M4 and back in Swindon, as I travelled back to Dorset. One of my greatest regrets…

This video includes news clips and home video footage of those celebrations, including the civic reception.

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Twenty Years Since Wembley ’93: Swindon 352 v Leicester City 442

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Alex Cooke takes a look back at the pattern of play in one of the most fascinating games played at the old Wembley – Swindon Town v Leicester City.

One theme written throughout this bout nostalgia has been the comment that ‘it doesn’t feel like 20 years’ since Swindon won at Wembley. Not to me it doesn’t.

Watching Swindon 4, Leicester 3 again it seems as if more than just two decades have passed. Not because of the cast of milk-skinned, sallow youths, nor the surprising physicality of a match which in my memory was played by a Town team of rake-thin foundlings in velvet slippers.

The real surprise was in the systems on show – an orthodox 442 as British as cream teas, warm beer and casual racism versus an almost continental 352. For this wasn’t the defensive five-at-the-back system since used by Steve McMahon, nor the version once deployed at Milmoor with Stefan Miglioranzi as sweeper. This was Glen Hoddle as a libero; Glen Hoddle, one of the most naturally talented English footballers of all time, sometimes in front, sometimes behind and mostly betwixt centre backs. Just beautiful.

Leicester, by contrast, were English orthodoxy personified: big man/little man up top, two wingers and one attacking full-back, one defensive one. Their defensive line was far higher than Town’s own, probably safe in the knowledge that Swindon lacked pace and relied on possession to build attacks.

Watching now – as I couldn’t then – at least partly freed from choking emotion, Town’s football is the stuff of a fevered dream – yes, a 352 but with one forward who drops off, a screening midfielder allowing two wing-backs to attack, two man-markers and Hoddle the spare man at the back.

In the middle, Martin Ling and John Moncur were intricate and inventive as the ball carriers, while Ross MacLaren was what Eric Cantona termed the ‘water carrier’ shielding the central defence but rarely allowed his cloven hooves to touch the precious, precious ball.

Wide of them was Nicky Summerbee who played as a true wing-back, galloping forward, dribbling and crossing, while also falling back to defend as a full-back. On the other flank Paul Bodin was more tentative. He needed to be played in, to arrive late, attacking space.

In this game, Summerbee was key as his ability to make what those much vaunted ‘third-man runs’, essentially charging forward as Moncur and Ling played vertical passes to ensure the forwards could lay the ball off. The way he joined the attack was also vital in holding back Leicester’s stronger left flank. Each time Town went forward, Summerbee took both the winger and full-back with him, so in effect five were marking three – Summerbee, Craig Maskell and Dave Mitchell.

This created even greater space in the middle for Town’s trio to dominated Leicester’s two. It even indirectly led to the first Town goal as although Steve Agnew diligently followed Hoddle on a rare dart forward, when the ball was switched to Summerbee, Agnew switched off. He didn’t see Hoddle drift out then in, for he had turned his back. Instead Agnew was drawn to Maskell, before Hoddle broke from behind him to end a beautiful move with a beautiful goal.

Leicester Final 1st Goal Hoddle

Hoddle was, of course, a delight throughout. For much of the game, he stayed close to Shaun Taylor: beauty and the beast. Taylor man-marked, and dominated, totemic target man Steve Walsh. And Walsh was main Leicester’s outlet – target for some very good crosses, some poor hoofs and general focal point for their 442. Hoddle’s defensive job was to ensure that whatever flicked from the Neanderthal slopes of Walsh or Taylor’s brows, he would collect and distribute simply.

Taylor and Colin Calderwood took the function of ‘toe-treaders’, playing as dedicated markers to Walsh and Julian Joachim. Interesting they followed this brief precisely, never handing over their man, instead adjusting their position to make sure strength stayed with strength while pace followed pace. And it worked, for despite the final score line Leicester created very few chances.

A further reminder of how the game has changed in the past two decades came in how Town dropped off into their own half, rather than pressure possession. So the defence was deep too, mostly likely to stop the lithe Joachim being able to accelerate into space behind them.

Now, post Klopp’s Dortmund and Bielsa’s Chile, we are used to teams trying to win the ball back high up the field and make quick vertical transitions, but not here. Despite all the goals, this was a patient game, controlled by Town completely.

At the heart of it all Moncur and Ling were revelations to my fading memory. Both carried the ball fearlessly and with remarkable intelligence of when to dribble and dart or when to pass and pause. It was their talent, not tactics which made Town’s second goal though, Moncur’s driving dribble wasn’t stopped by the Foxes’ sloppy midfield but when the defence did, he had the vision to offload and Maskell had the incision to stay wide and onside and chime in with a delightful finish.

Leicester Final 2nd Goal

Leicester Final 2nd Goal - Maskell

In spite of a small stature of so much of the side, it had some heft too. Ross MacLaren shielding the central defence (although the closely cropped shots of TV coverage make his contribution hard to judge properly) and Dave Mitchell – well, Mitchell was a monster. For all the beauty around him, Mitchell’s endeavour was vital. He might have had the beard of a geography teacher but if he wanted to show you an oxbow lake, you would have agreed. When Town tired or were trapped, he gave an outlet and retained possession, or when Bodin or Summerbee couldn’t find a simple ball he could be hit with an early cross from deep.

The combination of Town’s formation and personnel did create a problem though as the game went on. As Summerbee faded, the width evaporated. As Maskell slumped, possession higher up the field became harder to regain or retain. Also without pace anywhere in the team, the quick counter attack wasn’t an option, despite the balls that Hoddle could drop behind the Foxes’ defence. That is until Steve White came on to work the channels because even with his limited pace and Kevin Poole’s lack of judgement,

When Town slumped, part physically but seemingly mostly psychologically, Leicester were finally able to spread their wings – and their full-backs and get into the game. It might have been tiredness or shock at taking a 3-0 lead but Town’s midfield flagged. As a result Hoddle stepped forward and eventually calmed things but his side lost their shape for a while and the Foxes came back, and back, and back again to level the score.

Swindon v Leicester City – Full Match footage from ITV’s ‘The Match’

As that fight back began Leicester’s Steve Thompson seemed to have greater time on the ball just in front of his own back four. Was it a cause or just a contributory factor? It is hard to tell from the limited and low angles of much of the TV coverage but the qualities of a very good Leicester side suddenly became apparent. Finally Agnew and David Oldfield were both bold enough to get closer to Walsh, turning the striker’s headers into chances as Hoddle needed to mark one of the runners. No longer having the ‘spare’ man, Town’s became cautious of leaving gaps at the back and the wing-backs became flatter and no longer supported those in front of them as Hoddle stepped up.

While Leicester’s 442 was based largely on wing play and support from the full-backs, they also had some very good players, particularly in central midfield. However, looking back Brian Little’s tactics did little to help them. Instead of using the nippy Joachim wide and leaving Town over-manned in the middle of defence with a trio against just Walsh, he played the two centrally. Where as Joachim could have been used to keep Bodin or Summerbee back, they were allowed free, knowing that Town’s trio at the back could cover.

Little could have even switched to a full 433 using just three attackers to pin back Town’s five, evening up the midfield miss-match, pressuring the relatively limited MacLaren on the ball and forcing Town to change their game. After all, lone strikers were pretty much what sent the 352 formation into hibernation for a decade or so until sides such as Napoli reshaped and revived it.

But Little’s failings shouldn’t mask Town’s excellence. This was a superb game between two very good sides, and one whose see-sawing momentum represented the qualities of both teams: a wonderful Town side showed how possession and technique can be used not just as an attacking tactic but also a defensive one, while Leicester’s comeback showed their slightly more earthy blend of virtues but still remained thrilling to watch.

And despite the wonderful ability of this Swindon side, and of Hoddle, Ling and Moncur in particular, it is clear that they remain just like all the other Town teams before and since – it can’t be done the easy way. And that certainly hasn’t changed, even during the last 20 years.

Twenty Years Since Wembley ’93: Swindon vs Leicester City Previews

Twenty Years Since Wembley 1993

We continue our special anniversary feature celebrating twenty years since Swindon Town’s 4-3 victory over Leicester City in the Division One Play Off Final with next video courtesy of Swindon-Town-FC.co.uk

Here’s all of the Town vs Leicester City match previews from HTV, BBC Points West, GMTV and ITV as the Play Off Final approached back in May 1993 ….

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Twenty Years Since Wembley ’93: ‘Up Where We Belong’

Up Where We Belong

We continue our special anniversary feature celebrating twenty years since Swindon Town’s 4-3 victory over Leicester City in the Division One Play Off Final with another video treat courtesy of swindon-town-fc.co.uk

Any trip to Wembley for a final needs a song and Swindon’s ‘Up Where We Belong’ released in the build up to the game couldn’t have been more aptly titled, as Town sought to right the wrongs of demotion three years previous and take their place in the top flight for the first time.

Up Where We Belong

Were you one of the many who bought this song on cassette to play on repeat to and from to Wembley that Bank Holiday Monday..?

Download

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Podcast Episode 13: ’93 Play Offs Special with Fraser Digby

TheWashbag Podcast

We continue our celebration of twenty years since the Division One Play Off Final victory over Leicester City and promotion to the Premier League with a chat with Town legend Fraser Digby in a very special episode of TheWashbag.com Swindon Town FC Podcast.

TheWashbag PodcastRon Smith is joined by Town goalkeeping legend and one of the Wembley starting XI Fraser Digby and Washbag writer Brendan Hobbs.

The three look back at those events of May 1993, including some memorable moments from the 1992/93 campaign, a frenetic start in the semi-final 1st leg against Tranmere Rovers, proof that Fraser did save the day at a vital moment at Prenton Park, the build up to the final, Town storming to a 3-0 lead only to nearly throw it away, did Steve White win that penalty, and the celebrations after the game when it felt like the whole town was a sea of red & white.

You can contact us by emailing thewashbag[at]gmail[dot]com

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FYI Paolo: The Ten Greatest Swindon Town Performances

Danny Williams 1969 18

Paolo Di Canio believes the victory over Stoke City was one of the greatest Swindon Town performances, perhaps it is a contender, Ron Smith gives his view on the top ten.

After outclassing Premier League Stoke City in the League Cup 2nd Round tie, Paolo Di Canio said; “Today we have to put this game as one of the best games I think in this club’s history. I don’t know exactly because I don’t know all this club’s history but look at the football. The first half it looked like Stoke City against Barcelona!”

Well Paolo, here’s my look back to provide a view on the ten greatest Swindon Town performances…. discuss…

No.10 – Swindon 3 Leeds United 0 (x2) – League One 2009/2010

Cheating a little bit including two matches, but Town’s double 3-0 victories over Leeds United in January and April 2010 were astonishing for their equal completeness in routing ‘fallen giants’ Leeds United. Billy Paynter scored four and Charlie Austin twice in the demolition jobs without reply, leaving Leeds fans ‘marching on together’ out of the ground well before the final whistles.

No.9 – Swindon 2 Liverpool 0 – League Cup 3rd Round 6th October 1970

quick fire Don Rogers second half double send Bill Shankly’s emerging Liverpool side featuring Clemence, Smith, Hughes and Lloyd out of the League Cup. Our one and only victory over Liverpool.

No.8 – Swindon 2 Tottenham 1 – Premier League 22nd January 1994

The most complete performance of the Premier League season, Town came from behind after a Nicky Barnby goal after half an hour to secure a 2-1 victory. Jan Aage Fjortoft scored his first goal in the Premier League before a late Adrian Whitbread strike following an in-direct free kick in the box. Some fantastic footage here, enjoy the game…

No.7 – Stoke City 3 Swindon 4 AET – League Cup 2nd Round 28th August 2012

Town very nearly surrendered a 2-0 half time lead against Premier League opposition before eventually taking this tie in the depths of extra time. A last minute James Collins goal completed his hat trick in what was an astonishing performance, the finest yet under Di Canio to out gun top flight opponents on their own turf – a feat not done in the cups since a 2-0 victory at Carrow Road in the FA Cup in 1988.

No.6 – Bristol City 0 Swindon 4 – Division One 12th January 1991

Perhaps the most dominant performance in a local derby sees high-flying City overturned 4-0 at Ashton Gate. Goals from Mickey Hazard, Duncan Shearer and a double from Steve White tore City apart.

No.5 – Swindon 3 West Ham Utd 1 – FA Cup 3rd Round Replay 31st January 1967

Against a side featuring World Cup winners Martin Peters, Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and former international Johnny Byrne, Third Division Town progressed in this FA Cup replay following a 3-3 draw at Upton Park. Goals from Willie Penman, Ken Skeen and Don Rogers gave Town a 3-1 victory and a cup giant-killing over their illustrious First Division opponents.

No.4 – Swindon 4 Arsenal 3 AET – League Cup Quarter Final Replay 11th December 1979

It’s all 1969 all over again as Third Division Swindon beat First Division – and holders of the FA Cup – Arsenal. After drawing 1-1 at Highbury, Town then thrash hapless Bury 8-0 in the League before the replay at the County Ground. Town were 3-1 up before Arsenal took the tie to extra time. Andy Rowland poked the winner with minutes to go to send 4-3 victors Swindon to a Semi-Final with Wolves.

No.3 – Swindon 4 Leicester City 3 – Division One Play-Off Final 31st May 1993

Nail-biting. 3-0 to the good then all of a sudden Leicester find their scoring boots and level the score. Steve White will forever be the villain in Foxes eyes for ‘winning’ a penalty, but it still took Paul Bodin to hold his nerve to send Swindon back to where we belong…albeit for one season.

No.2 – Birmingham City 4 Swindon 6 – Division One 12th April 1993

The comeback of all comebacks. From 4-1 down, Swindon score 5 in the last 30 minutes to come away from St Andrews with a 2 goal margin of victory. Just watch the video!

No.1 – Swindon 3 Arsenal 1 AET – League Cup Final 15th March 1969

Obvious really. The most complete performance when it mattered the most against quality opposition on an awful pitch. Every player who wore the shirt and Danny Williams are legends because of what they did this day in March 1969.

Notable other contenders just missing out of the top ten include; Swindon 1-0 Sunderland Division One Play Off Final in 1990; Swindon 5-0 Fulham in 1977; Swindon 3-0 Chelsea in 1963; Charlton vs Swindon Play-Off Semi-Final 2nd Leg; Swindon 3-1 Tranmere Division One Play-Off Semi-Final 1st Leg in 1993; Swindon 8-0 Bury in 1979 and Swindon 2-1 Wigan Athletic in 2012.

Simon Ferry – Swindon’s missing link

Simon Ferry 5

He can play 50 passes in less than 90 minutes and knits defence and attack but lately illness has deprived Town of Simon Ferry in full flow, Alex Cooke looks at what we have been missing.

“Less energy, more quality”. That was Paolo Di Canio’s opinion of what Simon Ferry brought from the bench to Swindon versus Shrewsbury on Tuesday.  It might sound a strange view to take of a player who most fans would pick for not only for his excellence, but one who also exuding energy and enthusiasm in every performance. However, it is an idea which is backed up by the stats.

A look at his performances against Wigan and Leicester show that Ferry passes with both efficiency and accuracy.

During the 90 minutes (plus injury time) against Wigan he completed 91% of the passes he attempted. That is clearly an impressive number, especially as it wasn’t earned through a few tapped short exchanges with Jon Smith; he actually attempted 25 passes, all around pitch.

Against Leicester, he managed to complete an even more remarkable 90% of his passes over 81 minutes versus the Championship team, failing to complete just five out of 50. For an international comparison Xavi’s of Barcelona completes on average of 90% of his passes, but then he has been known to make 100 passes in just 45 minutes.

While Ferry’s passing is often unspectacular, it is like him; swift, precise and short. He also has the awareness and technique to play the ball under pressure, giving and receiving passes while marked and spin in little space. Other Swindon players might dawdle, shifting the ball to their preferred foot; Ferry links the play almost instantaneously.

So while it is Matt Ritchie who gives Swindon creativity and penetration in the wide positions and Raffa De Vita shuttles up and down the flank, it is Ferry who provides the possession, and so controls the pace of the game. He isn’t a box-to-box action man or even playmaker, more of a prompter.

He’s also tactically aware. During the first twenty minutes of a game, Ferry will often sit deeper – level with Jon Smith – offering ‘false pressing’ of the opposition. During this time he, and the rest of the midfield, doesn’t seek to win the ball high up the field, merely to jockey, to harass and to block – proof of which again comes from the FA Cup tie against Wigan when he made just three passes, 12% of his total, inside the opening 20 minutes of the match.

It is only when his manager removes the defensive shackles that Ferry starts to show his influence, pressing for real, and accelerating into space, feeding the vertical attacking thrusts of Ritchie, Paul Caddis and Luke Rooney with passes, as well as simply keeping,  and circulating the ball.

As the game unfolds, he has the intelligence and flexibility to alter his role either to become the lead point on a diamond, or to remain square.  For, in Town’s 442, with its inverted wingers, Ferry’s role isn’t to venture beyond the strikers, instead when attacking he holds a position inside the ‘D’ of the 18-yard-box ready to change the direction of the attack or to feed any clearances back into the forwards. It is much as Paul Scholes does now, but from a much higher starting position than the Manchester United playmaker.

What Ferry doesn’t do is hit hopeful 60-yard ‘Hollywood’ passes from front to back, or chip balls into the channels for the strikers – his passing to almost exclusively to feet. However, common perception is that he doesn’t look for longer passes doesn’t quite hold true. Against Leicester City, Ferry repeatedly sought to release Raffa De Vita on the left flank with a number of 30-yard balls. It might have been a strategy, it might have been pure opportunity – but it proves that that to go with his ‘tiki-taka’ there is also some ‘wacka’.

The Leicester match also revealed another pre-conception about Ferry’s passing that doesn’t quite hold true. Because of his position very much on the right of central midfield, and his right footedness, it is easy to presume that his passing would primarily mirror Swindon’s strength on that right flank. Instead, Ferry’s play showed greater balance between the flanks.

19 times he passed to the right flank and 12 to the left, switching the direction of the attack and 13 times feeding the advancing full-backs. Interesting for a player who likes to run forward with the ball, he also passed backwards 13 times, retaining possession with a pass to Alan McCormack four times, Wes Foderingham twice and Joe Devera  just the once. Also interestingly, it was the two wingers who most often received the ball, Ritchie 11 times and De Vita/Gabilondo eight times. In 30 forward passes, Alan Connell came short to take five passes but in his nine sideways balls, only twice did he aim for his fellow central midfielder, Oliver Risser.

But there is a gap in Ferry’s game – regaining the ball. During the Wigan game, Ferry won just one tackle and was dispossessed three times. He also headed the ball just three times, twice finding a teammate.  Instead he hustles and harries with superb patience, energy and positional discipline.

There often seems to be a short piece of elastic between him and Jon Smith as they shuffle from one side of the pitch to the other perfectly in line, presenting a formidable barrier to any attack and provide an excellent screen to the back four. It is the kind of discipline that comes only with understanding, training ground drilling and excellent concentration.

But Jon Smith isn’t a ball-winner either. Instead he tends to crash into his opponents with the leggy grace of a crane-fly hitting a window. And the stats bear this out too as in the same Wigan game, he won and lost the same number of tackles – two.  He also gave away two freekicks, but he did make two interceptions. Key though is his pass completion stats – 93%. Which looks better than Ferry’s percentage but with only 15 attempted, and the majority being more conservative, more ‘square’ passes, he isn’t as attacking as his midfield partner.  Instead he forms the rear point of the midfield diamond when Town attack.

But any look at a player’s statistics can’t ignore the opposition, and the Wigan game is the exception not the rule – it was open, clean and played on the floor, not in the air. So while Smith won all of his headers, he hardly faced the endless tossed-up balls that Macclesfield or to a lesser extent the physical tie that Leicester offered.

For these games, Canio clearly acknowledged Smith’s lack of power, aerial ability and perhaps even positional discipline, preferring the bulkier Oliver Risser. Plenty has already been written and said about Risser’s strengths, and weaknesses, but his influence and input into the side is clearly growing.

Against a hulking Macclesfield side Di Canio clearly selected the Namibian for his aerial ability to shield the relatively small backline of Alan McCormack and Joe Devera, winning five or six headers in a row during the second half. Similarly away at Rotherham, again it was Risser who was chosen to pick up Alex Revel at set-pieces, instead of either of the centre backs. Also against Leicester, Risser forced one of the better chances leaping to hit in a near-post header reminiscent of the flick-on he won leading to Aden Flint scoring against Huddersfield.

Whatever the changes Di Canio makes to Ferry’s partner, it is telling that the Scot has almost always played when he has been available – even when ill. Because while Smith and Risser might be used in certain games, in certain roles  – and Lee Cox clearly offers a robust presence allied with vision – Simon Ferry can always adapt to any role, and the one change that is never required is to substitute him.

Vic Morgan Blog: Let the good times roll…

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The ramblings of BBC Devon’s Vic Morgan..

It can’t be often you loose and aren’t TOO disappointed about it.

A trip to the east Midlands for an FA Cup Fourth Round tie, saw around 4,000 Town fans shout loud and proud at the King Power.

I’m generally not one who talks about days out in football. A game is there to be won, and anything else comes second. But Saturday was different. Most, if not all, Swindon fans have promotion as their priority, and a win at Wembley in the JPT would also be high up the list. So the FA Cup run is very much a bonus, and so even the most ardent Town supporter would sacrifice that run for the other two competitions.

That’s how it proved.

Our old sparring partner Jermaine Beckford with two goals, ended our interest in the competition.

To be honest, in recent times we’ve lost that interest before Christmas, so nice to still be involved in January. The team gave a great account of themselves, and if Leicester had been reduced to ten men…as they should have been..who knows…?

I would think Simon Ferry still wakes up at night thinking about THAT challenge. Thank goodness it didn’t cause serious injury.

The supporters were wonderful, and there was a great feeling of community on Saturday. Even the trip home wasn’t too downbeat.

I wrote recently that the win over Macclesfield for me was a significant one.

To win late on when you haven’t played well, proved to me that this side WILL win the title. Events on Tuesday night convinced me even more. To go to the home of one of your closest rivals, and do what Swindon did is extraordinary.

A 4-1 win away from home is always excellent, but at a side who were top very recently, is tremendous.

It was also great to see Billy Bodin get his first goal for the Town…Swindon through and through. Dad Paul must have been smiling all night. Maybe there’s a comparison to be drawn with Alan McGloughlin. Alan, like Billy, went off to Torquay on loan when he couldn’t get into the Swindon team on a regular basis. Came back, and went on to be a Swindon Hall of Famer.

Good luck Billy. It was a super result, and a fair wind could see us go top on Saturday.

If we do, I don’t expect us to be removed.

So it’s Burton on Saturday.

A disappointing defeat at the Pirrelli earlier this season. It was in that strange start to the campaign, which saw us drop from top to second bottom in quick order. You might even remember there were rumblings about the manager….how hard is THAT to believe now.

It seems an age ago that we went to Burton, and three more points would give us the perfect lift before the game against Barnet on Tuesday.

It’s a fantastic time to be a Swindon supporter….relish every moment of it, and remember every second, because these times are the best of times.

Just remember this time last year, and the feelings of depression and desolation after every game.

Follow me on Twitter @swindonred, and don’t forget Keep it Loud, Keep it Proud, Keep it SWINDON.

Vic

Leicester City 2 Swindon 0 – Loud & Proud: Even in Defeat

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Swindon Town’s first venture into the Fourth Round of the FA Cup since 1995/1996 ended in defeat in chilly Leicestershire writes Daniel Hunt.

Swindon’s players can be proud that they more than matched their Championship opponents for 53 minutes and 3,830 Robins can take pride in out-singing just over 16,000 Foxes. Leeds old-boy Jermaine Beckford exacted personal revenge for being on the end of two 3-0 hammerings in 2009/2010 by clinically finishing his two chances; on a day when Swindon failed to take theirs.

It could have been so different if Kasper Schmeichel had not eaten his Weetabix (other wheat based breakfast cereals are available!) or if referee Darren Drysdale had taken a harsher view on a truly horrific Paul Konchesky tackle on wee Si Ferry…

An hour before the game had even started and as I was sipping on pint number three in the ‘Polar Bear’, Paolo Di Canio set Swindon hearts racing by naming a starting eleven missing the influential Aden Flint through ‘injury’. Cue (hopefully) silly talk of which club Flint was joining for £750k from my fellow travelling supporters.

Alan McCormack made a timely return from suspension to deputise for the former Alfreton man, it was he and Devera who both coped well against a speedy front two of Beckford and one-time England international David Nugent. On this occasion, I don’t think Flint’s presence would have altered the result because very little of Leicester’s attacking play went through the air – where Flint is so capable above a League Two level.

The opening goal came as early as the 5th minute and it was a disappointing goal to concede from a defensive point of view. Matt Mills’ header across goal from a diagonal ball was intercepted by Devera, but the former Barnet man could only manage to clear the ball back to Mills. In nose-bleed territory for a centre-half, Mills calmly chipped the ball to Beckford who swivelled on the spot to score past a grey shirted Wes Foderingham.

The goal didn’t deter Swindon and once they settled into the match, Town created more and better chances than their Championship opponents in the first half.

Say what you like about Oliver Risser but for me this was his most effective game for Swindon Town. He drew the best save out of Kasper Schmeichel with a near post flicked header, reminiscent of the one that set up Flint to power home against Huddersfield in the First Round back in November. The Namibian was also heavily involved in setting up two of Swindon’s other great chances in the first half.

Firstly, his well-timed tackle on Beckford on the half way line allowed De Vita to break clear and feed Connell in the left channel. Unfortunately for Connell, a mixture of ‘keeper and woodwork deflected the ball over the frame of the goal. Secondly, Risser’s measured pass fed Cibocchi on the left wing and his dangerous cross wasn’t turned in by Connell or Benson before a last ditch tackle from Konchesky denied Matt Ritchie a certain goal which would have brought the scores level.

First half stoppage time brought the major talking point of the game with Simon Ferry breaking from the centre of midfield. Paolo Di Canio was unequivocal in his assertion that Paul Konchesky should have been given a straight red for a scything, reckless ‘tackle’ on Town’s Scottish midfielder. A yellow card sufficed for referee Drysdale and Alessandro Cibocchi tested Schmeichel with a stinging drive from over 30 yards with the resulting free kick. Having seen the tackle again on TV, it was a potentially career ending challenge and Konchesky should have walked… no doubt about it. The “ooohh” let out from Foxes supporters in the ground when the tackle went in was telling.

Thankfully Ferry got up and carried on until the 81st minute, but Swindon never got up a head of steam in the second period.

Despite it seemingly being only Leicester’s third or fourth meaningful attack of the whole game, Gallagher’s cross struck Caddis and Beckford volleyed the loose ball into the roof of the net. Therein lies the difference between the two sides; Beckford is a proven finisher and clinically put Swindon to the sword whilst Risser, Connell, Ritchie and Cibocchi went to sleep dreaming of what could have been in front of goal.

Leicester went close to increasing their lead as Swindon searched in vain for a goal but St Ledger could only nod wide; and then a Nugent header was brilliantly parried by a diving Wes Foderingham. This was a landmark game for Wes but for the wrong reasons – Leicester are the first side to put two goals past him in twenty games of professional football. Nonetheless this has been a great start to his career by anyone’s standards.

Make no mistakes, this was a very capable Leicester City side containing a £5 million defender in Swindon-raised Matt Mills, Scotland and Republic of Ireland internationals in Paul Gallagher and Sean St Ledger as well as ex-England left back Paul Konchesky. It says something about the quality of the Championship that the Foxes are languishing in 13thplace, but the gulf in class was not visible until Beckford slammed home goal number two in the 53rd minute. Hereafter, Leicester kept the ball fantastically well and Swindon ran out of ideas despite the inevitable huffing and puffing from the side now 6th in League Two.

Despite barely mentioning him throughout this report, my man of the match was Alan McCormack by a distance, which is good as 72% of TheWashbag.com readers agreed. His first touch, composure and use of the ball from centre-half is fantastic, he gives the side a real extra dimension and his surging runs from deep are now a feature of our play. The most notable improvement I can see in McCormack’s play though is his timing in the tackle. This from a man who so quickly racked up ten yellow cards this season!

On Di Canio, I don’t think he covered himself in glory as manager against Leicester. I say this because the introductions of Lander Gabilondo and Ronan Murray added nothing to the team. Also giving Louis Thompson his debut with nine minutes of normal time left smacked of admitting defeat at a time when Town were one goal away from making the tie interesting. Perhaps I’ve been spoilt by this FA Cup run and the excellence of Swindon’s football recently, but it shows you how far Town have come that I came away from the King Power Stadium feeling so flat in defeat.

The game was screaming out for the cup tied Luke Rooney to come on and wreak havoc down the left flank – hopefully Southend will bear the brunt of Rooney’s frustration at not being able to take part against Leicester on Tuesday night.

The final thought is reserved for our magnificent supporters who continue to fill up away ends up and down the country. The noise was incredible and it made me so proud to stand there with my old man, my uncle and my friends – united as reds! Really enjoyed being part of the Swindon invasion on the East Midlands and look forward to seeing as many of you as I can on Tuesday night at Roots Hall. Surely Southend is arguably the biggest game of Swindon’s League Two season so far…?