TheWashbag Meets: Jerel Ifil

Jerel Ifil - Swindon no.5 3

We talk to former Swindon Town, Watford, Aberdeen and Bristol Rovers defender Jerel Ifil about life at the County Ground, being managed by Andy King, playing in the Scottish Premier League and his plans for life after football…

Ron Smith – It took three loan deals and a persistent Andy King to bring you to Swindon. How frustrated were you to a) be overlooked at Watford; and b) by their efforts to keep you when first team football clearly wasn’t available?

Jerel Ifil – I was very frustrated to be overlooked as I had signed a 3 year contract with Watford 6 months earlier, but that was given to me by Gianluca Vialli and Ray Wilkins. When they got the sack and Watford fell into money troubles Ray Lewington became manager and he phoned me to tell me they had accepted an offer from Wycombe.

RS -At the time you were attracting interest from Peterborough United, Wycombe Wanderers and others. What was it about Swindon to bring you here permanently?

JI – I obviously enjoyed my time here on my three loans, I loved the fans and the squad so I told Watford I would only leave if I went Swindon, they actually took less of a fee for me coming to Swindon as Wycombe offered more.

RS – What would you say were your greatest qualities as a defender?

JI – I’m an unselfish player, I would and often do put myself in positions only I could deal with. which is risky but that was due to the fact I was so much quicker than other players and read the game well. I’m a team player.

Jerel Ifil - Swindon no.5

RS – In post-match interviews Andy King often seemed to single you out, what is your opinion on managers who criticise their players in public?

JI – Some managers are like that and that is there choice. I don’t agree with it especially if the manager has young players who are learning the game.

You’re all supposed to be a team and players find it hard to play for managers that hang them out to dry.

RS – And, following on – Listening to former Town players, there seems to be a widely differing view of Andy King, what was your experience of him like?

JI – He believed in me enough to buy me so I’ve got to be thankful for that. Whatever happened from then on I have forgiven and learnt from. life’s to short to hold on to negative things.

RS – You and Adi Williams formed one of Swindon’s best central defensive partnerships for some time, what was it about that partnership which worked so well?

Jerel Ifil - Swindon

JI – First of all we got on well. then other than that I think we appreciated and knew each others strengths, but he sustained a bad knee injury and then Jamie Vincent played most of the end the season with me and we formed a very good partnership also. The main thing about the defence in that year in fact as a team is that we were fit, coached properly and drilled to know our jobs. I went from no shape or team tactics to doing it three times a week.

RS – Players always say at the time that they don’t let off the field problems affect them. You played through some troubled times for Town, how much did the pay problems and protests affect you?

JI – To be honest it did not affect me, the board were honest and open and we knew what was going on. We never missed any wages just deferrals of bonuses which you can appreciate given the situation the club was in. So we just got on with it.

RS – Danny Wilson’s arrival signaled the end to your long time at the County Ground. Can you shed some more light on your final matches in a Town shirt, an apparent recall at Gillingham and then your departure.

JI – Danny Wilson was a top manager, We never fell out or anything he actually really liked me as a player, but before the game at Gillingham he told me Aberdeen approached them and he thought it was a good move for me in both a football sense and financially.

I was feeling like I needed a change so I went. It happened very quickly as they wanted me to start the season against Celtic, so never really got a chance to say bye to anybody.

RS – Your time at Swindon included 231 games over eight seasons, making you number 56 in the all time list of most appearances in our red & white. You had the highs of playing a part in our League One Play-Off Semi Final season 2003/04 and our League Two promotion in 2006/07, but the lows of relegation in 2005/06 under Iffy. With player / club loyalty in such short supply in modern football what resulted in you spending eight years in Swindon?

JI – I had a great time at Swindon and grew as a player from a boy into a man playing for Swindon, experiencing the lows helps you grow and I definitely did that at Swindon.

RS – Looking back what were your proudest achievements?

JI – My proudest achievement was the promotion and receiving the players player of the year award in that promotion year.

RS – And, what were the times to forget?

JI – My Seasons under Malpas and Andy King.

RS – A move to Scotland and Aberdeen caught some by surprise. You went on to make 44 league appearances in the Scottish Premier League before departing in January 2011. For any professional to play in a top flight is a fantastic achievement, what do you take from your time at Pitodorie?

JI – It was great to play in front of the crowds of 60,000+ at Rangers and Celtic and experience the media attention of playing in the top flight.

RS – After returning to England, where has football taken you and have you finally hung up your boots?

JI – I haven’t quite hung up my boots lol!

I came back, played for Bristol Rovers (sorry) then took a chance playing non-league at Kettering which didn’t turn out to be what I had expected.

RS – You played under plenty of different managers, which one do you think really got the best out of you, and how did they do it?

JI – Dennis wise by far. He made me enjoy football again after a horrible year. He improved my game by simplifying it and the whole squad enjoyed training everyday yet we worked harder than ever. Good times!

RS – You’re now back in Swindon working as a Performance Coach. What does the role entail, why does it appeal to you and where can our readers find you for coaching?

JI – I am now helping others achieve their goals, whether it be to lose fat, gain muscle, or improve fitness. I’m also a mentor at colleges.

I have always been into fitness and health so this feels like something I can naturally fall into once I eventually hang up my boots.

I work at the Absolutely Fit Studio Swindon [at Unit 3 in Kembrey Business Park] where I do one to one sessions. I’ve also done men’s Strength & Core classes. The classes were for anyone, of all fitness levels as you’re only competing to improve yourself. Follow my Twitter @ifilfit for updates on when the classes take place.

RS – Just one final question. You’re back in football, how much are you looking towards getting first team football..?

JI – I’ve just signed for Staines Town FC, hopefully I can get back in the swing of things as its been a while since I played competitive football but i’m looking forward to getting back in action.

RS – Thanks for taking to time to speak to us!

Follow @Ifilfit on Twitter

Hall of Shame #21: Jason Drysdale

Jason Drysdale - Watford Cropped 13

Making a claim for the twin titles of Steve McMahon’s worst value-for-money signing and Swindon’s duffest left-back, Alex Cooke welcomes Jason Drysdale to the Hall of Shame.

Even within the dismal shower of Swindon’s former left-backs Jason Drysdale stands out. Squeezed between the likes of Hall, Elkins, Casal, Rose and Beswetherwick his name still seems to bob up and down – a floater in a sea of crap, a warning beacon of badness. The Shitting Forecast, if you will.

Drysdale has become is a byword for failure. While the others were known for being feckless, hopeless, toothless or just inept, he is remembered for being all of these things and many more. Not all of them were his fault but then as with any player who transcends plain old ‘not being very good’, circumstances weren’t exactly kind to him.

Part of the problem wasn’t just who Jason Drysdale was, more who he wasn’t: he wasn’t Paul Bodin and he wasn’t Jan Aage Fjortoft. Instead he was deadline-day desperation signing by a struggling manager for a struggling team. Hindsight, through its telescope of cold dispassion, might show us that it is unfair to hold him responsible for Steve McMahon’s ego-driven sale of his star striker or the cold-shouldering of his left-back but that isn’t the way that many Town fans felt about Drysdale back then, primarily as the money for his signature came from the flogging of the Norwegian. He also wasn’t responsible for the dreadful planning that had seen long deals dished out to has-beens during the Premier League season or the appalling form that followed, first under John Gorman then McMahon. But then Drysdale did little to persuade the terraces of anything positive during his three-year spell at Swindon.

In fact Drysdale has become the player who almost more than any other is identified with the end of the top-flight dream. His signing, and Jan’s sale, marks the day when reality arrived in Swindon – the nasty reality that Town’s upward trajectory, started by Lou Macari, was going to turn downward for a long time to come.

That £340,000 transfer fee and who he replaced were millstones around his neck from the start; which is odd because his neck was the one part of his balsa-strength body which never failed him. For he was in many ways as a player he was like a Stradivarius: fragile, unbelievable expensive and wholly unsuited to football. Injuries seemed to follow him, gang up on him, to mug him while he slept. He seemed able to strain, pull, tweak, snap, fracture, total and twang parts of his body that even House would need to a medical dictionary to find. He collected just 36 league starts between March 1995 to March 1998 at a rate of less than 15 per season.

During those relatively rare forays onto the field, he hardly shone. The odd pass, such as the one which released Steve Cowe against Bradford showed why Newcastle had to use £425,000 reasons to convince Watford to release him. However, neither Newcastle thought him good enough to actually play (0 appearances) and those Watford fans, who saw him play the vast majority of his 135 league games, seem even less convinced by him.

But his over-valuation was a product of the climate. Not only was he a deadline day signing but this was an era when prices for British players were already artificially inflated. And with the Bosman ruling not coming into force later until that year and the 3-5-2 formation very much in fashion in the largely insular English leagues, left-backs, particularly attacking ones – regularly commanded over-inflated fees.

For the majority of his playing time at Swindon though, Drysdale struggled. He fell between two stools – for once not literally: too delicate in defence, too limited in attack. His low, soft crosses hardly seemed the ideal replacement for Bodin’s precision delivery and attacking poise. He didn’t really tackle, preferring to lightly buffet the winger as a butterfly does a passing articulated lorry. Instead of lunging in, he would wait for one of the big boys at centre back to deal with any attacker, at which point the cross had long been converted into a goal.

It can’t have been a surprise to anyone, even McMahon, when he was finally released, and while everyone from Mark Robinson, Ty Gooden and even Lee Collins filled in for him, the left-back position didn’t really become settled again until Sol Davis kicked his way on the scene.

After Swindon, Drysdale played a single league game for Northampton Town before embarking on a downward spiral through West Country football with Forest Green, Bath, Paulton and Mangotsfield. While his descent into obscurity was as rapid as his rise, few managers or fans have ever been able to see what inspired Swindon Town to pay a fee which equates to almost £10,000 per league start for the damp squib that was Jason Dysdale. Welcome to the Hall of Shame, but watch that step on the way in.

Read More Tales from the Swindon Town Hall of Shame…

Managers Month No.1 – Danny Williams (1965-69)

No.1 | Danny Williams | Manager August 1965 to July 1969 | Score 423.2

Danny Williams’ first spell in charge at Swindon from 1965 to 1969 is, by my definition, the most successful spell by any Town manager in the Football League, FA Cup and League Cup.

His overall record is second to none and provided an entire generation with lasting memories of the 1969 League Cup win, an achievement sadly that is extremely unlikely to ever be equalled.

So how did the one club man from Rotherham propel Swindon Town into the national limelight with one of the most famous Wembley upsets of all time?Continue Reading

Town at Peterborough: If You score 4… We’ll Score 5

You would normally expect to win when scoring 3 goals, let alone 4. But somehow only Swindon can come back from the brink of complete disaster only to throw it all away with yet another error.

Town were 3 nil down after 22 minutes, then we managed to go in level at half time. After both sides scored again it appeared the teams had settled for a deserved point apiece, only for Peterborough to sneak the winner and an incredible 5-4 win.

 

from swindontownfc.co.uk

 

A 5-4 defeat was only the second time in the club’s history that we’ve scored 4 or more goals in the Football League and finished the losing side. The  other game  was a 7-4 defeat away at Watford in the Division Three South on December 14th 1934.

On Saturday, both sides went into the game playing to their strengths of attacking football and equally struggling in defence. So was it unusual the game played out the way it did? I don’t think so.

Looking at my rankings after 11 games Peterborough were ranked 2nd best attacking and 19th best defensive, whilst Town were ranked 4th and 17th respectively. With such a disparity in quality between the defence and attack, goals were inevitable, although I never expected a 5-4 scoreline.

What frustrates me was that Town had better possession (56/44), more chances (13/11) and more corners than Peterborough, however we still failed to secure at least a point because of our comical defence.

This isn’t to say Peterborough’s defence was any good either as they made plenty of mistakes, notably Ball’s second, and all of Town’s shots on target resulted in goals. So, with so many mistakes on both sides it was perhaps inevitable one team would win, unfortunately for us it was Peterborough.

For the winner, an own goal from Kevin Amankwaah, his lack of concentration and poor positioning cost us. The ball was hit in from the edge of the box at some pace and with Kevin facing towards goal, the ball was only going one way, into the net. He could have left it, however Mackail-Smith was ready to pounce, but this isn’t the defending expected of one of our experienced professionals.

So post match with 12 league games played Town are now ranked 24th, the worst defensive team in League One. The improving forward line with Austin and Ball supplemented with Ritchie on the wing cannot continue to keep us in the game or make the scoreline respectable. Our defence is becoming a laughing stock and the sooner Wilson addresses this the better. Is there another Gordon Greer type player out there who can come to fill the void?