Danny Wilson: Hero to villain?
Brought to Swindon Town by Andrew Fitton with the task to ensure Town avoided relegation in 2008/2009. Two years on, after reaching the highs of 2nd place and a Wembley play-off final, it’s a complete turnaround in fortunes that saw Danny Wilson quit the relegation threatened club.
To follow Maurice Malpas, Fitton made the right choice in appointing Wilson. An honest, well respected and popular manager who’d just been given the surprising push by Hartlepool. Eyebrows were inevitably raised due to his past at Bristol City, but this wasn’t a new situation for Town fans to overcome, take Christian Roberts for example.
The second half of 2008/2009 wasn’t easy for Town. The league form improved enough with the loan signings of Greer, Robson-Kanu and Tudor-Jones, including 3 wins in a row in March, meaning Town finished a deceptively high 15th, only 4 points clear of the drop. Relegation avoided, job done.
Later, the 2010/2011 season has only been such a disaster and disappointment because of the success Wilson was able to deliver a year before.
The 5-0 reverse at Gillingham deceptively laid down the foundations for the season ahead. The only 8 League One defeats suffered and 82 point total represented our best season since winning the Division Two Championship back in 1995/1996.
It wasn’t just the number of wins or the league position, it was the memories of the games…the way we played…the way we won..the way we well and truly beat the opposition.
The 11 games when we scored 3 or 4 goals, double 1-0 victories over Southampton and the never to be forgotten double 3-0 thrashings of Leeds United.
It all went wrong after we hit 2nd place with the victory at Elland Rd. The inexperience started to show, the opposition were stubborn and we stumbled towards the finish line and Wembley. Heart in my mouth doesn’t describe the experience of the play-offs.
It continued to go wrong thereafter.
Wilson’s record since hitting the high of 2nd place reads: Played 40, Won 9, Drawn 13 and Lost 18, taking an average of a point per game, made worse by our current 11 game winless run.
As for how Wilson’s tenure will be remembered…
In a way it all rests on Paul Hart.
If Paul can secure our League One future then 2010/2011 will be seen as a set back in the goal to reach the Championship, as we would start next season with that target again in our grasp.
If not, then being 2 promotions away and languishing in League Two, Danny will be held responsible for our downfall and this will ultimately overshadow the many magnificent memories.
Danny will also be remembered as yet another Town manager who had his hands tied by the financial constraints, particularly at a time when the board is attempting to model a sustainable operation.
Key players left for a significant sum we just couldn’t turn down, add to that the new contracts that weren’t offered / couldn’t be agreed with Greer and Paynter.
Players as good as Cox, Greer, Austin, Ward and Paynter don’t come around very often so it was always unlikely they could be successfully replaced, even for a shrewd talent spotter like Wilson. What is clear is that when the right players were available, Wilson couldn’t be held to have failed to get the best out of them.
In the end I didn’t expect Wilson to depart of his own accord, but in the same way I also didn’t expect Fitton would want to make the decision either. Something had to give.
For weeks now Danny had reiterated his desire to see out the season as he was confident he could turn it around in his many post match interviews with Vic.
Realising the game was up must have been a gut wrenching decision, but the right decision for the club.
For taking the initiative by throwing in the towel and working with the Board to ensure a replacement is made before the crucial Walsall game, Wilson goes up in my estimation.
It’s sad to see it had to end this way, but if Wilson stayed around any longer he’d further tarnish his achievements, would further damage his reputation and leave even more bitter memories with Town fans, which he just doesn’t deserve.