Andrew Fitton: Swindon saviour or failure?

I’m writing this post whilst watching the Real Madrid versus Barcelona 1st leg of the Champions League semi-final. This is, of course, a level of football which whilst Swindon Town supporters might dream of and achieve only in Football Manager, we accept that to actually reach this level is a nigh-on certainty that it’ll never happen in our life time.

On the other hand, a three to five year objective for Championship football announced back in January 2008 by former Chairman Andrew Fitton, now that was an entirely reasonable and realistic ambition for our club.

However just over 3 years later, with relegation to the 4th tier of English football confirmed, Andrew Fitton has decided he’s had enough and resigned as Chairman, but will continue to sit of the board of Directors.

Fitton has been shown the door...

Fitton’s departure could’ve happened sooner. Back in May 2010 after the Wembley defeat Fitton was considering his future at the club, partly because of the ongoing legal action by Mike Diamandis. As I commented then, as long as the money men behind Fitton (Andrew Black and Sir Martyn Arbib) remain committed, then a change in the figurehead Chairman would make no discernible difference.

As a figurehead Chairman, Fitton fully enjoyed the limelight, at least until the Malpas appointment backfired.

From passionate appearances addressing the matchday crowd  announcing his arrival on the scene to renaming the Don Rogers Stand, Fitton would never shy away from the supporters and always wanted to be popular. His honest and open attitude was commendable.

In financial terms, an area, a very important area, where the club has failed miserably for many years, Fitton has led the financial reinvigoration and stability of the club. From repaying HMRC and then taking the club out of the CVA (finally in June 2010), improving the marketing and club image, to publishing the accounts for the first time in years and actually holding AGMs, the club is now run as a business.

Yet despite changing our perception of the Chairman role and creating some sort of financial acumen at the club, Fitton has been let down by his footballing decisions. None more so than his three managerial appointments.

‘Right man for the job’ Malpas interviewed ‘well’, however he quickly lost the confidence of the supporters and players with a unsettled team, dubious tactics and unattractive football.

Danny Wilson was an experienced head, however why we never made every effort to bring in Ian Holloway was such a missed opportunity.

As for Paul Hart, his appointment was a sign of a desperate Chairman. Considering how late Fitton and Wilson decided to sever ties, he’d might as well have persuaded Wilson to stay.

Not only has all his three managers failed, Fitton has been naive in the transfer market. Not acting quick enough to replace key players lost or recognise the talents of those already at his disposal, in the case of Greer and Paynter.

So in the end what will the Fitton years be remembered for?

Steadying a sinking ship, financially at least. Fitton has been a saviour, securing the financial future of our club, so I’m grateful because I’d rather have a club to support, regardless of our division.

There have clearly been tangible improvements off the pitch, but it is on the pitch that really matters in this game and the two must come hand in hand. Trying to apply his business attitudes to all things on the pitch through appointments and transfer strategy has failed.

Of course he never realised his objective for Championship football, but we must remember that it so nearly did come right less than 12 months ago.

I’ve never called for Fitton’s resignation and to be honest I would’ve been happy if he stayed to guide us to promotion from League Two. But as part of a wider consortium it never really mattered if someone else took over the reigns, so long as the consortium remained firm and committed to the club and their investment.

Off the pitch Fitton has been a Swindon saviour, whilst on the pitch it couldn’t have turned out worse…

Whether Wray continues as Chairman in the long term or a new member joins the board, what I want from our future Chairman is more of the same, just don’t give Paul Hart the full time job and recognise early planning and a bit of speculation in the transfer market makes all the difference.


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