August 2013: Enter Swindon manager no.3 of the year…. Mark Cooper
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 six…
The season started bright and early against recently relegated Peterborough United. Caretaker manager Mark Cooper made just a few changes to the Town squad that featured against Brentford in the playoffs – in came Alex Smith, Grant Hall, Alex Pritchard, Tijane Reis, Yaser Kasim, Jack Barthram and Ryan’s Harley and Mason, out went pretty much everyone else.
The fixture was going to provide a stern test for the team widely tipped by most as relegation fodder, but our young team equipped themselves brilliantly and in the end were unlucky to not get at least a draw. The one nil reverse courtesy of £1.5 million pound man Britt Assombalonga showing the difference between the two sides on the pitch and off it.
Town were still busy exploring the transfer market, allegedly making several cash bids for Bournemouth Striker Wes Thomas, which were all rebuffed by the Cherries but Town did cause a further stir in transfer circles by opening a dialog with the eponymously tattooed football bad boy Nile Ranger, who was seeking a glorious return to the club on a free.
The opening home game of the season was against Stevenage, this was the first time the majority of fans could see their new heroes in the flesh. Buoyed by the glowing report coming out of Peterborough we all trotted along not quite knowing what to expect. However I don’t think even the most optimistic of Swindon fans expecting to witness such a delightful passing display, by the 90th minute the ‘Ole’s’ were quite deafening – and the score line was only one nil!
The much scoffed at Yaser Kasim, recently released by Brighton following unsuccessful loan stints at non-league Macclesfield and Luton pulled the strings in midfield like a seasoned ten year pro, offering the vision of Pirlo coupled with the tackling of Diego Simeone. Massimo Luongo provided the match winner with a fantastic strike in front of his visiting Aussie parents.
Town then travelled to Shropshire for an encounter with Shrewsbury, a lucky venue in recent years, but on this occasion defensive errors cost the team dear as they slipped to a clumsy two nil reverse. The travelling fans at least got a glimpse of the newly acquired Nile Ranger, who despite lacking match fitness turned in a decent performance.
On the 20th August the inevitable managerial appointment was made. Since MacDonald’s departure the mantra of ‘not Mark Cooper, not Mark Cooper, not Mark Cooper, not Mark Cooper’ had been growing louder and louder, like the repetitive locomotive chatter of the 7:38 to Paddington. But since the start of the season, the drone of these clattering wheels had dissipated to a barely audible murmur. People were quietly impressed with what they were seeing: neat passing football played by some really talented individuals, and by what they were hearing: genuine press conferences which showed player support and provided interesting tactical insight, a welcome change to random head shaking rants and raves.
Something that was impossible to think of at the start of August, was now gathering momentum – the Swindon fans were actually warming to Mark Cooper. His confirmation as the main man at the club was greeted with genuine joy.
The next home game was against pantomime rivals Gillingham, a thoroughly enjoyable encounter despite the two all score line, again some lovely, entertaining football was on show. I mean, any game in which your two full backs score has got to be good hasn’t it? Nathans Thompson and Byrne netting for the Town.
August was brought to a close with a thumping five nil home win against Crewe, Ryan Mason scoring a fine hat trick and a first club goal for the impressive Nile Ranger completing the rout. A Massimo Luongo goal was sandwiched somewhere in-between. Again though, it was the quality of the football that won the day, slick and at times breath-taking.
There was still time left in the month for Swindon to add to their potential firepower with the arrival of proven lower league striker, Nicky Ajose, on loan from Peterborough.