A few final words…
Seeing that it’s over a week after the end of the season Ron Smith decides it’s time to summarise some thoughts on the 2013/14 campaign for Swindon Town.
I’m not going into detail about the season as it’s been covered numerous times already, instead I’ll concentrate on one aspect, how this year has only served to demonstrate our collective disparity between reality and ambition.
Supporters’ expectations dramatically fluctuated as Swindon Town sought to deal with an enforced change of manager at the turn of the season, budget cuts, “throwing together a side at the last minute” and seemingly bickering ‘owners’. With these less than ideal preparations the eventual 8th place finish in League One speaks volumes of the manager, Mark Cooper’s, abilities in crisis management and actually does bode well looking ahead depending on the outcome of the courts.
The off-the-field circumstances surrounding the club and instability it created were largely ignored from a significant section of supporters in the obsession for promotion or nothing. It’s no wonder that the lifespan of a football manager is now counted in months, not years, whereas everyone dreams of a ‘Ferguson’ yet doesn’t want to give the incumbent the time to achieve anything. That this growing discontent towards Mark Cooper persisted throughout the season has left me disillusioned and struggling to accept this apparent new status quo in modern football and the win-at-all-costs mentality.
Football, and sport in general, is moving towards a blinkered attitude the the certainties of the game arising for some at the end of every season. The blissful ignorance towards the fact a set number of teams actually get relegated, also that limited promotion / Champions League places are available, and these numbers are set before the start of the season, is blighting our game and my enjoyment. With 24 teams competing in League One, very few will succeed and the majority will need to reflect, but should they always seek change, particularly under our and Cooper’s circumstances this season?
I make no apologies for bring up this issue some months since things really started getting hot for Cooper in his first season in-charge. This followed a run of three wins in 15 games between late December and March with Town still flirting around the play-offs and in no danger of relegation. Surely now, after the season’s end, is the right time to reflect and for the club to take action if necessary.
Of course, in terms of Cooper, no action is necessary. He’s proven himself as an adept manager of Swindon Town to date. The motivations inherent throughout his season were consistent and unreserving. His faith in his ability and project given to him dictated an determined and focused approach that wasn’t to everyone’s taste. In realising promotion wasn’t the fundamental objective, he took time to experiment with tactics, young and inexperienced players that other managers would crave for. This was essential as Cooper knew that his young team must learn to win, draw and lose while playing against highly able and technical opponents, some less able and technical but would battle-hard and play containing football. Either way the experiences of 2013/14 would be fundamental and beneficial to the next season and beyond, if he is given the chance.
However, there remain uncertainties and those are not of Cooper’s making. For what I most crave is stability; that is stability both on and off the pitch. Cooper has shown what he can achieve under testing circumstances and to continue to build he must now rely upon others to quickly resolve the boardroom matters for the sake of some meaningful progression on-the-pitch in 2014/15.
With it being the end of the season I’m taking a brief break from the website. There won’t be any regular content over the summer except I’ll try to squeeze a few podcasts and Hall of Shame articles in June and July during the World Cup. Have a great summer and see you at Supermarine in July!