A pre-season to strengthen at Swindon Town
Calvin Hothi gives his views on the areas to be strengthened as Swindon Town head into pre-season…
After such a whirlwind season with court cases, owner disputes, an AWOL player and after all that still managing to secure a top-half finish, many at Swindon Town will now be hoping for a little quieter of season off-the-pitch. Now that the ownership dispute over the club has been solved, we can begin to look forward towards several areas of the squad that need to be re-enforced to ensure we remain competitive.
Towards the back end of last season the Robins announced ten players would be released with the most notable being Dany N’Guessan, Jay McEveley, Lee Cox and Alex Smith. These, along with Troy Archibald Henville who decided against extending his stay at the County Ground, leaves the squad looking a little depleted.
During Lee Power’s Q&A on BBC Wiltshire on Monday night, he suggested that Town want to remain competitive this year and go one further than last year to secure a play-off position. To do this several areas will need to be reinforced.
As the season neared its end Mark Cooper finally found a solid combination at the back. He often played with Raphael Rossi-Branco, Archibald-Henville and Southampton loanee Jack Stephens in a back three with Jay McEveley and Nathan Thompson acting as wingbacks. With Stephens and Grant Hall returning to their parent clubs and Henville joining Carlisle United, we are left with Darren Ward, Rossi-Branco and youngster Curtis Da Costa.
The defence must be a solid base for any team so you would expect at least two new centre backs to be joining the club. Rumours have linked Mark Cooper with a welcome return for the superb Jack Stephens and a move for Forest Green Rovers’ Jamie Turley. Both still relatively young, a slightly more experienced head is also desirable due to Ward not featuring as heavily last season.
With the release of Jay McEveley and Alex Smith, Nathan Byrne is our only recognisable left back (with Jack Barthram being able to deputise.) This leaves the area a little weak. Although not many are on the market, another wing back type player to cover Byrne will be needed although young Matt Jones could also be an option. Lee Power may have to use his links to be able to find one, potentially on loan.
Although the system we use doesn’t really accommodate wingers any more, the departure of Alex Pritchard has left Tijane Reis as our only winger. Tijane is a player who featured very little last season due to injury, but when he did a penalty miss cost us a place at Wembley. The returning Andy Williams can be played on the wing but a replacement for Pritchard is a must with most of our creativity coming through him last season.
Lee Power hinted on Monday that Mark Cooper was going to go with two strikers next season (something that will hopefully benefit Michael Smith.) One would think that a partnership of Smith and Williams will feature next season. This leaves George Barker, Connor Waldon and Miles Storey as cover. With Storey being heavily linked with a temporary switch to Portsmouth however, cover may be needed.
George Barker and Connor Waldon don’t have a professional goal between them and very largely inexperienced. This calls for experienced back up which is hard to come by. While Connor Waldon and George Barker possess an essence of pace, we have no like for like replacement for Michael Smith. Should he get injured, we could struggle for strength in the final third.
Should we strengthen these crucial areas then I believe we could be in for a very good season this year.
We have a very strong midfield in Yaser Kasim, Massimo Luongo, Louis Thompson, Ben Gladwin and Ryan Harley and, provided there are no major departures, I see no reason why this team cannot reach the same stage we were at least season.
Should Tyrell Belford leave on loan then maybe another keeper should be drafted in but other than that I see no reason to panic for Town fans. The league in my opinion this year possesses no stand out teams, it really is out there for the taking this year. Budget wise I expect Sheffield United and Bristol City to be near the top end of the league as well as MK Dons who have made some very good signings so far. Fleetwood and Scunthorpe could surprise a few also this year. I expect us to be around the 7-11 spots however if our recruitment drives steps up a notch then maybe we can properly push for a play off place.
Have a good break over the summer and we’ll soon be going again next year.