Seven tips to beat Swindon Town at home
A League One manager gives his tips on how to play against Mark Cooper’s men at the County Ground, as told to Alex Cooke
On no account play your own game. Sure, you might be a big team full of big names with a big budget but that counts for nothing here – and it certainly didn’t for Preston. Taking three points home with you is as likely as Russell Brand shutting up for a bit. So don’t try. Aiming for one point is frankly being a bit ambitious.
Most importantly remember your fans might have travelled hundreds of miles to see this. Some will have paid as much as £27 for the honour. It is important that cross your fingers, get men behind the ball and think only of the point you might get, that is if you follow these instructions.
Keep it compact. Swindon will want to pass through you, so close the spaces. Be compact, be tight and place your midfield in front of your defence. In training you can even tie your players together with short ropes so they move all together. Aim for about 25 yards from the big bum cakes of your centre back to the spot on your main striker’s nose.
Don’t park the bus. A deep defensive line will just invite Swindon on to you. Instead try to push a bit higher up with your defence but keep the rest close. A medium line should do. Pressing hard will stop through balls and if they go over the top, you should have the pace to beat most of their forwards to the ball.
You can try to have a narrow back four but Swindon have two very good wide players and they probably will outflank you. Instead just wait for whomever is marking Massimo Luongo to end up stood between your centre backs and plug the gap that way. Just don’t look at the big hole in front of the defence.
Go 4-3-3. Set up your team with a nice flat back four. Get three hard-working midfielders who don’t like the ball much to follow their opponents around the field like eager puppies. They must man mark constantly, and nothing else.
Your central striker should be willing to put in some hard running – as he will be closing down their defenders for most of the game. One of your wide strikers should be genuinely quick; a real orthodox winger who likes to run into the spaces outside their back three. He should stay wide and high. The other forward should be a bit more of a target man. He can join the central striker – if you ever get the ball up there to battle – but mostly he needs to hold his position and close that flank down.
Don’t worry, they will all be exhausted by the 75th minute so have at least two replacements on the bench. In case you are still in the game and fancy actually trying an attack.
Man-mark on their goal kicks and whenever theiy play out from the back. If their ‘keeper has the ball during open play mark everyone of their outfield players really tight. Don’t bother pressuring the ‘keeper, he can pass it around you. Just let him walk and walk up the field. The clock is your enemy, run it down like a Jeremy Clarkson would a disabled child – or as he would if he actually held any of the opinions he takes money for.
Foul them constantly. It is important that you break up play by indulging in lots of niggly little fouls, trips and kicks. It will break up Swindon’s passing rhythm if you spend the whole game bumping and blocking them. If the ref starts to book you for these, rotate the fouls so you take it in turns to kick them. Refs tend to forget after a few minutes. It worked for Brazil. Didn’t it?
Faking injury is a last resort. Only use it after kick off.
Go long. With your midfield snapping at ankles and your forwards, well, snapping at ankles too, it is up to your central defenders to create. The best way to do this is to launch long balls over their defence into the corners. Train them to aim for the corner flags like it was the 1980 and John Beck would fine them for short passes
On no account, play your football. Remember your fans might have travelled hundreds of miles, it is important that you sit back and give them nothing to cheer. Football is not about entertainment, it is hoping to sneaking a draw from a scuffed freekick in the 90th minute.