Is experience needed for Swindon Town to gain promotion?
A solid start to the League One campaign, but with a few weeks of the transfer window remaining, Floyd Chamberlain asks whether Town need to strengthen with experienced players..?
Many will read this title and be screaming at their screens “of course experience is the key to going up just look at Bristol City” and on the face of it they have a point. However, it is worth noting that Bristol City were able to form a side of experienced pros.
Unfortunately, Town are not currently in such a financial position to form such a side. Any notion of a need for experience has to be assessed from a pragmatic stand point. Any player Town manage to lure to the County Ground and who boasts an illustrious career, would be mainly surrounded by players being given their first chance in the game.
So the real question is can a handful of experience players fit into a young, largely unproven side, who embody a footballing mantra not usually seen in League One? In order to explore this argument you have to look at the experienced players who have been at the club since Lee Power’s arrival – that has coincided with the dramatic change of playing style.
Alan McCormack would be the name which would come to the mind of many a Town fan. Having played a vital role in getting the club to the League One Play-off semi-final in the 2012-13 season. It is clear that McCormack was a very gifted player but he was part of a largely experienced team for the majority of the 2012-13 season so it is difficult to judge whether he could provide a guiding hand to a team full of promising young talent.
Darren Ward was of course another talented professional with a long and successful career behind him who has worn the Swindon shirt during Powers tenure. It became clear that Ward could not adapt to the three at the back approach adopted by Power and Cooper. This was particularly evident in the Wolves game during the 2013-14 season where Ward was regularly exposed with his lack of pace plain to see.
Ward himself has admitted the three at the back system did not suit him. In Paolo Di Canio’s team which played two banks of four he looked formidable. This approach will not be adapted by Power and this is justified as such a rigid and inflexible system would stifle the flair which has come to epitomise Power and Coopers teams. Similar problems were seen recently with Sam Ricketts who also struggled to adapt to Town’s style of play. It would seem the old fashioned centre-halve is outdated in the more modern style of football adopted at the County Ground.
Ryan Harley is another experienced player who has to be considered when judging whether experience can aid Swindon in their quest for the promised land of the Championship. Harley, was largely unsuccessful at SN1 as he struggled to break into a young talented team. It does however, seem remarkably harsh on Harley who showed flashes of his ability. However, harsh or not he struggled to break in to the team. Perhaps it is clear that youngster such as Alex Pritchard, Massimo Luongo, Ben Gladwin and Yaser Kasim are more adaptable to a strong footballing side supported by other young players.
On the other hand, one player who was both experienced and successful during Power’s tenure at the club was Andy Williams. In spite of an extremely difficult start to life at the County Ground, Williams finished on a high as the clubs top scorer in the recently passed 2014-15 season. Williams seemed to add a calmness and composure leading by example on the pitch rather than bellowing orders at his colleagues. Having come back from both poor form and injury, Williams displayed that class is permanent and form is temporary which must have been reassuring to a generally young side. Williams shows how experience can fit into the Swindon way and he will surely be missed.
It is clear then that the question asked is not a simple one to answer. Many fans enjoy the Swindon way and it would seem foolish to deviate from a style which placed the club one game away from promotion.
However, it was clear that the class of 2014-15 struggled in big games particularly around Easter where the defeats to Bristol City and MK Dons brought about an end to any hopes of automatic promotion.
The play-off final humiliation at the hands of Preston could also serve as a reminder of what an experienced side can do to a bunch of kids. Nevertheless, it has to be kept in mind that Swindon are in no position to assemble a side like Bristol City and Preston. Any experience added to the side before the end of the transfer window cannot just be based on the sheer quantity of their appearances alone. You wouldn’t hire a university lecturer teaching students studying their masters to look after secondary school children, particularly if the lecturer had no experience at teaching a younger audience.
The point being that looking after a young side playing adventurous football is entirely different to playing in an experienced side. Perhaps the issue is bringing in the right type of experience, which is maybe why Power, Cooper and Luke Williams are struggling to recruit such a player, if the need for experience was on their radar at all…
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