The curse of former Swindon players turned managers

Swindon Town chairman rarely turn to former players as the next manager, however Lee Power has bucked the trend by appointing Martin Ling. Writes Ron Smith.

Of the 34 permanent Swindon Town managers, Martin Ling is only the fourth to have been appointed following a previous spell as a player*.

Judging by the managerial records of John Trollope, Jimmy Quinn and Iffy Onoura (all under difficult circumstances) these demonstrate why Town chairman have been reluctant to thrust a Town favourite into the County Ground dugout. Hopefully Martin Ling with fare better than these…

John Trollope – Relegated from Division Three in 1981/82 then sacked

John Trollope might’ve made 770 appearances in the Football League for Swindon Town, however when he made the decision to retire his boots and take over from Bobby Smith in November 1980 he put his legendary status fully on the line. At first Trollope inspired a team siting 23rd in Division Three to four wins, two draws and out of the relegation zone. It stayed that way for the remainder of the season as Town only lost seven games and finally secured safety in the final game of the season in a 0-0 draw with Brentford.

John TrollopeThe following 1981/1982 season would mark a new low in our history, ensuring Trollope will equally be remembered as the first manager to lead Swindon to a relegation into the Division Four wilderness. The usual financial constraints ensured Trollope’s team were stuck in a relegation dogfight all season. However it still went down to the wire away at Newport County on the final day. With Town needing a win to ensure Division Three survival, strugglers County beat Town 1-0. Swindon’s relegation with 52 points at 1.13 points per game remains the highest points total for any relegated Town side.

Our first campaign in Division Four seemed to be going so well. By the start of December Town were two points behind leaders Bury and then it went wrong for Trollope a few weeks later at Ashton Gate. Town were a goal ahead when City equalised in the 90th minute with a controversial goal. The players were incensed that the goal resulted from the ball having been kicked out of Jimmy Allan’s hands and Gary Emmanuel was sent off.

Thereafter the players lost confidence and Trollope lasted for another 12 games, picking up just eight points, including a six match losing run. The knives were out for Trollope as Town had seemingly thrown away an excellent shot at promotion, now languishing 8th, a full 14 points off the promotion chasing pack. Cue the fan protests at Trollope’s final game, a 2-1 home defeat by Darlington, whereby Trollope was sacked.

Jimmy Quinn – Relegated from Division One in 1999/2000 then sacked

Northern Irishman Quinn joined Town for a third time in 1998 as manager to replace Steve McMahon. Previously, Quinn had played a total of 143 games for Swindon scoring 61 goals. In the dugout, Quinn was proven having guided Reading to Division One runner-up and a play-off final defeat in 1994/95 as a joint Player-Manager. Initially the move paid off for Chairman Rikki Hunt as Jimmy led Town to the relative safety of 17th, some three points above the drop.

In his second season the Mighty Quinn found his hands tied. The club had been poorly run for several years and hemorrhaging money, nearly bankrupt and soon to be falling into administration.

So the squad was cut and the fire sale begun as Bullock, Ndah, Gooden, Onoura, Hay and Hulbert left for a total of £1.45m. The quality of those coming in throughout Quinn’s time was awful then and even more terrible now. With the exception of loanee Michael Carrick and Grazioli, the likes of Neale Fenn, Charlie Griffin, Des Linton, Shayne Bradley and Mark McCammon still go down as some of the worst players to ever play for us. The player situation was so desperate that even Quinn, then 40, made seven appearances.

Town were made a laughing-stock and in the relegation zone pretty much all season, bottom of Division One from November until the penultimate game when Town were relegated and Quinn was sacked. So awful was our form, Quinn’s side set a then club record 19 games without a win between October and March, conceding 36 and scoring only 11 goals.

Iffy Onoura – Relegated from League One in 2005/06 and then ‘replaced’

As a player, Onoura joined Town from Gillingham in 1998 before making 80 appearances, scoring 25 goals over three seasons.

After hanging up his boots and joining the Town backroom staff in October 2004, Iffy was thrust into management after taking over from Andy King. Initially caretaker manager, Iffy was soon confirmed in the post, although he could do little to put a stop on a club record eighth successive defeats, leaving Town bottom with seven points from 13 played.

Iffy OnouraSoon enough Onoura began to turn things around, losing only one more game in 2005 and by the end of December, Town had climbed off the bottom and with a fighting chance of avoiding the drop from Division Two. Three wins in February moving Town to 16th (38 points) was the high, the decline thereafter was dramatic.

For those, including myself, at The City Ground, Nottingham on the 25th February, watching Town get played off the pitch by an average Forest side 7-1, still remains the lowest ebb of my time following Town.

With only two more wins gained, a win was needed at Ashton Gate in the penultimate game, however a limp Town managed a 1-1 draw at City and Town fell to the Fourth tier for the first time in 20 years.

Onoura still retained fan support, however with new investment from Bill Power meant changes behind the scenes and soon enough Iffy was forced to reapply for his own job, only being offered a role with the youth team, Iffy decided to move on.

* Excludes Ken Beamish who played for Town while assistant manager under John Trollope before taking managerial duties in April 1983.

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