Hail to the Ling

Joe Young reflects on Martin Ling’s return to Swindon Town as manager, which has prematurely ended with Ling resigning for ‘health reasons’.

I read today’s shock news that Martin Ling had resigned as Swindon Town manager with great sadness. The brave tweet from his son, Sam, shows how important health matters can be.

If I’m honest, when I first saw the news on the BBC website, I immediately assumed the reason was going to be Lee Power interfering with football matters. Watching the Gillingham and Burton games gave me an impression that the football philosophy had become clouded.

Town no longer seemed sure of what we were trying to achieve by passing out from the back. We seldom kept possession and long balls under pressure seemed to be the most common product. I understand risks if we play out, I don’t if we always seem to end up kicking long from worse positions. So I assumed it was a falling out.

However, on reading Sam Ling’s tweet I now feel ashamed of this thought. Naturally I’ll never really know what happened, but what I do know is that Lee Power deserves credit for appointing Martin in the first place.

There were too many reasons why he could have taken the easy route and avoided it. Too many people will now say that the wrong decision was made.

I don’t think it was. I think it was a great appointment for our club and I think it was a great statement from football. That the appointment hasn’t worked out should never hide the results that came with it. To me, more important had been the resilience added to recent performances whilst also whilst keeping the ball on the floor.

Because the more I watched Swindon under Ling the more I wondered whether last season would have seen promotion under his guidance. I will always remember the Ling period for good football with a pragmatic backbone. Could things have been better last year with his approach? It doesn’t matter now.

I just hope his health recovers. Without further knowledge, I hope it isn’t depression again but can only speculate that it is. I suffered with mild depression after being made redundant a few years back. It was a horrible time in my life but I was lucky and the affects were short term, out of the public eye and in a non-pressure environment. Ling has not been so lucky.

To me he will always be the player I met twice as a young child. Once he came to my former school’s fate at Drove Junior School (and I’ll forgive the mid 90’s horrendous Brown Leather Jacket). I was just impressed that he came. Having left the previous year I wasn’t sure why I was there.

The other was his appearance at a Leigh Barnard Football in the Community School. I was both precocious and a vociferous reader as a child and had recently discovered that Ling has played for Swindon previously under Lou Macari – before quickly falling out and leaving for Southend.

So in the questions and answer session I asked him, “Who’s the worst manager you’ve ever played under?” I was only 9 or 10 years old but I will always remember the smirk and look he gave Barnard and David Kerslake, before trotting out some meaningless answer. I was a kid and I spotted evasion.

I just wish Ling well. As a child he was an important part of my childhood. Not only was he an integral part of the passing team who have defined both my love for Swindon Town and my status as an Arsene Wenger apologist, he also laughed at me when I tried to be clever.

A double legend in my book. A triple legend when we add in the 4-0 at Chesterfield – given I now live in Rotherham.

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