Quarter(ish) season review
Steven Fyfe gives his view of how Swindon’s opening ten games have gone, and what needs to change
The age-old saying in football is ‘give us ten games’. It is the unwritten moment when you can start to realistically picture how your season is going to go. Now, as Town are ten league games in, I decided to review the facts and sadly they are damning reading for Mr Power, Mr Williams and their squad.
After ten league games this season we have won three, drawn two and lost five (11 points). This is less than last year where we had won three, drawn three and lost four (12 points). The scoring records do not look good either as we have managed 11 goals in our first 10 games and conceding 15. Last season we had scored 16 by this point. It is not all bad though as we have conceded less, by this point last year we had conceded 17 (optimistically looking for improvements). We were 14th, five points off the play-offs and four points away from the relegation zone. Today we are 18th, six points off the play-offs and just one away from the relegation zone.
Last season we had a chronic injury crisis, and that was the main reason given by then manager Mark Cooper and his chairman Lee Power for the poor form. It was a valid point too, we had used 26 players in the first 10 games. This season we have used a mere 22, yet are doing worse.
If you review the key stories it does not look good either. It was a year ago this week that Lawrence Vigouroux decided to pay his fine in pennies, the injury crisis mentioned earlier rumbled on, and pressure was growing on Cooper. This season it is much more serious: we were made a joke of with our handling of the Bristol Rovers abandonment, we lost two derbies in ten days and the fans are questioning just about every element of the club.
The excuses given by manager Luke Williams, particularly for the two derby defeats, were pathetic too: “I think physically Oxford were too strong for us,” he told swindontownfc.co.uk. “In the end they deserved to win the game because they were brave, they kept putting the ball forward, they kept fighting for everything, running for the flick-on and we didn’t match that”.
This is completely unacceptable yet, despite some boos from the fans, there is little pressure seemingly being applied to Williams. All the animosity is aimed at Power. Do not get me wrong, I am not a shoot-the-manager-down kind of guy and when you read all the different opinions on him it would seem Williams is a fantastic coach but perhaps we need more? We need a motivator, someone who could get angry. Many will say we need a Paolo Di Canio. Our days under him were fantastic but not without their own dramas but I can see why people want that sort of character (just not Steve Evans).
Referring back to the fans, I have not seen general optimism so low in my 13 or so years supporting the Town. I am that overly enthusiastic fan that every year says ‘this will be our year’ yet when asked during this pre-season whether we were a dark horse, I simply replied ‘I just hope to avoid relegation this year, anything else is a bonus’.
Anger, disappointment and cynicism is rife on the online forums. In-fighting too. This is not how it should be. Everyone seems to be of the belief that we are destined for relegation already and the staff and players have to take responsibility for that. I think the feelings of many fans were best described by former Adver and Total Sport reporter Sam Morshead on Twitter on Wednesday when he went on a seven tweet rant.
I believe that many others feel disconnected from our club and that we have nothing to cheer about. We do not even get our monthly PowerHour anymore. In this of all weeks when the Telegraph are reporting various corruption issues within the game (and I am not suggesting anyone associated to STFC is involved), the need for transparency is highlighted and Mr Power must take the warning because despite all the money, without fans, football is nothing.
Although I believe our squad is better this season. Between the sticks Vigouroux seems to have vastly improved, and I am one of his biggest critics. In Will Henry I feel we also have an excellent young ‘keeper who will become number 1.
In defence Jamie Sendles-White is a huge player for us, and Lloyd Jones looks a good addition as does Darnell Furlong while James Brophy is making the left-wing back slot his own.
In midfield I really hope Yaser Kasim can get his form back as (controversially) I feel we were better keeping him than Massimo Luongo. I feel technically he is a better player and on his day he is the best cntral midfielder in the division. Michael Doughty is another great signing and another big miss with his current absence due to appendicitis. Sean Murray looks like becoming a big player for us too.
Up front is an area of concern. Jon Obika is the man for the goals but you cannot rely on him being fit. I like the look of Nathan Delfouneso on the few occasions I have seen him. Luke Norris is taking some stick online for his performances. As for Jermaine Hylton – who knows? In Nicky Ajose we had guaranteed goals and now we do not.
For me the biggest issue is arrogance. We have some fantastic footballers and some great young players with huge potential. We do not however learn our lesson. We got found out last season playing only one style of play which is great to watch but is suicidal when things go wrong (which recently it does more than it goes right). We need a plan B (and C but one step at a time).
Our transfer policy is wrong too. We need to stop waiting for the last moment to do all our business, pre-season is there to get your squad used to playing with each other. I think Power and Williams get more right than wrong in terms of who they bring in but it all seems rushed all the time. I also feel we lack a combative edge (like a John Douglas or Ross McCormack) and in some areas leadership due to lack of experience.
We have two major absentees right now in Sendles-White and Doughty and our squad (particularly in defence) looks light again, what happens if Nathan Thompson gets suspended or Raffa Branco injured? How is it possible, despite all the warning and preparation time, that are main area of weakness last season is still unprepared for the usual trials and tribulations of a season (injuries and suspensions)? They need to accept that yes we have a philosophy but we need a backup plan on and off the pitch.
So rant over you might say but all in all, judging this team after ten games does not reflect well on the way the season is going to go, but I can say that come win, lose or draw we (the fans) will remain all in this together. Let us hope for a better next ten games.