Club Focus: Swindon Town FC

November 19, 2018

- Grant Whittington

Swindon Town have been making headlines for all the wrong reasons recently, having sunk to 18th in the League Two table and parted company with manager Phil Brown. This has continued a sustained period of decline for the club, which has yo-yoed between the bottom two tiers of the English League for more than a decade now.

While the future may be uncertain for the Robbins, the club can at least look back on a proud history that can be traced back to its foundation back in 1879.

In this post, we’ll cast our eyes back on the Robin’s past, while asking what fans can expect in the future.

The Robins’ history
Since turning professional in 1884, Swindon have enjoyed a couple of periods of sustained success.

The first occurred early in the 20th century, when Swindon managed to reach their maiden FA Cup semi-final in 1909/10 despite competing in the Southern League Championship at the time. Along with Barnsley, they were also invited to compete for the inaugural Dubonnet Cup the following year, with a 2-1 victory in Paris seeing the club land its first trophy.

They reached their second FA Cup semi-final in 1912, with the skilful forward Harold Fleming central to their success during this time. He was even capped by England 11 times between 1909 and 1914 despite playing outside the Football League, while his goals powered Swindon to the upper echelons of the sport in 1920.

The club’s next period of success came some 50 years later, when they stunned Arsenal 3-1 to win the League Cup at Wembley in 1969. As a Division Three club at the time, however, the Robins were denied the opportunity to compete in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, but the FA did create two Anglo-Italian competitions to give successful lower league clubs experience of playing in Europe.

The first of these was the 1969 Anglo-Italian League Cup, which was contested over two legs by Swindon and Coppa Italia winners A.S. Roma. Swindon won this in impressive style, prevailing 5-2 with goals from Don Rogers (whose brace had helped to sink Arsenal earlier in the year) and a hat-trick by new signing Arthur Horsfield.

The team followed this up by winning the Anglo-Italian Cup in 1970, although their success was overshadowed by continued hooliganism throughout the tournament. Even the final against Napoli was abandoned after 79 minutes after Italian fans stormed the pitch, although Swindon (who were leading 3-0 at the time) were subsequently awarded the win.

The peaks and troughs of the last 25 years

While the Robins have since enjoyed a one-season stint in the Premier League (where they won five games and shipped a hefty 100 goals), their recent history has been far more chequered. In fact, they’ve been placed into administration twice during the last 15 years, while they haven’t performed in the second tier of the English league in the 1999/00 season.

The highlight of the club’s most recent history arguably came under the stewardship of the enigmatic Paolo Di Canio, when they powered to the League Two title after a club record run of 10 consecutive wins in the second half of the 2011/12 season.

They sustained this form into the next year and by late February they were riding high in League One, closing in on a second successive promotion and a return to the Championship. The club was suddenly besieged by internal conflict though with the volatile Di Canio resigning following alleged mistreatment and the unapproved sale of key players like Matt Ritchie.

Swindon have struggled to recover from this setback in the years since and a surprise relegation back to League Two followed in May 2017.

How have the Robins performed lately?

While the club consolidated its place in League Two with a ninth place finish last season, the Robins have picked up just 21 points from 18 games so far this term.

With the club hovering perilously close to the League’s trapdoor and having won just one of its last five games, manager Phil Brown has paid with his job, while his assistant Neil McDonald has also been dismissed.

There may be some light at the end of the tunnel for the club though despite new manager Richie Wellens suffering a 4-0 home defeat against Carlisle in his first game in charge.

The former Manchester United graduate has at least brought an element of hunger and aggression to the role, suggesting that the players should be “embarrassed” by their performances and that a club of Swindon’s size and talent should be performing considerably better.

They certainly have a gem in former QPR midfielder Michael Doughty, who is the Robins’ top scorer this season with five goals in just nine appearances from deep. They certainly missed him on Saturday through injury, and will keen to get him back in the side as quickly as possible.

On loan Fulham striker Elijah Adebayo (who does not turn 21 until January), has also shown potential at this level, and is more than capable to the four goals he has scored in 17 league outings so far.

The Robins also played relatively well against Carlisle despite their heavy defeat, with a bright first half performance featuring some slick passing and energetic pressing.

Wellens will hope to inspire similar performances in the coming months, as they will surely translate into positive results and help the squad to realise its true potential.

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