Date:Saturday November 15 2008
Vital Swindon Town takes a look back at Maurice Malpas' Swindon Town tenure and looks at where it all went wrong for the Scottish Football Hall Of Famer.
In early January 2008 Andrew Fitton's consortium finally completed their take over of Swindon Town F.C. and the first thing on Fitton's agenda was to appoint a new manager. The club was in the hand of Ady Williams and David Byrne much like it is today, after the departure of Paul Sturrock to Plymouth Argyle.
Fitton had said he was looking for a man with a proven track record and had found his man after a great match against Swansea City.
Despite the off the club turmoil surrounding the club, the team was in a healthy position in the league and Fitton unveiled former Scottish International defender Maurice Malpas as his man to take the club forward. Right away Malpas stated that the play-offs were the aim.
Many fans said 'Maurice Who?' and were disappointed 'a name' was not appointed however given the fact that Fitton's consortium saved the club from oblivion, some fans gave Fitton the benefit of the doubt.
Maurice's Swindon Town tenure with a 2-1 loss to Nottingham Forest at the County Ground however there were some encouraging signs and the fans backed the team from the start.
Malpas got his feet under the desk and went on to bring in Simon Cox on a permanent deal after he had impressed on loan under former manager Paul Sturrock, Watford winger Anthony McNamee, QPR defender Patrick Kanyuka and Watford striker Moses Ashikodi.
For the first couple of months, things were seemingly going to plan. Town's away record was pretty poor but Town did manage to get some good results including a 1-0 away win at Luton, a 3-0 home win against local rivals Cheltenham and a 3-2 home win over Huddersfield Town.
Shortly thereafter things took a turn for the worse. Town went on a 5 game win less streak that dragged them into a relegation battle. Hardly the position Town fans expected to find themselves in.
The relegation battle ended up being brief though as Town would go to bounce back with a superb 3-0 home win against Oldham Athletic.
On the 19th April all fears of relegation were banished after a 6-0 over relegation battlers Port Vale at the County Ground. The following week Town would beat Bristol Rovers away and finish the season with a 2-1 win over Millwall and a 4 game unbeaten streak.
The season was over and Town avoided relegation. Malpas promised to bounce back next season and bring in players to compliment his squad. At the end of the season he released the petulant Sofiene Zaaboub, Andy Nicholas and Chris Blackburn from the club.
The Town was buzzing as the club unveiled a scheme to get 6,000 season ticket holders. Talk of the play-offs and how the team ended the previous season on a high had the town talking of a possible promotion push.
The problem over the summer was lack of transfer activity. Town had been very quiet over who they wanted to sign however Malpas has stated he had managed to agree terms with Wolves defender Charlie Mulgrew in a £150,000 move. Mulgrew had headed home to think about the move and confirm it was what he wanted. It then turned out that Mulgrew rejected a move to Swindon and moved to Aberdeen instead.
Town then moved onto other targets including Josh Low, Kevin Mahar, Scott Murray and Kevin Betsy. All who rejected moves to the County Ground.
Fans were concerned that no one wanted to come to Swindon Town. Town would eventually make 4 signings including Yinka Casal, Kevin Amankwaah, Lilian Nalis and Mark Marshall after failing to secure the signatures of other teams.
Town's pre-season form was encouraging with results against top European clubs.
Town kicked off their 2008/09 League One campaign against Tranmere Rovers in an entertaining match with Town playing some great football and managed to win 3-1. Town then hosted QPR on a Tuesday night in the first round of the Carling Cup. Town lost 1-0 but the grit and determination was very encouraging and fans hoped it would carry on into the league.
Town would lose their next 2 games but manage to win 2-1 at MK Dons a game most fans had expected to win. Something strange had began to happen though. The defence which had been the best in the division started to crack and leak goals. Something was going wrong but what?
Town would head to Aldershot Town for the first round of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy and win on penalties however after that game, the wheels began to fall off.
Town would not win a game for the next month and suffer a 2-1 loss at home to Millwall. The players looked clueless and un-motivated. Town fans had then began to chant for Malpas' head after losing to 10 men. After the Millwall disaster, Town travelled to Hartlepool and took a 3-0 away lead thanks to a Simon Cox hat trick. Things looked to have turned a corner however Hartlepool would claw it back to 3-3.
Town would beat Hereford in the second round of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy however their poor league form continued with a 3-0 home loss to Huddersfield. To pressure was turned up on Malpas with chants of 'We want Malpas Out'. The media began to question if Malpas felt under threat and much like his time at Motherwell where he was incredibly poor he was defiant stating he was going nowhere.
Malpas looked to be on the brink of the sack when it was revealed that Ian Holloway was at Swindon Town's 3-0 loss to Huddersfield, fans began to state that Malpas had lost the dressing room and that the players did not want to play for him.
Things turned a corner though and Malpas began to silence his critics with 2 wins over Northampton and Oldham dragging the team away from the drop zone and with a FA Cup tie against Histon on the horizon, it looked to be 3 wins on the trot. Maurice Malpas had turned it around or had he?
Town travelled to Histon with high hopes of a easy second round birth which could then lead to bigger riches in the third round however it all went incredibly wrong. Town would embarrassingly lose 1-0 to Histon and the players looked to expect a result just to happen and once again the pressure was turned up.
Town looked to make amends for the 1-0 loss to Histon by advancing to the semi finals of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy. The winner would be shown on Sky Sports and play Shrewsbury Town. Town would once again lose this match thanks to 2 Patrick Kanyuka errors. Town's 2-0 loss meant Town had no cup to play for and it was only November. Town fans were trying to put on a brave face chanting 'we're gonna win the league' but clearly Andrew Fitton had seen enough and decided to speak to Maurice Malpas.
On Thursday rumours surfaced that Fitton was locked in a meeting with the playing squad in the afternoon however this was not confirmed. By the evening it was apparent that something was happening at the County Ground however no one was able to talk. Various sources said that Fitton was locked in talks with Maurice Malpas about where to go.
Yesterday morning it was clear. Malpas left the club after failing to meet the objectives set out by Fitton prior to the start of the season.
In only 10 months in charge Malpas had managed to take the team from near the top of the table to the bottom, make our water tight defence leak goals and turn 2 of the best goalkeepers into the division into error prone keepers.
So who will jump on-board to restore the club to it's former glories? Well Ian Holloway is the favourite right now but he would likely jump at the first chance to leave to a bigger club. We need stability now.
UP THE TOWN!
Date:Saturday November 15 2008
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