Where Did It All Go Wrong?
Where did it all go wrong??
After 20 years, Swindon Town are back in the basement league. The first ex premiership club to do so, what turned a proud club playing the likes of Manchester United to a failing club playing the likes of Macclesfield?
2005/2006 was a season summed up largely by the penultimate home game of the season against Brentford - 2-0 down at half time, looking out of it. A goal midway through the second half gives us great hope, but that hope is destroyed at the very end of the game.
After most of the squad from 04/05 disappeared, including top striker Sam Parkin, it was always going to be tough. Swindon found some means for optimism in the signings of experienced strikers Tony Thorpe and Jamie Cureton, but the pre-season had enough warning signs that 2005/2006 was not going to be pretty. Lack of a league team to play in pre-season and a small squad that included several loanees ran by a manager who was slowly losing the plot.
The start of the season didn't go very well. A terrible performance on the opening day away at Barnsley finds the town losing 2-0, with new signing Cureton missing a penalty. Then, in the first home game against Oldham, the Town were 3-0 down early on in the second half. An end of game fightback brought the score back to 3-2, but on the pitch signs of a struggle were clear for all to see.
Swindon picked up their first wins against ex European champions Nottingham Forest, with Rory Fallon opening his account for what was a decent season for him, and Yeovil where the Robins beat their west country rivals 4-2. The small improvement in results saw Town sitting outside the relegation zone early on, but what was to follow made sure we sank as low as we possibly could.
Swindon lost 8 games on the trot. The fifth was at home against Bradford, and was too much for the fans to take. The then manager Andy King was sacked, and replaced with youth team coach Iffy Onoura, but things didn't improve as Town lost 3 more games including a humiliating 3-1 defeat away at MK Dons.
The rot was ended at highflying Brentford with a valiant performance. This type of courageous performance became common, and surprisingly the Town became hard to beat, picking up points away at the top teams in the division. The only drawback in this (and to be honest, it was a major one) was the amount of games we drew rather than winning. The most notable for me was outplaying Port Vale away, only for the hosts to cruelly snatch a late equaliser. Nevertheless, Swindon did manage their first away win of the season away at Rotherham
2005 ended on quite a high, Swindon had beaten promotion hopefuls Colchester (ending a long winning streak for the U's) and had picked points at play off chasing Chesterfield and Swansea. It was beginning to look like Iffy Onoura had turned the team around and that Swindon's survival was very much still on.
However, two weeks without a game at the start of 2006 took its toll on Town, and they were humiliated 3-0 away at Gillingham, a game that was marred by trouble between both sets of fans.
Had all the hard work been for nothing? Was the 3-0 defeat the beginning of the end? As it turned out, at the time, it wasn't. The defeat at Gillingham inspired a Swindon side to their best run of the season and the Town began winning their home games, beginning with a 4-2 win at the County Ground against Bournemouth which saw Jamie Cureton (FINALLY) net his first goal for Town after a loan spell at Colchester. The game also saw new striker Lee Peacock get his first goal on his debut, and saw Rory Fallon get his final goal for the club before his ï¿½300,000 move to Swansea after netting 14 goals for Swindon.
Swindon's first game without Fallon ended in a 2-0 defeat at top of the league Southend, but Swindon weren't disheartened. A stunning Jamie Cureton volley saw Town beat fellow strugglers Walsall 1-0, and a few days later Town beat Doncaster 2-1 at home after a promising (if a little shaky towards the end) performance and thing were looking up.
After a draw away at Bradford, another fantastic Jamie Cureton goal saw Town beat Gillingham 1-0 at home, a game they could have won by a much greater margin. Town were out of the relegation zone, Cureton was on fire. Surely a revival was on its way and Town would stay up?
Obviously not. A big home crowd watched Town suffer a 3-2 defeat at home to relegation threatened Rotherham and immediately the hope that had built up was fading. Town lead twice, with Cureton and O'Hanlon scoring, but Rotherham managed to sneak a win after a mediocre performance.
Town looked to banish the ghosts of the Rotherham defeat with their biggest away crowd at Nottingham Forest. 1,200 loyal Town fans came and sung their heart out for the team they love. You would have thought the players would respond, but not in this case. 10 men Swindon went down 7-1 to a rejuvenated Forest side, a truly humiliating day for every Swindon fan and a sign that any comeback was now over. Fans were once again beginning to accept relegation.
Swindon looked to bounce back at home to Tranmere, but were defeated and the realisation that Town could now go down was sinking in. A spirited performance earned Town a point at Yeovil, but this was followed by yet another defeat away to Colchester with former Town misfit Tony Thorpe earning his new side a penalty. Was Towns time now up?
It seemed not, Cureton handed Swindon another lifeline by scoring a second half double against Chesterfield. Swindon's inconsistency cost them again, as they drew at home to Hartlepool, another team down in the relegation mix. A defeat at Swansea , despite taking the lead, meant many Swindon fans accepted relegation. And they were right to do so.
The next home game saw an awful performance and Swindon lost 1-0 to bottom club Milton Keynes Dons. This defeat sparked angry scenes as the fans let their feelings known to the players. This defeat all but relegated the Town, despite managing only their second away win of the season a few days later, defeating Scunthorpe 2-1 after a battling performance.
The final few games of the season put Town fans out of their misery. The 3-1 defeat at Brentford as mentioned earlier was followed by a 1-1 draw at Ashton Gate and finally the Towns relegation was confirmed. It was a good performance at the home of their West Country rivals, but not enough.
The confirmation of relegation was too much for many fans to take, despite the fact it had been coming. Scenes of Swindon fans looking obviously devastated and crying were seen and an outburst of "Swindon Til I die" at the end of the game didn't help. The final game of the season was ultimately pointless, but Swindon still missed a hatful of chances and drew 0-0 with Huddersfield.
It was an awful season, and one to forget. But the support the Town received throughout the season was fantastic given the circumstances. Towards the end of the season Swindon received significant investment from Bill Power, making the teams finances look a lot healthier. Town must now re-build for League Two, hopefully with the help of Mr. Power's cash. News of Dennis Wise's arrival as player manager, along with Gus Poyet has given Town fans a reason for optimism. What does the future hold now for Swindon Town FC? Who knows, but I'll be there to witness every minute of it.