Writer: Shaun Calderwood
Date:Tuesday December 20 2011
Just a day after Danny Wilson left the County Ground, Chairman Andrew Fitton was quick to replace Wilson with Paul Hart who had experience dragging relegation threatened teams away from the relegation zone. The move was initially welcomed by Town fans who clearly hoped that over the next 11 games we could stay in League One and start again next season.
Hart who along with his new assistant manager Ian McParland after Peter Shirtliff left with Wilson, had eleven games to preserve Town`s League One status.
With striker Mike Grella the only decent first team striker available to Town, Hart quickly moved to secure the services of striker Calvin Andrew and midfielder Alassane N'Diaye from Crystal Palace to steady the midfield. The selection of Hart seemed to be a stroke of genius at the time with Andrew saying 'He's a good motivator and knows how to get the best from his players.' It soon appeared it was not the manager that was the problem but the players themselves who didn`t seem to care less.
Fans had heard all season about possible cliques in the dressing room and none even more so that the former Leeds United brigade consisting of captain Jonathan Douglas, goalkeeper David Lucas, midfielder David Prutton and defender Alan Sheehan. There were rumours of unrest in the dressing room due to theses cliques however these were not confirmed until after the season by Chief Executive Nick Watkins.
Town appeared to get a lifeline shortly after Hart`s arrival with Plymouth Argyle going into administration and being deducted 10 points meant that Town had climbed out of the relegation zone. Mike Grella performed well for Swindon but left suddenly after he claimed he was not getting enough playing time despite being in Hart`s starting XI more times than not. Town would only win one of the eleven matches Hart had in charge.
When interviewed after matches Hart quite often rambled incoherently and it became quite clear he would rather be anywhere other than at Swindon. Hart would lead Town to victory once with an away win over Brentford which saw Andrew score a cracking goal. Hart would draw 4 games whilst losing the remaining 6.
Town headed to Sheffield Wednesday on 25th April knowing only a win would prevent them from being relegated to the Football League`s basement division once again. Town would finally have their fate sealed at Hillsborough and went down with hardly a wimper, Town went down 2-0 before Jonathan Douglas pulled one back for Town giving them an unlikely lifeline, Town`s fate would finally be decided after Neil Mellor scored a third one for Wednesday which saw Town officially become a League Two side.
After the match Hart declared his side did well and that there was a fantastic chance to re-build the team from top to bottom, although when interviewed on the radio, BBC Radio Swindon, the hosts stated that it was a sad day for Town fans to go from playoff finalists to relegation but Hart pleaded ignorance saying "sad day? Why is it a sad day?"
Three days after the most boring, uncharismatic manager in Swindon Town history besides Maurice Malpas was sacked along with his assistant Ian McParland. Hart and McParland were not the only casualties of Town`s rubbish season, Chairman Andrew Fitton stepped down stating he would bring Championship football to the County Ground and he would get Town out of League One, sadly he did, just the wrong way. Fitton fell on his sword and accepted that he should have replaced Danny Wilson sooner but stayed loyal due to him taking the club to Wembley in May. Fans worried that Swindon Football Holdings would pull out of the club however Jeremy Wray took over as interim chairman and stated the clubs investment was safe and he would get the club back to League One at the first time of asking.
As the post mortem of what went wrong in the 2010/11 season began, the club admitted they should never have sold influential captain Gordon Greer to Brighton and that they failed to replace 25 goal striker Billy Paynter sufficiently. Top striker Charlie Austin was sold to Burnley, Mike Grella legged it and Vincent Pericard just never got it going. Town signed striker Thomas Dossevi on a whim after impressing in a pre-season friendly but he was let go late in the season after he fell out of favour. The club promised they had learned from their mistakes and wouldn`t let it happen again.
Paul Bodin would take over as manager for the last 2 games of the season against Oldham and Tranmere with Town. Town would finish the League One season with some pride beating Tranmere Rovers 2-0 away from home with goals from Michael Timlin and Lescinel Jean-Francois. Bodin would leave Jonathan Douglas out of the game sparking rumours that the captain had already requested to leave Swindon Town following their relegation.
After the last game of the season Wray met with all the players stating that if they did not want to play League One football they could leave the club. Town would only offer new contracts to Lescinel Jean-Francois, David Lucas, Michael Timlin and Jonathan Douglas after the disappointing season.
The hunt was on for the man who would take Swindon Town back to League One.
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Date:Tuesday December 20 2011
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