Writer: Aaron Hughes
Date:Monday November 26 2007
Vital Swindon Town takes a look back at Paul Sturrock's reign as manager of Swindon Town Football Club.
On 7th November 2006, Swindon Town name Paul Sturrock their new manager after Dennis Wise and Gus Poyet leave Town for Leeds United. Sturrock would bring his backroom staff consisting of John Blackley and Kevin Summerfield to the County Ground with him. Sturrock`s first match as Town manager was a 3-1 win over League One side Carlisle United in the FA Cup.
One of Sturrock`s first moves at Town was to mould the squad how he wanted it. This meant the departure of Andy Monkhouse who had been brilliant for Town, however Sturrock noted his injury record as the reason for his departure. Charlie Comyn-Platt and Fola Onibuje would follow Monkhouse out of Town to Grays and Wycombe respectably.
Town would be sat in the automatic promotion places up until December however poor matches against Macclesfield and Mansfield saw Town slide down to 6th in the table. Town would make amends for a relatively poor December by beating League Two promotion rivals Milton Keynes Dons 1-0 at the National Hockey Stadium. A goal by Lee Peacock and a penalty save by Phil Smith ensure Town left the NHS with all three points, much to the delight of the 1,000 travelling and hungover Town fans. Town would not lose a game in January with wins over Wrexham, Boston and Macclesfield. Sturrock would be named League Two manager of the month. Amongst all the action saw Town play Championship side Crystal Palace and despite losing 2-1, Town probably played their best football all season during that match at Selhurst Park.
February saw a reversal in fortunes for Town, on the 3rd February Town lost 1-0 to Hartlepool after Andy Monkhouse scored for Pools giving Hartlepool all three points. Monkhouse had been one of the first players Sturrock let leave Swindon, this decision came back to bite him in the bum as Sturrock would say. Town travelled to Barnet on the 20th February and despite there being more Swindon Town fans than Barnet home fans, Town slumped to a 1-0 defeat and Sturrock promised wholesale changes. Ricky Shakes who had been a fixture for Town started his last game for Town before being released at the end of the season. Midfielder Aaron Brown also had a confrontation with the travelling Town fans this game and was never forgiven for swearing at Town fans. Town would make amends for the poor Barnet performance with a 1-0 win over Chester at the County Ground however things would get worse next week. Stockport County were on course to set a new record for the most league games without conceding a goal. Town did not want to be the team Wayne Hennessey and Stockport County achieve this to. Sadly for Town they would lose 3-0 at Stockport and the promotion chase looked to be hitting the wall.
March saw wholesale changes come to the County Ground. Sturrock would bring in Dave Partridge, Claude Gnapka, Patrick Noubissee, Ashley Grimes, Kevin James and Barry Corr to shake things up and get the Promotion bid back on track. Town would make up for the shambles at Stockport with a 2-0 over Accrington Stanley before travelling up north to Cleethorpes and losing 1-0 to Grimsby. On the 25th March, Sturrock`s latest signing Barry Corr began his road to cult hero status at the County Ground by scoring in Town`s 3-1 win over promotion rivals Lincoln City and giving Town all 3 points, Going into the game most Town fans would have been happy with a draw but Town put on a performance of a lifetime in front of the sky cameras. Corr would score again the next week against Shrewsbury Town who were chasing a League 2 playoff place.
April started off poorly for Town by drawing 0-0 with both Rochdale and Hereford before getting back to winning ways against Torquay United. Sturrock had been boasting about how well youngster Lukas Jutkiewicz was doing and eventually agreed a deal with Premier League side Everton to sell the youngster for £1m depending on certain incentives in the contract. Promotion was so close and within touching distance. Town would win 1-0 at Bury and the scene was set. If Swindon Town beat Mansfield Town and Stockport won, Town would be back in League One. In front of a full Stratton Bank and over 10,000 fans at the County Ground Town won 2-0 however Stockport lost meaning Promotion had to be put on hold for another week. During this game, Sturrock cemented himself as a County Ground legend. Fans in The Town End Chanted "WE ARE STURROCK`S RED AND WHITE ARMY" whilst fans on the Stratton Bank responded "WE ARE STURROCK`S RED AND WHITE ARMY"
Due to Stockport`s loss Town could secure promotion with a single point at Bristol Rovers. It would have been ironic if Town clinched promotion in Bristol just 12 months after being relegated to neighbours Bristol City. Rickie Lambert`s fantastic volley ensured that Town lost 1-0 and promotion would have to wait yet again. A draw or and MK Dons loss against Walsall would see Town promoted back to League One.
Swindon Town`s match against Walsall was the hottest ticket in Town and sold out very quickly. It was possible that at the end of the match both sets of supporters would be celebrating promotion. Town would take a 1-0 lead thanks to Jerel Ifil`s first league goal. Walsall would equalise on the 92nd minute however in the end it meant nothing to Town fans. Swindon Town were promoted whilst Walsall were champions of League 2.
After the final whistle things took another turn when the club`s £900,000 CVA became due, Town fans were left wondering, "How will we pay it?" Luckily Town fans` prayers were answered as a consortium headed by Jim Little and Rufus Brevett under the entity of BEST Holdings arrived and promised to pay off all the debts and take the club back to the promised land.
It all seemed a bit strange to start with the Consortium were anonymous and no one wanted to be named. Eventually they would become known and fans would give them a polite applause at Town`s home match against Yeovil in League One. Fans were filled with confidence once it had been revealed that BEST had splashed out money for Billy Paynter and Jon-Paul McGovern. Town fans were ecstatic and really thought Town were going places as they had been 6th in the table and had bought some top quality players.
Swindon Town confirmed after the Charlton Carling Cup match that the deal was done and BEST were the new owners of the football club. Rumours began to surface that the deal was not complete and all of a sudden "only minor paperwork" was needed to complete the deal. Town fans grew increasingly frustrated wanting the club to pay the now well overdue CVA to safeguard the future of the club.
BEST holdings soon started to bring players to the club without Sturrock`s authorisation which brought rumours of a rift between Sturrock and BEST holdings.
Paul Sturrock would soon be linked to the vacant managers job at Leicester City however he committed his future to the County Ground. As a couple of weeks went by, Swindon Town confirmed that they deal with BEST holdings was off however a new investor was waiting in the wings.
Paul Sturrock called for a quick resolution to the takeover claiming that the unpaid wages etc were affecting the players performance on the field. Sturrock would soon reveal that the club had been hit by a transfer embargo from the Football League. The club had outstanding footballing debts and the £900,000 CVA had yet to be paid. Town were told pay the CVA and the embargo would be lifted.
With the takeover by Andrew Fitton taking time to go through, Sturrock once again urged the current board and Fitton to come to a resolution so he could strengthen his injury riddled squad before the end of the loan window.
In other developments, Sturrock`s former club, Plymouth Argyle lost manager Ian Holloway to Leicester City. Right away Argyle fans called for their club to bring Sturrock back to Argyle. Sturrock had won 2 promotions with Plymouth before going to Southampton. Sturrock and the hierarchy at Plymouth had remained friendly since his departure from Home Park.
Rumours surfaced that Sturrock had, had enough of the stalled takeover at Swindon Town and decided that he wanted to go back to Plymouth where he would not have to worry about transfer embargo`s and takeovers.
On Monday 26th November, Paul Sturrock departed the County Ground however his reasons are not yet known. Town fans reacted with anger calling Sturrock a judas and claiming he should have stayed and showed the loyalty he preached.
Sturrock was the best manager Swindon Town F.C has had since Glenn Hoddle and now he is gone, he had the potential to become a real legend however he will now be known as a man that only saw the job half way through.
What are your feelings on Paul Sturrock`s departure from the County Ground?
Leave your comments below!
Date:Monday November 26 2007
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