Terry Pierce - Swindon set to complete unthinkable fall from grace
Published: 05 Apr 2011 - 09:43:19
A year ago today, Easter Monday. Swindon Town run out 3-0 winners at home to Tranmere. It's embarrassingly easy for the Robins, and the result comes just 48 hours after winning at Elland Road by the same margin to move into the second automatic promotion spot.
Danny Wilson's side were in fantastic form. Strikers Charlie Austin and Billy Paynter had formed an unstoppable duo, while young Bolton loanee Danny Ward had made himself at home in Wiltshire.
One year later, and exactly 46 games, Robins fans have witnessed their side win just eight times in the league since that afternoon stroll in the weak Spring sunshine against Tranmere. And instead of being on the verge of Championship football once more, the club now look absolutely destined to spend a spell in the bottom division.
Town are currently six points adrift of safety towards the foot of League One. They have played at least one more game than everyone else trying to avoid the drop and if it weren't for Plymouth's points deduction, they'd be rock bottom.
But there's hope, right? Wrong.
They are without a win since January 3rd, a run of 18 games. If they fail to claim three points from their trip to Brentford this Saturday they will equal the club record and if the run stretches another week, they'll have the unenviable title of 'the worst team in the club's history' all to themselves.
The last Swindon side to go such a length of time without tasting success got relegated from the second tier. The club was in the midst of terrible financial hardship. Any player with any value was sold and the side was being managed by a former player with very little experience or knowledge.
The same can be said about the last time the club dropped into the bottom division and, while all of the said side issues do not excuse such a poor run, they can be used to explain it, at least to some degree. But the most frustrating part of the club's current car crash of a season is that there's absolutely no explanation.
Off the pitch the club is in the best shape it has been for a long time. They have a local chairman who is passionate about the club and the community. He heads up a consortium of owners that boast some serious bank balances. Ticket prices are down, gates are up and commercial activity is off the chart when compared to a decade or so ago.
Add into that list the now-serious prospect of a redeveloped ground and everything at the club should be providing a platform for Championship football. But football is not played in the boardroom, the planners department or the terraces, it's played on the pitch and on the pitch, Swindon have been nothing short of horrendous over the past year.
Every man has an answer as to why. It cannot be denied that the sale of captain Gordon Greer to fellow League One side Brighton - who are now running away the title - has had a huge influence. The loss of Billy Paynter was also a blow, as was the failure to secure Danny Ward again for this season. But player turnover at League One level is always high.
The loss of players is one thing, the failure to replace is quite another. And it's not as if the money to replace them wasn't there, it was just mis-spent in the wrong areas, with mis-placed faith in young centre backs and unreliable strikers compounding the errors.
But even then the problems go much deeper. Most of the squad from last term are still at the club, and have been added to with what should have been solid top-half League One players such as David Prutton and promising young 'stars' such as Scottish duo Paul Caddis and Simon Ferry. The money has been spent, and the feeling among the club's officials was that the squad this year was stronger than last.
But they, and every Swindon fan who talked of bouncing back from Wembley heart-break, of doing a Millwall, have been proved wrong in spectacular and horrifying fashion. There is no rhyme or reason. No explanation, no apology, no answer. There is just League Two football looming.
- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:terry pierce
- Terry was born and bred in Wiltshire, and is a massive Swindon fan - travelling the length of the country most weekends to watch the 'mighty' Reds. He also manages a successful(ish) Sunday league side, and his life pretty much revolves around football. Five-year-old Terry was in the crowd when Swindon won promotion to the Premier League in 1993 with a 4-3 play-off win against Leicester. He cried after every goal. Read Terry's thoughts every week on life outside the Premier League. Follow Terry on Twitter @telpierce.
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