Sunday, August 28, 2011

Latest Transfer: Blogger to Wordpress

Following advice and personal viewing, I am moving this blog over to Wordpress and new posts will no longer be viewed here. Please continue to view my blog @ leepeacocksfurcoat.wordpress.com where it will become bigger and better. I have also imported all previous over to there in case you are interested. Thank you for continuing to read my blog.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Town Through To Round Two

Swindon's win over Bristol City showed the world that three days in football is a very long time. Town fans were left distraught following a derby day defeat at the hands of Oxford. However, our mood has been lifted through the roof following a shock 1-0 victory at Ashton Gate.

Our third consecutive defeat on Sunday saw fans doubting just if, Paolo Di Canio was made out for this managerial lark. Fast forward three days, Di Canio masters a shock victory against rivals Bristol City and the fans love him, once more.

Paolo Di Canio has been somewhat of a tinker man thus far, not yet keeping the same XI for consecutive matches, trying to find the winning formula. Lander Gabilondo and Alan Connell came in for Etienne Ejasas and Raffaele De Vita, respectively.

It was De Vita who scored the only goal of the game, following good work from the Spaniard Lander Gabilondo. In truth, the win was fully deserved, with Leon Clarke and Matt Ritchie, previously having fantastic chances to score themselves.

Town's dominance meant Bristol City's chances were limited, with Brett Pitman being the most likely to have scored for the hosts. Bristol City manager Keith Millen blasted his team's performance as embarrassing.

The score line was obviously impressive, but it was the performance that has been most pleasing. The combination of solid defensive work, a first goal for De Vita and dominance in midfield, were all indeed very pleasing. Optimism – something that has been lost since our win versus Crewe has now resurfaced.

Initially, called off three weeks previous as a result of civil unrest, the wait to play at Ashton Gate proved to be more than worth it. Next up in the League Cup is a home tie versus Southampton, where Paolo Di Canio's team will be looking for another Championship scalp.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Match Review- Swindon Town vs Oxford United

Oxford United came out on top in what must have been the most awaited fixture in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire. The mutual rivalry and hatred between the supporters has only grown since the last time we played them in 2002. That combined with Swindon looking to appease fans following two away defeats.

Paolo Di Canio also added fuel to the fire with talk about Oxford striker James Constable being a Swindon fan. It was Constable who gave Oxford the lead on twelve minutes, heading home from a corner. Although the teams were well-matched, both teams were looking to attack so was no real surprise to see the deadlock broken.

Going a goal down appeared to lift the Town players into action and it wasn't a long wait for an equaliser. Matt Ritchie scored after somewhat of a scramble in the Oxford penalty area. The stadium erupted and the several elbows I received in the head from fans behind were more than worth it.

Swindon took charge of the game and looked the most likely to take the lead. However, Oxford were awarded a free-kick, courtesy of a rather theatrical fall. James Constable headed home from close range, grabbing his second in the process to ensure Oxford went into the break a goal up.

All four goals that Town have conceded  this season have been through set pieces. It an area that needs improving as we dominated most of the play in all three defeats. The defence looks all lost at sea whenever defending a free kick. Joe Devera in particular disappointed, given the fact he was marking Constable.

Raffaele De Vita made way for Mehdi Kerrouche at half-time as Town pressed for an equaliser. In a cruel twist of fate, Kerrouche only lasted 22 minutes before coming off injured with Alan Connell replacing. Despite his limited game time, the Algerian showed quality and intelligence in our attacking play.

Paolo Di Canio was sent to the stands following a spat with the linesman. Leon Clarke was wrongly flagged offside and frustration got the better of the Italian. Di Canio had been quite ridiculously, warned for over-excessive celebrating and running down the touchline after Ritchie's goal.

Etienne Ejasas made his first start, following previous cameo roles against Cheltenham and Dagenham & Redbridge. He looked impressive, constantly looking to run at defenders. Still lacking match practice, Ejasas was replaced by debutant Lander Gabilondo, who despite only signing on Friday looks very good. His desire to create opportunities troubled the Oxford back line and made a great chance for himself almost instantaneously.

Our best opportunity came courtesy of a Leon Clarke chance. He did the hard bit well – making space in the box only to lash the ball over from six yards. It was the moment you just knew it wasn't going to be Town's day and the bragging rights and the points were going up the A420.

Leon Clarke's golden opportunity was our last significant chance to snatch a point. Oxford successfully contained Swindon as they looked to play keep ball. Aden Flint was pushed up front to counter balance this, as long balls were thrown into the box, although he was unable to trouble the defence.

Swindon dominated play, much like our previous two defeats, but were unable to convert their possession into goals. The defeat hurts like no other but Oxford deserved to take three points from the game. James Constable took his chances, which none of our forward line did. Defensive errors also cost Town dear and teams can't expect to win making silly mistakes. Roll on March...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Where Are They Now- Oxford United vs Swindon Town 2002

With the return of the A420 derby today after a nine years absence, I thought it would be apt to continue my 'Where Are They Now' feature with a look at the starting XI from the last time we played the enemy. It was a televised FA Cup match, in which Swindon lost 1-0.

Bart Griemink: Joined from Peterborough in 2000 as part of the Colin Todd revolution after a loan spell. Griemink was a regular between the sticks before the arrival of Rhys Evans in 2003. The Dutchman went from missing just two games in 2002/03 campaign to only playing five games the following season. Griemink had a thirst for regular football and left for Southend once his contract expired. Now 39, he is currently playing for non-league Boston Town.

Gareth Edds: The Australian signed in 2002 from Nottingham Forest after the exit of Sol Davis. Edds' time at the County Ground wasn't successful and only played 18 times for the club during his one year stay. Gareth Edds left for Bradford where it was a similar story before joining MK Dons in 2004. He later signed for Tranmere before returning home to play for Queensland Fury.

Matt Heywood: Signed from Burnley in January 2001 after failing to make an impact at Turf Moor. Heywood was a near ever-present during his time at SN1, making over 200 appearances. In 2005, he turned down a new contract to join rivals Bristol City on a three year deal. Injuries and a change of manager limited opportunities at Ashton Gate and joined Brentford a season later. He later joined Grimsby before slipping into non-league with AFC Barrow and latterly Buxton.

Alan Reeves: Joined on a Bosman in 1998 from Wimbledon made over 200 appearances during an eight year spell. Reeves' initial time was not a good one; prone to costly mistakes with a poor disciplinary record. The loss of the captaincy coincided with improved performances and is well regarded by most Town supporters. His latter years at the County Ground also saw him taking a coaching role. A broken leg forced his retirement from the professional game.

David Duke: Failing to meet the mark at Sunderland, Duke joined Swindon in 2000 following a successful trial. An inconsistent performer during his time at Swindon and was often a fan's scapegoat. Duke spent five years at the club, notching up over 200 appearances before returning to the North East with Darlington. Duke spent two years with the Quakers before joining Durham City, Consett and is now playing in the 9th tier of English Football.

Stefani Miglioranzi: Signed from Pompey after injury problems hampered his first team chances in 2002. The midfielder was one of my favourites and showed an eye for goal in his debut season. The injury curse followed him from Fratton Park to Swindon and in one season, he clocked up just 17 games. After leaving Swindon in 2006, Miglioranzi returned to America, signing for LA Galaxy. Since, he has also spent a short time at Columbus Crew and now plays for Philadelphia Union.

Matt Hewlett: Colin Todd signed the midfielder at the turn of the millennium from rivals Bristol City. Hewlett's first season was plagued by injuries but was a good performer in the games he did play. He really came into his own during our play-off season, captaining the side into 4th place. Matt Hewlett's conflict with Andy Gurney saw the exit of the latter, whilst affecting Hewlett's performances. Joined Torquay in 2005 before a back injury forced retirement two seasons later.

Johnnie Jackson: Had a brief loan spell at SN1 from Tottenham in 2002 and played 15 times for the club. Following Swindon, Jackson had loan spells with Colchester, Coventry, Watford and Derby. He re-joined Colchester permanently in 2006 and spent three years in Essex before joining for Notts County in 2009. Initially joined Charlton Athletic on loan in February 2010 before signing a permanent deal later that year.

Eric Sabin: Signed in 2001 by Andy King who later compared him to Thierry Henry; well he is French. And fairly fast. Had a goal record of about one in seven during his two years at the County Ground. Sabin failed to make an impact at QPR and later joined Northampton before signing for that team up the road. Returned to France in 2006, joining AC Arles and now playing for Nimes Olympique.

Sam Parkin: Super Sammy Parkin signed for £50,000 from Chelsea in 2002. Parkin hit the ground running immediately, scoring a hat-trick on his debut and scoring 25 that season. Alongside Tommy Mooney, he fired Swindon to the play-offs in 2004; whilst the following season wasn't as good for Town, Parkin continued to impress. After scoring 73 goals in three seasons at SN1, he joined Ipswich for £450,000 and left with the blessing of all Town fans. Injuries hampered his time at Portman Road and did whilst at Luton and Walsall. Sam Parkin went north of the border in 2010 to play for SPL side St Johnstone.

Danny Invincibile: Signed in 2000, having previously played in his native Australia. Invincibile scored 27 times for Swindon but there is only one that really matters for Town fans. He scored a late winner in 2001 to ensure survival in Division Two and will be forever remembered for that. Invincibile left for Kimarnock in 2003 where he remained until January. Rumours linked him with a return to Wiltshire, however these proved untrue and he once again linked with Parkin for the remainder of the season. He is currently without a club

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Final Peices To The Jigsaw

Paolo Di Canio has once more dipped his hand into the transfer market following two successive defeats. Lander Gabilondo and Leon Clarke have become signings number 13 and 14 and have arrived in time to play in our derby clash with Oxford. 

Lander Gabilondo has signed a one-year contract with the club, following a successful trial with Swindon. The Spaniard has spent his entire career in his homeland; most recently playing for third tier side Osasuna B. Gabilondo is a winger who can operate on either side the pitch and is likely to provide fierce competition for places with Etienne Esajas and Matt Ritchie already at the club.

Leon Clarke has also joined the club, securing a two-year contract in the process. His signing has been somewhat of a mini transfer saga; the deal looked dead in the water when Paolo Di Canio described his wage demands as amazing. A loan deal looked the most likely transaction to take place until Clarke's contract at QPR was terminated by mutual consent.

Clarke has been around the block since coming through the ranks at Wolves in 2003, knocking up seven clubs since. Clarke has profoundly struggled at most clubs, although hasn't dropped down as low as League Two, excluding a short loan spell with Kiddeminister in 2004. Furthermore, teams in League One have been rumoured to be interested in signing Clarke.

Following the arrival of Gabilondo and Clarke, the squad is looking more set for a serious promotion charge. The signing of Clarke might, just might stop me moaning about our lack of strike force. Both could leap into cult hero status like Steve 'Turbo' Robinson did a decade earlier. Forever and ever we follow our team... 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

No Plan B

A superb opening day victory over Crewe gave Swindon fans new-found optimism that we could return to League One at the first time of asking. However, successive defeats away to Cheltenham and Dagenham & Redbridge have been a harsh reminder that League Two is no walk in the park.

In spite of the win over Crewe, it wasn't always plain sailing first half; Town were somewhat fortunate to head into the break with a lead, through a Callum Kennedy penalty. Swindon certainly upped the anti second half  and began to play football at a much higher tempo. Goals from Oliver Risser and Aden Flint provided an empathic win which provided Town fans with optimism. This optimism has been going down like the Titanic ever since.

Paolo Di Canio's philosophy is clearly to play good football and pass the ball round. An unusual game plan in this league with most teams looking to have a physical presence on their opposition. This approach isn't too dissimilar to that of Crewe, who have the likes of Byron Moore providing creativity.

Swindon took the same game plan to Whaddon Road for a game versus Cheltenham. On the whole, they struggled to break down an organised and resilient side and were largely limited to hopeful, long-range shots. Heading towards the end of the game, Swindon turned to 'Plan B'; long balls up to our forwards, who were comfortably sounded out by an experienced back line.

I wasn't able to make the trip to Dagenham & Redbridge so have no personal view on our performance. However, judging by reports and hear say from those who did attend, the performance sounds like a carbon copy to that at Cheltenham. Paolo Di Canio has been frank in interviews since and changes are expected for our derby clash with Oxford.

With Raffaele De Vita and Billy Bodin starting up front, we just aren't capable of executing 'Plan B' effectively. Both De Vita and Bodin look to be decent, young players with potential to improve their game. As a partnership though, the pair are just too similar; both are nimble and have quick feet but won't ever beat League Two defenders in the air. Early days admittedly, but neither look capable of scoring many more than ten a season.

Our two most successful seasons in the past decade came in 2003/04 and 2009/10; reaching the League One play-offs in both. The most stand-out thing in our squads in those seasons was our strike forces. Town favourite Sam Parkin partnered Tommy Mooney in 2003/04 bagged 19 goals each in the league. Six years later, Charlie Austin and Billy Panyter were a formidable partnership and scored 19 and 29 goals respectively.

It remains to be seen if either Alan Connell or Mehdi Kerrouche are the answer to our striking woes. Last season, Connell performed exceptionally for Conference side Grimsby and showed his goalscoring pedigree. Algerian Mehdi Kerrouche has shown his goalscoring ability throughout his career, albeit on foreign soil. Our strike force should receive a boost with QPR forward Leon Clarke poised to sign on loan.

With Danny Wilson at the helm, Swindon also looked to play football and reached the League One play-offs by doing so. Even in an otherwise awful season, our best performance away to Charlton came as a result of playing some decent football and not a long-range hoof up field. Performances like that were all too much of a rare occasion last term and Paolo Di Canio does need to ensure we avoid a repeat of last season this time round.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Match Review- Cheltenham Town vs Swindon Town

Swindon fans who made the trip to Gloucestershire must have been wishing the game was postponed as was originally planned as Town went down 1-0. Whaddon Road has never been an happy hunting ground for Swindon and their woes continued with a mediocre performance.

Swindon made a bright start to the game; dominating the first 20 minutes as Oliver Risser looked to better his superb debut goal last week. The away fans, including myself, thought Raffaele De Vita scored as we jumped to celebrate. However, the Italian placed wide proving our celebrations were premature.

Alan McCormack replaced Jonathan Smith and showed just why Paolo Di Canio was so keen to bring him to the County Ground. McCormack got stuck into every tackle and an over-zealous challenge earned him a yellow. The combative midfielder also looked to make things happen forward and saw a long-distance shot hit the post.

Nathan Thompson also made his first start of the season; playing from right midfield in front of Paul Caddis. Thompson is a great prospect, but was bemused as to why he was played out of position. Although he made some good tackles, he looked uncomfortable out there and was  often find out of position.

Although it's still early days, Joe Devera looked poor once again in defence and his starting place must be in doubt with Alberto Comazzi ready to takeover. Devera has predominately spent his career at right-back and questions are arising as to if he is more natural at full-back.  However, Joe Devera's partner Aden Flint  did impress once again. Seen as back-up prior to the opening game but has really captailised on Alberto Comazzi's suspension.

Billy Bodin looked like he was to win his side another penalty after he was once again pushed down. It looked more clear-cut than the one that was given in our opening day victory over Crewe. On evident of the two games thus far, Bodin's flair is likely to see similar situations arise throughout this campaign.

Clear-cut chances were few and far between and the match was further evidence of our need for striker. Both Billy Bodin and Raffaele De Vita worked themselves to the ground; they are too similar with neither able to offer an aerial threat to an experienced defence. Alan Connell looked a more complete player and I fully expect him to start against Dagenham & Redbridge.

The game proved my fear that I made in last week's match review as to how Swindon would manage facing more physical sides. Crewe's style of play, passing the ball around and looking to play football is a fairly unique style in League Two and not too different from Town's philosophy.

It is still early days and it is obvious to see that the squad does possess quality throughout. Our main problem is that with so many arrivals, the team is still not gelled as others in the league are. Concern should only arise if we are still stuttering in a month or so. That said, I couldn't bear not to beat arch-rivals Oxford United this week; not that I am forgetting an important game away to Dagenham & Redbridge first.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

There's Only One Jimmy Davis

Jimmy Davis only played 15 times for Swindon whilst on loan from Manchester United during 2002-03. That did not stop Davis becoming a fans' favourite which is why I find it fitting to write my tribute to him eight years to the day after his tragic death.

Jimmy Davis certainly wasn't your typical top flight player whilst on loan at the County Ground. When others think they are too good to be on loan, Jimmy did just the opposite. His  superior ability did not stop his commitment and effort being anything less than outstanding.

One of my favourite memories of him during his time at Swindon was his last game against Tranmere. Davis was given a standing ovation and massive applause as he exited the pitch; clearly leaving him overwhelmed and humbled. That moment summed Jimmy up.

Swindon fans didn't want to see him leave so soon and Davis himself was keen to remain at the County Ground. He returned to Old Trafford where he remained on the fringes of the first team squad.

Such were his performances, that the following season Swindon were keen to once more capture him on loan. However, it was obvious he was destined for greater things and attracted the interest of Championship side Watford.

Injury prevented Davis from making in his Watford debut on the opening game of the season. As we will all remember, Jimmy tragically died in a car crash whilst travelling to Watford to watch his new team-mates play against Coventry.

The Watford game was called off on the hearing of this tragic news and it eventually made its way to the County Ground. Town lost 3-2 Sheffield Wednesday that afternoon but it didn't matter, it was only a game when a young man had just lost his life.

His family attended our home game against Notts County where we beat them 4-0. A fitting tribute for a fantastic player. If you never knew how much he loved it at Swindon, you certainly knew it that afternoon after hearing his mother's tribute. Chants of 'There's only one Jimmy Davis' were certainly moving.

Since, very few have been as good as Jimmy was in the red of Swindon. Writing this, tears have stemmed down my face just like they did eight years so I will stop at this. I thank you Jimmy Davis for the memories and you will never be forgotten.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Are We Good Enough?

The dismal season which saw Swindon relegated to League Two sparked an exodus at the County Ground. Much has changed at Swindon in recent months and as a result of this, expectations are high and confidence amongst supporters is high.

The majority of Town supporters see play-offs as an absolute minimal requirement. The new look squad have a task to right a very big wrong by those who have jumped ship. So are we strong enough to make a serious promotion charge?

The appointment of Paolo Di Canio in May, shortly after our relegation is the most important change of all. Di Canio is a massive name within the English game, having plied his trade at Sheffield Wednesday and later West Ham and Charlton Athletic. The Italian's appointment has been a popular one which has seen season ticket sales soar.

The flip side of the coin to Di Canio's arrival is that it's his first taste of management. In spite of the optimism, no-one is sure that Di Canio will excel at management as much as he did as a player. As of now, I am impressed; his passion has been instilled into his squad which can only been seen as a positive step.

Since his arrival, Paolo Di Canio has looked to put his rubber stamp on the squad; allowing players to move on, and also bringing in new faces. Joe Devera and Alberto Comazzi have been brought in to shore up our shaky defence. Devera clocked up over 200 league appearances during his time with Barnet, whilst 32 year old Comazzi should give the defence some much needed experience and know-how.

With five central midfielders at the club, competition for a starting place is likely to be fierce. Nambia international Oliver Risser has been given the armband, whilst Alan McCormack and Jonathan Smith also signed. McCormack rejected League One clubs to sign from Charlton Athletic; presumably the lure of Di Canio turned his head so is unlikely to settle for a place on the bench. Jonathan Smith joined from Blue Square Premier side York City and started every pre-season game.

The trio joined Simon Ferry and Michael Timlin at the County Ground who will also be bidding for a starting place. Former Celtic man Ferry had a disappointing previous campaign and has it all to prove to Paolo Di Canio. That said, Simon Ferry has something different to the others; whilst the other quartet are tough-tackling whilst Ferry is a creative outlet. Michael Timlin had the opportunity to join Southend, but instead opted to stay at Swindon so won't be happy with a cameo role.

Our major downfall last season was a lack of goals; it speaks volumes when Sean Morrison, a central defender who left in January was our third top goalscorer. In a bid to fix this problem, three strikers arrived at the club with Raffaele De Vita the first to join from Scottish side Livingston. De Vita will face competition from Alan Connell, who joined from Grimsby after scoring 26 last season and Algerian Mehdi Kerrouche.

Whilst overs jumped ship at just about the first opportunity, Paul Caddis and Matt Ritchie have remained at the club. Our two best players last season, who impressed with the commitment and ability. There would have been interest from higher up the food chain, so for them to still be here is a great boost. Paul Caddis is likely to be pushed back into defence although will grow into the role comfortably.

Elsewhere, clubs have strenghten and there are some good teams in the league. Blue Square Premier winners Crawley Town have money and momentum which makes the Sussex side worthy favourites. Bristol Rovers have had a similar summer to Swindon following relegation from League One. Paul Buckle has taken over the reins, leaving Torquay in the process and has signed several players following so many exits. Shrewsbury will be looking to go one better whilst Rotherham, Oxford and Southend have improved their squads.

This season will be no walk in the park, with so many good teams in the league. One thing is for sure, with Paolo Di Canio at the helm, we are in for an eventful season. Who knows what this season will bring but of course we all hope Swindon fulfil the expectations resting on their shoulders.

Match Review- Swindon Town vs Crewe Alexandra

Optimism was high around the stadium as Swindon kicked off their League Two campaign. On the show of the 3-0 victory, optimism had not been misplaced. As well as it being our first victory of the season, it was also our first home of the calender year.

On reflection of the first half, the final scoreline does look rather kind to Swindon. The team were slow out of the blocks, a mixture of nerves and a team not quite gelled contributing to it. Debutant Joe Devera made an almost fatal error, losing possession in his own half and Swindon were only saved by an Aden Flint challenge.

This scary moment appeared to kick-start Swindon into life and started to attack and pass the ball around nicely. Matt Ritchie was booked for a late, sliding challenge in Crewe's area from a corner; extremely unnecessary but showed his desire hasn't been lost.

Swindon won a penalty on the stroke of half-time, after Billy Bodin made a good run and fell under the challenge of Dave Artell. The decision in truth was debatable, although I believe it was the right call. Callum Kennedy calmly converted to score his first goal in a Swindon shirt.

Despite heading into half-time with the lead, the performance would have not to been to Paolo Di Canio's standards and a vast improvement was made. Town came out and played with a real desire and at a high tempo.

Town got there just rewards fifteen minutes into the second with a stunning volley captain Oliver Risser following a blocked shot from Billy Bodin. Overall, his performance wasn't much to write home about, but that goal overshadowed it. Paolo Di Canio's slide across the grass following the goal was superb; he still kicks every ball and makes every tackle alongside the players. Brilliant.

Swindon managed to put the cherry on the cake when Aden Flint scored the third. Flint was outstanding today and fully deserved his goal. Seen as back-up behind new signings Joe Devera and Alberto Comazzi, he really made a claim to become a more permanent fixture in the side.

Billy Bodin also impressed me today; much like Matt Ritchie, the youngster has really bulked up over the summer. Bodin showed some lovely touches and always looked to be involved in the play. Other youngster Callum Kennedy was assured at the back and clearly possesses a sweet left foot.

The ever present Matt Ritchie and Paul Caddis continue to impress me and showed some good link-up play on the right channel. Etienne Ejasas is likely to start on the left so is a partnership that could really blossom this season.

Paolo Di Canio has certainly instilled a passing, fluent style onto the side; very much similar to that of Dario Gradi's Crewe side. The test will come when we play a more physical, 'hoof ball' side, of which there is plenty in League Two. Our squad has a lot of small, nimble players so the likes of Aden Flint, Oliver Risser and Alan McCormack will be vital for their physical presence.

With games will come players gelling more as a team which is only a positive. Di Canio needs to ensure his troops start every game as they started the second half today; mistakes and nerves could cost against another team on another day. It is early days, but on evidence of today, the optimism descending on SN1 has not been misplaced.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Tale Of The Trialists

Uruguayan Nicolas Raimondi is poised to become the latest to join on trial as he bids to become the man to solve our striker problem. Raimondi has been described as Uruguay's version of Bas Savage. His career has taken him to Brazil, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Greece and most recently Bulgaria.

Further information on Nicolas Raimondi is rather limited but considering he is 26, the Uruguayan hasn't played many games or scored a lot. Of course this could be down to a number of reasons but I am hardly inspired. I still want this 'big, experienced' forward who has played in the football league. 

Paolo Di Canio has gone down the trialist route on a number of occasions before in a bid to revamp our depleted squad. The club has seen no less than eight trialists arrive through the doors this summer; some signed permanently whilst overs were shown the door almost immediately. For this article I will look back at our trialists who have joined this summer.

First to arrive on trial was striker Leon Knight; I had never been his biggest admirer since our play-off games against Brighton in 2004. After only two days the striker was asked to leave with Di Canio citing for poor fitness and an even worse attitude. His unprofessional attitude that has followed him through his career and is something I don't want to see at the County Ground.

Namibian international Oliver Risser and Ghanian Ibrahim Atiku arrived on trial the same day as Knight. Oliver Risser immediately impress and was subsequently offered a deal after only two days of training. The Namibian international has also since been named as captain after having his leadership skills hailed. Ibrahim Atiku's versatility should prove to be a great asset when the inevitable suspensions and injuries arise.

Following the failure of Leon Knight, Di Canio turned to fellow Italian Christian Cesaretti to boost our almost vacant striker options. His career history was very much underwhelming; this was also coupled with reported poor attitude. With such a strict boss in Paolo Di Canio, the exit door which he walked through a couple of days later seemed inevitable.

Taijo Teniste was a left back who had spent last summer on trial at Championship side Doncaster Rovers. At the time, we were very much lacking left-sided players so looked likely to sign. However, Paolo Di Canio was seemingly unimpressed with his defensive attributes and soon returned to his native Estonia with Levadia Tallinn.

The exit of Teniste prompted the arrival of fellow left back Alessandro Cibocchi to join on trial who proved more to Di Canio's liking. Injury has prevented him from playing much of a role than a few minutes during a friendly against Supermarine. Injury has appeared to hampered his career so Callum Kennedy is likely to take the left back berth.
  
Former Sheffield Wednesday man Etienne Esajas was the next to join on trial on was signed permanently. The ability of Esajas was never an issue and has since shown that in the friendlies that followed. The main issue was Esasis' fitness and injury record, having only played 9 times in the previous season. He has also since dislocated his shoulder although it deemed not as bad as first feared. In spite of this, he is a player that excites me and can't wait to see in action.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

League Two Season Preview-Part II

Hereford United: A team that struggled last season who finished 21st in the process and another relegation battle does seem likely for Hereford. Stuart Fleetwood is key to any success having scored 14 last season. I expect a relegation fight once again with anything else a bonus for the Bulls.

Macclesfield Town: They have seemingly been punching above their weight for a few seasons now. Maccelsfield Town have been quiet in the transfer market with the most notable event the exit of Tyrone Barnett to fellow League Two side Crawley. I would expect a bottom half finish for the Cheshire side.

Morcambe: They surprised everyone the season before last when they reached the play-offs, although last season was a more modest event. Morcambe are definitely a team that are capable of surprises although I expect a bottom half position once again.

Northampton Town: The Cobblers flirted with relegation for the majority of last season which prompted the arrival of Gary Johnson. Fortunes never really improved although Johnson now has an opportunity to put his own stamp on the team and bring his choice of players in. I expect a rise through the table this season with a top half finish and possibly challenging play-offs.

Oxford United: Had an impressive first season back in the football league and looked in contention for a play-off spot most of the season. Oxford have made additions to their squad including Peter Leven from MK Dons. As much as I hate to say it, I think they will have a good season and reach the play-offs.

Plymouth Argyle: How well Plymouth perform this season is largely dependant on financial issues. Argyle have suffered a double relegation following a 10 point deduction last season. They have lost key players including striker Joe Mason to Cardiff City. Peter Reid is likely to be forced to settle for free transfers and several loanees to supplement the wafer thin side he does have. I would predict a mid-table finish for Plymouth.

Port Vale: Much like Plymouth, Vale's fortune are dependant on the actions in the boardroom. Last season, their form suffered when manager Micky Adams departed for Sheffield United and eventually finished outside the play-offs. However, Adams has now returned to Vale Park and is a good manager. He will have his work cut out as attendances are likely to take a nose dive.

Rotherham United: I fully expect the Millers to be challenging for a play-off or an automatic promotion place. Rotherham are standing firm over striker Adam le Fondre who is a fantastic player at this level. Andy Scott is fairly inexperienced as a manager but felt he did a good job at Brentford last season. The signing of Danny Schofield from Millwall was a great acquisition.

Shrewsbury Town: Shrewsbury have somewhat of a play-off curse having been defeated twice in recent seasons. They will be looking to go one better this season and have made noises in the transfer market to back that. Shrewsbury have signed the controversial Marvin Morgan, who providing is kept happy will be a good asset. Although I expect a play-off place and hopefully for them it will be third time lucky at Wembley.

Southend United: Paul Sturrock worked wonders with a largely depleted squad last season finishing a respected 13th. This summer has witnessed the departure of captain Craig Easton after a single season at Roots Hall. With a more together squad this time round, I am predicting a top half finish with an outside chance of the play-offs. They have an experienced front line in Neil Harris and Barry Corr which is sure to get them goals.

Swindon Town: The appointment of Di Canio could either be a masterstroke or a train wreck. Some signings are also a gamble with the majority of signings having no experience in England. The squad has seen a massive overhaul although Swindon have kept key players Paul Caddis and Matt Ritchie.  Expectations are high with play-offs a minimum.

Torquay United: Defeated play-off finalists have lost their manager Paul Buckle to Bristol Rovers. Top scorer Chris Zebroski also followed Buckle to the Memorial Stadium following a transfer request. They have also lost influential defender Guy Branston to Bradford. I predict a long hard season ahead with a place in the bottom half for the Gulls.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Match Review- Swindon Town vs Reading

I returned to the County Ground after a four month absence for our final pre-season match against Reading. It was by far and away our toughest test of pre-season and gave us Town fans an opportunity to see how far the team has come since the arrival of boss Paolo Di Canio.

Swindon continued their good pre-season form into the first half and deservedly took the lead going into the break. Good build up play by Italian Raffaele De Vita led to Alex Pearce scoring an own goal. Matt Ritchie also had a couple of opportunities to add to the tally.

The tables turned second half with Reading showing their superior ability as Swindon made several substitutions. Paul Caddis conceded a penalty which was converted by the in-demand Shane Long. Pressure mounted on the Town defence so it was no real surprise to see Manset score the winner.

Mattia Lanzano is likely to be first choice in goal this year; however injury meant Phil Smith had an opportunity to stake a claim. Smith looked unstoppable first half, pulling off some great saves but couldn't do much about the goals he did concede. A small bobble second half was his only mistake. I am yet to see Lanzano play but if he is good enough to come in at 20 and be No. 1 then I feel we have a good prospect.

Callum Kennedy continued to impress as he bids to cement a regular place in the starting XI. Kennedy made some good runs and produce some testing crosses from the byline. Defensively he is still a little suspect although he won't be facing the likes of Jimmy Kebe every week. On the other side of defence, Paul Caddis wasn't at his best and conceding the penalty summed his game up. I would still rather see the Scot moved forward to right wing with either Kevin Amankwaah or the highly rated Nathan Thompson take the right back berth.

The heart of the defence looked solid throughout and Aden Flint in particular impressed. Having only seen him played a couple of times in a struggling team, it was hard to judge. Flint clearly has the attributes to become a top defender and alongside an experienced head in either Alberto Comazzi or Joe Devera he will improve. Joe Devera himself, had a decent game and looks a resilient defender.

Matt Ritchie has started this season just how last season finished off and deserved his man of the match award. He was at the heart in most of our attacking play and was a little unlucky not to score. One highlight was seeing him knocked down twice and still having the ball before finally getting barged over by a frustrated Reading player. Michael Timlin had a solid game although it is clear to see he isn't a wide man; he is work horse but just doesn't have the creative spark. Ibrahim Atiku had a cameo appearance from right wing, he does appear very lightweight which is definitely a concern.

Today was my first opportunity to watch captain Oliver Risser following injury. Risser appears to be a very influential and vocal player. He regularly got stuck into challenges and was aware of things around him. Jonathan Smith also had a good game and once again not shying out of tackles. Latest signing Alan McCormack joined play second half and impressed everyone with some showboating. That said he made a couple of careless passes but was solid in the middle. Simon Ferry came on late and brought a lift to a weary Town side; he wanted the ball and was willing to run when the opportunity arose.

Our strike force lacked a cutting edge today to put the sword into Reading's defence. Raffaele De Vita has impressed me more than any new signings in the games I have seen pre-season. He certainly doesn't lack effort and is an intelligent player. Alan Connell looked very off the pace today and had he been more alert would have scored at least one. One factor to consider is that he joined Swindon late so has not had the rigorous training schedules his team-mates have had.

On reflection on this game I would expect at worse Swindon to finish in the play-offs. Paolo Di Canio has signalled his intent to bring another striker in and is something we definitely need. The need for a winger is likely to depend on how long Etienne Esajis is sidelined for. I also suspect Di Canio will turn to old boss Harry Redknapp for a loan or two in a quest to find the next Danny Ward.

League Two Season Preview

With the League Two season nearly upon us, I thought it would be apt to give my view on who I think will suceed and exceed expectations and a look at those who may struggle and disappoint.

AFC Wimbledon: The real Dons are the hardest team to predict how they will do during their first ever season in league football. Many have tipped them to struggle and have lost forward Danny Kedwell following a transfer request. Although Wimbledon have always succeeded against the odds and in the face of adversity. I predict a mid-table finish for them this season.

Accrington Stanley: Exceeded expectations last season by finishing 5th and reaching the play-offs by doing so. Stanley lost key player Jimmy Ryan to Scunthorpe United. I would be surprised to see Stanley up there again and personally expect them to struggle and have somewhat of a hangover season finishing in the bottom half.

Aldershot Town: A club that has gone in the right direction in recent seasons. Dean Holdsworth is a fairly unknown quantity as far as management is concerned. A team that could go either way and surprise us all just like they did in the 2009-2010 season. Although I would predict a mid-table finish, making up the numbers finish once again.

Barnet: The Bees did superbly to stay in the Football League when many thought the writing was on the wall for relegation. Barnet were promoted to League Two in 2005 and their aim has always been survival. With their miracle survival, I expect momentum to be on their side and them to have a safe mid-table finish.

Bradford City: Bradford were relegated from the Premier League just 10 years ago and they have had an awful decade since. They were massively disappointing last season, finishing in a lowly 18th which saw the exit of Peter Taylor. Supporters will be expecting much better and at least a challenge for the play-offs. However, I expect a similar tale to last season and will continue to underachieve in the basement division.

Bristol Rovers: Expectations are high at the Memorial Stadium this season following the appointment of Paul Buckle. Rovers have seen many ins and outs with the most notable being the departure of Will Hoskins. They have signed no less than 15 players as they aim for a straight return to the third tier. Buckle fell at the final hurdle with Torquay last season but I expect him to go one better this season.

Burton Albion: Burton were fighting for survival for a large part of last season and I fully expect the same to happen once again. Due to their stature, they struggle to retain players when bigger clubs come calling. Last season they lost top scorer Shaun Harrad in January and have sold keeper Legzdins to Derby County. With this in mind, I expect 22nd place to be an achievement.

Cheltenham Town: Another team that I certainly expect to struggle this time round. Cheltenham have lost top scorer Wes Thomas to money bags Crawley whilst bringing ex-Swindon player Kaid Mohamed as a replacement. Having watched him at the County Ground I know he is no able replacement for Thomas. I would say a relegation scrap is on the cards.

Crawley Town: It is clear to see that new boys Crawley are the Manchester City of the lower leagues. They sprinted out the transfer tracks adding some strength including Hope Akran from Everton and Bristol City striker John Akinde. Despite it being their first ever season in the football league, I expect them to make a serious promotion or even title challenge.

Crewe Alexandra: Finished in a very respectable 10th place last season. Although that was largely thanks to the 28 goals from the now departed Clayton Donaldson. Goalscorers are the hardest players to replace in football. With arrivals at Alexandra looking few and far between I predict a bottom half finish.

Dagenham & Redbridge: Exceeded expectations when they were promoted two seasons ago from this division. Like most relegated sides, the Daggers will have many departures. Right winger Danny Green left for pastures new to join Charlton Athletic. He managed 14 goals and and 13 assists last season so won't be easy to replace. League Two is probably their level so expect a top half finish without threatening the play-offs.

Gillingham: Last season they were somewhat unlucky not to reach the play-offs and Gillingham have made intent they aim to reach the play-offs. Have made a number of signings including six captures in just one day. Danny Kedwell, who scored 24 goals in the Blue Square Premier is the most notable. I would predict a place in the play-offs for the Gills.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sibling Love

Today has saw the arrival of another player on trial as Paolo Di Canio looks to further strengthen his squad before the season starts. The player is striker Wilko Risser, the younger brother of our new captain Oliver.

Wilko recently arrived in England last week join League One side Oldham Athletic. It appears unknown as to why he left the Latics so soon. The 28 year old also played for Southend alongside Vincent Pericard and scored in a friendly this week.

Like so many of our signings, information on the younger Risser was few and far between. Wilko is a 6ft 3 striker who has most recently been playing in the fourth tier of Germany with SV Elversberg. Wilko Risser has also had 11 caps for Nambia scoring 3 goals in the process.

Oliver Risser obviously impressed since signing for Swindon and as a consequence of that he was offered a contract after only two days. Oliver's leadership qualities have been commended and last week was announced as captain.

I just can't see Wilko having the same impact and seeing the Risser brothers being Swindon's version of Gary and Phil Neville. His career history is far from overwhelming and would be extremely surprised if he was to make a permanent switch to the County Ground.

Furthermore, having seen the recent arrivals of Mehdi Kerrouche and Alan Connell the need for strikers isn't what it was. Following the announcement of the squad numbers and seeing that No.9 is vacant it is clear that Paolo Di Canio is still on the hunt for another forward. However I fully expect it to be someone with experience of playing in England although only time will tell.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Curious Case Of Simon Ferry

This summer has seen Swindon strengthen central midfield with the signings of Jonathan Smith and Oliver Risser. Alan McCormack is also poised to leave Charlton to sign for Swindon. These arrivals have prompted me to ask what does the future hold for Simon Ferry.

The midfielder initially signed on loan during 2009-10 season and formed a solid partnership with Jonathan Douglas in the middle of the park. He performed superbly throughout the season; most notably in the play-off game at home assisting Danny Ward with a brilliant sprint up field.

Delight spread around the County Ground when Ferry joined permanently alongside Paul Caddis from Celtic last summer. However, it was fairly short lived as he was largely overlooked with David Prutton and Jonathan Douglas preferred.

One game to particularly forget for the Scot was away to Bristol Rovers; the poorest I have ever seen Ferry play with wayward passes and poor work in the tackle. Following that game he was frozen out of the first team until he made a substitute performance a month later.

Like many of his team mates Ferry was very unfit and quite frankly rather on the chubby side. I'm not talking Rik Waller but nonetheless completely unacceptable for a professional footballer. He did however, look much slimmer when I watched him against Supermarine.

Oliver Risser has been named as captain which almost gives him a guarenteed starting place in midfield. Jonathan Smith has started all three games during pre-season whilst Ferry has started just one. Michael Timlin only renewed his contract  this summer so his departure is very unlikely.

The arrival of Alan McCormack is likely to push the former Celtic player further down the pecking order. He has also signalled his intent that he wants to be playing regularly after failing to do so last season.

I have seen very little of any of the midfield trio we have signed so it is difficult to compare their ability to that of Ferry. Although in my view, he is good enough for League One so would love to see him stay at SN1.

Paolo Di Canio has stressed many a time the importance of impeccable fitness and commitment. I would think by losing the excess weight that Ferry has clearly been working hard in training in a bid to rejuvenate his falling Swindon Town career.

Seeing as he is my favourite Town player, I obviously want him to stay and think he would be a fantastic player if given a chance once more. But like others that have jumped ship this summer, if Ferry doesn't want to be here then we can leave. The club only needs players who are happy to be here and give their all every single game.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Match Review- Swindon Supermarine vs Swindon Town

Town's pre-season continued today with a game against local minnows Swindon Supermarine. Having started pre-season with a tour to Italy, this was my first opportunity to judge the new look squad for myself and to cure my withdrawal symptoms.

Town continued their good pre-season form going with a convincing 4-0 victory with two goals in each half. Jonathan Smith opened the scoring with a long range effort whilst De Vita doubled the lead with a tap in. Trialist Etienne Esajas scored our third whilst Callum Kennedy completed the rout with a piledriver.

The scoreline somewhat flatters Supermarine after their keeper made a string of fine saves. I am beginning to love Paolo Di Canio more and more, he is an incredibly vocal manager; not like those we watched last season with their arms folded waiting for a magic wand moment.

Paul Caddis was made captain in the absence of Oliver Risser, although I see what Di Canio meant when he said there is more than one leader out there. Alberto Comazzi played the full 90 game and was vocal throughout; this was particularly true when the ref wouldn't stop play for the injury of Allesandro Cibocchi.

As a result of the injury to Cibocchi, it was somewhat impossible to judge his ability. On the other hand, the performance of Callum Kennedy was good which was nicely topped off by his goal. On the other side of defence Caddis made some nice runs forward before being substituted for Amankwaah. By the time Kevin Amankwaah joined play, Town were cruising so was hard to comment on his fitness.

Matt Ritchie was played on the right but the most noticeable change was his physique. It looks as if snubbing the deckchair for the dumbbell has paid off with Ritchie looking incredibly strong and hard to push off the ball. His passion was clearly to see with some colourful language as a result of a debatable decision.

Trialist Etienne Ejasas appeared to be a tricky winger who likes to cut in. His performance was slightly Jekyll and Hyde; a good goal alongside some awful passes. The likely hood is we will sign him although the jury is still out. Ibrahim Atiku's performance was uneventful although he looks as if he has some pace.

New signing Jonathan Smith had a very good performance which was was capped with a long distance goal. Smith is a committed player and clearly enjoyed a sliding challenge. Simon Ferry is another one of the old boys who has benefited from the intensive training; he has clearly trimmed down and had less scotch pies. It showed in his performance with him first to most balls and looking more like the player we saw whilst he was on loan during the play-off season.

New signing Alan Connell looked a yard off the pace but showed some nice touches and control. Raffaele De Vita impressed me with his lovely control and clever link up play with others around him. De Vita deserved his goal and I hope to see more of the same. Kerrouche, much like Connell also looked off the pace although I expect both to score next week against Cirencester.

Aside from the scoreline, what impressed me most was the team spirit that was so badly lacking last season. After each goal, all the outfield players rushed to congratulate the goalscorer without a hesitance. It was a far cry from last season and what a relief it was to see.

It is hard to make judgements on how the season will fare for Swindon based on games like these. The game against Reading will give as a real indication as to if Town are good enough to make a straight return to League One.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Two Strikers Sign

Waiting for a striker to sign for Swindon this summer has been somewhat like waiting for a bus, two arrive one after the other. Alan Connell joins from Grimsby for a six figure fee whilst Mehdi Kerrouche signs having previously been a free agent.
Leon Knight. Christian Cesaretti. Hugo Bargas. Adam Birchall. A Brazilian who may or may not exist. Just some of the strikers Town have considered signing this summer as they looked to strengthen their front line. Although waiting for the elusive strikers has been frustrating it hasn’t been for a lack of trying.
Alan Connell has certainly been around the block with no less than 6 clubs in recent years. In his lone season for Grimsby the ex-Brentford man certainly impressed with 25 goals in 46 appearances. The gulf in class between League Two and the Blue Square Premier is not what it was so I am confident Connell can produce the goods.

Connell certainly wasn't as prolific at his previous clubs, notably Bournemouth with only 13 goals in over 100 appearances in his two spells with the Cherries. However, reports suggest he was regularly played out of position in midfield.
Alan Connell is joined by Mehdi Kerrouche, who was most recently with United Arab Emirates side Al-Oruba. The Algerian also has an impressive goals record, he scored 12 goals in 18 appearances last term. Looking further back through his career, his stats look equally impressive.

The duo join Raffaele De Vita, Billy Bodin and Jordan Pavett in the forward area at Swindon. The latter two are yet to score in professional football whilst De Vita is yet to reach his peak. The likelyhood is that Connell and Kerrouche will become the main partnership next season.

After seeing so many departures the Town squad is still one or two short; although I expect a few more to join this week. Trialists Alessandro Cibocchi appears poised to sign a two year deal whilst a decision on winger Etienne Esajas is expected to made this week. Hopefully my next article will be to discuss our next signing.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Town Squad Return To Wiltshire

The ten day tour of the small Italian town Norcia ended today with pre-season set to finish closer to home. Their stay in Italy consisted of two matches and more importantly intensive training as well as an opportunity for the squad to bond.

The first game was against a Norcia XI where Town showed their superiority with an 11-0 victory. Swindon notched up a 5-0 win against Marche XI yesterday. Whilst quality in the opposition was lacking, you have to be impressed that at no point the players took the foot of the gas.

Photographic evidence would tell you the aim of further improving the fitness of players and building a good team spirit has been successful. From the outside in, training sessions looked thorough and intense. In spite of this, the Town players appeared all smiles through the blood, sweat and tears.

The team now continue the pre-season much closer to home, starting with a short trip across town to face non-league side Swindon Supermarine on Tuesday 19th July. This is shortly followed up by an away tie to Cirencester Town on the following Monday.

The aforementioned games are unlikely to be a challenge for the players. The same cannot be said for the final friendly of pre-season against local rivals Reading. Unlucky to fall at the final hurdle in the Championship play-offs the Royals will give Town supporters more of a true indication as to if the squad is ready and ultimately good enough.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lessons Must Be Learnt

Player of the season Matt Ritchie is the latest linked with an exit from the County Ground; with Championship side Crystal Palace reportedly interested. Ritchie was the bright spark in what was otherwise a shocking season.

Last summer saw the avoidable exit of our captain and best defender Gordon Greer to eventual champions Brighton. Without the Scot the defence was a complete shambles and the £250,000 we received for Greer was the worse money Swindon have made in recent times.

I have been on the whole unconcerened by the exodus that I have seen this summer as most underperformed last season. In some cases such as Michael Rose and David Prutton I was relieved to see the back of them as they very poor signings on the whole.

Matt Ritchie, however is a different quantity entirely. He was far and away our best player and feel Di Canio alongside the board need to do all they can to ensure Ritchie remains at the County Ground.

Swindon are far away from being a Barcelona or Chelsea so departures of our better players can somewhat be inevitable. Although we did only sign Ritchie in January and that coupled with his professional attitude I believe he would be happy to stay.

The reality if the former Pompey man was to leave Swindon, is that his replacement won't be as strong. Who replaced Gordon Greer, Billy Paynter, Charlie Austin when they all left the club? They either didn't exist or were poor players in comparison.

With strikers clearly lacking as things stand you certainly can't ignore the fact Ritchie also scored seven goals. That is double what any other player who finished the season with Swindon managed to do.

I would imagine he is Paolo Di Canio's type of player; his fitness levels were twice that of many of his team mates last season. He has also reportely snubbed the sun lounger in favour of the gym equipment to remain in peak condition.

Jeremy Wray has assured supporters he won't be heading for the exit doors and I pray this is true. Matt Ritchie alongside Scot duo Paul Caddis and Simon Ferry are the three players that need to stay to push for promotion.

Action does speak louder than words though and if Matt Ritchie is sold, questions will be asked as to how serious the club are about bouncing back immediately.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ticket Prices Rise

I normally have nothing but praise for the way Swindon Town has been run since the club was taken over by Andrew Fitton. Thinking where Swindon may now be had Fitton not taken over the club is a frightening thought. Gratitude is something I have aplenty for Fitton and other members of the board.

However, I believe interim chairman Jeremy Wray has made an error of judgement on the new ticket prices. Admission for the side stands is £25 for an adult whilst tickets for the Town End are on sale for £19; a rise of £5 and £3 respectively.

You would think after relegation last season that once promised so much that the club would looking to attract supporters. £25 is an awful lot of cash to part with to watch League Two football against the likes of Macclesfield and Hereford.

Managers and players alike bemoaned the lack of atmosphere so this action is somewhat contradictory. It's impossible to make any noise when surrounded by empty seats. The gates could be largely reduced meaning no actual increase in revenue.

I hope Jeremy Wray and Co think very carefully about grading games once more. The last thing they should do is slap an extra £2 for when Oxford visit the County Ground. The price increase was actioned for the games against Southampton, Sheffield Wednesday and Bristol Rovers last season.

Furthermore, they have already reduced the age for the 'young adult' category from 21 to 18. This would have left many young supporters having to fork out extra should they wish to return to the County Ground this term.

One praise I had of the club last year was to offer reduced ticket prices for particular games. For the game against Walsall they offered a free ticket for season ticket holder as well as a 'BOGOF' deal for other fans. Swindon offered reductions for buying two different tickets for particular games as well as a 'Kids for a Quid' initiative.

Supporting Swindon isn't exactly easy and at times I wonder why I do. At the end of the day Swindon are not a top flight team with a waiting list for tickets so the club need to be careful not to annoy the loyal fans we do have. The best thing the club can do now is ensure the performances on the pitch are an incentive to return to the County Ground.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Battle For The Armband

The club have witnessed several arrivals and departures this summer leaving a new-look squad. Taking into account the signings we have made Town fans have a rough idea how the team will shape up on the opening game.

The real unknown is who exactly will take over the vacant captain's armband this season. Paolo Di Canio has stated he wants to see a battle for the captaincy throughout pre-season. I had until last season underestimated the importance of getting this decision correct.

So, who do I reckon Paolo Di Canio views as the main contenders for the armband?

Our latest recruit Oliver Risser is a very creditable contender with the midfielder set to become a key player in the squad. Having hit 30, Risser certainly arrived at the County Ground with vast experience in the game. Di Canio has also hailed his leadership and vocal abilities during his short time on trial. If he can do that immediately I am sure he would only improve once more settled into the club. Risser is my main contender for the armband.

Alberto Commazi is also a strong option to take over the captaincy for the coming season. The Italian has no shortage of experience having clocked up over 300 appearances in his career, albeit in his native Italy. One potential hazard could be that although he can speak English, it is still not his first language. Some people, including myself prefer a defender to have the armband which could see Di Canio choose his compratriot.

Fellow defender Joe Devera could yet see himself named as captain for the coming season. At 24, he may be seen by some supporters as being too young for the captaincy. Devera is experienced for his age having played over 100 times for his former club Barnet. Fans of the Bees have also commended him as some what of a natural leader. With age on his side, Devera could be seen as a long-term captain and Di Canio may welcome stability.

 
At only 23, Paul Caddis is an even younger contender in the battle for the armband. That said he was captain for our final game in League One in our victory over Tranmere. I always believe a captain should set an example to the other players and I love the work ethic and professional attitude the Scot shown in his debut season. Caddis has also captained Scotland Under 21's so has experience of being captain. Somewhat of an outsider contender but wouldn't be dissapointed should he get the armband.

Whoever Paolo Di Canio and his coaching team do decide to become captain I certainly hope they end up Gordon Greer than Jonathan Douglas. I believe the players I have mentioned are all capable and I personally welcome having more than one leader and communicator on the pitch next season.