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.

Duo Arrive Through The Door

Trialists Oliver Risser and Ibrahim Atiku having completed their permanent moves to Swindon and in the process becoming our 6th and 7th signings. The pair have been on trial for the duration of our pre-season.

Oliver Risser
Oliver Risser is a midfielder who has plied most of his trade around various leagues throughout Europe. Risser impressed Paolo Di Canio and his coaching staff as soon as he arrived. Fearful of losing Risser to a bigger fish prompted the management to offer a contract after only a few days of training.

At the age of 30, Risser certainly comes with experience within the game and also have totted up 40 international for Nambia. The midfielder's leadership qualities have been praised throughout his trial and I would fully expect him to be a direct replacement for the departed Jonathan Douglas.

Our other arrival is Ibrahim Atiku, who was offered a permanent deal on Friday after a successful trial period. He is an attacking midfielder who has been experimented in a more forward role in a bid to fix our attack. Although reports suggest he is a more natural midfielder so is hard to guess where the Ghanian will play.

As well as impressing Di Canio throughout training, the pair have also come across well during interviews. There is always some degree of a risk signing players who are unproven in England although both have appeared keen to prove their worth in League Two, both in the press and on the training field.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The Striker Merry Go Round Continues

Paolo Di Canio's toughest task in the transfer market this summer was always to fix our largely depleted strike force. Since the exit of Charlie Austin Swindon have been left with no prolific strikers. Thomas Dossevi, Vincent Pericard and Elliot Benyon have also since left the club.

Di Canio's first step to fix the problem area was to sign 23 year old Raffaele De Vita from Livingston. The Italian has initially settled in well into the Swindon Town set up through pre-season. However, it was reported on the day of his arrival De Vita will be largely used as back-up.

Former Brighton striker Leon Knight was brought in for a trial to add substance to our attack. His exit followed two days later, Di Canio citing poor fitness and attitude as the reason. Knight has a notorious reputation as being some what of a trouble maker so it was no surprise to see him leave.

Our manager once more showed his tough managerial approach with our most recent trialist Christian Cesaretti. The unattached forward failed to impress so was also shown the door after only two days. Cesaretti's exit was similar to that of Leon Knight's, with Di Canio once more bemoaning a player's attitude.

As much as we are desperate to sign some strikers I have to say I am impressed of the ruthless approach being shown. As a frustrated supporter, I can't help but feel had previous managers had this method, the club wouldn't be League Two. As a Town fan, I don't expect to watch Messi and Ronaldo but there can be no excuses for lack of effort.

The initial excitement on the arrival of Hugo Bargas has since proved to be a false dawn. The Argentine had an excellent scoring record in the higher leagues in Holland so would have been considered a coup. Bargas was clearly holding out for a better club which proved to be his downfall if he had any interest in joining Swindon.

More positive news hit the papers today, with Swindon looking set to beat Gillingham to the purchase of Adam Birchell. The Dover striker hit an impressive 45 goals in 49 games last season, a record not too disimilar record to that of Charlie Austin. Birchell failed last time in league football but should be keen to prove his worth in League Two.

Paolo Di Canio's approach is consistent and players know what is expected of them, on and off the pitch. The team will consist of players who want to play for Swindon and give it their all in the process. It also very much mirrors his playing career and if half his passion can rub off on the team we are in for one hell of a ride.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Two More Taken On Trial

Swindon have taken two more on trial in the form of Taijo Teniste and Christian Cesaretti. It's no secret the squad is light and in need of further signings to add to the five we have already made.

So just who exactly are Taijo Teniste and Christian Cesaretti...

Taijo Teniste is a left back who can also be pushed up the pitch to left midfield. Teniste is still on the books of Levadia Tallinn so it likely Swindon will have to part with some cash if they are to bring him to the County Ground. He also has seven international appearances to his name for his native Estonia.

What with only Callum Kennedy and Matt Ritchie as our only left sided players, Teniste's versitility would prove an asset. There are also question marks over Kennedy's head as to if he good enough after dissapointing loan spells with Gillingham and Rotherham.

Our other new trialist Christian Cesaretti, a striker who have most recently been with Serie B club Empoli. Cesaretti has very little profressional experience so whilst trying to revive information it very much few and far between.

Our strike force is in large need of an overhaul. Only De Vita has scored a goal in professional football. Jordan Pavett and Billy Bodin are unknown quantities in the game so both will be settling for cameo roles. Even if Cesaretti does have a successful trial, another forward proven in the English game is a must.

These two joined other trialists Oliver Risser and Ibrahim Atiku  who arrived last week. The previous has already been offered a contract after impressing within the first few days. Word on the street, also suggesting that the Nambia international is set to become captain.

Fellow midfielder Ibrahim Atiku has a further fortnight to impress Di Canio and his coaching team. Atiku, who was once on the radar of Alex Ferguson is likely to be offered a long term contract at SN1.

Whilst I am pleased there is intent to bring more players to the County Ground, I can't help but feel some concern over the lack of experience that these trialists have in the English game. A good trial doesn't mean a good signing; just ask any fan at the Nottingham Forest friendly last season and mention Thomas Dossevi.

Paolo Di Canio needs to sign more Joe Devera's with experience of League Two and focus less on Mattia Lanzano type signings.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Pre-Season Of Italy

Today, Swindon continue their pre-season preparations with a tour to Paolo Di Canio's homeland Italy. During their stay in Italy the team will be playing against two local teams in friendlies; the first being played on Saturday which is followed with a game on the 13th.

Although, the two priorities for this will be to allow the players, new and old to bond and gel as a team. The squad have been training hard since returning last week and they certainly can expect more of the same for the following ten days. The lack of team spirit and fitness levels throughout the squad was apparent last season and is paramount they are both improved.

It was clear for all to see that cliques had arose throughout the squad last season. Di Canio has made the right moves in improving this; many of the reported culprits have since departed the County Ground. The isolated area will give the players, new and old an excellent opportunity to bond.

Another issue that was evident during the last campaign was the fitness levels of the majority of the squad. Or lack of fitness. On no less than seven occasions did Town concede in the final five minutes. A figure I can't help but feel would have been largely reduced had the player's fitness been of a better standard.

Trialist Leon Knight was asked to leave after only two days of training with the squad, with the main reason being poor fitness. Taking into account we are short of strikers, Di Canio will not accept any slouches in the squad this season.

Both Matt Ritchie and Paul Caddis seen aware that the trip to Italy will be more army camp than Butlins. Few would argue that the midfield duo were amongst the fittest in the Town squad last season so it will certainly be no easy ride for the players this time round.

Here is hoping the tour has the desired purposes and come the opening game the players will have a united front and pushing for promotion. Players may not have the talent of Premiership players but there is no excuse not to be as fit as them. Just like it was a major disadvantage last season, Di Canio will be utilising our extra fitness to Swindon's advantage.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Changes Between The Sticks

Swindon Town have completed their fifth signing of the summer with the capture of goalkeeper Mattia Lanzano. The goalkeeper is the third Italian to sign under Paolo Di Canio's reign joining Raffaele De Vita and Alberto Comazzi.

The arrival has appeared to be triggered by the forth coming exit of David Lucas. He is reported to have spoken to Jeremy Wray about moving closer to his hometown Preston. Lucas has been training with League One side Rochdale with view to a permanent move.

At only 20, the likely hood is that Lazzano has been brought in more for the future than the present. Our longest serving player Phil Smith is likely to take the number 1 jersey for next season following the imminent exit of Lucas.

This will leave Lazzano and our other young keeper Mark Scott to fight for the number two spot in the goalkeeping pecking order. With promotion clearly a priority this season, it is likely one of these will get first team experience in the cup competitions.

Just like his compatriot Alberto Comazzi, there has been some concern over the language barrier. Although with regular first team action unlikely this season, I am confident by the time he is ready his English will be more than good enough. He would have the support of Paolo Di Canio and his coaching team as well as Comazzi and Raffaele De Vita.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Just What We Needed?

Tuesday saw the signing of Alberto Comazzi completed. Swindon had been linked with the defender for a couple of weeks previous. Comazzi has clocked up over 300 appearances, having played his entire career is his native Italy.

The lack of experience throughout the squad was a major downfall in our disastrous season which led to relegation. And experience in the back four is needed more than anywhere on the pitch. With that lack of experience also came a lack of leadership.

Our latest recruit
Just look at how much stronger our back line looked with Gordon Greer steadying the ship during our play-off season. Last season, our defence was more titanic than anything else; at one point we failed to keep a clean sheet for over three months.

At 32 Alberto Comazzi certainly has the experience to take over Greer's baton which remained untouched last season. Having played the majority of his career in the second and third tier of Italian football, he surely has the ability to succeed at the County Ground.

With his experience in the game and a relatively young squad, many Town fans expect him to be named as captain. Although others supporters have slight concerns over the language barrier that may arise. On evidence of interviews the language barrier there needn't be any real concern.

By coming to Swindon, Comazzi is entering into an unknown, having only ever played in Italy before. The English leagues are genuinely more physical that what Comazzi would have seen back in Italy.

The former Verona player is also uprooting his young family in order to move to Swindon. Uprooting yourself and a family from what you know can often unsettle a player. Here hoping though, having sacrificed a lot to move to SN1 that the Italian is ready to grab the opportunity with both hands and give it his all in the famous red jersey.