Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Douglas' Exit Looks Imminent

Since the arrival of Raffaele De Vita last week I have been thinking and failing for something of note to write. I had been hoping this article would be to announce of 4th signing but instead it is to announce another exit; this time in the form of Jonathan Douglas who is poised to sign for Brentford.

The latest departure
The local paper seem confident that he was all set to re-new his contract this week on his return my the season's break. He has instead rejected the offer on the table to sign for League One side Brentford.

The most frustrating part of this departure is the time it has taken and I was sure he would stay at the County Ground for at least another year. I also felt him and Simon Ferry could re-form their formidable partnership that was so pivotal in our play-off season.

New signing Jonathan Smith and Michael Timlim who signed a new deal last week are sure to be here come August 6th. I hope the same can be said for Simon Ferry who was largely ignored when it came to the starting XI last season.

Ferry still remains my favourite Town player and believe he could have an important role in our charge for promotion next season. We must also be careful not to totally dismantle the midfield and do all we can to keep Paul Caddis and Matt Ritchie. These two were our best players last season operating on both flanks.

I am hopeful that he departure of Douglas to West London is the last of the summer and that we make some incomings. Swindon have taken three trialists to Italy in the form of ex-Brighton striker Leon Knight and midfield duo Oliver Risser and Ibrahim Atiku.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Third Capture Complete

Raffaele De Vita has become the third arrival of the summer today after signing from Livingston. The Italian striker had been playing north of the border since 2008 after failing to make an appearance during his four years with Blackburn Rovers.

In his time with Livingston he scored 21 goals in 67 appearances over three seasons. A fairly good total and at only 23, he surely has scope to improve further as a player. Given the exit of Elliot Benyon this week to Wycombe Wanderers, his arrival at the County Ground is definitely a welcome one. 

The latest capture
The general view from Town fans is a good one, the fact we are desperate with strikers and a young striker who seems keen to prove himself south of the border having failed with Blackburn.

Swindon need to press on with more signings having seen far more exits than arrivals this summer. Paolo Di Canio appears to be doing just that with reports of another two players poised to complete their moves to SN1 this week.

The player that has been strongly linked with a move to Wiltshire is fellow Italian Alberto Comazzi. On paper he certainly has all the attributes that would mean he would fit in perfectly at the County Ground. At 32, the central defender would bring the lacking experience to our squad and more importantly our back four. Although having played his whole career in Italy, it remained to be seem if he could adapt to the English game.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Another Robin Flies Nest

Jon-Paul McGovern is the third player to leave Swindon Town today following Lescinel Jean-Francios and Elliot Benyon out the door. The Scot has headed north to Carlisle United, signing a two-year contract with the Cumbrians.

McGovern has been at the County Ground four seasons having been signed by Paul Sturrock on deadline day in August 2007. His first two seasons in a Swindon shirt were fairly decent although it wasn't until the 2009-2010 season he really came into his own.

He was an influential player in our success in reaching the play-off final that season and was a mainstay in the starting XI. He also managed to top the assist league, creating 16 goals for his team-mates from the right wing.

Last season couldn't have been a more different story, he started the campaign as an attacking central midfielder. A position that certainly didn't suit him and his form took a major dip. Even in his favoured right wing position he underperformed. As the season went on he was largely overlooked by Paul Caddis who had a excellent debut season.

The likelyhood is that Paul Caddis will continue in the first team next season which would have left McGovern to settle for a place on the bench. His move to Brunton Park appears to be a good move for both parties; after reaching 30 he will surely be looking to play regular football. He is also rumoured to be a higher earner at the club so to free up wages through a back-up player makes financial sense.

Pair Leave For Pastures New

Here I go again, writing about the exits of even more players. The departure of Lescinel Jean-Francios had been expected and we were all just waiting for him to sign on the dotted line. The same cannot be said for striker Elliot Benyon who arrived at SN1 just six months earlier.

Benyon signing for Wycombe
The departure of Elliot Benyon has been the most surprising departure of the Summer. Having only joined in January from Torquay United, he has now been loaned out to Wycombe Wanderers for the duration of the 2011/12 season. He appeared not to settle in fully due to the combination of injury problems and being played as a lone striker.

Although it is clear to see for any Swindon fan that he had a proven record at this level so for Benyon to be able to leave just seems ludicrous. With only Billy Bodin and Jordan Pavett
left as our strikers, I can only hope that Paolo Di Canio has a few aces up his sleeves and strikers will be joining Swindon this week.

I doubt any of us supporters will ever know if the striker jumped or was pushed out of the County Ground by management. Perhaps the opportunity to play from his hometown club coupled with the prospect of playing in League One was too tempting. Or Paolo Di Canio wants to put his stamp on the squad and will make additions suited to his style.

Elsewhere, Lescinel Jean-Francios has linked up with old boss Danny Wilson at Bramall Lane having been out of contract at the County Ground. The defender was reported to have been offered a new contract but has instead decided to take up the option to join Sheffield United.

Friday, June 17, 2011

One Step Closer

17th June is the day football fans up and down the land have been waiting for. Swindon fans couldn't wait for last season to end so we are been even more eager to forget and start again. This day is one giant step closer to the season beginning.

Swindon kick-off their season with a home contest against Crewe Alexandra on the 6th August. Town fans will be hoping this that a home game will kick start our season nicely and gives us some momentum. It will also give us a good idea of how well Di Canio has assembled a new squad fit for a promotion charge.

Without doubt, the first fixtures all us Town fans frantically searched for was against our fierce rivals from up the A420. We don't have to wait too long with the home game taking place on 20th August; only our second home game our the season. The short trip to the Kassam Stadium is Saturday 3rd March.

With a mainly Southern based league this season, there are some other local derbies in  the face of Cheltenham Town and Bristol Rovers. Our trip to Whaddon Road is our first away game, with the fixture happening on 13th August. The short trips up the M4 versus Bristol Rovers is in December; fans would certainly welcome coming back with some points after failing to do so since 2008.

The fixtures against Blue Square Premier winners Crawley Town are ones I am really looking forward to. Swindon were somewhat shamefully knocked out in the FA Cup by Crawley after being outplayed throughout the replay. Our first opportunity for revenge is at Broadfield on 13th September; our home tie against the Red Devils is on 14th February. There will certainly no love lost for their manager Steve Evans.

Fellow promoted side AFC Wimbledon is our first opportunity to play the real Dons since they were formed in 2002. Their journey have been somewhat remarkable and the trip to  the Kingsmeadow Stadium is an away game high on my list on ones I must do. Swindon's first ever game at the Kingsmeadow Stadium takes place on the 19th November; with the home game being Swindon's first game of 2012 on 2nd January.

Swindon wrap up the 2011/12 season with a trip up to north to West Yorkshire side Bradford City. Hopefully we will be taking to journey up to Valley Parade, having already secured promotion. Although I would also welcome a similar game to our last game in League Two, at home to Walsall as I am sure us Town fans can remember fondly.

For now all I have to say is hurry up Swindon versus Crewe on the 6th August. I have never suffered such strong football withdrawal symptoms. The U21 International tournament just doesn't cut the mustard compared to my beloved Swindon Town.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

League Cup Draw

One step closer to the football season starting is the arrival of the draw of the first round of the League Cup. It is normally seem as a secondary competition but when you see the draw I definately don't share that view.

Swindon travel to Ashton Gate to face West Country rivals Bristol City. A draw myself and other Town fans are delighted with having not played our rivals since 2006. Bristol City away was my first choice having never been to the red side of Bristol before.

I do have some great memories of watching Bristol City at the County Ground from when we used to play them on a regular basis. My first memory of this fixture was Swindon beating City 3-2 in 1998. Swindon were 3-0 up within 10 minutes and it looks as if it would be game, set and match. I realise now, I was too young to understand how Town never do anything the easy way. Bristol City clawed two goals back in the second half and despite ending with nine men, Swindon managed to hang on the victory.

This is the match I remember going to watch and thinking this is brilliant. The game had everything with goals, passion and potential late drama you expect from a rival clash.  From that moment on, I was hooked and obsessed with Swindon Town and over a decade later that love hasn't dampened.

Celebrating his superb goal
My other favourite memory of the West Country derby has to be Rory Fallon's brilliant over-head kick back in 2004. Everything about that goal was perfect, it was the best goal I had seen from a Swindon player but better still it was in the last minute to snatch a point. I remember watching others round me leave, but I never do and my dad always told me I couldn't. I can remember watching Town lose 6-0 to Ipswich and not leaving until the final whistle.

The first round tie is being played the week commencing the 8th August and I personally cannot wait. I am really hoping to cause a shock and get revenge for as our last game in 2006 sealed our relegation into League Two.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Revolving Door

No sooner than I was writing about our first signings am I discussing the departures of two players with another pair likely to be following them out of the County Ground. Striker Vincent Pericard and keeper Jakub Jesionkowski have left Swindon Town. Jon-Paul McGovern and Lecsinel Jean-Francios also look set to be heading for the exit doors.

Neither Vincent Pericard or Jakub Jesionkowski were offered the chance to re-new their contracts at SN1. Town fans had high hopes when the ex-Juventus player was brought to the County Ground in January 2010. However it took until the following season for him to score; scoring a brace in the Football League Trophy. Those goals didn't prompt a surge of goals and he finished the season with only six goals. Pericard also suffered poor fitness, meaning his last game in a Town shirt came against Yeovil in January. The poor form coupled with his fitness troubles meant his exit was almost inevitable.

Keeper Jakub Jesionkowski has also left Swindon without making a competitive appearance in his two seasons at the County Ground. It makes sense to get rid of another body in this case as the Pole would have been behind David Lucas, Phil Smith and Mark Scott in the pecking order. I personally never saw him play, although speaking to fans that had, the strong opinion that came through was that he wasn't good enough for League football.
Jon-Paul McGovern looks all set to return to Sheffield, this time with United having been at Wednesday between 2004 and 2006. The Scot also had a loan spell with the Blades back in 2002-03 season. McGovern was excellent at right wing in our play-off season topping the assist table with no less than 16. Although like many, he struggled last season and was moved from his best position into central midfield and playing behind the striker at times. His poor performances led to Paul Caddis being favoured in right midfield. Having seen Town drop down to League Two, the chance to play at League One and play under Danny Wilson will surely prove too tempting.

Jean-Francios appears to be on his way out with strong suggestions he has rejected a new contract. The defender definitely splits Swindon fans into two camps; I am in the 'rate him' camp. I love a footballing centre half who doesn't hoof it out at any given opportunity. That said he is still inconsistent and prone to an error so see the Haiti international as a loss but not irreplaceable. Rumours are that he will link up with McGovern and Danny Wilson at Bramall Lane although only time will tell.

The exit doors at the County Ground have been in more frequent use than the arrival door which does make the squad rather depleted. A degree of urgency is required to change however I feel confident Di Canio and Co are working hard to get the right players in.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Double Arrival at the County Ground

This is an article I have been wanting to write since the arrival of Paolo Di Canio. We have seen a few departures but now we finally have some arrivals. Town have sealed the signings of Jonathan Smith and Joe Devera from York City and Barnet respectively.

I am not going to give my own personal opinions of either as I haven't watched either play. However, when they are in the red of Swindon they both have my full backing and support. A big name doesn't mean a better player. Just compare the careers of David Prutton and Charlie Austin before they arrived at SN1; a former Premiership player and a former bricklayer.

Jonathan Smith has been described as a combative midfielder who likes a tackle. This is probably reflected in his disciplinary record last season, collecting twelve yellow cards and receiving marching orders twice. Swindon paid £30,000 for the former Forest Green man, a figure thought to be too low by York City supporters. Smith also scored five goals last season, which is something Town midfielders lacked last season with the exception of Matt Ritchie.

The other capture, Joe Devera was player of the season at Underhill last season for his performances at right-back. The general census is disappointment at Devera leaving for pastures new. There was always rumours of Championship side Millwall wanting Devera which certainly shows he has credentials. Devera is a versatile player who has also played in central defence. I am hoping the latter is his preferred position as it is the position that needs filling more than right-back.

I am sure more signings will be completed this week and I for one will welcome them with open arms. Although I am also expecting some departures in the coming days. A striker is at the top of my wish list.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Blast From The Past: Simon Cox

With the much anticipated fixture list a week away from being announced and with no news of any signings just yet; news has very much dried up at the County Ground since the dust settled on the appointment of Paolo Di Canio.

The lack of activity at SN1 has forced me to look further afield which brings me to ex-Town favourite Simon Cox. The West Brom striker has made an inspired start to his international career scoring two goals in for appreances including once against Italy.

I am personally delighted for Cox and wish him every sucess with West Brom and at international level. In my short years of watching Swindon, he is the most talented player I have seen to grace the County Ground in the red and white jersey.

In the 2008-09 season, he almost single handily kept Swindon in League One scoring 29 of Swindon's 68 goals that year. That impressive figure made him joint top goalscorer in all four divisions alongside then Bristol Rovers man Rickie Lambert.

At club level, he has seen his opportunites somewhat limited although he recently scored his first Premiership goal against Tottenham to equalise late on. He is a player, with no lack of desire who will grab an opportunity with both hands.

I will leave you with my favourite Town memory of Simon Cox, scoring an absoulute peach against Walsall in 2009. The best goal I have ever seen. Bar none.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Jigsaw Is Yet To Be Completed

Since the arrival of Paolo Di Canio we have seen many leave the exit door at SN1. Full-back Michael Rose was first to leave, signing for Colchester United. Last week, David Prutton moved up north to Sheffield Wednesday. And this week defenders, Alan Sheehan and Scott Cuthbert signed for Notts County and Leyton Orient respectively.

With theses departures in mind, Swindon need to strengthen in the right areas if we to return to League One at the first time of asking. Expectations for this season are high, with supporters hoping the club bounces back from the disastrous past season.

So, where should these signings be made?

Goalkeeper: This is one area where the team has adequate quality. David Lucas struggled with injuries and lack of form last season. However, he is a very good keeper and providing he stays fit, I would be happy to see him between the sticks next season. Phil Smith was error-prone last season, although he is a more than capable understudy.

Right Back: Kevin Amankwaah is very much like David Lucas, superb in our play-off season but struggled with fitness and form the previous campaign. Amankwaah is a great asset, providing he can find form once more. Nathan Thompson is a excellent prospect and always impressed in the minimal opportunites given last season. I am sure the youngster will offer fine competition.

Left Back: With the exits of Michael Rose and Alan Sheehan, this is an area we do need to strengthen. Callum Kennedy is the only senior left back in the squad who I am sure could do a solid job in the position. However, he stills falls in the 'maybe' category on making the grade at Swindon. There is also no harm in giving a player competition.

Centre Back: Signing an experienced central defender has to be absoulute priority in the transfer market. There is no subsitute for experience in football and there was no coincidence we struggled without Gordon Greer. We need that leader that can marshall the troops when the chips are down. Swindon have two talented defenders in Aden Flint and Jean Lescinal Francois; however the same was said about Cuthbert and Sean Morrison a year ago and we all know how last season faired.

Right Midfield: Paul Caddis excelled when moved into the right wing role and I certainly see no reason why the Scot won't be able to impress in League Two next season. Jon-Paul McGovern is rumoured to be joining ex-Town boss Danny Wilson at Sheffield United. Like many of his team-mates he had a fine 2009-10 season but was poor last season. Considering that I am confident he is someone we could easily replace.

Left Midfield: Providing we keep hold of Matt Ritchie, this is probably our strongest position. The former Pompey man was superb last season, chipping in with seven goals. Determination and passion are two things I love in a player and Ritchie has this in abundance. Timlim can adapt to left midfield, although a left-sided player who can also play at full-back would be a welcome addition.

Will he stay?
Central Midfield: David Prutton has already departed SN1 and should Jonathan Douglas' contract not be extended, we will be lacking numbers in this position. I am a big Jonathan Douglas fan and hope he remains at the County Ground. He had a formidable partnership with Simon Ferry during our play-off season and would love to see that renewed. Michael Timlim is a industrious midfielder which is a great asset to have in this league. The future of Douglas is the key factor is deciding if signing a central midfielder is required.

Attack: This is another key area that needs addressing sooner rather than later. Since the exit of Burnley man Charlie Austin, the team has struggled for goals. Elliott Benyon proved at Torquay, he is a poacher in this division. However, we do need to concede, to get the best out of Benyon he will need a strong, physical partner in the Rory Fallon mould. Billy Bodin and Jordan Pavett have never scored a professional goal; Swindon can certainly not afford to lay our hopes on two unproven players.