SWINDON SECOND SEASON SUCCESS: ARE THEY LEAGUE ONE'S DARK HORSE?
Updated: Oct 15, 2020
Could Swindon Town be considered a dark horse for this season's promotion contenders in League One this season? Let’s take a look.
LAST SEASONS SUCCESS
League Two PPG champions, managed by Richie Wellens, managed to take the division by storm last season, on the ball incorporating an attractive style of play which impressed the fans and got plaudits from across the media.
However, the town faithful were perhaps left more astonished by the determination Wellens had got into his squad, constantly pressing high up the pitch until the final whistle week in week out, resulting in fans pouring in to cheer on their club. Many teams in the bottom tier were not able to cope with the high press sustained by Town, resulting in a heavy chunk of their goal contributions coming from frightening counter attacks, created from forcing errors from opponents.
It's impossible to not talk about the impact that the League Two top goal scorer, Eoin Doyle, had on the success of the West Country club. Doyle, who signed in August 2019 on loan from Bradford City, netted an incredible 26 goals in 28 appearances for the club, unsurprisingly awarding him 19/20 League Two player of season.
Another player who perhaps goes potentially unnoticed due to the sheer goals that Doyle scored is Jerry Yates. On loan from Rotherham, Yates acted as the Robin figure to the L2 Player of the season, often being forced to play out on the left, due to his natural striker position being out of bounds due to Doyle's prolific record. He was able to bag an impressive 14 goals, with the majority of them coming from the wing.
So it came as a major blow to Town fans when the club was unable to retain both players services for the upcoming season in the step up to League One. Doyle opted to move closer to family, with a free transfer to Bolton and Yates choosing the financially better option and signing for Blackpool.
The question is, how do you replace two players who contributed 40 goals to a club's title-winning side?
Wellens’ has made it clear that the strategy to distribute the goal contributions through the side more evenly than just relying on a singular goal scorer of an Eoin Doyle’s mold, is the correct way to go, and their start to the League One campaign proves this.
After the unfortunate defeat to Peterborough, new signing Jack Payne became the 8th different scorer in the league this season for Town, the exciting attacking playmaker could be considered a replacement for the departing Keshi Anderson, who joined former teammate Jerry Yates at Blackpool. With all 8 goals coming from players scoring their first league goal for the club, this demonstrates the execution so far of the Manchester-born managers strategy.
Even so, Swindon were still able to land the signing of an experienced goal scorer in Brett Pitman on a free transfer. Pitman has had a very prolific goalscoring career, his most recent accolade was scoring an impressive 25 goals in the 17/18 season in League One for Portsmouth. Swindon will be hoping for the Jersey-born forward to rekindle this fine form looking ahead to this campaign, where he is already off the mark, scoring against Burton Albion in a dominant 4-2 win.
ADDING TO THE CORE
Although it had been widely publicised that Wellens’ reds had lost a fair chunk of goals, they had actually kept their main core of their title-winning squad. With the noticeable contract extension of fan favourite Anthony Grant. The destructive midfielder was chucked into the conversation as player of the season for the club, at times single-handedly controlling the midfield and creating a close connection with the supporters.
The club were able to retain more noticeable players; Captain Mathieu Baudry, club veteran Paul Caddis, exciting playmaker Diallang Jaiyesimi to mention just a few.
Obviously jumping up to a higher division is a completely new kettle of fish and the Robins needed to add some glimpses of quality into the side to cope with the increased quality of opposition, which they have done.
On-loan midfielder Matt Smith from Arsenal a standout mention. A highly-rated young prospect from the Gunners has hit the ground running for the League One side, catching the eye of supporters with his calm and composed attitude on the ball in the middle of the park when under pressure - something which is desired at this level. Combined with his defensive abilities, it appears an exciting midfield partnership alongside Anthony Grant has blossomed.
Another promising acquisition is tricky winger Jonny Smith, signed on loan from rivals Bristol City. The 22-year-old managed to tally an impressive 11 goals and 6 assists for a discouraged Oldham side last season who finished 19th. He is versatile enough to play on both wings and got Swindon fans hooked after his impressive touch and finish against Charlton Athletic in the Carabao Cup.
CONCERNS LOOKING AHEAD
With Swindon yet to obtain a clean sheet, it’s fair to say defensively there is a concern at the back for Richie and his squad. There have been several examples where poor defending has occurred, perhaps due to the injury crisis at the back recently. The constant switch of centre-back pairings and full-back pairings has prevented a lack of continuity and a chance to form a solid pairing at the back. If Wellens can get on top of the injury troubles, I personally could see a rapid improvement of solidity at the back.
PERSONAL OPINION LOOKING AHEAD
I believe Richie Wellens will get the best out of this squad than anyone, he has been given the reigns to craft his own squad, so I strongly believe they will suit his philosophy. With time in the window still, if Wellens can bring in another defender to provide less injury headache at the back, I believe Richie's Robins could produce a playoff push. There is no doubt goals will flow in this side with the fluid attractive style of football, so the deciding factor of the effectiveness of this side will be how the defensive frailties are coped early doors before it becomes too late.
Swindon Town host Sunderland Utd this Saturday at The Energy Check County Ground, looking to bounce back after a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Wimbledon.