Record Last Season + Quick Summary:
League Two - 9th; W 20 / D 8 / L 18 / F 67 / A 65 / Pts 68
Billed as strong contenders for at least a play-off spot, David Flitcroft certainly made his mark as Robins manager. As with every managerial post he holds, there always seems to be a high turnover of playing staff, and the Wiltshire outfit were no exception to that. The main problem that has dogged him throughout his career is achieving positive results consistently. He was able to do that away from the County Ground, but back at home was a different matter entirely. Only twice did Swindon go more than two matches without defeat in the same sequence under his stewardship, and draws were a rarity. He jumped ship to Mansfield Town with just two months remaining in the season and both sides in the play-offs. Phil Brown came in, but was unable to prevent them from falling out of the top seven. A four-game drawing run destroyed their hopes, and even a 3-0 triumph over surprise champions Accrington Stanley couldn’t assuage a sense that 2017/2018 could only go down as a bitter disappointment.
Top Goalscorer: Luke Norris (13 goals in 30 starts/2,474 minutes)
Top Creator: Matthew Taylor (12 assists in 33 starts/3,040 minutes)
Manager/Head Coach: Phil Brown; one of the longer serving (in terms of his overall career) and more prominent managers in the lower leagues, he has usually found posts easy to come by, with his longest period out of work being a little over a year after being let go by Preston North End in December 2011. His most successful time in the dugout to date is undoubtedly at Southend United, whom he left in a much higher position than he found them in. A veteran of the circuit, he has wasted little in time in stamping his own mark at Swindon, letting go of almost a dozen players in one fashion or another this summer, whilst recruiting, with one very notable exception, a younger profile.
Ins: Steven Alzate (Brighton & Hove Albion U23s on loan), Elijah Adebayo (Fulham U23s on loan), Martin Smith (Coleraine), Luke McCormick (Plymouth Argyle), Jermaine McGlashan (Southend United) & Jak McCourt (Chesterfield).
Outs: Tom Smith (Cheltenham Town), Reice Charles-Cook (free agent), Donal McDermott (free agent), Ben Purkiss (free agent), Matt Preston (Mansfield Town), Tom Ouldridge (Hungerford Town), Luke Norris (Colchester United), Paul Mullin (Tranmere Rovers), Amine Linganzi (free agent), Ryan McGivern (free agent) & Stuart Moore (free agent).
Predicted First XI & Shape:
Tactics: One of Brown’s first decisions was to eschew the back three as a starting point for his shape, which hadn’t exactly been a roaring success. Lawrence Vigouroux, having returned from his loan spell at Waterford, will duke it out with Luke McCormick for the #1 spot. I expect the Chilean youth international to make it his, pending any loss of form.
On the right, Kyle Knoyle should make that spot his own; the release of Ben Purkiss plays into his hands and is testament to the growing faith placed in his ability. He can rove at speed, and, as well as his recent improvements with his end product and positional awareness, make him a solid all-round full-back.
At the time of writing, there are no specialist left-backs on the books, which I’m sure will change in the next week or two. Until then, Matthew Taylor is probably the best fit for that role, although he’s more at home further up his flank.
In the centre, captain Ollie Lancashire will be partnered with Chris Robertson, although there is a decent amount of competition in this area. The former is certainly the more sprightly of the two, whereas the latter is more likely to sit deeper without the ball to protect Vigouroux and his lack of speed.
The acquisition of Martin Smith means that the XI has a good foundation in midfield to work from; he will take the ball from the back four and carry it forwards, mindful of being caught out too far from the zone he’ll patrol. James Dunne could feature just off to his right. Look for both of them to shield their defence regularly if their opponents opt to play a direct style.
Two more positions are probably still up for grabs. In attacking midfield, it could be any number of players who get the nod. As things are, Ellis Iandolo could be the one. He has a natural tendency to drift left, despite being predominately right-footed. This means he’ll support Taylor’s runs and the space vacated by the direct running of the wide forward in a 4-3-3.
Scott Twine has been impressive in pre-season, but might have to be satisfied with a place on the bench in the first few matches of 2018/2019. Steven Alzate could be nominally left in a lopsided front three, although he prefers to play further back. Either way, he’s good on the dribble and will excite the crowd with his direct running at defenders, just as fellow newcomer Jermaine McGlashan will on the opposite wing. The 30 year-old is still one of the quickest players in the EFL, and that will help Swindon no end in stretching any opposition they face. He also possesses a low centre of gravity, which helps him remain upright when tackles come flying in, as they invariably do.
Kaiyne Woolery will still be on the sidelines come August. Marc Richards has a wealth of experience to his name, and could feature in the lineup almost as much as he does from the bench, especially if the Robins need to protect a lead and want a focal point in attack. Elijah Adebayo scored two goals on loan at Cheltenham Town, having only featured for the equivalent of three whole games. His height and strength will make him the target of the vast majority of balls played into the box.
Predicted ‘Area’ of Finish: Mid-table mediocrity. They are still a few signings short at both left-back and central midfield of being ‘complete’. Brown is an astute operator and will have his men well-drilled in more than one formation, which will stand them in good stead. However, considerable ire is once again being directed at chairman Lee Power from the fanbase and they will need to see more ambition in the weeks of the window remaining to make more of a fist at cracking the play-off spots. As things are, I think Brown will make them harder to beat and they certainly won’t lose as many as 18 again, but it’s not a team that immediately screams ‘goals’, nor is there enough experience in midfield areas to convince me that another campaign of missing out on where they want to be isn’t on the cards.