Swindon Town reached the League Two play-offs last season and while, on the one hand, they intend to go one better this time around, they are also at a stage of rebuilding as a club, clearing debt, investing in assets, and putting in place structural processes that could serve them well for decades.
With the team currently sitting fifth in the table, two shy of the automatic promotion spots, supporter Ben Nicholls is happy with life under Head Coach, Scott Lindsey.
“At the time of the appointment, it felt very underwhelming. We knew we were not going to sign a conventional experienced manager, but it took a very long time to appoint from within.
“He was a very popular coach with the players last season, though. There was always a question if, tactically, he was up to the job and if he could make the transition from coach to manager. So far, he’s answered both.”
Indeed, Swindon have accrued 30 points from 17 games, which looks a healthy return when one considers the age profile of a lot of the permanent signings brought in and the stage the club is at on it’s trajectory.
“The target was always to better last season. Realistically, everyone is pleasantly surprised at how quickly it’s all come together.
“The average age of the squad is around 22-23 and they’re all on long-term contracts. The club’s nearly completely debt free and is in a very healthy state. Our owner has done an outstanding job.”
When Clem Morfuni assumed control in 2021, he inherited a lot of problems lingering from Lee Power’s tenure, so Ben discusses his accomplishments in tackling those issues over the last 16 months.
“He’s reduced debt from £7.5 million to £1 million, which will be cleared by the end of the season.
“He’s split ownership of the County Ground with the fans, and the sale will be completed by July.
“There have also been redevelopment plans for the stadium, including a roof on Stratton Bank, executive boxes put in the Don Rogers stand and tearing down the Town End to add a club museum, hotel and gym, all built in to a large, mega Town End.
“There will be statues around the ground of club legends, too.
#EFLDebate with @Official_STFC boss Scott Lindsey #STFC 🔴 https://t.co/vKryd86UJn
— Gabriel Sutton (@GabSutton) November 3, 2022
“The club is very big on financial transparency. All board meetings minutes are posted every month, so fans know where our money is going.
“There is fan representation on the board. CEO Rob Angus is the former vice-chair of the Supporters Trust. Each advisor board meeting has participation from members of the Trust and Supporters Club.”
All these developments make life easier for Lindsey, who has delivered excellent results, to say that many of the signings were made with long-term sell-on value in mind as opposed to being expected to hit the ground running.
Jacob Wakeling, for instance, has been a massive hit with his non-stopping running, being directly involved in nine league goals this season to boot.
And yet, his stellar first three months of the season isn’t something many predicted, seeing as it hadn’t quite worked out for the 21-year-old at Barrow.
Ben sees Wakeling’s subsequent success at the County Ground as a sign of the efficiency Swindon’s transfer policy, which he describes as being “very data-driven”.
📊Most productive U21s in 22/23 (top four tiers):
12⚽️: 💚Morgan Whittaker💚 (7/5)*
10⚽️: Jack Clarke (4/6)
9⚽️: Bukayo Saka (4/5), Jacob Wakeling (4/5)
8⚽️: Tommy Conway (6/2)
— playmakerstats (@playmaker_EN) November 2, 2022
“We have an excellent Head of Recruitment in Les Caffrey, who knows the EFL inside out.
“No stone had been left unturned when scouting the players. Wakeling had a very good reputation with Leicester’s Development Squad. He was unlikely not to get more game time at Barrow, and maybe was a bit early for him.”
Wakeling has already forged an excellent attacking relationship with Jonny Williams and Luke Jephcott, with the trio combining superbly in the 5-2 victory at Mansfield, while there’s also strength in midfield.
2021-22 star Louis Reed didn’t start in last Saturday’s trip to Nottinghamshire, with Ronan Darcy, Saidou Khan and Ben Gladwin all instead getting the nod, while Ellis Iandolo and Ricky Aguiar offer Lindsey compelling alternative options.
“From the three big players who remained from last season (Gladwin, Williams, Reed),” Ben says, “Louis Reed is the only one who hasn’t picked up his form from last season.
“He’s recently had a prolonged spell out of the starting line-up. However, he did come off the bench at Mansfield looked his old, brilliant, self.”
An in-form Reed could be huge for Swindon in their promotion efforts, but Doncaster look improved under Danny Schofield, while Tranmere, Salford and Mansfield – outside the top seven at present – are expected to kick on.
Some might see the task as being to tie up a top seven berth given the potential heat underneath, but Ben sees top three as a realistic ambition.
“The squad is a lot deeper than last season,” he argues.
“I feel we have good cover in all positions. It’s still a new team and very young so there will be a few bumps in the road, but with a strong January window I see no reason why we can’t give it a good go at promotion this season.
“If it doesn’t happen, though, we’ll certainly be in a great position to push top three next year!”
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