PAOLO Di Canio has “changed the mentality” of the Swindon Town squad, according to winger Matt Ritchie.
The Town boss has signed a contract to prolong his tenure until 2015 and in 12 short months since his appointment on May 23 last year, he has led the club to the League Two title, a trip to Wembley and a fabulous run in the FA Cup.
Those successes are a far cry from the disastrous 2010/11 campaign, which saw faction and friction combine to see the club relegated from League One.
Since that lowest ebb, however, Town have restructured and rebuilt and their sensational season is in no small part down to Di Canio’s unique footballing philosophy, if Ritchie is to be believed.
“He’s changed the mentality at the club and the work that everyone’s put in this season has got its rewards now,” said Ritchie.
“It’s been very tough, it’s been hard and a lot of time has been put in with not many days off but it’s all worth it.
“Hopefully the fans have enjoyed it, the players have all enjoyed winning the league and hopefully the management, staff and everyone involved with the club have as well.
“The standards he (Di Canio) has set are very high and all the players, not just me, have had to raise the bar and meet those standards.
“I think he’s made us all better players and given us all a different mentality on football and got the best out of us.
“At any club there is always going to be ups and downs in the season. Everyone’s dealt with the ups and not got too high, and when there have been bad moments everyone’s not got too low.
“I think the season’s been managed very well.”
For Ritchie, the league title was not the only reason to celebrate this term.
The 22-year-old also picked up the PFA npower League Two Player of the Year award, as well as being nominated in the team of the season by his peers, and his achievements over the past nine months mean he has plenty to live up to when competitive football returns in August.
He said: “People say to me ‘enjoy it because it won’t happen too many times’.
“To win the league is brilliant and it’s been a great season.
“The team’s had a good season and personally I feel like I’ve had a good season as well so if I can do the same next season and I can do the same it will be a brilliant achievement.”