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THE SAM MORSHEAD COLUMN
IT’S never dull when Paolo Di Canio’s in the building.
Just when you thought we were going to have a normal summer - no Estonian trialists or Ghanaian imports, no Leon Knights or bust-ups in the tunnel - along came Monday and the news Paul Caddis had been stripped of the Town captaincy.
Panic button duly pressed many of us, as only Swindon fans can, quickly pronounced the arrival of all four horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Suddenly all the work of pre-season was undone, the bad times were back.
I guess we ought to learn that this team is made of sterner stuff. They are resilient, they are professional and, let’s face it, they’re also pretty good.
As much as Brighton were poor at the County Ground on Tuesday night, particularly for a side expected to fight for promotion to the Premiership, Town on more than a dozen occasions put together the sort of passages of play that make you nod your head and smile as though you’re watching a Churchill car insurance ad.
It was top stuff and hugely encouraging but what impressed me more than the football on show, more than the slick first goal from Paul Benson and more than the astonishing contribution from Alan Navarro, was the application of the players as a collective.
It can’t have been easy to digest the news that Caddis had been relieved of his responsibilities when the squad was told eight days ago.
Remember this is a team that is a unit both on and off the training ground.
As Paul Benson said in his post-match press conference after the Brighton game, Caddis is a close friend of many of the players.
Though Di Canio’s intentions are inevitably utilitarian in whatever decision he makes, that sort of event - particularly so close to the new season - has the potential to rip through a squad.
Maybe as hardened Swindon fans we have learnt to expect the worst when these incidents occur. I mean, who turned up on Tuesday night with a very real set of nerves? Who was thinking ‘what if it all goes wrong’?
If you were in that camp, you could be forgiven. Over the years the County Ground has seen teams in red buckle under the tiniest amounts of pressure.
But one thing we have learnt of this group of players is that they are resolute in the face of any old adversity.
Last year, when Leon Clarke staged his one-man protest against Di Canio’s training methods many thought the end was nigh.
What happened? Town only lost three of their next 17 league games.
And as much as credit can go to the manager for the way he gets the best out of his players, it has to be remembered that it is the players who do not let these situations affect them.
Let’s hope Caddis and Di Canio can reconcile, for Swindon are a better side with the Scot involved, but let’s appreciate the calibre of professionals we have at the club right now.
- WHAT great news it was to hear that Jake Simpson has been handed a trial by the Jamaica Under 20s.
Jake, son of former Town midfielder Fitzroy, is only 17 and has come all the way through the Robins’ youth development system.
The work that Paul Bodin and Jeremy Newton put into the age groups at Swindon is easily forgotten in the wake of the glitz, glamour and glory of the first team at the County Ground over the last 12 months, but they ensure our next line of youngsters are properly nurtured to the point they can get into the first team.
Nathan Thompson, Leigh Bedwell, Louis Thompson and Miles Storey have all been taken under their wings, as have many others in the past, and it’s always healthy to recognise their contributions to Swindon Town.
- THIS whole furore regarding Kevin Pietersen sending derogatory texts about his England captain Andrew Strauss to his South African mates during the current Test series has turned international cricket into a children’s playground.
It’s bad enough that Pietersen was talking nasties behind the Head Boy’s back, but for the ECB to sanction him for private discussions held outside of school hours and away from the classroom seems unbelievably petty.
No individual should be bigger than the team, fair enough. But the whole saga has completely turned the focus away from what should have been a stunning spectacle at Lord’s, where England are trying to protect their world number one ranking.
If I was headmaster they’d all be in detention.
- I GUESS the intention to ‘inspire a generation’ was always a little ambitious.
As much as the Olympic Games has done nothing but good for Great Britain in the eyes of the world, it’s pretty evident that the personal qualities it was trying to promote has not reached a small group of youngsters in Collingbourne Ducis.
Our Olympians are role models for humility, friendliness, commitment and acceptance.
While I was watching my local village cricket club in action at Collingbourne last week, a five-strong group of 12-year-olds came piling across the outfield on their bikes and spent an hour cursing at those involved in the match, spitting at each other and discussing - in the lewdest of terms - the relative merits of photo and cinematic pornography.
In a flash they were off again, screaming ‘bender’ at our long-off and laughing hysterically.
Inspire a generation? Has part of that generation already expired?