SAM MORSHEAD COLUMN: Even Coppola would struggle to script Town's manic year

Sam Morshead

Sam Morshead

First published in STFC News

“ANYTHING you build on a large scale or with intense passion invites chaos.”

So said Francis Ford Coppola, one of the most brilliant cinematic engineers of all time. But even Coppola, for all his creative ingenuity, would have struggled to conceive a chaos quite like Swindon Town.

Quite frankly, the innovative filmmaker would have found it hard to come up with a tale featuring as many unpredictable twists and turns, bumps, bruises and burns as one small Wiltshire club has managed all by itself this season, even with the world’s best scriptwriters, class B hallucinogens and 50 per cent proof spirits at his disposal.

Swindon Town is a story like no other. Where else could romance, legal drama, action adventure, horror and satire all blend together seamlessly onto a single reel of film? Once again it’s been mesmerising, mind-boggling, thrilling and disturbing to watch, all at once. Given our own intimate experiences with our club, perhaps we wouldn’t want it any other way.

The Robins might have bucked one recent trend – for the first time in five seasons they haven’t been promoted, relegated or reached the play-offs – but in every other way they’ve maintained the reputation of a club that has problems sitting still, perpetually suffering from some form of footballing ADHD.

First thing’s first, eighth place is a monumental return from a 46-game term which started with all sorts of Doomsday prophecies. Swindon has a team to be proud of – a young, enthusiastic, talented squad of players who have surpassed expectations in almost every sense.

Sure, we can point to an inability to adjust away from home in the first half of the season, humiliation in the FA Cup at Macclesfield, penalty heartbreak in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and some at-times-frustrating football on home turf as negatives if we so choose. But what’s the point?

In nine months, somehow, Mark Cooper and Lee Power have assembled a rag-tag bunch of misfits and kids and turned them into League One’s total football outfit. Don’t believe me? Ask the journalists who have seen Swindon just two times this term. Ask them what they think. Cooper’s not making it up; Town’s willingness to stick to their passing mantra, much stigmatised in sections of his own support, has made a serious impression across the division.

It hasn’t ended in the glory we all might have dreamt about but, on half the budget and a modicum of the experience, this Swindon squad has finished two places below their predecessors from last year and enjoyed two substantial cup runs.

Those who scoff are either deluded or spoiled. This group of players has done the club and the fans proud. So has the management team, for that matter, working as they are against a backdrop of uncertainty and instability. They all deserve a round of applause.

Less can be said of events in the boardroom, where it seems testosterone is king. But while legal matters draw out in the courts, quickly we hope and pray, for now perhaps it’s better to focus on what we know.

We know QPR, a club with a larger playing budget than Atletico Madrid, were beaten on home turf, we know how much we enjoyed the visit of Chelsea, big wins over Crewe, Port Vale and Rotherham and that astounding performance in an unjust defeat at Wolves.

We know how impressed we’ve been by the discovery of diamonds in the rough like Yaser Kasim, Raphael Rossi Branco and Ben Gladwin, the impact made by loanees such as Jack Stephens and Nicky Ajose and our pride at the emergence of local boy Louis Thompson.

We know that, for all the predictions of a relegation scrap, we were treated to a trip to Meadow Lane with just two games of the campaign remaining with a play-off place still not out of reach. We know we have a side that has beaten five of the top seven teams in the division along the way.

What we know can help us gain a sense of perspective while we ponder how what we don’t know might hurt the club in the months to come. From a purely sporting point of view, it’s been tremendous theatre once again. You simply couldn’t make it up.

12-PAGE PULL-OUT ON TOWN'S UNPREDICTABLE SEASON IN TODAY'S ADVER

Comments (9)

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7:43am Thu 8 May 14

Since 1950 says...

I was one of those who predicted a torturous battle against the drop this season and I don't mind admitting it. After all, all the ingredients were there. A new inexperienced manager who was thrown in at the deep end after Kmac no showed at FGR pre season (for reasons still unknown) and a game at the New Lawn which had me heading for the car park early! A bunch of inexperienced kids and a board room who no one had much time for. It was going to be a long season I thought.
To have finished in 8th birth at the end of it all is an outstanding achievement and a credit to all those involved. Well most anyway!
My one regret through the season is that Nile Ranger couldn't become the role model off the pitch that he was on it. And maybe another one might be that the Valentines day game wasn't postponed as it could and should have been.
COYR!
I was one of those who predicted a torturous battle against the drop this season and I don't mind admitting it. After all, all the ingredients were there. A new inexperienced manager who was thrown in at the deep end after Kmac no showed at FGR pre season (for reasons still unknown) and a game at the New Lawn which had me heading for the car park early! A bunch of inexperienced kids and a board room who no one had much time for. It was going to be a long season I thought. To have finished in 8th birth at the end of it all is an outstanding achievement and a credit to all those involved. Well most anyway! My one regret through the season is that Nile Ranger couldn't become the role model off the pitch that he was on it. And maybe another one might be that the Valentines day game wasn't postponed as it could and should have been. COYR! Since 1950
  • Score: 13

7:44am Thu 8 May 14

The artist formerly known as Marmite Soldier says...

Nice column again Sam. It's certainly been an interesting season with a far better outcome than many thought we'd get.

The summer is likely to be just as newsworthy, what with the boardroom issues, continuing financial restructuring and the inevitable squad changes.

I've felt the discomfort of the club alienating the Adver, and hope for the sake of the readers, editor and particularly Sam, that less choppy waters might be ahead.

However the close season pans, out keep up the entertaining writing.

Next season beckons.
Nice column again Sam. It's certainly been an interesting season with a far better outcome than many thought we'd get. The summer is likely to be just as newsworthy, what with the boardroom issues, continuing financial restructuring and the inevitable squad changes. I've felt the discomfort of the club alienating the Adver, and hope for the sake of the readers, editor and particularly Sam, that less choppy waters might be ahead. However the close season pans, out keep up the entertaining writing. Next season beckons. The artist formerly known as Marmite Soldier
  • Score: 7

12:13pm Thu 8 May 14

MITTED says...

I predicted 8th on day one of the season along with erratic results largely based around the weather, good pitches, bad pitches and a very young team. Smiles smuggly! ;o) Only teasing guys, before I get slaughtered!!!!!
Already looking forward to next season.
COYR
I predicted 8th on day one of the season along with erratic results largely based around the weather, good pitches, bad pitches and a very young team. Smiles smuggly! ;o) Only teasing guys, before I get slaughtered!!!!! Already looking forward to next season. COYR MITTED
  • Score: -3

1:35pm Thu 8 May 14

Roger_Smart says...

Me too. I had them down as cannon fodder for the rest of the league. I would have likened the season to when Quinn's Town were relegated from the Championship (then league one). That year I knew we were doomed and we were. So well played Town and good article Sam
Me too. I had them down as cannon fodder for the rest of the league. I would have likened the season to when Quinn's Town were relegated from the Championship (then league one). That year I knew we were doomed and we were. So well played Town and good article Sam Roger_Smart
  • Score: 1

1:57pm Thu 8 May 14

the wizard says...

A decent reflective piece, and no doubt about it, BUT, what we all want to know is, with a week gone by since both sides were playing nip and tuck at court, and then the announcement that both sides were close to a settlement, what has happened. Has it all gone flat ? has nothing been concluded, or is Power busy getting funds in place to buy out the circling buzzards and vultures, aka Jedco. A bit of enlightenment would be most welcome, because as far as most are concerned, this issue needs to be settled before all else. With thanks.
A decent reflective piece, and no doubt about it, BUT, what we all want to know is, with a week gone by since both sides were playing nip and tuck at court, and then the announcement that both sides were close to a settlement, what has happened. Has it all gone flat ? has nothing been concluded, or is Power busy getting funds in place to buy out the circling buzzards and vultures, aka Jedco. A bit of enlightenment would be most welcome, because as far as most are concerned, this issue needs to be settled before all else. With thanks. the wizard
  • Score: -8

4:25pm Thu 8 May 14

Cleuso says...

Full marks to Cooper, the detractors often said that he was told who to play and what style by Sherwood, that myth has been put to bed within the FA report published today where it categorically states that within the present loan systems regulations prohibit the lending club from dictating such things and I quote

Put in place to protect the integrity of the competition, the Football League ‘dual interest’ and nursery club regulations effectively prohibit the lending club from determining how their player is played, in which position and how frequently, and from influencing the loaning club’s playing philosophy. Nor can the lending club influence other aspects of their player’s loan experience including diet, exercise and education. ends quote...

As to the rest of the report, you can make your own minds up...
Full marks to Cooper, the detractors often said that he was told who to play and what style by Sherwood, that myth has been put to bed within the FA report published today where it categorically states that within the present loan systems regulations prohibit the lending club from dictating such things and I quote Put in place to protect the integrity of the competition, the Football League ‘dual interest’ and nursery club regulations effectively prohibit the lending club from determining how their player is played, in which position and how frequently, and from influencing the loaning club’s playing philosophy. Nor can the lending club influence other aspects of their player’s loan experience including diet, exercise and education. ends quote... As to the rest of the report, you can make your own minds up... Cleuso
  • Score: 0

5:00pm Thu 8 May 14

MITTED says...

Cleuso wrote:
Full marks to Cooper, the detractors often said that he was told who to play and what style by Sherwood, that myth has been put to bed within the FA report published today where it categorically states that within the present loan systems regulations prohibit the lending club from dictating such things and I quote

Put in place to protect the integrity of the competition, the Football League ‘dual interest’ and nursery club regulations effectively prohibit the lending club from determining how their player is played, in which position and how frequently, and from influencing the loaning club’s playing philosophy. Nor can the lending club influence other aspects of their player’s loan experience including diet, exercise and education. ends quote...

As to the rest of the report, you can make your own minds up...
and of course, all players are decent people who honour their contracts and never manipulate a move and..... doh!
[quote][p][bold]Cleuso[/bold] wrote: Full marks to Cooper, the detractors often said that he was told who to play and what style by Sherwood, that myth has been put to bed within the FA report published today where it categorically states that within the present loan systems regulations prohibit the lending club from dictating such things and I quote Put in place to protect the integrity of the competition, the Football League ‘dual interest’ and nursery club regulations effectively prohibit the lending club from determining how their player is played, in which position and how frequently, and from influencing the loaning club’s playing philosophy. Nor can the lending club influence other aspects of their player’s loan experience including diet, exercise and education. ends quote... As to the rest of the report, you can make your own minds up...[/p][/quote]and of course, all players are decent people who honour their contracts and never manipulate a move and..... doh! MITTED
  • Score: 0

5:43pm Thu 8 May 14

mug? says...

Since 1950 wrote:
I was one of those who predicted a torturous battle against the drop this season and I don't mind admitting it. After all, all the ingredients were there. A new inexperienced manager who was thrown in at the deep end after Kmac no showed at FGR pre season (for reasons still unknown) and a game at the New Lawn which had me heading for the car park early! A bunch of inexperienced kids and a board room who no one had much time for. It was going to be a long season I thought.
To have finished in 8th birth at the end of it all is an outstanding achievement and a credit to all those involved. Well most anyway!
My one regret through the season is that Nile Ranger couldn't become the role model off the pitch that he was on it. And maybe another one might be that the Valentines day game wasn't postponed as it could and should have been.
COYR!
me too.

Although I don't get the inexperienced manager thing. Cooper is one of the most experienced managers we've ever had!

Ossie Ardiles had never managed before.
Lou Macari had never managed before
Glenn Hoddle Had never managed before
John Gorman had never managed before (albeit was a #2)
Steve McMahon had never managed before
Iffy Onuora had never managed before
Paolo Di Canio had never managed before
Kevin MacDonald had never managed before.

any one else was before my time.

Interesting though, if wikipedia is correct, we had 14 managers between 1902 and 1984 nearly 1 every 6 years

and 19 since (counting Andy King twice, not including any caretakers) so 19 in the last 30 years

I had to check on Malpas, I thought he had only been number 2 before or a coach but apparently he managed Motherwell and "...left the club in June 2007 after one season in charge, having taken the team from a comfortable mid-table position to one that narrowly avoided relegation" wikipedia again.
[quote][p][bold]Since 1950[/bold] wrote: I was one of those who predicted a torturous battle against the drop this season and I don't mind admitting it. After all, all the ingredients were there. A new inexperienced manager who was thrown in at the deep end after Kmac no showed at FGR pre season (for reasons still unknown) and a game at the New Lawn which had me heading for the car park early! A bunch of inexperienced kids and a board room who no one had much time for. It was going to be a long season I thought. To have finished in 8th birth at the end of it all is an outstanding achievement and a credit to all those involved. Well most anyway! My one regret through the season is that Nile Ranger couldn't become the role model off the pitch that he was on it. And maybe another one might be that the Valentines day game wasn't postponed as it could and should have been. COYR![/p][/quote]me too. Although I don't get the inexperienced manager thing. Cooper is one of the most experienced managers we've ever had! Ossie Ardiles had never managed before. Lou Macari had never managed before Glenn Hoddle Had never managed before John Gorman had never managed before (albeit was a #2) Steve McMahon had never managed before Iffy Onuora had never managed before Paolo Di Canio had never managed before Kevin MacDonald had never managed before. any one else was before my time. Interesting though, if wikipedia is correct, we had 14 managers between 1902 and 1984 nearly 1 every 6 years and 19 since (counting Andy King twice, not including any caretakers) so 19 in the last 30 years I had to check on Malpas, I thought he had only been number 2 before or a coach but apparently he managed Motherwell and "...left the club in June 2007 after one season in charge, having taken the team from a comfortable mid-table position to one that narrowly avoided relegation" wikipedia again. mug?
  • Score: -1

6:26pm Thu 8 May 14

mancrobin says...

Good summary and perspective Sam.

The stand out moments for me were Wolves away (never enjoyed a defeat so much in my life), Port Vale away when MC finally burst the away hoodoo, and various fabulous performances and moments from the Thompson bros, Fodders, Pritchard, Yasser, Mass and Mason.

Biggest disappointment is having to say farewell to Jay. Gave everything in all of his performances and will be missed.

Can't wait for next season. The soap opera rolls on. Much better than Corrie or Neighbours. Talking of whom, glad I'm not yellow.
Good summary and perspective Sam. The stand out moments for me were Wolves away (never enjoyed a defeat so much in my life), Port Vale away when MC finally burst the away hoodoo, and various fabulous performances and moments from the Thompson bros, Fodders, Pritchard, Yasser, Mass and Mason. Biggest disappointment is having to say farewell to Jay. Gave everything in all of his performances and will be missed. Can't wait for next season. The soap opera rolls on. Much better than Corrie or Neighbours. Talking of whom, glad I'm not yellow. mancrobin
  • Score: 0

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