A CLUB the size of Swindon Town will never again grace the Premier League. That is the opinion of one of the Robins’ former players who helped the Wiltshire side into the top flight in 1993.

Martin Ling, man of the match in the victory over Leicester at Wembley 20 years ago this week, has seen football’s financial complexion change beyond recognition in the two decades since that famous afternoon in north London.

Reflecting on what it takes to survive and succeed at the highest level in 2013, Ling - who has managed with Leyton Orient and Torquay after a playing career spanning almost 700 professional appearances - sees little hope for a club with a small to medium catchment area and a modest budget breaking into the elite.

He told the Advertiser: “People say to me ‘do you wish you’d played your football 20 years later because of the amount of money in the game?’ My answer to that is always no.

“I don’t think that I would have got the opportunity, even just for the one season, of playing in the Premiership. That’s not having a go at my ability, that’s a realisation of the size of the clubs that can make it there now.

“I don’t think a Swindon-sized club will ever make the Premiership again, if I’m totally honest.

“They say small clubs have gone up this year - Hull and that - but they’re still twice the size of Swindon.

“You think back to the time and the stadium was 15,000 and there isn’t that type of dream any more. The Holy Grail for those type of clubs now will be the Championship, which I think is quite sad really.

“It takes away the likes of the Wimbledon stories from years gone by. The finances of the game are not going to allow that to happen any more.”

Ling, now on the lookout for a new job after being dismissed by Torquay following several months away with a stress-related illness, has kept tabs on Swindon’s fluctuating fortunes in the years since he left the County Ground in 1996.

He believes the Championship remains a viable option for the Robins, provided a long period of security off the field can be achieved. A practice not all that common in Wiltshire.

“The 20 years since have been quite sad for Swindon. I was there for the next three years and it was relegation, relegation, promotion,” he said.

“It seems to be that it’s been from bad to worse, it’s certainly been through some bad times. You just want some stability within the club.

“They could be a Championship club, a stable Championship club - if they had everything working in the right way.”