WHEN a manager takes the helm of a new football club it is inevitable that they will want to make their own mark.

A show to the players and fans alike that things are going to change.

After all, most clubs didn’t follow the Liverpool boot room policy of the last century - they had to go outside the walls of their own stadia and find a new person to lead their team into battle.

So when Ossie Ardiles was named as the man to replace the departed Lou Macari at Swindon Town in July 1989, the Argentine had his own ideas of how a team should play football.

Ardiles was a World Cup winner and had won the UEFA Cup and the FA Cup as a player, so it would have been fair to assume that he had picked up a thing or two along the way about what a successful team should be like.

He arrived at the County Ground in an era when the traditional 4-4-2 direct, long ball game was ingrained in everyone’s mind.

It was how we played football and no-one, not even a World Cup winner was going to change this.

So when Ardiles looked to incorporate his passing style of football at the County Ground it raised a few eyebrows.

Here was a man cutting his teeth in the world of football management and wanting to break the mould, not follow the masses.

“It was my first managing job, so basically (I had) to do the best job that I could. I saw the team play (when I arrived for a game), I knew some of the players, but the first thing I had in my mind was that we weren’t going to play that style (of football),” said Ardiles, who was back in the town last week for a reunion of his 1990 play-off-winning squad.

“It had to be my style or not at all. So we changed it immediately. It was a lot easier than I expected, there were a lot of people that said that you cannot do that, you’re not going to be able to change how the players think and so on, but I said ‘we will see about that’.

“Immediately the boys knew, the very first game, we were going to be playing everything from the back, pass the ball as much as possible. The players absolutely loved it, they were good players.

“They say that players can only play one style, but for me that is a complete fallacy. They adjust, once they played my style, that is it they never wanted to go back.

“If you play this way you feel more confident, you have the ball all the time, you know you are a much better player.”

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Having inherited a squad that had got to the play-offs the previous season, Ardiles knew that he had quality players and while they bought into his mantra of football, it took some fans and the media a little longer to believe in the Ossie ‘brand’.

They had seen it all. They had been watching their beloved Swindon for years and what had gone before had served them well.

As the saying goes ‘if it is not broken why fix it?’ After the opening two games of the 1989-90 Division Two season, the doubters were getting their ‘told you so’ speeches ready.

Ardiles began his Swindon career with a defeat followed by a draw.

But as we chatted at the Sun Inn in Coate Water, it was plain to see that he never wavered from his master plan. It just needed a little tweaking.

“I remember the very first game was against Sunderland at home, at the time I was player manager so I played myself, I wanted to do everything,” he said “We lost 2-0, I wanted to do absolutely everything, I wanted to kick the corners, go and head the ball. It was far, far too much.

“I started to think that maybe it was a little bit difficult. So it was a shock, the first game, but then we went and beat Sunderland in the play-offs.

“The second game was against Oldham. I put myself on the bench, they were putting us under a lot of pressure and the game finished 2-2.

“Then I said ‘that was it I don’t play anymore’. I didn’t play, I wasn’t on the bench anymore - from then on the only games that I played were for charity.”

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When Ardiles decided he was ready to hang up his boots after an illustrious playing career which spanned two decades and three continents, it was a tough call.

He had recovered from a broken leg and wanted to show that he could still do it.

But those two games in August 1989 told him that it was time to focus on guiding Swindon to glory – even if the critics were starting to get a little louder.

“It was difficult, but everything was telling me that I had to do it (retire),” he said.

“In training I was still doing it, (but on the pitch) I wasn’t able to show what I wanted to do.

“The fans in the beginning were a little bit ‘ummmm’, everybody wondered what style we were playing.

“There was a lot of criticism from your paper I remember, as you know the paper is what the fans read, and it was pretty critical.

“They said ‘what is he (Ardiles) trying to do?’, ‘He will never achieve (anything)’. Later on he changed his mind.

“But having said that there was still a lot of support from everybody - the chairman, the director, the players adored it because they were becoming much better players.

“It is simple, how is someone going to know if you are good player if you are not on the ball?

“It was an absolute pleasure to be in charge of the club. They are (the players) the ones that played (the style I wanted).”

But in a division where the giants of the north in Newcastle United and Sunderland, as well as the Yorkshire big-hitters in Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United resided as well, Ardiles knew that the campaign was going to be tough.

They had the money and the big names, but the Argentine knew where the quality was.

“We were competing with Sheffield Wednesday, who had Ron Atkinson in charge and a lot of money, Newcastle, Sunderland and Leeds – they were very strong teams, much bigger than us,” he said.

“But in terms of football we were better than them. Sometimes we lost games that we dominated, sometimes we made a little mistake, sometimes we were a little naïve, but we knew that we had a very good (team) to get to the play offs.

“We were very confident and it was growing.”

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Town did reach the play-offs, but while the success was coming on the pitch, there were rumblings off it, as rumours of financial irregularities gathered pace.

They had been there all season, but as the play-offs came around, Town’s preparation was disrupted as the captain Colin Calderwood, along with chairman Brian Hillier, secretary Vince Farrar and Macari were arrested and questioned by the Inland Revenue over a tax fraud conspiracy.

While Hillier, Farrar and Macari at the time were given bail, Calderwood was released without charge.

But the focus for Ardiles remained on football and securing promotion to the top flight.

“Everything that I have done in life helped me as a person, so it (all the big games that I had been involved in) helped me for sure,” he said.

“But if you ask them (the players) as well, they will say I didn’t change the slightest thing.

“The experience I had from playing in very big games, the last thing that I wanted was the manager saying to me this is the game of your life.

“At the end of the day we did what we had to do.

“We beat Blackburn in the semi-final, and then we beat Sunderland in the final 1-0.”

While Ardiles will regard winning at Wembley as his greatest achievement at Swindon, changing how people thought about how football should be played was a close second.

“The other huge (achievement) is to be able to say that I was proved right,” he said.

“In a way it was changing English football (by) playing this way.

“Lots of people were saying it was the long ball, that was the way. It was ingrained in the FA, it was supposedly impossible to play this way.

“In fact, we had wonderful, wonderful results.”