WHEN Town chief executive Nick Watkins arrived at the County Ground as part of Andrew Fitton’s consortium’s takeover of the club in January 2008, few could have predicted the rapid transformation which has seen Swindon Town, as both a business and sporting entity, reinvent itself so thoroughly and successfully.

After the calamitous association with the mysterious BEST Holdings, and with the club teetering on a sizeable financial precipice, Fitton managed to convince Watkins to uproot himself from a life of consultancy in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and instead turn his attentions to SN1.

And in the two years since, Watkins, a rugby man at heart, has immersed himself in the everyday fortunes of the club.

“The first thing that I vividly remember when I arrived here, and I’ve done a lot of business turnarounds in my time, was looking at something which was pretty much dead from the feet up,” recalled Watkins, pictured.

“It was a club that had no heart and the people who worked for the club, in all sorts of capacities, had had a very uncertain time and future.

“Here was a new consortium coming in and people wondered whether it was going to be any different to those which had come before.

“My first impressions were of a club which was on its knees, and my first task was to reassure people that we were not here to do anything but turn the club around and make it great once again.”

That in itself was a task not without its difficulties. The Swindon Town public, hounded by more than a decade of nightmares of previous administrations, would not take to a new hierarchy without debate and more than a little persuasion.

But Watkins, Fitton and company grappled each problem with an assuredness which comforted a sceptical fanbase.

The collection of individual investors has pumped in excess of £10 million into Town in their two years in charge.

The outstanding debt, abandoned by predecessors, is steadily being wiped out, and Watkins admits to enjoying the fruits of his, and many others’ labours.

“It has been an absolute pleasure,” he said.

“It is a privilege to work in sport. I have worked in many capacities over the years, and to work in sport is a great privilege and therefore thoroughly enjoyable.”

There is a sense of community building now about Swindon’s football club, both in a commercial and sporting sense.

And whilst the world of football is now far more of a commercial industry than it was during Swindon’s glory years of the late 60s and early 70s, successful sides will always rely on an element of community in an era where international brands can overwhelm smaller clubs.

Watkins’ message is simple - he wants to recapture the minds of the town.

“Over the two years I have replaced a lot of the back office team here and blended some of the new with some of the old and we now have a brilliant team, both on and off the field,” he said.

“Everyone works together, and what is rewarding for me is to see that going on now with a commitment, purpose and a vision as to what we can achieve.

“All I am is the conductor of the orchestra, they play the instruments.”

As he reminisces over 24 months of painstaking reviews, forward planning and negotiations, it is evident that Watkins is personally, as well as professionally, involved with the club.

And that has been something which the board of directors have always been quick to stress during their incumbency. Swindon Town is no longer a plaything for the rich.

It is frequently forgotten that the club is supported by a weighty group of benefactors, all of whom are involved in sustaining the business without charge or expectation of recompense.

Sir Martyn Arbib, the founder of what is now known as Invesco Perpetual, and Andrew Black, one of the two brothers behind the ever-growing online betting exchange Betfair, may not be faces of Town, but they are most certainly influential.

And Watkins was eager to illustrate their commitment to the project.

“They are really the unsung heroes,” he said.

“We don’t often hear much about them, but the support that they give this club is exceptional.

“They give their support for nothing, they don’t want anything out of it.

“They just want to make a contribution to the community and it’s wonderful to work with them and be a part of that consortium.”

It has not all been plain sailing, however, but rather than reacting to isolated incidents with panicked haste, Fitton’s consortium has never appeared flustered.

Inevitably that stability gives security to the fans, and the job of maintaining that apparent calm falls on Watkins.

“There have been lots of lows, but you only enjoy the highs if you have the lows,” he admitted.

“If you have highs all the time then you don’t appreciate them.

“The DATASAT litigation, the detritus we found behind the wall of due diligence, and then the St Modwen petition all can potentially derail you.

“You think, ‘not another skeleton in the cupboard that we have to deal with’, but they were dealt with and we moved on and never lost faith in what we have been trying to do.”

Just this short conversation with Watkins gives an insight into the calculated authority behind Swindon Town Football Club in 2010.

And what must be even more exciting from a supporter’s point of view is how the Robins board are far from content with the substantial progress that they have made thus far.

“It’s very rewarding to have been part of this turnaround, and we are still turning this around, but at least we have got the compass pointing in the right direction,” said Watkins.

“What we have to continue to do is to build on that and never can a day go by when we get complacent.

“We are at phase one and a bit now. There is always room for further improvement.”

With Watkins, Fitton and Wray at the helm, Robins fans may become accustomed to the atmosphere of intense optimism which engulfs the County Ground at present.