Swindon Town Season Preview: Vigouroux back

With the 2018-19 League Two season coming up, The Football Lab spoke to Swindon Town fan Ben Nicholls (@pieman80)…

Swindon spent 89 from a possible 208 days of David Flitcroft’s tenure in League Two’s top seven, yet at no point did fans talk the team up with any real gusto. Should the subsequent decline to ninth be put down to squad limitations, rather than failings of replacement Phil Brown?

The general feeling under Flitcroft was that the club was in a false position. Away from home we excelled. We kept nicking away wins which in all saved our bacon because at home, we were dire. Every other week we were getting soundly beaten by pretty average teams. By Christmas we had the 2nd-worst home record in the league. For that reason the fans never warmed to Flitcroft or the team. The style of football had changed to very direct and the ultra young side had been changed to a team full of journeymen. By the end of Flitcroft’s reign the good away form that kept us top half of the table had started to dip. His last game in charge was a 2-1 away defeat by lowly Chesterfield who had previously lost seven in eight and our fans were starting to turn on him. In fairness to Brown, in his 10 games in charge we only lost 3 but drew far too many games. We weren’t scoring many goals but he did add a little back-bone to the side.

The club moved away from the previous youth-based recruitment policy last summer. Did you find it ironic that Timi Max Elsnik and Keshi Anderson, then 19 and 22 respectively, appeared to win the most plaudits?

Timi Elsnik was one of the highlights of last season. A midfielder with a bright future who I’d imagine isn’t too far away from Derby’s first team this season. Oddly under-used by Brown, he could turn a game on it’s head. Notably one game against Crewe, losing 3-1 at home in what I’d describe as yet another pitiful performance, Elsnik came on as a sub and almost single-handedly the 19-year-old won us the game 4-3. Anderson’s season was one of two halves as at the start he was one of our stand out players, however once he signed full-time his form dramatically dipped. I do have to say our best performers of the season were Matty Taylor, 36 and Marc Richards, 34. Especially Taylor: easily the best left foot in the league.

Brown’s first signing is winger Jermaine McGlashan, with whom he worked at Southend. Does this indicate a step away from the wing-back system?

Phil Brown scraped three-at-the-back as soon as he arrived; he likes a solid four. So far in pre-season, he’s played with 4-3-3 and 4-4-2. I would imagine McGlashan playing as a winger, or a wide striker in a front three.

Ben Purkiss has been released this summer. Does that suggest Kyle Knoyle will be your main right-back option?

The fans like Knoyle and he’s made right-back his own; a good crosser of the ball and is improving defensively. Though Purkiss gave 100% every match as right-back or centre-back, he was 36 in an aging side so the fans are not to sad to see him leave.

You look short on left-backs with Chris Hussey going to Cheltenham. Is it important to strengthen in that area?

Yes. Shame he’s not coming back and that’s a position Brown will need to find a decent replacement.

You had a fair few injuries in the centre-back department last season. Did that disrupt consistency? And will you be glad to have Dion Conroy back fit this term?

Yeah we struggled a lot at the back with injuries. Ollie Lancashire, Matt Preston and Conroy all struggled with long term knocks. It was a big blow losing Conroy last season. Very promising young centre-back, he gets stuck in but also can play the ball. He also plays in defensive midfield if required. One of the more gifted players in the side. He would have been sold this summer to a bigger club at a higher level if he’d stayed fit. Big player for us next season.

Goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux was surprisingly loaned out to Waterford last season. Will you be glad to get a full season out of him?

For me the best keeper in the league. Should not be anywhere near this level. He didn’t see eye to eye with Flitcroft, his formed dipped and he was clearly unhappy. It’s great to have him back – a BIG plus.

You look a tad light in central midfield – James Dunne and new signing Martin Smith are the only senior options at the time of writing. Do you need somebody in there who can create from deep?

Midfield is one of a number of positions we still need to strengthen. Lots of rumored names, let’s see what happens. Smith looks like a bit of a punt having played most of he career in Northern Ireland. However, he comes with a decent reputation.

Kaiyne Woolery could miss the start of the season through injuries. You’ve clearly got a natural goalscorer in Marc Richards, but do you fear you’ll miss Woolery’s link play?

Big season ahead for Woolery, very hit and miss last season. He’s got the talent to go far but in the box makes wrong decisions and doesn’t score nearly enough goals. He is still young so plenty of time to come good.

Steven Alzate impressed at the start of his career at Leyton Orient, while fellow loanee Elijah Adebayo was briefly a super-sub at Cheltenham last term. How do you feel about the additions in the loan market?

Alzate I’m very pleased with. A stand-out talent at the age of 17 at Orient before being snapped up a Brighton. Skillful player who likes to run at defenders and works the ball well. Had loads of feedback from Brighton and Orient praising the lad. One to watch out for in League Two most certainly. Adebayo is a bit of a mixed bag. Fulham fans rate him as he’s scored bags of goals the their U23 side, however mixed feedback from Cheltenham fans. We’ll see how he gets on.

Swindon aside, what are your thoughts ahead of the League Two season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

I think Notts County and Mansfield have signed very well and will be up there. I do feel it could be another tight season. For me there’s about 13/15 teams who’ll fancy there chances of being in the mix-up come May.

Where will you finish?

Still about eight players short in my opinion so hard to give an answer. The fans expect top seven so thats what i’m going to say for now. No idea if that’s realistic or not yet.

Thanks to Ben for his answers. The Football Lab’s verdict on Swindon can be found on We Love Betting from late July.