THE SAM MORSHEAD COLUMN: Takeover leaves us floating in limbo

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Adver chief sports writer Sam Morshead Adver chief sports writer Sam Morshead

WHEN I was little, like many, I thought astronauts were cool.

Like many, I dreamed of the endless nothingness of space and what it would be like to glide almost aimlessly through the skies.

Over the years, partly down to a love of writing and perhaps more pertinently down to an insatiable appetite for fast food and the discovery of alcohol, that obsession petered out into happy memories. Little did I know that, at the age of 25, I would experience that weightless feeling while sat wildly typing up quotes in a dimly-lit office on a cold night in January.

It’s as though someone thought it’d be funny to switch off the gravity in the world of Swindon Town this week and leave us all floating around, scrambling for answers that are either out of reach or simply unknown.

Welcome to limbo. We’ve been drifting in a strange state of flux between owner and owner, unable to sign players and apparently unwilling to enlighten the masses as to why.

I’m hesitant to blame any one individual. The press office at the County Ground has been working absurdly long hours of late, my mobile’s logs are testament to that, in trying to deliver the necessary facts to appease the worried fanbase.

The current board, that of the soon-to-be ex-majority shareholder Andrew Black, are fighting hard to finalise their departure as soon as possible while the incoming board, that of Jed McCrory, remain constrained by a non-disclosure agreement regarding the takeover.

It would be unfair for us to expect McCrory to come out publicly and address the Swindon fans until he is satisfied that everything is complete. From my brief conversations with him he seems to be a man with football at heart, who wants to do the best to help our club survive. And I don’t use that word without due merit.

So we’re left with a peculiar state of affairs; a state of affairs in which no one and everyone is responsible equally. What the supporters deserve in this instance is some kind of clarity, but until today they’ve been forced to interpret threads of information, leaving the situation open to manipulation and misunderstanding.

It’s taken the erudite and eloquent chief executive, Nick Watkins, to give us the tools with which to understand the situation more clearly.

But the buck does not stop with the club. The fans must let business run its course. If we interfere too much then the building blocks already in place could come tumbling down. During the sale of the club certain elements have already had a negative influence on discussions.

Can we not be forthright and polite at the same time? After all, we’re all used to this kind of thing. It’s what Swindon Town is about, is it not?

The club should really come with the strapline, ‘Adversity: And how we overcome it’.

With the best part of 20 years’ experience watching the Town behind me I, like the rest of you, am all too aware of the trials and tribulations this bonkers and bizarrely endearing club puts itself through.

We’re the Football League’s equivalent of Dan Brown’s albino monk Silas. We know that being an intimate part of our footballing corner of the country brings with it the demands for self-flagellation on a scale which fans of many other clubs simply could not imagine, yet we keep our faith.

Our penance for the glory of 1969, the dizzy heights of 1993 and the magical rollercoaster ride of the Di Canio years is the knowledge that, on a seemingly cyclical basis, we will get hit with an almighty sucker-punch out of nowhere. A flailing right hook from an assailant in the dark.

Over the years, because of that, our chins have hardened. We know all about administration, we know all about controversy, we know all about squads of players who between them lack the character or charisma to inspire even the most fairweather of supporters.

And yet through it all there remain 200 hardy souls who’ll slide down Drove Road in temperatures cold enough to freeze a polar bear’s nipple to shovel snow for hours on end.

Through it remain the 749 intrepid men, women and children who’ll watch a bore draw in the rain in east London and still out-sing the opposition for 90 minutes.

Through it remain the institutions of the club. Silases one and all.

Comments (15)

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9:14am Sat 2 Feb 13

ciclosporindorset says...

well written and sensible post Sam. it is such a reassurance that you are fan of the club as well as a good journalist who needs the trust and respect of your targets for journo along with the commercial focus the adver also wants. tough balancing act and one you have upheld brilliantly this week.
well written and sensible post Sam. it is such a reassurance that you are fan of the club as well as a good journalist who needs the trust and respect of your targets for journo along with the commercial focus the adver also wants. tough balancing act and one you have upheld brilliantly this week. ciclosporindorset

9:20am Sat 2 Feb 13

Another view says...

Agreed, Sam. I travelled the country in my early years, but somehow STFC really feels like my team - even though I've only been here 35 years! The ups and downs help add to the club's charms and character.

None of us can be sure what will happen next, but Nick Watkin's comments about the 3 transfers still being on - subject of course to due diligence etc - suggests we will come out with a better team than we had.
Agreed, Sam. I travelled the country in my early years, but somehow STFC really feels like my team - even though I've only been here 35 years! The ups and downs help add to the club's charms and character. None of us can be sure what will happen next, but Nick Watkin's comments about the 3 transfers still being on - subject of course to due diligence etc - suggests we will come out with a better team than we had. Another view

9:44am Sat 2 Feb 13

Watchingfromafar says...

Very nicely put
This
Siituation is a test of character for us
When the club hangs in the balance the only people it really belongs to is us.
Because we own it at a different level weve paid for it with love sweat and tears
Unlike the many owners we cant walk away. what we have invested is
On a contract for life basis we have to clasp our club tightly to our bossum and encourage those who are creating this enviroment to treat carefully because theyre walking on our dreams
Very nicely put This Siituation is a test of character for us When the club hangs in the balance the only people it really belongs to is us. Because we own it at a different level weve paid for it with love sweat and tears Unlike the many owners we cant walk away. what we have invested is On a contract for life basis we have to clasp our club tightly to our bossum and encourage those who are creating this enviroment to treat carefully because theyre walking on our dreams Watchingfromafar

9:50am Sat 2 Feb 13

Devon Red says...

Nice piece Sam particularly like the comparison between Silas and Town fans. How right you are.
Like Another view I have travelled the country and followed "other teams" even as far as Europe to watch Villa win the Cup but when all is said and done "I am Swindon till I die" and alas I will continue to suffer the same as Silas.
Nice piece Sam particularly like the comparison between Silas and Town fans. How right you are. Like Another view I have travelled the country and followed "other teams" even as far as Europe to watch Villa win the Cup but when all is said and done "I am Swindon till I die" and alas I will continue to suffer the same as Silas. Devon Red

10:22am Sat 2 Feb 13

Red Tuareg says...

Great stuff Sam. Being an exiled Wroughtonian of 30 plus years living at the coast in Sussex, circumstances dictate I am a four or five game a season man. I can't believe how deflated all this has made me. I was even doubting whter to go to Crawley (effectively my home game) Sam's column though has dusted me down, so I will be there for mine and Town's fourth visit to the Broadfield.
I was also cheered when a young lad working in this village recognised my Swindon hat. Apparently his mother is minehost at one of my old watering holes in Wroughton.
Great stuff Sam. Being an exiled Wroughtonian of 30 plus years living at the coast in Sussex, circumstances dictate I am a four or five game a season man. I can't believe how deflated all this has made me. I was even doubting whter to go to Crawley (effectively my home game) Sam's column though has dusted me down, so I will be there for mine and Town's fourth visit to the Broadfield. I was also cheered when a young lad working in this village recognised my Swindon hat. Apparently his mother is minehost at one of my old watering holes in Wroughton. Red Tuareg

10:59am Sat 2 Feb 13

burley01rs says...

Nick Watkins is a gentleman and in him I trust his words.
Nick Watkins is a gentleman and in him I trust his words. burley01rs

11:24am Sat 2 Feb 13

vikingred says...

Sam... In the words of 'Mark n Lard'...
'A good point well put' lol
Sam... In the words of 'Mark n Lard'... 'A good point well put' lol vikingred

11:53am Sat 2 Feb 13

LydiardRED67 says...

A thoughtful and cleverly worded piece Sam.

I guess the message here to us all is to stay calm, trust the new board and don,t insult the existing owners.

Desperately trying to relax but patience never was my strong point.
A thoughtful and cleverly worded piece Sam. I guess the message here to us all is to stay calm, trust the new board and don,t insult the existing owners. Desperately trying to relax but patience never was my strong point. LydiardRED67

11:53am Sat 2 Feb 13

tifosi says...

Great stuff Mr Morshead. It's good to know that our fav journalist is also one of us - a true fan. this is a cracking good read
Great stuff Mr Morshead. It's good to know that our fav journalist is also one of us - a true fan. this is a cracking good read tifosi

12:35pm Sat 2 Feb 13

Stickshaker says...

Thanks Sam, it reminded me of this:

"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next''.
.
Delicious Ambiguity
- Gilda Radner
Thanks Sam, it reminded me of this: "I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next''. . Delicious Ambiguity - Gilda Radner Stickshaker

1:31pm Sat 2 Feb 13

stanharlands6shirt says...

PAOLO IN NEED OF THE OXYGEN OF TRUTH.......

Sam; a great read.
Your "astronauts" opening reminded me of childhood giddy days as a young Town supporter.

Each morning, leaving my then home in Beaufort Green, Park North, I would look up at a house directly opposite on Welcome Avenue.
In the upstairs bedroom window was a huge model of an early Apollo rocket. I always wanted one, never got one, but came to believe I had something much better in my life. S.T.F.C.

Now when I look back, I like many of us, through the successes of our 68/69 team realise we had our own moonshot five months ahead of N.A.S.A and Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11.

The kid in that house had a wonderful plastic rocket, but it was only plastic; how could that ever compare with the reality of being regularly metaphorically shot into outer space by Rogers, Trollope, Harland and co.

Of course I did not know then that for every exhilarating "moonshot" Swindon Town would launch, there would often be an equally devastating crash landing.

As I look back, great players and good managers have come and gone---but like my fellow supporters, I am indeed still here....

To here my twelve year old son scream on Wednesday evening; "THEY'VE SOLD MATT", before trying to hide his tears - catapulted me back to the day we sold Rogers and my own devastated reaction.

BLAST-OFF, THEN CRASH; League Cup winners; into the Championship (Div 2), Anglo- Italian Cup Winners etc, then watch helplessly as the team was dismantled.As you say Sam, life as a Swindon Town supporter so often goes in cycles.

However, this cycle for me has the chance for now to be halted. WHY...Because at the time of writing we still have DiCanio..

Your likening Town supporters to Silas was so close to the truth and also quite sad...However I do not want to believe Towns current "spaceshot" is ready yet to crash and burn in readiness for more self-flagellation.

Like Apollo 13 in 1970, Towns financial oxygen tank, supplied until this week by the outgoing board, has like Apollo 13's, well and truly exploded, crippling the club and wounding both the manager his staff and supporters alike.

For the next few days, Town may well, like Apollo 13, be limping, undertaking running repairs, with a new board and possibly new players to come in.

I would suggest Paolo DiCanio has the opportunity to be our James Lovell.
Yes Paolo DiCanio's mission is wounded, yes he is upset, yes he is angry, yes he feels betrayed; but "YES HE IS STILL DICANIO- and as I have said many times , to DiCanio "LOYALTY ABOVE EVERYTHING, EXCEPT HONOUR" is his code.
He made US the supporters a promise; he will not want to break that promise...The real question is will the new board help him keep his word?

The previous board in their recent actions appear to have been incredibly disloyal- but there are new board members about to take over.

It remains to be seen if they can convince Paolo DiCanio that "THEY CAN BE TRUSTED".

If he feels they can, then rather than abort his mission, perhaps we can hope that they and he can work together.
Paolo DiCanio then can safely steer Swindon Town f.c. onwards and continue in the upward trajectory of his mission, and our desire..the championship.
PAOLO IN NEED OF THE OXYGEN OF TRUTH....... Sam; a great read. Your "astronauts" opening reminded me of childhood giddy days as a young Town supporter. Each morning, leaving my then home in Beaufort Green, Park North, I would look up at a house directly opposite on Welcome Avenue. In the upstairs bedroom window was a huge model of an early Apollo rocket. I always wanted one, never got one, but came to believe I had something much better in my life. S.T.F.C. Now when I look back, I like many of us, through the successes of our 68/69 team realise we had our own moonshot five months ahead of N.A.S.A and Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11. The kid in that house had a wonderful plastic rocket, but it was only plastic; how could that ever compare with the reality of being regularly metaphorically shot into outer space by Rogers, Trollope, Harland and co. Of course I did not know then that for every exhilarating "moonshot" Swindon Town would launch, there would often be an equally devastating crash landing. As I look back, great players and good managers have come and gone---but like my fellow supporters, I am indeed still here.... To here my twelve year old son scream on Wednesday evening; "THEY'VE SOLD MATT", before trying to hide his tears - catapulted me back to the day we sold Rogers and my own devastated reaction. BLAST-OFF, THEN CRASH; League Cup winners; into the Championship (Div 2), Anglo- Italian Cup Winners etc, then watch helplessly as the team was dismantled.As you say Sam, life as a Swindon Town supporter so often goes in cycles. However, this cycle for me has the chance for now to be halted. WHY...Because at the time of writing we still have DiCanio.. Your likening Town supporters to Silas was so close to the truth and also quite sad...However I do not want to believe Towns current "spaceshot" is ready yet to crash and burn in readiness for more self-flagellation. Like Apollo 13 in 1970, Towns financial oxygen tank, supplied until this week by the outgoing board, has like Apollo 13's, well and truly exploded, crippling the club and wounding both the manager his staff and supporters alike. For the next few days, Town may well, like Apollo 13, be limping, undertaking running repairs, with a new board and possibly new players to come in. I would suggest Paolo DiCanio has the opportunity to be our James Lovell. Yes Paolo DiCanio's mission is wounded, yes he is upset, yes he is angry, yes he feels betrayed; but "YES HE IS STILL DICANIO- and as I have said many times , to DiCanio "LOYALTY ABOVE EVERYTHING, EXCEPT HONOUR" is his code. He made US the supporters a promise; he will not want to break that promise...The real question is will the new board help him keep his word? The previous board in their recent actions appear to have been incredibly disloyal- but there are new board members about to take over. It remains to be seen if they can convince Paolo DiCanio that "THEY CAN BE TRUSTED". If he feels they can, then rather than abort his mission, perhaps we can hope that they and he can work together. Paolo DiCanio then can safely steer Swindon Town f.c. onwards and continue in the upward trajectory of his mission, and our desire..the championship. stanharlands6shirt

1:50pm Sat 2 Feb 13

Since 1950 says...

Nice one Sam.

Events of this week have had me reaching for the Scotch bottle. Last night it was well and truly emptied along with a couple or three pints!

I was a Test Pilot for Johnny Walker as I got the bottle down to landing weight. Don't think I'd have made asronaught. I'd have passed out if I'd opened another bottle.

To be honest I didn't want to turn on the TV or my computer this morning for fear of what I might read. That's no lie!

Will he, wont he? I expected him to be gone ages ago. If it were industry he could sue the Town for 'constructive dismissal' and who would blame him.

Does it ever end for a Town Fan?

Yours 'irrationally'!

Rob
Nice one Sam. Events of this week have had me reaching for the Scotch bottle. Last night it was well and truly emptied along with a couple or three pints! I was a Test Pilot for Johnny Walker as I got the bottle down to landing weight. Don't think I'd have made asronaught. I'd have passed out if I'd opened another bottle. To be honest I didn't want to turn on the TV or my computer this morning for fear of what I might read. That's no lie! Will he, wont he? I expected him to be gone ages ago. If it were industry he could sue the Town for 'constructive dismissal' and who would blame him. Does it ever end for a Town Fan? Yours 'irrationally'! Rob Since 1950

2:08pm Sat 2 Feb 13

EastoeSTFC says...

Hi Sam
Great summary and I totally agree with your view
I was born in 1963 and my DAD who was born and bred in old town first took me to see the town in 1973
I have seen all the success of the Macari / Ardilles / Hodfle eras and now we have PDC - possibly the best manager - so full of passion for our club
So I can only hope that PDC does stay and guide us on to the Championship
Hi Sam Great summary and I totally agree with your view I was born in 1963 and my DAD who was born and bred in old town first took me to see the town in 1973 I have seen all the success of the Macari / Ardilles / Hodfle eras and now we have PDC - possibly the best manager - so full of passion for our club So I can only hope that PDC does stay and guide us on to the Championship EastoeSTFC

2:12pm Sat 2 Feb 13

EastoeSTFC says...

COYReds!!!
COYReds!!! EastoeSTFC

4:51pm Sat 2 Feb 13

Old Town Comment says...

One of the best pieces of journalism and writing I have seen in the Adver for quite some time - thanks.
Realistically I guess that whilst we must thank Andrew Black for all he has done, I must question - either is he completely naive as to the ways of football, or does he have unimaginable financial issues that he is not reporting. Why do I say this......?
This issue must have been boiling a while - given the level of debts, it is not a recent change - so why choose now for a 'fire sale' of the club?
By selling the club during the transfer window, they created uncertainty and precipitated the sale of a key player at least 50% discount - will Swindon ever get the realistic value for any sale - it is so hard to remember one such sale.
Then the club cannot take on new players.
Andrew, seems shoddy from the outside for such a good businessman.
As for the new owners. Do they have the pockets to establish STFC in the Championship - the best one can expect for a side who attract 8k crowds whatever the division. Can they send some scouts to Chievo in Italy and learn how a tiny club can create consistent and stable success.
One of the best pieces of journalism and writing I have seen in the Adver for quite some time - thanks. Realistically I guess that whilst we must thank Andrew Black for all he has done, I must question - either is he completely naive as to the ways of football, or does he have unimaginable financial issues that he is not reporting. Why do I say this......? This issue must have been boiling a while - given the level of debts, it is not a recent change - so why choose now for a 'fire sale' of the club? By selling the club during the transfer window, they created uncertainty and precipitated the sale of a key player at least 50% discount - will Swindon ever get the realistic value for any sale - it is so hard to remember one such sale. Then the club cannot take on new players. Andrew, seems shoddy from the outside for such a good businessman. As for the new owners. Do they have the pockets to establish STFC in the Championship - the best one can expect for a side who attract 8k crowds whatever the division. Can they send some scouts to Chievo in Italy and learn how a tiny club can create consistent and stable success. Old Town Comment

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