“ANYTHING you build on a large scale or with intense passion invites chaos.”
So said Francis Ford Coppola, one of the most brilliant cinematic engineers of all time. But even Coppola, for all his creative ingenuity, would have struggled to conceive a chaos quite like Swindon Town.
Quite frankly, the innovative filmmaker would have found it hard to come up with a tale featuring as many unpredictable twists and turns, bumps, bruises and burns as one small Wiltshire club has managed all by itself this season, even with the world’s best scriptwriters, class B hallucinogens and 50 per cent proof spirits at his disposal.
Swindon Town is a story like no other. Where else could romance, legal drama, action adventure, horror and satire all blend together seamlessly onto a single reel of film? Once again it’s been mesmerising, mind-boggling, thrilling and disturbing to watch, all at once. Given our own intimate experiences with our club, perhaps we wouldn’t want it any other way.
The Robins might have bucked one recent trend – for the first time in five seasons they haven’t been promoted, relegated or reached the play-offs – but in every other way they’ve maintained the reputation of a club that has problems sitting still, perpetually suffering from some form of footballing ADHD.
First thing’s first, eighth place is a monumental return from a 46-game term which started with all sorts of Doomsday prophecies. Swindon has a team to be proud of – a young, enthusiastic, talented squad of players who have surpassed expectations in almost every sense.
Sure, we can point to an inability to adjust away from home in the first half of the season, humiliation in the FA Cup at Macclesfield, penalty heartbreak in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and some at-times-frustrating football on home turf as negatives if we so choose. But what’s the point?
In nine months, somehow, Mark Cooper and Lee Power have assembled a rag-tag bunch of misfits and kids and turned them into League One’s total football outfit. Don’t believe me? Ask the journalists who have seen Swindon just two times this term. Ask them what they think. Cooper’s not making it up; Town’s willingness to stick to their passing mantra, much stigmatised in sections of his own support, has made a serious impression across the division.
It hasn’t ended in the glory we all might have dreamt about but, on half the budget and a modicum of the experience, this Swindon squad has finished two places below their predecessors from last year and enjoyed two substantial cup runs.
Those who scoff are either deluded or spoiled. This group of players has done the club and the fans proud. So has the management team, for that matter, working as they are against a backdrop of uncertainty and instability. They all deserve a round of applause.
Less can be said of events in the boardroom, where it seems testosterone is king. But while legal matters draw out in the courts, quickly we hope and pray, for now perhaps it’s better to focus on what we know.
We know QPR, a club with a larger playing budget than Atletico Madrid, were beaten on home turf, we know how much we enjoyed the visit of Chelsea, big wins over Crewe, Port Vale and Rotherham and that astounding performance in an unjust defeat at Wolves.
We know how impressed we’ve been by the discovery of diamonds in the rough like Yaser Kasim, Raphael Rossi Branco and Ben Gladwin, the impact made by loanees such as Jack Stephens and Nicky Ajose and our pride at the emergence of local boy Louis Thompson.
We know that, for all the predictions of a relegation scrap, we were treated to a trip to Meadow Lane with just two games of the campaign remaining with a play-off place still not out of reach. We know we have a side that has beaten five of the top seven teams in the division along the way.
What we know can help us gain a sense of perspective while we ponder how what we don’t know might hurt the club in the months to come. From a purely sporting point of view, it’s been tremendous theatre once again. You simply couldn’t make it up.
12-PAGE PULL-OUT ON TOWN'S UNPREDICTABLE SEASON IN TODAY'S ADVER