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SWINDON TOWN: Wray's history at Town
JEREMY Wray was appointed as interim chairman of Swindon Town following Andrew Fitton’s resignation from the top job in April 2011.
Wray was an original member of the consortium, led by Fitton, which saved the club from potential liquidation in 2008 and has sat on both the board of the club and its holding company since.
His mandate upon assuming the role was to rebuild a side recently relegated to League Two and start the process of targeting Championship football once again.
Upon taking charge of the Wiltshire outfit, Wray said: “I have watched Andrew work tirelessly over the last 40 months to restore the reputation of STFC.
"No one should underestimate the effort and commitment that he has invested in the club during this period - frankly we should not be surprised that he feels that he needs some time to rest.
"As a board, we have a number of important decisions to make over the coming weeks and I am pleased that I shall be able to draw on Andrew's experience as we prepare for next season.”
In May 2011, Wray made a bold statement as chairman by bringing in the untried and untested Paolo Di Canio as manager.
Di Canio’s, known for his famous shove of referee Paul Alcock, spectacular goals, incredible strops, brilliant sportsmanship and fairly extreme political views, impressed Wray massively when he came for his County Ground interview.
Wray, a West Ham fan, stressed that the decision to name a rookie as boss came down mostly to Di Canio’s contagious energy.
He said: “He is passionate and that is infectious and if the players pick up half of it, it is going to be a very different and exciting season.”
Over the past 18 months, Wray has developed a superb relationship with the Swindon fans.
Often outspoken and unerringly eloquent, he has tackled numerous sticky issues while Di Canio has been in charge.
He shepherded the Italian through the Leon Clarke saga, publicly backing his manager by saying: “I have not spoken to Leon but I spoke with Paolo and the player's agent and it was agreed by everyone that a loan would be the best move.”
Consequently, Clarke was sent packing to Chesterfield and flashpoint one had been extinguished.
Then, in December, he had to diffuse the situation after Di Canio appeared to threaten to quit unless he was allowed to bring in more players.
“I've already asked the chairman for three players; now I want four or five otherwise I will discuss my contract," said Di Canio.
"With this team, and this mentality, I can't win the league."
Again the Italian’s chairman showed tremendous calmness under pressure, going to the media to say: “Paolo’s response in the heat of the moment is what he is all about. It is that type of passion why we brought him to Swindon in the first place.
“If Paolo’s passion and commitment is sometimes the cause of the occasional outburst, then I would rather have that every time over a manager who gives bland comments and does not seem to care in any way.”
Wray secured the funds Di Canio wanted to operate with in January and was rewarded with a trip to Wembley for the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
In the end he could only watch Di Canio & Co slip to a 2-0 defeat, after which he quickly paid tribute to the 33,000 Town fans that had made the trek “These days come along few and far between, the chance to win a trophy and celebrate and you want that,” he said.
“The players may have another opportunity and I'm sure Paolo will have another opportunity in his career.
"For fans, they have to wait a long time and they come through the gate every week. I'm determined we'll win something for them this season, that's for certain.”
He was as good as his word and a month later Swindon won promotion to League One. The fourth-tier title would soon follow.
After news emerged in May that Luke McCormick, the goalkeeper who had killed two children while drink-driving, had been training with the club for several months, Wray became the voice of reason as national media outlets went crazy over the story.
He appeared on radio shows, online, on TV screens and in sports pages explaining why Swindon had chosen to offer McCormick a chance to rebuild his life.
“He is full of remorse,” he said. "He has spoken to the PFA about working with young players and explaining the pitfalls of drinking driving.
"This is not about football; it's about Swindon doing what's right in the community - for rehabilitation."
Wray even went as far as to lay his own position on the line, saying: “I'm not going to jeopardise the club's position on this.
"I'm not going to allow the reputation of the club, that we've worked so hard to build up, to be hurt by this.
“I wouldn't be frightened to back down from the club. In terms of principle I absolutely would resign."
Wray then had to deal with accusations of racial abuse on the part of his manager towards loan striker Jonathan Tehoue, before acting as peacemaker when a very obvious rift appeared between Paul Caddis and Di Canio at the start of this season.
Di Canio lambasted his former captain with accusations of unprofessionalism in certain ways and suggested he was finding it difficult balancing his football with his new responsibilities as a father.
Wray the mediator, the firefighter quickly pulled out his hose once more.
There's a chance this one has got out of control,” he said "But we have to be pretty firm on this; when you have a squad of 24 players you can only have one manager."
"It's like going in to battle - you only have one general. That's the guy you have to support 100 per cent.
"I feel sad that this has blown up out of something relatively small but people have to realise that the manager calls the shots."
After sending Caddis to Birmingham, Wray found the necessary money from the board to bring in five new players – just as his manager had wanted – before deadline day.
He created for himself an image of solidity in the eyes of the fans, an accessible outlet for members of the press, a sympathetic ear for the players and a businessman with gravitas and intelligence for the club.
He has received countless messages of thanks from past players – Jon-Paul McGovern, Phil Smith, Alan Connell to name but three – when they have moved on; he continue to receive the praise of his manager to this day.
Now it is more apparent why Di Canio told the media in his post-match press conference after the draw against Coventry on Saturday, unprompted: ““The chairman Jeremy Wray is the best chairman a manager can have because we have achieved what we have achieved thanks to the way he supported me in the beginning when there was some friction with the players.
“The way he handled the situation showed he is the best chairman you can have is Jeremy Wray. The result is thanks first to him and then Paolo Di Canio, the technical staff and then the main actors, the players.”
Even until recently Wray has been disarmed explosive and volatile incidents.
He dealt admirably with the reaction to Di Canio’s verbal assault on Wes Foderingham at Preston and explained concisely and without drama the ins and outs of the transfer embargo currently hanging over the club.
His brief spell at the helm has certainly been eventful, but throughout it all he has shown an unwavering commitment to furthering Swindon Town on and off the pitch.
While the playing staff he has helped assemble is making strides towards the Championship, with the three-year goal of making the holy land a real possibility, away from the pitch he has led a club pushing for redevelopment and making commercial progress.
It may not have lasted all that long, but his contribution to the club as chairman will live long in many memories.