It has been an immensely frustrating close-season for fans of Swindon Town. Until Friday 5th/Saturday 6th, the club had only signed three players and had let a number of the best players from the season before leave.
This left Swindon seemingly short in almost every area, except for perhaps in goal where the permanent capture of Lawrence Vigouroux was widely welcomed by fans. This was particularly problematic up front, where Swindon let last season’s top scorer Nicky Ajose leave for League One rivals Charlton Athletic, and in defence, where injuries and a lack of experience caused problems for the Robins last season and throughout the pre-season schedule.
A return to fitness of captain and right-back Nathan Thompson was a boost, but the back line was looking inexperienced and incapable of offering solid performances even before the injury to Swindon’s most experienced defender, Rafa Rossi Branco.
It was just hours before the opening game of the season that Swindon finally announced the signing of a defender, with the highly-rated Lloyd Jones arriving at SN1 before kick off. He was signed too late to take part in the game and Swindon went on to prove exactly why they need a bit more quality at the back of the pitch. The first half in particular saw a return to the heart-in-mouth defending that blighted Swindon’s season in 2015-16, and were Coventry’s strikers in better form Swindon could have been down and out by halftime. That Swindon hung on and actually managed to nick the win late on means that they squad deserves credit, but it was clear that if Swindon play this way each week they will struggle. Jones’ signing could not have come at a more needed time for his new club.
Whilst Lloyd Jones is capped at under-18 level for Wales, he is yet to play for Liverpool, his parent club, and this raises a few concerns about his experience. Also, whilst he hasn’t played for Liverpool yet, he has made a handful of appearances over the last few seasons for Cheltenham, Accrington Stanley and Blackpool, so he does have some experience of life in the Football League. His relative lack of experience is no guarantee either way of his quality, but given his limited experience it seems likely that he will be prone, initially at least, to a few errors, as all inexperienced players are. Given the dearth of defenders in Swindon’s squad he will have time to amend for any mistakes he does make, and when they come Swindon’s fans will have to play a big role in supporting the youngster rather than being too harsh on him.
Jones is also clearly rated well by the management at Liverpool, as he was handed a new contract by Liverpool before being sent to Swindon loan. This means that as well as wanting to impress at his new club, he will also have the added incentive of attempting, however, unlikely it may be, to play his way into the Liverpool first team. What Jones lacks in experience he may make up for in enthusiasm and a desire to prove himself.
He has also served as Liverpool’s Reserve team captain, showing that he has some leadership abilities that have been noticed by Liverpool’s hierarchy. Swindon could desperately use some more on-pitch leaders, especially at the back, so this could come in immensely handy as the season progresses.
In the end, though, no matter how good Jones is he will not be able to fix all of Swindon’s ills alone. In recognition of this, Chairman Lee Power said after the Coventry game that the club was still prioritising the signing of a new defender before the transfer window closes. Rumours on Swindon fan forums have constantly suggested that Jordan Turnbull, on loan at Swindon twice before, might be in the frame.
However, Turnbull does not really add to the squad what seems to be needed; an older head with experience and who can keep an eye on his fellow defenders. This will help Jones immensely, and will also offer reassurances to the rest of the squad that they can trust their back line to defend solidly and not concede.
Considering the lack of firepower currently in the squad (although Power has also said he is prioritising a striker) Swindon will need to keep it tight at the back. They will struggle greatly if they concede goals at the rate they did last year without the goalscoring exploits of Nicky Ajose to bale them out. Jones’ signing is a very good one for Swindon if he proves to be as good as his reputation suggests. He will be given plenty of game time this season through necessity, and this will certainly benefit Jones himself, but it might also provide Swindon with a solid defender who can go some way to fixing the defensive issues that have carried on from last season.
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