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Phil Brown needs to keep his promises of developing Swindon Town’s academy prospects

The Robins’ manager has made a commitment to the club’s young talent.

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Swindon Town have succeeded in tying down youth academy centre-back Joe Romanski, and Phil Brown now needs to keep his word when it comes to developing the club’s youth.

Romanski was one of three academy graduates to get some match action during Brown’s two months in interim charge, with the defender making his professional debut in a 1-0 defeat to Grimsby Town as well as the final 17 minutes in the final day’s 3-0 win over champions Accrington Stanley, a game that also saw Jordan Edwards get his first 81 minutes for the first-team.

Scott Twine saw the most football under Brown, though, adding four more matches to his tally, having made his debut in May 2018, and can be proud of his displays, despite the striker failing to net his first goal.

Robins fans seeing ‘one of their own’ on the pitch felt alien as, despite professing to use the youth set-up, previous manager David Flitcroft did not give a single league minute to academy players at Swindon.

Goalkeeper Will Henry and Tom Smith were limited to EFL Trophy outings, while Tom Ouldridge, Jake Evans and Twine were all loaned out to various non-league clubs over the course of the season, as were Henry and Smith.

Smith has been the poster boy for Swindon’s academy in recent years, and scored 11 goals over three loan spells at Bath last season, but Brown has decided to let him leave, much to the disappointed of Town fans who feel Smith did not get a fair crack of the whip.

Brown now needs to ensure that more promising talent coming out of the academy does not go to waste.

Swindon Town

Jermaine McGlashan’s arrival first sign of Phil Brown remoulding Swindon Town

The experienced winger joined on a free having left Southend United.

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McGlashan
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Despite not being able to guide Swindon Town into the Sky Bet League Two play-offs during his interim spell in charge, Phil Brown was handed the role permanently and signing 30-year-old Jermaine McGlashan is the start of his rebuilding job.

Swindon deployed a 4-2-3-1 and a 3-4-1-2 formation under former head coach David Flitcroft, with the latter using wing-backs as opposed to wingers, but Brown tore that up and went with his tried and tested 4-4-2 to try and replicate his promotion-winning success at Hull City and Southend.

It started perfectly as Paul Mullin and Matt Taylor contributed to a 3-1 win at Cambridge United, but Swindon struggled there on in, and failed to win eight of their last nine games, including a run of four-straight draws, as the 4-4-2 failed to break down teams in Brown’s opening two months at Town.

(Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Brown does not have the same rebuilding job Flitcroft, who signed 16 players last summer, did, but there are plenty of gaps in the squad to fill.

Should Brown stick with 4-4-2 for the next campaign, he needs to bring more wingers into the club, given Paul Mullin, Kaiyne Woolery and Keshi Anderson, who all get minutes as wingers last season, are better as strikers while Taylor is more suited to the left-back role as his career nears its end, despite comfortably winning the club’s Player of the Year last season.

The departures of Kellan Gordon (end of loan) and Donal McDermott (released) means new boy McGlashan is the only out-and-out winger at the County Ground, and Swindon fans should expect more to arrive prior to the closing of the transfer window.

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Swindon Town

Derby defeat to Cheltenham highlights wider issues for Swindon Town

The misery at the County Ground looks set to continue.

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Swindon Town were humiliated on home turf on Saturday afternoon as local rivals Cheltenham Town succumbed the Robins to a 3-0 defeat. This match represented the start to life at the County Ground post-David Flitcroft, with player-manager Matty Taylor in interim control.

A stunning Jake Andrews’ free-kick and a brace from Mohamed Eisa earned Cheltenham victory and condemned Taylor to a losing start as Swindon temporary boss.

Many would have expected the 36-year-old to see out the game from the touchline, but his inclusion in the starting line-up suggests he is still a long way from hanging up his boots and reluctant to fulfill a management position on a full-time basis.

As Power’s comments to BBC Wiltshire in midweek alluded, this is likely to be the former Burnley man’s only match in caretaker control, but the weekend’s performance further emphasized the underlying issues that plague the Wiltshire outfit.

The first ten minutes looked promising, with Town full of intent, putting together some promising passing moves. The football being played in the very early stages looked a far cry from the receive-panic-hoof that the County Ground faithful were subject to under David Flitcroft.

However, what followed can only be described as a capitulation. The next 80 minutes comprised of a lack of passion, bravery and a sense of cluelessness in possession. Whenever the Robins were able to recycle play, the first instinct was to pump the ball forward for Luke Norris and Marc Richards to chase.

In the end, it was just another bump in the road of a miserable season. An abject home performance that displayed little fight or spirit. Interim boss Taylor is by no means to blame – he was one of the better performers on the day, after all – but it is a sign of things to come between now and May.

The supporters remain disillusioned.

Taylor’s appointment – albeit temporary – was seen as a breath of fresh air. The articulate Football League veteran has quickly become a crowd favourite at the County Ground and there was a sense of optimism that he could be the man to turn the club’s fortunes. But Saturday’s performance saw no change.

Former Southend boss, Phil Brown, remains the leading contender for the vacant managerial role. Like Flitcroft, he is the type who will come into the club and look to dictate from the top down, embedding his style both on and off the pitch. However, his win percentage of 35.5% will concern Town fans.

The club still remains in the mix for promotion, just two points off the play-off places, with 30 points to play for. Nonetheless, early season murmurings of a return to Sky Bet League One remain nothing but a fantasy.

Dave Flitcroft’s sudden departure has left the club in a troubling position, no doubt, but the state of play on the pitch has not been impacted by the former head coach’s exit to Mansfield.

The current squad is abject, with too many expecting to be carried by their teammates, and the state of competition at the top of the table is too great.

This lack of passion on the pitch is synonymous with a failure on behalf of the club hierarchy. Just 90 minutes away from promotion to the Sky Bet Championship three seasons ago, Swindon has suffered from a chronic lack of investment and a negligence of transparency, which has served to ostracise those who pay the gates.

Chairman Lee Power continues to fail in his duty of care, seemingly content in overseeing the club’s plight down the Football League.

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Exclusive: Ollie Banks – A fresh start in the Football League at Swindon Town

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Swindon Town manager David Flitcroft described on-loan midfielder Ollie Banks as a “top, top, top player” after his first appearance for the County Ground outfit.

Officially announced as a Town player the Friday morning before the Robins’ Saturday League Two fixture, Banks went on to play a starring role in his new side’s 1-0 victory over local rivals Forest Green, following which he collected the afternoon’s Man of the Match accolade.

The 25-year-old midfielder, who joined the club on a temporary basis from League One side Oldham, had found first-team chances hard to come by with his parent club and spent a short spell on loan at Tranmere Rovers, where he impressed for the National League outfit.

Speaking to The Boot Room, in an exclusive interview, he explained the rationale behind his move to Swindon and the role manager David Flitcroft had to play.

“I finished my loan at Tranmere and they offered me a deal to stay. I really enjoyed my time there. It is a brilliant club. But I wanted to get back into the Football League. I told Micky Mellon that I needed to give myself the best chance I could and I didn’t want to jump into any decision.

I waited for a few days after speaking to Micky, then Dave Flitcroft at Swindon rang me. He said he wanted me to come down and express myself and get the club where it needs to be. From there it was quite an easy decision to move down South.”

After a mixed start to the campaign for Swindon, who occupy eighth position in League Two at the time of writing, the January transfer window was always set to be a period of reinforcement for the club. New signings were required to strengthen the starting XI and enforce a sense of consistency, particularly to rectify a miserable home record of four wins in 13 league matches (prior to the new year).

Flitcroft’s background in scouting and recruitment has been a regular feature since he took the County Ground hot seat. His quest to bring the required quality of player, while ensuring the right characters and mix of temperaments remain at the club, has seen him turn to trusted peers, both in his playing and back room staff.

For the former Bury manager, recruitment is the key to success. Every deal has to be deemed the correct move for the club and this was no different in the case of Banks. Long-term and thoughtfully considered interest in the 25-year-old resulted in an offer being made for his services, as he revealed:

“Flitcroft said he has always kept track of me and tried to sign me a few times before. It is always important to have a manager who believes in you and likes you as a player. To have the backing of the manager is a huge plus. It allows you to go out with confidence and put good performances in.” 

Banks’ move to Swindon has represented new challenges to the 25-year-old, not least the prospect of living away from what he considers ‘home’.

Having always plied his trade in the north of England, most recently with FC United of Manchester, Chesterfield, Northampton Town, Oldham and Tranmere, this is the first time he has featured for a club in the southern counties.

“The move has been different, to be honest. I have never really had to live away from home, so it has been a bit strange, but I’ve enjoyed it. The lads and the gaffer have been really welcoming.

Banks made little of his role in debut victory over Forest Green Rovers. Nonetheless, his references to the competitive nature of the play-off race make both his and Swindon’s objectives for the end of the season glaringly obvious:

“It felt good to get Man of the Match, but there were a few good performers on our team and just to get three points in a local derby was a big thing. With it being so tight at the top of the league three points was the main aim, but to settle in so quickly is always a bonus.”

The central midfielder already has one League Two promotion on his CV, having won the title with Chesterfield in the 2013-14 season. Like all those associated with Swindon, he will be hoping to add another before the end of the current campaign.

Keen to be a figurehead throughout the club’s promotion charge, Banks followed up his debut heroics with Swindon’s only goal in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Coventry. Having fallen 2-0 behind after just 22 minutes, the 25-year-old slid onto the end of a low cross into the six-yard box to pull one back for the Robins.

This strike was to no avail, as Coventry proceeded to score a third late into the second half, but it was perhaps a sign of things to come from the Oldham loanee. Not typically know for his escapades in the final third, he is hoping to add goals to his game at the County Ground.

“I prefer playing slightly further forward, as it means you do have chances to get on the scoresheet. I’ve been playing a bit deeper throughout the last few years and I’ve found goals quite hard to come by, but hopefully playing a more advanced role under Flitcroft could lead to a few more goals.”

Bringing a creative spark and eye for a pass in the middle of the park, Banks’ has shown his ability to take up decent positions around the box too. Since his arrival, he has stood out in a Swindon midfield lacking a real presence, helping his side to two wins in three appearances – including a remarkable 4-3 comeback victory over Crewe Alexandra on Saturday afternoon.

The 25-year-old scored once in eight appearances during his time at Tranmere, impressing for the Merseyside outfit. The club, who currently occupying 5th place in the National League, had managed just three victories in eight matches leading up to his arrival, compared to the five matches won with the 25-year-old in the squad. Nonetheless, he underplayed his influence.

“A few weeks before I joined a few of the boys were saying that they weren’t taking their chances. I would be very naive to believe it was all my doing, the way lucked change, but I think the team just started taking chances were they previously hadn’t. That was the main factor.”

Rovers had been crying out for a player willing to take an unselfish role in the centre of the park and Banks provided this. Despite the short term nature of his move, he was able to strike a positive partnership with fellow midfielder Ollie Norburn, for whom he was full of praise.

“I would actually say that he [Norburn] is one of the best midfielders that I have played with for a while. He likes to get about and leave the middle of the pitch more that many midfielders do, so it became my job to hold a deeper role in midfield and work from there. “

Banks knows too well the trials and tribulations of the Football League and the volatility that comes with playing in the lower divisions. From being a regular starter at Oldham, under manager John Sheridan, to being a fringe player following Richie Wellens’ arrival, he found himself low in self-belief and in need of a fresh start.

Having made 33 League One appearances for the Latics in 2016/17, the 25-year-old had been limited to just seven first team appearances in the same competition this year. Ultimately, the November move to Tranmere made sense for all parties:

“Confidence was a major thing, especially personally. The spirit that we had from the backend of the season before didn’t seem to be there. You can go into all sorts of details as to why things didn’t work, but ultimately we just weren’t getting the results that we had before.”

“Richie Wellens came in and he didn’t fancy me as a player, so you just move on and hope that it works out elsewhere.”

With a year remaining on his contract at Oldham it seems unlikely that Banks will extend his current deal at Boundary Park. When questioned on the chances of signing a new contract with the Latics, he was answered, “I highly doubt that I will be extending, to be honest.” 

Instead, he will use the remainder of his time at the County Ground to prove his worth of a move elsewhere and, having made a positive impression just a few weeks into his spell at the club, interest from the Football League is likely to be high.

David Flitcroft is a man with an edge when it comes to scouting and recruitment. To be praised so highly by the Swindon head coach, after just two days at the club, is good indication of what is to come for the humble, but highly talented midfielder.

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