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Sunday, 26 February 2012


25th February 2012

League 2


'I had to confirm to myself that Rocking Robin and the Swindon manager had to be seen together as I had a sneaky suspicion they were one and the same person. '

After a many a year in the wilderness once ex Premiership outfit Swindon Town are currently in pole position for a promotion back to League 1. A long period of consolidation after going into administration now sees the Wiltshire team in a far healthier position and with the acquisition of legendary ex player Paolo Di Canio as manager there are high hopes for further progress in the coming seasons...

With another Saturday off work I took the opportunity to make my way to Wiltshire. On a personal Level with my own team in a going nowhere mode holding a mid position of the Championship slot my enthusiasm has slightly waned. What I had not taken into account was that Palace's away fixture today at West Ham had been rescheduled to a one a clock kick off for TV purposes. So while I was travelling up to Swindon my thoughts were constantly on whether I should of either gone to Upton Park or continue on with this absurd away ground hobby which is increasingly becoming an obsession. To complete the 92 grounds will require certain sacrifices but I'm only completing the list as long as I thoroughly enjoy the task ahead. Therefore with minor moans and groans aside I've had an enjoyable few years and the decision is most definitely to carry on no matter how long it takes.
Thankfully with the entire country experiencing a luke warm heat wave this was to act as an added incentive to make the journey and being only an hour away from Paddington I knew that I would not be away from home too long.

Again no time for an exploration report so a slightly limited blog entry avid readers. When talking about Swindon all focus presently seems to be on their current manager and ex West Ham legend Paolo Di Canio. To write even a summary of the somewhat off the wall Italians antics the past decade would take up too much time and a lot of effort. If you are unaware of Mr Di Canio's constant sensational newspaper and media entries then you must of been on a different planet these past few years.
However what has come into question since his managerial appointment is Paolo's rather questionable political beliefs. He has made it no secret of his admiration of Italian fascism and during his playing career for Lazio twice made the infamous Mussolini salute to Rome's ultra fans. This resulted in the GMB union withdrawing it's sponsorship money at the beginning of the season and possibly led to Di Canio's televised spate with one of his own black players in August ( although there is no official connection to any political reasons or indifferences ). In Di Canio's defence he has spoken out about racism in football and that his admiration of Mussolini he argues is more of a sense of belonging and connection to his people.
Although I share none of Paolo's views I will say that sometimes it is best to judge the person before his politics. During a match for West Ham against Everton I once witnessed Di Canio purposely not capitalise on a goal scoring opportunity when he refused to shoot because the opposing goal keeper was injured. I have never seen anything like this then or since and this speaks volumes of his honesty, integrity and empathy towards a fellow colleague. Whatever your opinion I think it safe to say that Paolo is probably a sandwich short of a picnic so to speak but at the same time enjoying the attention whether positive or bad. What can not be taken away from the eccentric Italian is Swindon's position at the top of League 2 after a disastrous start of losing 7 of the first 13 games.

Being a fairly large fish in a small pond Swindon Towns County ground is an adequate 15,000 all seated stadium located fairly near to the main train station. I was seated in the side Arkells stand with the 50 or so hardcore Accrington supporters who had made the long journey south to Wiltshire. The uncovered Stratton End is also available for teams with a larger following and considering the freakish warm weather this would of been the preferred option. Even though the stand is fairly old there was enough leg room, very good view and the other facilities were up to scratch. Where I was seated at the back there was a nice view of some of the town and rolling hills beyond. The Swindon DJ had seemingly raided my weird record collection and the County ground was bopping along to the rather depressing tunes of The Smiths, Smashing Pumpkins and The Cure. As the Cramps would say you got good taste my friend.

Price of admission was a steep £25 but this by experience is becoming the accepted norm for many clubs in both Leagues 1 and 2. I have to say the atmosphere to be a very hospitable and relaxed helped by the family friendly events and no doubt by the aforementioned warm weather. Even the completely mad Swindon mascot 'Rockin Robin' made the effort to shake everyone's hands in the away section before wandering off to entertain the home support in various comedy and dance routines. I had to confirm to myself that Rocking Robin and the Swindon manager had to be seen together as I had a sneaky suspicion they were one and the same person. The Swindon fans even managed to applaud the Stanley supporters after it was announced that the official away number was 80. There were tongue and cheek cries from the Town End behind the goal for a recount and looking at the empty spaces around me I had to agree.
For the enjoyable day out, banter, decent pie and especially the melancholy tunes I'll give the County ground 8 out of 10.

At a meal deal price I was able to have a rather stunning ' balti ' pie and coffee at a reasonable £4.60. Whatever the brand ( topped with weird seeds and provided with essential plastic fork and napkin ) this was a god send for a starving wayward traveller and I'll give the Swindon pie 8 out of 10.
Programme was a Readers Digest size publication priced at £3 with just enough to keep the reader informed of to days League 2 match. 6 out of 10 for this eye testing mini.

The match was the predicted tactics of Stanley trying to contain the Swindon onslaught which in fairness they managed to do successfully only for the first 8 minutes. With both goals scored by new signing Paul Benson  in quick succession in the first half Swindon seemed more than content to venture into a cruise mode for the second half never capitalising on their earlier domination. Also I noticed that along with Blackpool and Palace that Swindon also play 'Glad all over ' after scoring a goal. Who has more claim to this song please ?
Dapper looking ' El Duce' Di Canio too did his best to entertain the County ground with constant rantings and hand gestures in his technical area as his passion boiled over to complete frustration. Yet his players aware of their position in League 2 faded dismally and were only contented to merely hold onto their two goal cushion rather than kill the game off. As the final whistle approached the zombie like Accrington came to life and made some rare telling advances deep into the Swindon half but unfortunately it was far to late to gain any hope of a come back.
As the sun was slowly setting over the Wiltshire town there was just enough time for a quick coffee outside the train station before my relatively short journey back to London. On reflection I really enjoyed my day out and look forward to returning one day. I just hope Paolo can keep himself out of trouble and concentrate purely on the football side of things. I have an image in my head of the classic British film Dr Strangelove and the tormented main characters struggle against himself as he continually tries to prevent his arm from making a Nazi salute.
Until the next report all, Goodbye.

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