Having spent much of the first half of the season top of the table, it’s hugely disappointing that we slipped out of the automatic promotion spots (by just the one point), and then crumbled in the playoffs. Swindon finished 6th last season, so ultimately, the board and fans are both ‘pleased’ with our progress, but it does leave a bitter taste having been in such a commanding position.
Our home form, particularly during the first half of the season, was exceptional, but our away form let us down and we lagged towards the business end of the season. It’s likely I need to tinker with our mentality in these games to something more cautious. The target will be to better last season’s away tally of 27 (compared to 47 home points, which would have placed us 2nd alone), whilst maintaining that strong home record.
In cup competitions we managed to dispatch Championship side, Millwall, in the FA Cup, but our League Cup campaign was a big disappointment; mustering just 3 points in the group stage.
We need to come back bigger and better next season, and be primed for a top 3 finish and automatic qualification. A good cup run would be welcome too. Ideally that would be in the FA Cup to please the fan bases but a good campaign in either would be a dream for the local supporters. With lots of loan players set to leave and a fairly large turnover of personnel expected, we must get the pre-season recruitment drive spot on. With that comes some planning and an assessment of what’s needed…
Finances and Facilities
We started the 2022/23 season with a bank balance of £370,120 – through careful financial management we’ve brought that up to £1.6M at the start of season 2. We’ve also upped our youth recruitment from average to above average. Unfortunately, our youth level has been re-assessed and downgraded from category 3 to 4 – continuous investment in the youth facilities will be needed to get things back on track. I’ve also hired a head of youth development (John Beale) and I’m on the lookout for some better under 18 coaches.
As expected, it was a very busy transfer window.
We had a large number of players on loan last season, were a little weak in the goalkeeping department, had no real backup for League 2’s top goalscorer, Jacob Wakeling (who was knackered come the end of the season), didn’t have enough pace and weren’t strong enough in the wing back areas, which are key to our direct, counter-attacking style. We’ve also lost loanee, Charlie Savage, who United want to loan out to a club of higher standing next season. Strength in depth across the board is bound to help us too; with a long and grueling 46 league game campaign to navigate.
James Gayle, our on-loan target man last season returns to Mansfield, but we’ve upped the ante with the signature of Matt Smith. The 6’6″ giant is strong and has 19 for heading. With that in mind, it makes sense to tweak our game plan and play for set pieces. That threat from dead ball situations will win games on its own. We’ve also signed Joe Ironside as a backup target man, so we can utilise that set piece threat all season.
I mentioned the goalkeeping department as being a little weak last season. That’s been rectified with the signing of Luke McGee on a free transfer. As an established League 1 keeper, it’s a big coup for the club.
Last seasons midfield was made up of several loan players so we had to secure more players in that area. We’ve spent money on Callum Guy – £80K. He fits the bill as a very hard working midfielder who can get up and down the pitch. We’re also very excited by the signings of Harrison Clark and Hayden Lindley – two really talented youngsters who’ll be first team starters with plenty of potential to get even better.
To boost the quality in defense and particularly at wing-back we’ve brought in speed merchant, CJ Hamilton. Along with the versatile Morgan Clarke and Ben Goodliffe – one of the bet young center backs in the league last season (for £78K).
Our final signing, Jai Quitongo, comes in to as backup to goal-machine, Jacob Wakeling.
Ben Gladwin’s season was ended early with damaged cruciate ligaments, which forced us back into the market on deadline day. He’s no longer a first choice player in the team but without him, we had no real backup to Louis Reed in that defensive playmaker role – a key position in our tactics. The scouts did a fantastic job in spotting Matty Longstaff on a free transfer, who we quickly acquired, having been deemed surplus to requirements by money-bags Newcastle United.
|Striker (target man)
|Striker (target man)
|Midfielder (ball winner / box to box)
|Midfielder (box to box)
|Ball winning midfielder
|Left winger (retraining as left wing-back)
|Ball winning midfielder (retraining as right wing-back)
|Right winger (retraining as advanced forward)
|Central midfielder (retraining as a defensive playmaker)
Tweaks to our style of play include ‘hitting early crosses’, ‘play for set pieces’ and ‘distribute to target man’, to make the most of Matt Smith’s talents. Player instructions have been adapted to aim crosses towards our target man too.