FOOTBALL’S Coming Home to the County Ground. With The Lightning Seeds topping the bill at the celebratory ‘Party on the Pitch’ on Sunday, May 6, the ‘Three Lions’ anthem will bring the house down.
Lightning Seeds lead singer Ian Broudie penned Three Lions with comics Frank Skinner and David Baddiel and it remains the best soccer-specific song ever written by some way.
You’ll Never Walk Alone – Rodgers and Hammerstein via Gerry and the Pacemakers via the Kop choir – probably still just tops it.
But to hear Three Lions sung by 15,000 Swindon fans in celebration of the promotion to Division One will be amazing. Paolo Di Canio has even threatened to sing Nessum Dorma on stage at the event, I understand.
The burden of expectation was high when Paolo arrived last year with the bookies making Swindon favourites to go back up despite their ignominious relegation the previous season. And then there was the shaky start that left us just above the drop zone after a handful of matches.
But the Town board backed him unreservedly and Paolo has delivered promotion at the first time of asking – just as he promised.
We all thought his tenure would be a roller coaster ride and it has turned out to be all that and more.
Even with the supporters’ cheers in his ears and the champagne corks popping behind him as Town sealed promotion (in defeat) at Gillingham on Saturday, Di Canio delivered a post-match interview, which trumped all his others this season in terms of controversy.
He was close to resigning 45 days ago, he said – without revealing the reasons. He has done a fantastic job, he said. And the team was capable of losing 13 games in a row but for him and his technical staff, he said, a bit too arrogantly.
Hopefully, the public shaming of the players who went out celebrating with Alan McCormack after the birth of his first child won’t have a destabilising effect on the squad.
It has been a long old season (56 games so far and counting) and Paolo has lost both his father and his mother in recent weeks. Everyone is frazzled.
The latest episode left me feeling particularly sorry for goalie Wes Foderingham, who was among those banished from the squad on Saturday. Wes went under his own steam to the Gillingham game but as far as I could tell he was not part of the on-pitch celebrations.
He has been Paolo’s most significant signing of the campaign. Like all good keepers he has pulled off some marvellous saves, but not so many as you might expect given the side’s 23 clean sheets.
Foderingham’s strength has been to instil confidence in his back four. They have responded by being his protective shield, knowing that if anything does get past them, he will deal with it.
Foderingham surely only failed to join Paul Caddis and Matt Ritchie in the PFA League Two Team of the Year because he has not been a Swindon player for the entire season.
Another clean sheet on Saturday against Port Vale, please Wes. A goal or two would then confirm our deserved place as champions – and then the party can really start.
It would be only the third time in the club’s Football League history that we have been promoted as champions. And then we can start dreaming about back-to-back promotions.
Former chairman Andrew Fitton made a surprise appearance in the BBC radio commentary box on Saturday – and provided some interesting asides.
He revealed how he had watched Paul Caddis star for Celtic (Simon Ferry was injured for the game) in a tour match in Philadelphia ahead of signing the pair. He also revealed that Lee Holmes was being watched by a higher-level club at Gillingham.
More intriguingly, still, he claimed to have been on a scouting mission to watch ‘the best footballing centre back in non league football’ recently. Paolo’s first new signing for League One perhaps?