TOWN FLIER is the weekly fans’ blog about all matters relating to Swindon Town FC
MY BELIEF was that Paolo Di Canio’s League 2-winning Swindon Town team last season would have competed at the top end of League 1.
So, with the quality evident in the first three close-season signings this week – James Collins, Gary Roberts and Andy Williams – they could become genuine contenders.
We hear that the squad is going to be leaner this year. Some rather injudicious early signings 12 months ago left a sizeable number of players taking good wages for sitting in the stands.
But Di Canio will want to see his big budget on the pitch or as part of the seven-man bench in a hard core of 18 players. Let’s hope the new faces all come through the Italian’s now-infamous boot camp on the pre-season trip to Italy and in the subsequent take-no-prisoners training regime.
With no word that Lukas Magera is coming back from the Czech Republic, the attack was an area that had to be addressed and new boys Collins and Williams join Paul Benson in what is shaping up to be a crack offensive unit.
Both were leading scorers for their respective clubs Shrewsbury and Yeovil last season. And both will have been tempted by having one of the best strikers ever seen in the Premiership as their new coach.
I particularly like the acquisition of Collins, a member of Ireland’s U21 international squad.
He was one of the best strikers in League 2 last year and he gave our defence a torrid time in the County Ground match against Shrewsbury.
Poor Daniel Boateng, who started for Swindon in the back four, got a tough baptism in League 2 that night and after failing to cope with Collins he was promptly sent back to Arsenal’s reserves.
It also says a lot for the pulling power of Di Canio that Collins gave up the chance to play for the team he supported as a kid, Coventry City, who had made him their prime summer target.
Roberts comes with a bit more pedigree, having helped Huddersfield to the play-off win in League 1 last season. He is a skilful winger and adds to our embarrassment of riches in that area where we have Matt Ritchie and Luke Rooney.
Roberts has always gone to ground a bit too easily for my liking, but fans tend to be myopic on these matters if he is winning free kicks and penalties for their own side.
We are all assuming that Jay McEveley will want to come back and make the left back position permanently his own. Meanwhile, Di Canio is going to have to find a back-up goalie for the brilliant Wes Foderingham, but the key area that needs sorting out now is central midfield.
Two new faces are needed, especially a player with real physical presence like Cheltenham’s Marlon Pack.
Of course, to pay for some hefty new wage packets, the under contract deadwood need to be shipped out – and that is not going to be easy.
With the fixture list now published, we can focus on the new season.
An initial thought is that there is not a single local derby this campaign – you cannot really count Andy Williams’ old club Yeovil.
It’s a shame that we won’t have the added spice of those clashes and it might worry chief executive Nick Watkins that we can’t count on the guaranteed 10,000+ crowds that turn up for the visits of teams from Bristol, Oxford and Cheltenham.