The Thursday Preview: Swindon Vs Rotherham
I don’t wish to gloat, I really don’t, but the tomfoolery witnessed at the close of Tuesday night’s game between Swindon and Southampton was just, well, all too predictable. Back at the beginning of August, I contributed towards a League 2 prediction piece for Two Footed Tackle, and questioned why bookmakers were backing the Robins to do well. A few weeks later and the Wiltshiremen have lost four league games on the bounce and have had to endure further humiliation off the field.
It all makes for fascinating viewing as Sky head westwards this Saturday afternoon. No doubt they’ll pan in on Di Canio before you can say “I’m a fascist but not a racist” and we’ll be treated to extended footage of his kerfuffle with Leon Clarke, but can you really blame them? Just a few weeks into the season, here is an episode that will have divided Town supporters and ramped up the pressure on all involved on the playing side to make things right.
Of course, Clarke’s a bit of a git and having come down from the higher echelons, no doubt thinks himself above the intense fitness programme that Di Canio’s squad have been put through (the rumoured cause of the dispute). But the wider signs are ominous; the Robins’ squad numbers some 30 or so professionals, Di Canio’s line-ups are as predictable as his mood and Swindon have three difficult games upcoming against top 7 teams. Put simply, Town are in a bit of a mess.
Chairman Jeremy Wray has toed the party line, backing his manager and making Clarke available for loan. Likewise, Town blogger Ron Smith of the Washbag continues to keep the faith, denouncing the player for his petulance while turning a blind eye on the Italian. How long pro-Di Canio supporters can sustain such a viewpoint remains to be seen.
That’s not to say that there haven’t been more positive flashpoints: a 3-0 opening-day victory over a weak Crewe side and a single goal win at Bristol City in the League Cup suggesting that there is some kind of glimmer. This next game against table-topping Rotherham, though, couldn’t have come at a worse time. Shorn of Adam Le Fondre they may be, but the Millers are going about their business rather cannily.
The old adage that talk is cheap seems relevant here. While Swindon and Di Canio were looking in the mirror ahead of the new season, few commentators gazed Rotherham’s way. Too many times had the Millers let us down over the last few years, falling away towards the end of campaigns. However, under Andy Scott, one of those Bright Young Things of a year or three ago, Rotherham have started at a canter, a disappointing 2-2 draw against Barnet the sole black mark of the season so far. Like Le Fondre, Lewis Grabban has been key, the Londoner-up-north scoring two goals from five starts thus far; he’ll be partnered up front on Saturday by either ex-Brighton man Chris Holroyd, or one of two new recruits, Reading loanee Brett Williams or lower-league journeyman Alex Revell, who agreed a two-year deal on transfer deadline day after exiting a troubled Leyton Orient.
They join a lean-looking squad, which has been much trimmed after last season’s failure to reach the play-offs. New signings Gareth Evans, formerly of Bradford, as well as Danny Schofield and Ben Pringle, brought in from Championship clubs Millwall and Derby respectively, perhaps stand out from the crowd. Each have played their part so far in pushing the Millers towards the head of the pack, and I fully expect them to continue in the same fashion in front of an audience baying for more Di Canio-related shenanigans. A cakewalk for the away team.