With the 2010s coming to an end in a couple of weeks let’s look back over the decade and pick out some of the memorable players, managers, moments and matches that have entertained and horrified in equal measure, This week I’ve started with my best eleven, with some honorable mentions included.
When thinking about what formation to pick, my mind went to the side that provided the most entertaining football and the 2014/15 team under the guidance of Mark Cooper and his favoured 5-3-2 formation, which got Town to 4th in League One and 90 minutes away from the Championship.
When Paolo Di Canio’s first-choice keeper Phil Smith got injured in October 2011 Town reached out to Crystal Palace and signed 20-year-old Wes Foderingham on an initial three-month loan, which was made permanent a few months later. This signing turned out to be one of the best in the Di Canio years.
Wes was an ever-present over four seasons at Town as he helped the club win the League Two title and finish inside the playoffs twice, a remarkable achievement for someone so young in their career.
Like a lot of players, he had a few bust-ups with Paolo Di Canio, the biggest coming at Preston North End where after a poor clearance led to a goal and the home side doubling their lead shortly afterward the eccentric Italian subbed him off with the keeper showing his anger for all to see, thankfully the pair made up and Wes played a key role in the season as Town reached the playoffs only to be denied on penalties.
Despite Ty Belford arriving from Liverpool in the next season Foderingham never looked like losing his place as new manager Mark Cooper kept faith with the shot-stopper during the 13/14 season. During the next campaign Town’s style of play changed with the keeper having to play more of a sweeper-keeper role and once again he played an important role as Swindon reached the playoff final in 2015, only to be outplayed by Preston North End.
With his contract at an end and Swindon remaining in League One it was obvious he would move on (a continuing theme in this list) and he finally picked Rangers where he’s helped the club climb back up the Scottish league pyramid and has enjoyed a successful career.
Honourable Mentions: David Lucas and Lawrence Vigouroux
Paul Caddis, Gordon Greer, Jack Stephens Nathan Thompson, and Nathan Byrne
In one of the best transfer deals of the decade, Town paid Celtic £350K for both Paul Caddis and Simon Ferry, both these players going on to earn iconic status at the football club.
Despite his first season-ending in relegation, the Scot’s performances were one of the brightest points of the entire season, and it would be clear he’d be important under the new management during the 2011/12 season.
Which turned out to be the case as Caddis played 50 games in all competitions, was made captain and was a key part in Town winning the League Two title with his partnership with Matt Ritchie. After falling out with Di Canio during pre-season Caddis joined Birmingham on a season-long loan after a season plagued by injuries Caddis returned the next summer with Kevin MacDonald expecting him to play a role in his side but with a new regime at the top of the club it was clear he would move on as he signed a three-year deal with Birmingham.
Incredibly that isn’t the end of the Caddis story at Swindon as amazingly he’s back at the County Ground on a short-term deal, as he earned man of the match on his second home debut and is already turning into an important first-team player for Town boss Richie Wellens.
After a successful loan spell during the 08/09 season, in which manager Danny Wilson made him captain, the talented centre back signed permanently in May 2009 and was a key player throughout the following season as he played in over 50 games and lead the club to the League One play-off final, where Town came up short to Millwall in one of the worst playoff finals in the history of the competition.
During the summer of 2010, it was clear the Scottish defender would be wanted by a host of clubs, with Brighton making the most noise, after rejecting a couple of bids from the Seagulls the Town faithful hoped that would be the end of the matter but to everyone’s amazement the club accepted the third bid and he was on his way to the south coast.
Stephens joined Town on loan from Southampton in March 2014 and made such a huge impact in his 10 games the club signed the young defender on a season-long loan deal in September 2014, this turned out to be one of the signings of the season as the 20-year-old played like someone way above his years with solid, consistent performances alongside fellow centre back Jordan Turnbull.
He’s by far one of the best loan signings seen at the County Ground and it’s no surprise to see him now playing Premier League football with Southampton.
After progressing through the club’s youth system Thompson signed a professional deal in 2007, it took a few years for the defender to make his debut as he came on as a first-half substitute in a JPT game against Torquay in 2010. With Paul Caddis in superb form, Thompson never got a look in during the title-winning season but made his mark in the following campaign, sadly his season ended early thanks to an ankle injury.
When he returned for the 13/14 season he never looked back becoming the first team regular and winning player of the season as Town narrowly missed out on a playoff spot. The highlight of Thompson’s career at Town came in the 14/15 campaign where he was moved from his normal right-back position to become part of a new back three defensive set-up, where he flourished and became an essential part of Mark Cooper’s side.
During this season Town came out on top in a West Country derby against Bristol City, and the famous picture of Thompson celebrating in front of the City fans was taken, making the home-grown hero even more of a Town icon.
Sadly Thompson suffered an injury late in the season and was unable to make the impact he wanted in the play-off final, as he started the game but had to come off injured after just five minutes, with all parties admitting it was a mistake for him to play.
Throughout next season injuries would cost Thompson playing a key role as he did the previous season, as Town missed the influence and talent of their skipper.
Despite playing a larger role during the 16/17 season and looking back to his best at times injuries took their toll again and Thompson and co were unable to save Town from relegation into League Two.
With his contract up and wanting to play at a higher level he signed for Portsmouth on a free transfer in June 2017.
Despite his lack of discipline at times and some rash decision making inside the penalty box, Thompson has been one of the best players to come out of the club’s youth system and I hope one day he will return to the club as I feel he has some unfinished business getting his club into the Championship.
After impressing on a short loan deal in 2013 (despite his sending off in the play-off semi-final) Town signed the talented full-back on a permanent deal for an undisclosed fee just before the 2013/14 season.
When Mark Cooper changed Town’s style of play and formation this is where Byrne came into his own, as on either flank the quick, talented wingback was a hand full for anyone.
During the 14/15 campaign, the former Tottenham man was mainly used on the right-side as he became one of the most important players going forward, with him scoring a 90th-minute winner away at Sheffield Utd in the play-off semi-final first leg to help Town take a lead back to the County Ground, this proved crucial as Town made it to Wembley 7-6 on aggregate. As we’ve discussed Swindon failed miserably in the final but despite this Byrne saw some individual recognition by being named in the PFA Team of the Year.
Many presumed the talented wingback would move on like most of his teammates but he stuck around a bit in the next season scoring a hat trick on the opening day of the season before finally making his big move to Wolves for a reported £1 million transfer fee.
Honourable Mentions: Dion Conroy, Matt Taylor, Raphael Rossi Branco, Aden Flint, Jordan Turnbull, Scott Cuthbert, and Alan McCormack.
Yaser Kasim, Massimo Luongo, and Matt Ritchie
The Iraqi international joined Town in 2013 following his release from Brighton and quickly established himself as a first-team regular as he sat at the base of a five-man midfield, and despite Town missing out on the playoffs Kasim enjoyed a successful first full season, but like most of his teammates it was the 2014/15 campaign where it all clicked into place.
Maintaining his role at the base of the midfield, his best performances came when having Massimo Luongo and Ben Gladwin playing in more advanced roles in front of him, along with Louis Thompson and John Swift on rotation. This proved to be successful, as he becomes one of Mark Cooper’s first names on the team sheet playing over 40 games across the season. It was also during this season Kasim represented his country at AFC Asian Cup where Iraq finished in fourth place.
After the disappointment of losing the playoff final like a lot of players Kasim was expected to move on to Championship football, but his move never happened and he went on to play 29 games during the next season as injuries played a role in a more disjointed season as Town finished in a disappointing 15th position.
As the next season came around it was clear he wanted his big move to the next level but with no interest, Kasim entered into the fourth season with the club, but again his season was disrupted by injuries making just 21 starts over the entire season.
In the summer of 2017, Kasim left the club on a free transfer and joined Northampton Town on a two-year deal.
Despite sticking around at Town after the 2014/15 season he never looked the same player over a couple of years, but for his first two seasons at Town, he deservedly makes it into this eleven.
Signing alongside Nathan Byrne and Dean Parrett in March 2013 Luongo was thrown straight into the first team and played a key role in Town’s run towards the playoffs as he started both playoff semi-final legs against Brentford, with Swindon losing out on penalties.
But despite the disappointing end to the season Luongo re-signed with Town on a season-long loan for the next campaign and to somewhat a surprise to all Town fans the club signed the talented midfielder on a permanent deal in August 2013 for a reported £400K.
Although Mark Cooper’s side failed to reach the playoffs it was a successful season for Luongo, as time and time again he looked the best player on the pitch, constantly pushing Town forward from midfield.
In the summer of 2014, Australian Luongo was selected to represent his country at a World Cup, the first Town player to do so since Jan Aage Fjortoft in 1994. Despite not playing in any of the Socceroo’s games Luongo claimed it was a wonderful experience and set him up for future success with his national side.
After returning from the World Cup the dynamic midfielder seemed to improve every week he put on a Town shirt as with Yaser Kasim and Ben Gladwin he leads Town to a 4th place finish and you know what happened in the playoff final.
It was during this season Town had to make do without their star player as he announced himself to the world, as he became a key player for Australia as they won the AFC Asian Cup for the first time in January 2015, with Luongo being named the tournaments best player.
With the cat out the bag, it was clear he would move on during the summer of 2015, and after a few bids were rejected Town finally agreed to sell the midfielder in a joint deal with Ben Gladwin as both joined QPR for £3.5M.
Out of all the talented midfielders we’ve enjoyed watching over the past ten years, for me, Luongo sits at the top of the tree, he could change a game by himself and at times dragged his team along with him, I’m surprised he’s still only playing in the Championship, but hopefully one day he’ll get to shine in the Premier League where he deserves to be playing.
After impressing on a one-month loan stint in February 2010 Ritchie re-joined Town the following season, four months into his loan deal Town made the signing a permanent for a fee believed to be around £200K.
Despite the 2010/11 season being a disaster for Swindon discovering the talented winger was by far the highlight of the season as Ritchie cleaned up at the end of season awards.
Despite some interest across the Football League Ritchie stuck around at Town and become a key player inside Paolo Di Canio’s championship-winning side, as Ritchie formed a superb partnership with Paul Caddis and linking up well with Simon Ferry as the trio looked a cut above all around them throughout the season.
Again there was interest in the talented winger in January 2012 but Town resisted the temptation to cash in as Ritchie’s impressive form continued as he leads Town to the League Two title.
With Di Canio keeping together his talented squad and adding a few key players Town were expected to be challenging for promotion from League One and as expected Ritchie didn’t look out of place a step up the footballing ladder as apart from a couple of missteps his progression gathered momentum.
But his time at Swindon came to a shuddering halt in January 2013 as after appearing in a goalless draw away at Leyton Orient all Town fans fears were confirmed when the talented winger joined Bournemouth the following day for a ridiculously low amount of £500K.
With Town in the middle of a takeover deal and with current owner Andrew Black unwilling to put any more money into the club, Black agreed with the incoming owners to sell the winger to fund the club during the handover period, and with the Cherries knowing how desperate Swindon was for funds they took advantage of the situation.
This whole sorry mess was the final straw for Paolo Di Canio as he left the club shortly afterward with Bournemouth earning promotion and not Swindon. Ritchie went on to win the League One Player of the Year award to add to his League Two award from the previous campaign.
Despite the awful situation surrounding his departure, Matt Ritchie’s time at Town was a huge success with the midfielder going from strength to strength in his career and now plying his trade in the Premier League for Newcastle United.
Honourable Mentions: Simon Ferry, Louis Thompson, Ben Gladwin, Michael Doughty, Rohan Ince, Anthony Grant, Jonathan Douglas, and Raffaele De Vita.
Charlie Austin and Eoin Doyle
Charlie Austin’s story of going from the building trade to the Premier League is one of the most repeated in English football, and that story began at Swindon Town.
After an astonishing season at Poole Town, Austin joined Town on trial in September 2009 and after impressing Swindon signed the talented striker for a reported £50K.
After initially having to make an impression from the bench Austin was given his full debut away at Carlisle United where it took him all of three minutes to make his mark, and from that point on Austin became indispensable for Danny Wilson’s side as in the last six months of the 09/10 campaign himself and Billy Paynter scored an incredible 42 goals between them, lifting Town into the League One playoffs.
One of Austin’s most memorable goals from that season came away at Leeds United as Town ran away 3-1 winners against the Yorkshire side with the young striker scoring Town’s third, with Paynter scoring twice.
He also started in the play-off semi-finals as he opening the scoring at the County Ground and help Town into the playoff final against Millwall.
As I’ve mentioned previously this was one of the worst afternoons I’ve spent watching Town, and the less said about that “bobble” the better.
Despite Town failing to gain promotion and lots of interested parties from higher up in the football pyramid, Austin stayed at the County Ground.
After scoring a superb winning goal away at Southampton Austin suffered a dislocated shoulder, an injury that would keep him out for a month when he returned to the first-team action the goals flowed again.
Just a few days after an impressive display in a televised game against Charlton Austin handed in a transfer request, and as news spread about his silly decision he lost a large part of the Town faithful and he failed to score again for Town, finally signing for Burnley for an undisclosed fee.
But despite the sad end to his career at Swindon I easily regard Austin as the most natural finisher I’ve ever seen play for Town, and his 37 goals in 58 starts for the club ranks as one of the best goals to games ratios seen at the club.
After a couple of season’s underachieving at Southampton, it’s great to see him now scoring regularly again at West Brom in the Championship.
We go from one end of the decade to the other, as Austin’s striking partner will be the “Ginger Pele” Eoin Doyle.
Town has had some other talented strikers throughout the decade that I could easily have picked but how can I not include the man who has scored 19 league goals this season in 18 appearances in League Two?
Arriving this summer on a season-long loan deal from fellow League Two side Bradford City the Irish striker has fitted into life in Wiltshire surprisingly well as his goal last Saturday was his 12th goal in his last 9 appearances and has scored in nine consecutive games.
His partnership with Jerry Yates has become a dream team at the club with both looking like they’ll score every time they have an opportunity in front of the goal.
Unlike every other player on this list, we don’t know how his time at Town will come to an end, but if we can keep hold of the talented striker for the rest of the season he’ll easily become one of the most iconic players of the decade, and hopefully be the focal point for Town to lead us into the next 10 years starting with promotion out of the basement of the Football League this season.
Honourable Mentions: Billy Paynter, Andy Williams, And Nicky Ajose.