April 18th 2021 is a day that most Swindon Town fans will look back on in joy, ecstasy and happiness. In all honesty I am not being sarcastic in the last sentence, this was a day after the 4-1 away defeat at AFC Wimbledon (my birthday). The day that John Sheridan finally resigned and left his post as Swindon Town manager.
The resignation happened 6 weeks too late in all honesty, hindsight being 20/20 he should have left after the Gillingham home defeat like he said he would.
Appointed on the 13th November 2020 after Richie Wellens departed Swindon Town to drop a division and manage Salford United. John Sheridan took charge of Swindon Town after leaving Wigan Athletic the night before, after being in charge for 15 games. This was his 4th job of 2020, starting the year at Chesterfield, then onto Waterford, Wigan Athletic and Swindon Town. The writing was on the wall from some fans and safe to say they were right, and we were wrong. They can be humble about it now and we can scoff down a massive piece of humble pie.
It started well, with a draw away at Shrewsbury and back-to-back derby wins over Bristol Rovers and Oxford United. Sandwiched in between 2 defeats at home to Accrington Stanley and Lincoln City But the writing was on the wall after the Oxford United win. 6 winless games ended 2020 with nothing more of a whimper. The final game of 2020 was a pathetic 4-1 home defeat to MK Dons. A game where we could not lay a glove on Russell Martin’s side.
2021 started with a bang with some new signings Dominic Thompson, Scott Twine recalled, Mark Travers, Kieron Freeman, Conor Masterson, and the returning Matty Palmer were brough into the fold. A fantastic 3-2 win in front of the Sky Cameras at Portman road. Scott Twine scoring that goal from distance and you thought to yourself we got a side here and we are built for survival. 4 game winless run follows which included a 2-0 to 2-2 slip away at Charlton Athletic.
Deadline day happened, Matt Smith who flourished at the start of the season was bombed out of the squad and sent to Charlton Athletic via Arsenal. Footballing reasons was given, many a fan was baffled by the reasoning given to the situation. Tyler Smith was almost bombed out and returned to Sheffield united. But he stayed at the club and was overly critical of the manager in an interview given 2 weeks ago. Diallang Jaiyesimi was sold to Charlton Athletic in the final hours of deadline day, much to the utter despair of our fan base. Kieron Freeman who only joined the club a few weeks before hand was signed by Championship side Swansea.
Some wins followed in February, three to be precise. All home wins over Wigan Athletic, Northampton Town and Crewe Alexandra. The latter dispatched with a last-minute Scott Twine winner which got everyone hopes up. But that is not what John Sheridan is remembered for, a rainy Tuesday night game away at Portsmouth comes to mind. 9th February 2021 a rearranged game from Boxing day due to COVID19.
Swindon travel to Fratton Park to take on Portsmouth then managed by Kenny Jackett. No away commentary on the ifollow just the acoustics of the players and the managers on the pitch and on the touchline. John Sheridan then spent the next 90 plus minutes berating his players in a bullying nature. Jack Payne, Dominic Thompson, Brett Pitman, Rob Hunt and even goalkeeper Mark Travers took the brunt of John Sheridan wrath. It was quite painful to listen too. On the other side of the dugout, you have Kenny Jackett giving out instructions to his players in a calm manner. Well in the other dugout you got someone berating you for 90 minutes straight. No wonder Swindon lost 2-0. There were threads on twitter the next day of clips of john Sheridan hounding his players. it was quite the eye opener. The players confidence in that game took a shattering and at that moment you could feel the toxic atmosphere at the club bubbling and rearing its ugly head.
Four straight defeats in March followed including an embarrassing home display against fiercest rivals Oxford United. Karl Robinson and his side got retribution for what Swindon did to them at the Kassam stadium a few months before. Swindon lost the game 2-1 but his substitutions of both his centre backs Dion Conroy and Tom Broadbent were quite peculiar. Losing 2-0 and not creating much going forward you take off both of your centre backs and replace them with two other centre backs was very odd. Tommy Wright’s iconic BBC Wiltshire post-match conference was very telling. “They’re not children, they are men – one is captain, one is 6ft 5. They’re not children”.
You could tell he was a little rattled, the same thing had been going on for a little while between both the manager and assistant to the press after games and it was quite tedious. The atmosphere around the club was getting worse and worse and things were stating to bubble over.
The next game was the Gillingham home game, Swindon lost the game 3-1 and he did the same thing again by taking both of his centre backs off and replacing them with two other centre backs which included the infamous 5 substitutions at once. Sheridan then came out said he was thinking about his future and seemed quite apologetic in the post-match interview. But that was a smokescreen as he reversed his decision and stayed on. The form was rotten to the core, four defeats in a row to Sunderland, Accrington Stanley, Oxford and then Gillingham had seen the club sink deeper and deeper into the mire.
A change of shape, a change of fortune, some thing good was on the horizon. Two wins on the spin both away from home and without conceding. Both Fleetwood Town and Bristol Rovers were dispatched in the space of three days and you thought then something good is finally going to happen.
Sadly not, five defeats on the spin and the reality of relegation was looming faster than expected. Defeats over easter to Blackpool and to Burton Albion were tough especially the defeat on Easter Monday where Swindon Town had the chance to pick up crucial points. Peterborough home game was a non-event, the posh decimated the robins 3-0 and on any other day it could have reached double figures. The end of the season was in sight and it was ending in a whimper. The next two games were telling, and John Sheridan and Swindon Town failed to pick up anything from those two games. The manner of the defeats was shocking, Swindon Town crumbled under the pressure – all they had to do was pick up positive results, but they failed in their quest for survival. Going down without a fight and a whimper. It was embarrassing to watch.
So, a day after the AFC Wimbledon defeat John Sheridan resigned like he said he would after the game the previous evening. I just felt that if he would have resigned 6 weeks earlier, Swindon Town under different leadership could have had a better fight for survival. Just a week after he departed the dreaded relegation to league two was confirmed with a whimper in a sorrowing 5-0 defeat away at MK Dons. Sorry sight to watch.
In the weeks have passed it was revealed on the Official Swindon Town supporters club Monday night panel, when both Tyler Smith and Dion Conroy were on. They were not very complimentary about John Sheridan the manager. Tyler Smith criticised John Sheridan’s tactics on the Monday night panel show. “No one really knew what they were meant to be doing” on the pitch. Quite damning comments from a striker who he bombed out of the squad at Christmas. One quote was quite damning “we were just going off the cuff, and you can’t do that, you need to have a plan on how to win games”.
Dion Conroy also revealed a day later that he had a toxic relationship with John Sheridan, and it grew so bad that he was told at the end of the season that he was not allowed to be around the players. He did the same thing with Anthony Grant and look what happened. I think you could tell near at the end of the season that the atmosphere around the club was very toxic and it was always going to end one way.
John Sheridan’s record at the club is dismal and it beggars belief that he stayed at Swindon longer than he should of. 33 matches in charge, 8 wins, 4 draws, 21 defeats, 28 points at a points per game record of 0.84%. A win ratio of just 24.24%, just not good enough.
A season that promised so much after promotion the previous season, failed to deliver and was a disappointment throughout. An inept manager and assistant without a plan were shown to be found out on this level, and the fans had to suffer as they watched their beloved side fall by the wayside to league two at the first time of asking.
Thanks to Scot Munroe for this article.