Six days ago Paolo Di Canio won his first honour as a manager, winning Championship Two with Swindon Town. Promotion was already assured a week earlier, but, a marvellous 5-0 home win over Port Vale saw his side clinch first place and the title. After just one season in England’s third-tier league, Swindon are already moving back up to Championship One.
Di Canio was hired last summer following the club’s relegation and the departure of former manager Paul Hart. The former Lazio and West Ham star was provided with a number of new faces by the club’s board, with the aim of returning back to Championship One as soon as possible.
Their campaign started in perfect fashion with a win in the first game of the season at home to Crewe Alexandra 3-0. Despite their positive start, results were inconsistent over the following rounds as the fan’s patience was tested. A derby day defeat at home to Oxford did not go down well and a few days later Paolo Di Canio clashed with his own player Leon Clarke. The striker was immediately farmed out on loan to League One side Chesterfield.
An away win at Accrington Stanley in October proved to be a turning point. This match saw loan signing Wes Foderingham, a goalkeeper brought in at the behest of Di Canio, make his debut and he was impressed from the off.
The match against Accrington Stanley was the start of an impressive run of results for Swindon. They went undefeated until Boxing Day, some thirteen games in all competitions later.
During this same period, Swindon advanced to the FA Cup third round where they would entertain Wigan in the New Year. But, in the meanwhile, the January transfer window opened and Swindon got busy as they looked to bolster their ranks for the remainder of the season.
They caused the shock of the round when defeating the Premier League outfit 2-1.
Di Canio signed experienced striker Paul Benson from Charlton in a deal that saw Leon Clarke went the other way. Luke Rooney was also brought in while Di Canio, in a daring raid, convinced local rivals Oxford United to accept an offer for their striker James Constable and allow him to move to Swindon. Constable, however, rejected the move following a barrage of criticism from United fans.
Back to the action on the field, Swindon started 2012 in the best possible fashion. They defeated Premier League outfit Wigan in the FA Cup in what was easily the shock of the round.
As the second half of the season progressed, Di Canio’s side started to display some attractive and effective football. Results continued to improve and so did the club’s position in the table.
They were eventually eliminated from the FA Cup, however, they made the final of the Football League Trophy where they were to play Chesterfield.
Matters took a turn for the worst in March. The team suffered three losses, the first being to their local rivals Oxford United. The defeat ended a ten-match winning streak. There was more pain as the team then lost 2-0 to Chesterfield at Wembley in the Football League Trophy.
Their month of pain, however, seemed to spur them on as results improved again. Loan signings John Bostock from Spurs and Jay McEveley from Barnsley were starting to prove their worth too.
Swindon’s first chance to guarantee promotion came on April 17 in a match away to Aldershot. But, after suffering a defeat, the club’s fan had to hold out a little longer.
The game, however, was marred by the post-match outburst of Di Canio as he went on a rant blaming the players for the loss.
But Swindon’s time eventually come. In fact, it came just days later. A 3-1 away defeat of Gillingham secured promotion.
Before the home game the following week, the one that would see the club become outright champions of the division, a moment’s silence was reserved before the match to pay respects to some of the club’s fans who had passed away in the current season, including Di Canio’s own mother and father.
Swindon went on to win the game 5-0 and the celebrations ensued with the players parading the trophy to their supporters in a lap of honour.
In a season fraught with some patchy form and his own personal problems, Di Canio’s first season at Swindon as manager, indeed, his first ever season as a manager for any club, has proven a wild success. Under the Italian’s guidance players like Paul Caddis, Simon Ferry, Matt Ritchie, Alan McCormack, Wes Foderingham, Paul Benson and Alan Connell have excelled this season. Hopefully, next season will bring as much success to Swindon Town.