Wes Foderingham’s four season stay at Swindon Town was brought to an end this week with the hugely popular ‘keeper released as he prepares to write a new chapter in his flourishing career.
FLIC’s Sports Editor Andrew Steele-Davis pens his own tribute to a man who made a huge impression both on and off the field at SN1.
“He is probably one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met in professional football.”
Those were the words ushered by me to The Birmingham Mail this week for a piece they were doing on what could be their new number one.
And I meant every word.
Not only was Wes Foderingham a pleasure to watch on the football pitch, he was an absolute pleasure to deal with off the field and the many interviews I did with him were a joy to undertake.
Twelve players (not including loanees) have already left The County Ground this summer and, admittedly, not all of them will have a column dedicated to their departure.
But, such was the impact made by Wes Foderingham at SN1 and the legendary status he has now acquired in these neck of the woods, it seemed only right to put on paper my thoughts and thanks to a genuine Swindon Town icon.
It is very rare in modern day football that players can leave a club without attracting a torrent of abuse, whether you have been at a club a year or ten years, you are always vulnerable to the odd tongue lashing or two.
Such is the role that social media sites like Twitter and Facebook play in football these days, a player has almost no hiding place from the moment he decides his future lies elsewhere.
As we have seen already this season with Frank Lampard – who joined title rivals Manchester City last summer shortly after ending his 13-year association with Chelsea – no player is exempt from having a section of fans turn on you.
So, it is perhaps testament to the man then, that, when his inevitable departure from The County Ground was confirmed earlier this week, Wes Foderingham was showered with praise and adulation – the 24-year-old given a fitting hero’s exit.
We all knew this day would come.
Whilst we tried with all of our might to shut out the thought of Swindon Town without Wes Foderingham – like a trip to the dentist – it was unavoidable no matter how long we tried to put it off.
Swindon’s failure to climb into the Championship has proved costly in more ways than one, with the exit door at The County Ground probably needing a little bit of a rest already.
Ben Gladwin and Massimo Luongo have earned a move into the Championship with QPR, leading scorer Andy Williams has been let go, as have nine other members of the class of 2014/15.
As has Town’s best ever shot-stopper since Fraser Digby and I can’t help but feel that Foderingham will prove to be the Robins’ biggest loss next season.
As the old saying goes – ‘you don’t know what you had until it’s gone.’
We have probably all been guilty of taking Foderingham for granted over the last four years, the ‘keeper’s routine heroics between the sticks almost becoming part of a Town fan’s staple diet.
I remember casting my eyes on Wes for the very first time in the pre-match warm-up prior to his debut away at Accrington Stanley in October 2011, and I can recall thinking that this was bound to be another loanee that would fail to pay off under the erratic regime of Paolo Di Canio.
I thought he was far too small to be able to carve out a career as a successful ‘keeper in the professional game, he just didn’t strike me as being the answer to Town’s long-standing problem in the goalkeeping area.
How very wrong I was.
190 appearances on from that day – where the former Fulham man kept the first of five straight clean sheets – there is no doubt in this writer’s mind that Foderingham should and deserves to be written into Swindon Town folklore.
His shot-stopping has always been his biggest strength but, as we have seen over the last four years, there is so much more to the 24-year-old’s game – his footwork and his ability in the air have both come on leaps and bounds this season under the guidance of Town’s Head of Goalkeeping Steve Hale.
Foderingham has had to come to Town’s rescue on many an occasion and he’s created quite a highlights reel for himself, some of his breathtaking saves inspiring a generation of budding ‘keepers who want to follow in the footsteps of their idol.
His loyalty should never come into question nor be underestimated either – there have been more than a few occasions where Foderingham could have been tempted into swapping regular first-team football for riches elsewhere.
But, having been through the painstaking lows and the glorious highs at The County Ground, leaving Swindon Town was never going to be easy or straightforward for Foderingham – his quotes at Wembley two weeks ago made that clear.
Should things have panned out differently on May 24th under that famous arch, then this column may not have seen the light of day but, Championship football now awaits for Foderingham with Reading or Birmingham City the likely destinations.
Leaving Swindon Town was never going to be easy for Wes Foderingham but this is the way he would have wanted it – going out with his head held high and an adoring fan-base left craving more.
Such a force of nature was never going to depart quietly – despite conceding four goals in the Play-Off Final – Foderingham managed to produce one final spectacular save in a Town shirt to remind everyone of just how big a void he will leave behind.
In truth, the reality that Foderingham will be plying his trade elsewhere next term probably won’t sink in until the opening day of the 2015/16 campaign, when we will all turn up at The County Ground and see someone else between the sticks.
Seeing him sport another team’s colours can probably be compared to seeing your ex out on the town with another guy.
So, I now speak to you direct Wes Foderingham.
Wherever you end up next season, thank you for your years of service to my club, thank you for your constant moments of brilliance and the way you carried yourself both on and off the field.
Thank you and good luck.
It’s been a pleasure.