Swindon Town’s 2015/16 fixture list was revealed this morning with Bradford City kicking off what looks like a very tough opening month on paper.
FLIC’s Sports Editor Andrew Steele-Davis looks at why the Robins’ hopes of avoiding a Wembley hangover may not be helped thanks to a tough start to life in 2015/16.
Whilst we may try our best not to think about it, the painful memories of that horrible and disastrous 2010/11 campaign still linger like a bad smell, with the Robins’ paying the ultimate price of relegation from League One after failing to recover from defeat in the Play-Off Final the season before.
Town will be hoping to avoid the same fate this time round but their cause will not be helped by five tricky fixtures, although they will have home advantage in three of those encounters.
Optimism will abound at The County Ground come 3pm on Saturday 8th August as the Robins’ faithful wait to see if Mark Cooper has dragged his troops off the canvas ready to deliver a knockout punch, but Bradford City will no doubt prove to be a tough nut to crack.
Now renowned for their exploits in the cup having reached the League Cup Final in 2013 and got as far as The FA Cup quarter-finals in 2014/15, The Bantams certainly pack a punch and they just missed out on a play-off place last term.
City have had a slightly disturbed off-season having had to contend with a pending takeover and manager Phil Parkinson being linked with Sheffield United, but they have managed to, so far, keep hold of the nucleus of their squad and they should be challenging for a play-off place once more.
There are plenty of question marks surrounding Town – who did the double over Bradford last term – at the minute with Mark Cooper facing a massive rebuilding job on his hands, and the Bantams have it in their armoury to make it a very difficult opening day for the Robins.
The trip to newly promoted Bury will be hugely demanding with the Shakers refusing to rest on their laurels having made some big waves in the transfer market so far, with Leon Clarke and Tom Pope both impressive signings.
Having to go to Gigg Lane for what will be Bury’s first game back in the division won’t make Swindon’s task any easier either, but, and whilst it is too early to make any solid predictions at this stage, Port Vale at home looks winnable on paper.
A trip to Southend United in August may well please travelling fans but, once again, trying to return to Wiltshire with all three points may prove to be a difficult task with Phil Brown’s men sure to have plenty of momentum behind them following their Wembley win last month.
But, it is Town’s final game of the month that looks the hardest of the lot with Sheffield United returning to the scene of that truly bonkers play-off semi-final encounter.
However, a lot has changed at Bramall Lane since that pulsating 5-5 draw in May and, under the guidance of new boss Nigel Adkins, the Blades are early favourites to win League One and rightly so too.
You only have to look at Adkins’ track record to know that he is more than capable of ending United’s long exile from the Championship, whilst he will have plenty of scope in which to build a side capable of challenging on all fronts.
Overall, if Swindon were able to emerge from August with ten points under their belts, then I imagine Mark Cooper would be a very happy man indeed.