In the early hours of this morning Swindon Town proved that its no good having possession in sport unless you use it. They dominated possession against Play off rivals Preston North End, but the difference was with the small amount of possession Preston had they created three opportunities and scored from each one.
Former Premier League striker Jermaine Beckford, still only 31 years old helped himself to a hat-trick and showed how experience can easily outwit youthful enthusiasm. Swindon’s two hapless defenders were aged 20 and 21 and on loan from Premier League club Southampton. They will have benefitted from the experience, and so too will Southampton should they stay at the club and force their way into the first team. Swindon may well have paid the price for giving youth a chance, or more importantly giving loan signings a chance.
Swindon Town have been beset by financial issues ever since they dropped out of the Premier League after their one and only season in Britain’s top flight; in those days there were no parachute payments for teams relegated.
The current owners have done a great job steadying the ship, making the club competitive, and Mark Cooper the coach, has had the team playing some attractive, entertaining football.
The club has relied on loan signings for the past few seasons some of which have become permanent, such as Australian Massimo Luongo.
Luongo is 22 years of age and sadly by his own admission, after a fantastic year which saw him force his way into the Australian starting line-up and not only win the Asia Cup, but also player of the tournament, the last few weeks “got to him” and he did not perform as he should have.
It has been widely publicised that his former Youth Coach at Tottenham Hotspurs Tim Sherwood, now head coach at Aston Villa has been monitoring his progress. One wonders what he has made of the past few weeks and the young player’s dip in performance.
The question is, is Luongo ready for Premier League football? Based on the past month and a half one would have to say not at the present time. He would be better off playing in the Championship rather than sitting in the reserves of an EPL side. In fact being only 22 years of age Sherwood may in fact be looking to sign him and again loan him out to a Championship side. Time will tell.
Two other Australians playing in the League One play off final were Bailey Wright, also 22 years old and Neil Kilkenny. Both acquitted themselves well. Kilkenny was rock solid and should not be too far from a Socceroos recall if he plays like that in the Championship next season, while Wright showed why he has been called up to the national squad.
However there should be a word of warning, Luongo is no doubt jaded after so much football in the past year, but he and Swindon Midfielder Yaser Kasim were two players who stood out in the Asia Cup at the start of the year. Yet if you watched how easily Preston North End stifled their creativity and eliminated them from the game, one wonders the level of Asian football as a whole.
The positives are that there are Australians playing regularly in good competitions overseas and that has to be good for the national team. Luongo will inevitably leave Swindon, but let us hope he makes a move that sees him still playing regular first team football. The last thing we need is a player of his ability coming back to the A-League in his prime in two or three years time.