Massimo Luongo

Kasim thanks fans after winning Swindon Town poll

Yaser Kasim has lavished praise on his fans after he was voted Swindon Town’s greatest player of the 21st Century in a recent poll by BenjaminWillsBlog.

“It’s a great achievement, I personally want to win football games rather than awards but I’m thankful for all the people that voted and thankful that the Swindon fans have taken me to their heart.”

The Iraq International, 23, has made a huge impact in Swindon since he arrived from Brighton and Hove Albion on a free transfer last summer.

So much so that he captained the side in a 1-1 draw against Coventry City on August 30 2014 due to regular skipper Nathan Thompson missing the game through suspension – becoming the first Iraqi to do so in English professional football.

“Yes, very much so! (This is a proud honour for me), considering I’ve only been here for a year. I’m particularly proud of the team right now also and enjoying the football a lot.”

A huge contingent of Kasim’s votes came from his native Iraq and the midfielder described his loyal fan base in glowing terms.

“They are a big part of why I want to achieve so much with the national team. Their love for their own is beautiful.”

Iraq are set to play in the Asia Cup in January 2015, something Kasim is “very much” looking forward to but his feet are firmly on the ground.

“It’s all about preparation. We still have a month and a bit to go”.

The competition may see Kasim line up against tournament hosts Australia where club team mate Massimo Luongo plays his International football.

“It would be weird to play against him but would be fun at the same time. It might be very exciting!”

Kasim’s Iraq will contest Group D with Japan, Jordan and Palestine while Luongo’s Socceroos are joined in Group A by South Korea, Oman and Kuwait.

The Asia Cup is played from the 9-31 January which means the pair will miss a maximum of four Swindon matches (Coventry away, Chesterfield home, Bradford City home and Sheffield United away).

 

Who have you voted Swindon Town’s greatest player of the 21st Century?

Relegation, Promotion and the threat of Administration, twice. The 21st Century has not been a boring one for Swindon Town fans but while 2000 onwards will be best remembered so far for Wembley heartbreak, more Wembley heartbreak, Paul Hart and Paolo Di Canio, who have been the players that put smiles on Swindon folks’ faces?

10) Paul Caddis: One of only eight players who stayed at Swindon following the side’s relegation from League One in 2011, Caddis was given the task of leading the club back from whence they came after taking over as captain from Oliver Risser that October.

His consistent high performances during that campaign were rewarded with a League Two winner’s medal and a spot in the League Two Team of the Year. He only missed seven league games, scoring four goals in those 39.

That season, and Caddis’ Swindon career, would end on a sour note though. Di Canio reportedly stripped Caddis as captain due to a “change of attitude” in the Scot.

Di Canio told BBC Wiltshire: “He’s not the same player, not the same attitude, so it’s time to make the decision,”

“Now is the moment to change and send an important signal to everybody because Di Canio is the same.”

“If he wants to jump again he has to not only come back as he was last year but better because my demands are higher this year.

“If I had the same Caddis as last year it would already be a good base because there was availability and desire to improve.

“They have to follow me. And if they don’t want to follow me then they are out.”

It was a sad end to a story that looked liked it had plenty more chapters to come and duly Caddis is showing what Town are missing out on as he continues to impress in the Championship for Birmingham.

Paul and Paolo during happier times

Paul and Paolo during happier times

9) Alex Pritchard: Out of the four loan signings from Tottenham in the 2013/14 season (a further two joining permanently), one young Hotspur stood out from the crowd. So much so that on Tottenham’s first game since Pritchard’s return to North London he was named on the bench away to West Ham.

Voted the second best player in League One and short-listed for the Football League Young Player of the Year Award, the tiny midfielder certainly made a huge impact during his short Swindon spell.

The five foot six inch winger ended his time in Wiltshire with six goals in the league to his name, one of them being a fantastic free-kick away to MK Dons on the Sky Sports cameras and arguably an even better one during a visit at Port Vale, it is something he is fast picking up a reputation for.

He also pitched in with 13 assists over the course of the campaign showing how vital he was in his one season.

Pritchard’s tenure at the County Ground was a brief one but he will be fondly remembered by Swindon supporters.

8) Massimo Luongo: Swindon’s Australian asset Luongo has come on leaps and bounds since his 2013 Summer transfer when he joined for what now looks like a bargain at £400,000.

Luongo initially arrived at the County Ground in March of the same year, signing on loan until the end of the season, scoring two goals in five games, firstly in a 4-1 home win over Crewe Alexandra and then the opener against Brentford in the first leg of the Play-off Semi Final.

Since his permanent swtich, Luongo has established himself as one of Town’s key men, forming a formidable part in the heart of the Robins’ midfield with Yaser Kasim and Louis Thompson.

The Socceroos starlet represented Swindon on the International stage in June of this year, becoming the third player in the club’s history to go to a World Cup while contracted at the County Ground. Alan McLoughlin for Ireland in 1990 and Jan Aage Fjortoft for Norway in 1994 are the other two.

Sadly he didn’t feature in any of Australia’s three games (all of which they lost) in Brazil but regardless, the future looks bright for the 22-year-old.

ML PO Goal

7) Nathan Thompson: Only Fraser Digby (twice) and Shaun Taylor join Nathan Thompson in the short list of players that have won back to back Player of the Year awards, something the current Swindon captain is very proud of.

Speaking to BenjaminWills’Blog Thompson announced:

“What makes this award so special is that it’s voted for by the fans, and each game I try to give 100% for them and the club, so to be recognised in this way is very humbling indeed.

“It goes without saying I’m immensely proud to captain a club that I’ve been at not just for my professional career, but for my Centre of Excellence years and youth development too. I take the role extremely seriously – working hard to ensure the team morale is high – so that this team gives back to the fans and the club.”

Youth product Thompson contributed two assists in his debut season as Swindon skipper as Town finished 8th in League One and at the time of writing has led a team with an average age of 22 to the play-off spots in League One.

Rockin' Robin Thompson with the first of his Player of the Year awards

Rockin’ Robin Thompson with the first of his Player of the Year awards

6) Wes Foderingham: Touted by many as the best Goalkeeper Swindon have had since Fraser Digby, Foderingham has been something of a revelation since he arrived on loan from Crystal Palace in October 2011.

A relative unknown quantity, Foderingham had only previously had spells at Conference North and South sides Boreham Wood, Histon and Bromley before being thrust into the line up of a side expected to win League Two.

Foderingham was calmness personified however, marking his first Football League appearance with a clean sheet in a 0-2 win at Accrington Stanley.

Four more games would pass without Foderingham’s goal being troubled, and the England Under-19 International would become the first Swindon custodian to keep five clean sheets in his first five home matches (Gillingham, Bradford City, Aldershot Town, Morecambe and AFC Wimbledon).

Another two would follow in games at home to Macclesfield Town and Crawley Town. If Shrewsbury didn’t breach his goal, he would have broken a Swindon clean sheet record that stretches back to the days of a certain Mr.Digby.

5) Matt Ritchie: Out of all the players featured in this list, Matt Ritchie is the most successful in terms of personal accolades earned during his tenure at the club.

Swindon’s triumphant League Two title winning campaign of 2011/12 saw 39 players in total make league appearances in some way shape or form but Ritchie at times made it look like a one man operation.

Alan McCormack would be awarded Player of the Year that season but Ritchie would be given everything else, being named in the League Two team of the year and League Two player of the year itself, not forgetting.

One more honour would follow – Swindon Town’s Goal of the Season, for his rasping long range effort in the 2-0 home win over Gillingham.

The following season he picked up the League One Player of the Year award as Swindon finished fifth in their first season back in League One, however Ritchie departed the County Ground for Bournemouth in January for what was pittance fee £500,000 considering Paolo Di Canio once valued him at £10 million.

4) Sam Parkin: Su-per, Super Sam, Su-per, Super Sam, Su-per. Super Sam, Super Sammy Parkin! It is no surprise the Chelsea youth graduate features highly on this list, but what is a surprise is the impact he made at SN1.

Only 11 goals in 64 games in four loan spells at Millwall, Wycombe Wanderers, Oldham Athletic and Northampton Town over two years saw him sold by his Premier League club and snapped up by maverick manager Andy King.

Paltry Parkin became potent Parkin in no time at all, scoring a hat-trick in a 3-1 win over Barnsley on the opening day and ended the season with 26 goals in 48 games (all competitions) overall as Swindon finished 10th in the old Division Two.

The 2003/04 season would see less goals for Parkin, 19 in 40, but Swindon would enjoy a higher league position, finishing fifth only to lose to Brighton in the Play-offs.

Mid table mediocrity would rear its ugly head once again the following campaign but 23 goals in 41 games did give the Town faithful something to smile about anyway. 73 goals in 124 games makes ‘Super Sam’ Swindon’s top scorer in the 21st Century so far.

3) Charlie Austin: Very much the poster boy of Swindon Town in the 21st Century, Charlie Austin joined the club from non league Poole Town in 2009  after Bournemouth were denied the striker due to a transfer embargo.

He made an instant impact at Town, scoring three minutes into his debut start away at Carlisle in November and then netting a 58th minute winner in a 2-1 win over Huddersfield Town in his County Ground bow.

Another 18 more would follow and Austin finished the  2009/10 season on 20 goals, it could have been one more if it wasn’t for that Wembley bobble but the less said about that the better.

Austin formed a formidable partnership with Billy Paynter, the pair providing 56 goals between them but Paynter’s departure to Leeds during the Summer did not hamper Austin.

The then 21-year-old scored 12 in 25 in the 2010/11 season and despite his January move to Burnley, he finished Swindon’s top scorer that season as the Robins were relegated to League Two.

2) Simon Cox: As this list proves, Swindon have had somewhat of a penchant for a gifted striker this past decade and Cox was arguably the best of the bunch.

He may have failed to make an impact in the Premier League, unlike Charlie Austin for example, but 48 goals in games makes him Town’s 30th top scorer of all time.

Cox signed for Swindon on January 31 2008 after initially impressing during a loan spell earlier on in the season, netting eight in 19 and he finished with 14 in 36.

What stands Cox ahead of the likes of Austin and Parkin in the eyes of many is his ability to seemingly score from everywhere.

Famous volleys such as his pre-season strike in Fenerbache and another one closer to home against Walsall are still fresh in the memory and go some way into indicating why he was voted Swindon’s Player of the Year in the 2008/09 season.

1) Yaser Kasim: The Iraqi Xavi or the Iraqi Pirlo, whatever your preference there is no denying the talent of the player plucked from obscurity.

Kasim, a man who saw first team chances at Conference Premier side Macclesfield Town limited, took like a duck to water two tiers up when he was signed by Mark Cooper last Summer.

His rise has not gone unnoticed, bizarrely after impressing in a 0-2 League Cup win at Queens Park Rangers, Harry Redknapp reportedly enquired about taking his services to Loftus Road just two months after he signed the dotted line at the County Ground.

The baller from Baghdad has become a lynch pin in the heart of Swindon midfield, dictating play and contributing four assists and two goals along the way.

He has made continued in the same vain this campaign and has two assists and two goals so far to his name.

Swindon fans and staff will be hoping he isn’t missed too much when he departs for the Asia Cup in January with Iraq.

 

Always look on the bright side of life – Why Swindon fans should not be moaning

After Swindon’s latest loss, this time a 1-4 home trouncing by Wolves, Town fans are not in high spirits. Being eight points behind sixth place Peterborough with Posh having a game in hand doesn’t look encouraging as Swindon’s play off ambitions are fading fast. Here are five reasons why Swindon supporters should still be smiling though.

1) Few thought we’d get a play off spot in pre season anyway

Following then Chairman Jed McCrory’s decision to slash the wage budget from £5 million to £2.5 million, 12 players decided to leave the club. The two departures that left fans most upset were fan favourite Simon Ferry and club captain Alan McCormack who left on frees and then signed on at Portsmouth and Brentford respectively. The mood following these departures was at an all time low, if memory serves correctly, a lot of the doom mongers were thinking relegation was looming. Manager Kevin MacDonald was not the man who captured the imagination of many of the Town faithful either. He resigned pre season but at a terrible time and spirits at the County Ground didn’t look like they’d raise any time soon. A new Manager was forthcoming though.

2) We have an inexperienced Manager, who is doing admirably

Mark “cheap option” Cooper was MacDonald’s assistant when the Scot arrived on February 28th and was appointed full time boss August 20th after one win and two defeats as caretaker in the first three games of the season. Cooper was seen as the cheap option as he was hired from within when people such as Neil Warnock and Paul Tisdale were linked to the job as well as club legends Glen Hoddle and Martin Ling. Even Tim Sherwood’s name, Tottenham reserve Manager at the time, was mentioned due to Swindon’s new link with Spurs, an appointment that would have made sense with a fair few Tottenham reserve team players now plying their trade at Swindon. Sherwood now has the top job at White Hart Lane of course.  

Mark Cooper is not known across the footballing world, having previously managed at Tamworth, Kettering, Darlington and Telford, along with an ill fated spell at Peterborough. Despite this though he is doing a good job, leading Swindon to the brink of a Wembley final, only being denied by former club Peterborough on penalties and challenging for the playoffs with an inexperienced squad, which leads onto my next point.

3) Swindon have a young team

Out of Town’s 16 new faces (14 in the Summer, then Dany N’Guessan in September and Ben Gladwin in November followed by Michael Smith and George Barker in January), only 3 are above the age of 23 (N’Guessan, Ryan Harley and Mohamed El Gabas). El Gabas has since left the club, which means that Swindon Town have a squad average age of 22.8, (23 if you want to round it up), the lowest in the division.*

*All players calculated had played at least 5 times this season at the time of writing.

"Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life"

“Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”

4) Injuries

Swindon have been dogged by injuries for what seems like all season.  The most notable of these would include number one Goalkeeper Wes Foderingham who has been ruled out with a groin injury since the trip to then league leaders Leyton Orient, which Town lost 2-0 with Tyrell Belford in goal. The Robins were 4 points off a play off spot before that game but as Peterborough won and Swindon lost, the gap was increased to 7 points. Swindon have not won since Foderingham has picked up his injury.

Another key man sat on the treatment table is joint top scorer Nile Ranger. The 22-year-old former Newcastle man is out for the rest of the season after tearing his hamstring in the Valentines Day draw at home to Colchester. Ranger has scored 10 goals this season and shares that tally with Nicky Ajose who was lively in a Red shirt but his loan has now expired and has returned to parent club Peterborough, he has four in six for them.

The club’s player of the season last year Nathan Thompson also looks to be out for the remainder of the season now with an ankle injury, Grant Hall has been nursing a calf injury since mid January, Alex Pritchard has just returned from a medical ligament strain while Ryan Mason, a highly rated youngster, has missed more games than he’s played.

5) Swindon are producing fine talents

One of the club’s many Tottenham youth players at SN1, Alex Pritchard, has blossomed since joining the club on a season long loan following England’s abject display at the Under 20 World Cup which he featured in. The 20 year old winger has been nominated for both young player of the year, and player of the year awards for League 1 which, should he win the player of the year award, would be the second Swindon player in a row to do so after Matt Ritchie won it last season. Ritchie also scooped up the League 2 player of the season award when Town surged to the title win in the 2011/12 season.

AP QRP

Along with this, Massimo Luongo, another addition from Tottenham, a permanent one this time, has recently received his first International call up for Australia as he now tries to book himself a place on the plane for the World Cup no less. Should Luongo make The Socceroos’ 23 man squad he’d be the third player in Swindon’s history to go to a World Cup while being at the club. Alan McLoughlin (Italy 1990 for Ireland) and Jan Aage Fjortoft (USA 1994 for Norway) are the other two. Yaser Kasim has also just been called up to his country’s last squad, and made his debut in a 3-0 win over China as Iraq sealed their place at the 2015 Asia Cup, which will be held in Australia next January.

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