Swindon Town expected a promotion push this season after going so close in the 2010 Play-Offs, so to see them slip to rock bottom of npower League 1 at this critical stage of the campaign is a huge surprise.
Danny Wilson is a mate of mine and I know that he was hurting at the team's bad results before his unfortunate resignation last week. He's a top Manager but the side just hasn't been able to recover properly from the sale of Billy Paynter to Leeds United last summer and the subsequent January departure of another excellent striker Charlie Austin. When you take two quality goalscorers out of a team it will always have a detrimental effect and in truth the pair of them are almost irreplaceable at this level.
Danny was disappointed at the way things were panning out and although he didn't want to leave, he eventually came to conclusion that it was best for the club and himself to step aside. In his place has come another guy I know very well, Paul Hart, who I worked with at Barnsley.
One thing you can be 110 per cent certain of with Paul Hart is that he will leave no stone unturned in his preparation for matches. He's one of the most thorough and hard-working Managers in English football. His conscientiousness is sky high and he will expect the same attitude from the players at the County Ground. As a player and as a Manager he's always hated to lose and demands hard work on the training pitch as well as in games. Over the coming weeks as they fight for their npower League 1 lives, Swindon's players will be asked to live and breathe football and that's the way it's got to be.
Another team with a fight on their hands are Plymouth Argyle. Off the pitch they have plenty of financial concerns but on it, despite their precarious position in the table the players are responding to the pressure with a fabulous resurgence. Three straight wins have all but wiped off their ten point deduction in a flash and now the Pilgrims players will be seriously believing they have what it takes to pull off a miraculous escape.
It will be an uneasy time for the players, who will be worried about their futures so I admire the spirit they are showing on the field. The problem is they can't afford to drop at all. If Argyle are to stand any hope of staying up this season, their current form and belief has to be maintained consistently over the next 11 games. They won't have to win them all but they will require several more victories just to be in the frame.
I'll be in Brunei this weekend playing in a Masters tournament but as soon as I get back I'll make sure I check out the highlights of Saturday's south coast match-up between Bournemouth and Southampton, which I expect to be a corker.
I tipped the Saints for automatic promotion back in August and I stand by my prediction but it's a testament to AFC Bournemouth that they are still ahead of their more illustrious neighbours it really is.
Considering all the trials and tribulations the club has faced this season, selling star players and losing their brilliant young manager to Burnley, they have kept their focus and maintained the kind of resolve that deserves success.
When you compare the resources Southampton have, and compare them with Bournemouth - and when you consider the Cherries only came up from npower League 2 in the summer - it's a bolt out of the blue that Lee Bradbury's men are where they are in the table but as the old cliché says, the table doesn't lie and it's true. They fully deserve their second spot in the division.
This will be a high quality encounter but I'll sit on the fence and predict that this important derby will end in a draw.
Gary Wilson from North Yorkshire has been in touch via email this week and asks…
How unusual is it for experienced midfield players to become strikers in the twilight of their careers such as Andy Monkhouse at Hartlepool United?
It's not at all common Gary that's for sure. Most midfielders end up going backwards into defence, and strikers sometimes have to drop back too, so for a wide player to be converted into a striker at the age of 30 is pretty unusual I'd say!
I'd hazard a guess that Andy Monkouse won't have complained one bit at Mick Wadsworth's decision to put him up front. It's where everyone wants to play secretly isn't it? Judging from the way he's performing it also seems to have given him an injection of confidence too.
Mind you, as a former striker myself I do hope he now has greater understanding of the hard work centre forwards have to get through during a game. The runs he'll be making are much more explosive and I reckon he'll appreciate us a little more now that he's having to do it himself!
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