Alfie Howlett: The Link's Swindon Town FC writer looks at the season ahead for STFC
With no league football having taken place since March 7 it comes as a relief for all fans that Swindon will start their 2020/21 season on 12 September. As well as the return to football Swindon will also return to playing League 1 football following an absence of 3 seasons away from the third tier.
Swindon will go into their new season in a completely different world to the one they left on March 7. The new world has already seen the Robins being confirmed as rightful league two champions via points per game following the suspension of last season. Unlike their 2012 league winning season in which 15,000 fans watched Paul Caddis lift the league two trophy, this season only the photographer was in attendance to watch him lift his second league 2 title.
The 2020/21 season will be different for so many reasons. Firstly, just like all teams, Swindon will find themselves starting a new season without a single fan in attendance. This will be the first time that league one has ever played without fans and it will most likely become the new normal. It now seems unlikely supporters will be fully entering stadiums until at least 2021.
Secondly, all 24 teams will find themselves at different levels of fitness coming into the new season. With all teams having not played competitively since early March, match fitness will come down to how good of a pre season a player has had and how much work they've put in during lockdown. Therefore I predict in the opening weeks matches will become more open towards the end and some surprise results with some being more fit than others.
Thirdly, the 2020/21 league 1 season will see some big clubs play with Swindon being one of eight teams in the division who used to play in the Premier League. This undoubtedly means a better league which means better competition and games.
Also making returns to the County Ground are two of Swindon's best players from last season. The midfield tank that is Anthony Grant and the magical Diallang Jaiyesemi. Following on from being named the club's player of the season in 2020 Anthony Grant signed a new contract keeping him at the club until June 2021. Grant will give Swindon that much needed steel in midfield to compete in league one. The 33 year old offers Swindon a relentless work rate and skilful tackling. Therefore it was key that Swindon could keep one of their best players for the upcoming season.
After a stellar 2019/20 season Jaiyesemi was released by his parent club Norwich City after being on loan at Swindon last season. Following on from his release Swindon immediately snapped up the 22 year old winger on a 3 year deal. This is not only a great deal on the pitch but a great deal financially. It means that in the future STFC can sell him for a big fee. He possesses a good pace, good skills and he's good in front of goal after netting 5 times in just 21 appearances last season. It's possible that if he stays injury free then he could be one of the best players in league 1 next season.
After last season's success no one really knows what to expect. Especially in the current climate. Personally I expect Swindon to finish comfortably in mid table next season however it would not be surprising to see Swindon challenge for the play offs. Time will tell.