Simon Hart: Peckham's Lee Power is driving Swindon upwards – with a little help from his friends in high places

Life beyond the Premier League

Modern English football offers a fair few examples of club owners new to the game – and indeed to this country – who end up losing their way in "the jungle", as Lee Power calls it. Power, by contrast, could hardly be accused of not knowing the terrain. The chairman and owner of League One side Swindon Town is a man who once cleaned Andy Townsend's boots as a Norwich City apprentice, before embarking on a career that took in nine different Football League clubs, another couple in Scotland and Under-21 caps with the Republic of Ireland. "I have been fortunate enough – or unfortunate enough – to play in every league in England and the top two in Scotland," he tells The Independent. And he has already used his contacts to create one of the Football League's more interesting recruitment models.

As a former house-mate of Tim Sherwood during their Norwich days – "he was best man at my wedding" – Power, 41, has established a now well-trodden trail from White Hart Lane to the County Ground, with Swindon's squad featuring three players loaned from Tottenham – Grant Hall, Ryan Mason and Alex Pritchard – and another three signed permanently in Australian international Massimo Luongo, Jack Barthram and Nathan Byrne.

"All the alarm bells went ringing around football that all of a sudden we'd become a feeder club but that wasn't the case. Tim is a friend of mine," says Power. As if to prove the point, he is now discussing a similar arrangement with another, unnamed top-flight club. "I have been in talks with a chairman of a Premier League team for the last two months," he explains.

Power, with his Peckham roots and Del Boy accent, is by his own admission a ducker and diver, but he is adamant Swindon would "never" become a feeder club. "We'll always have our own identity. What we will do is borrow and steal what we can off the big boys, but it won't necessarily be one club. We average over 8,000 people every week and want to stand on our own two feet.

"Using the loan market is the only way forward because [the club] just can't afford the wages out there. They have been down that route with [former owner] Andrew Black when he funded it to the tune of £11m–£12m in a three-year period. He didn't leave any debt but we still inherited contracts that were phenomenal. There were people on nearly £14,000 a week, which was ridiculous – obviously, that was the manager. It just doesn't work."

Power became involved last year as part of a consortium led by Jed McCrory, which took over from Black, who had funded Swindon's rise out of League Two under Paolo Di Canio. Power's initial £1.2m investment – a sum now standing at £2m – helped lift a transfer embargo and in December the erstwhile director of football took outright control.

His path from pitch to boardroom began with a spell as an agent which gave him "an understanding of the money side". He had a brief involvement at board level at Luton Town and Rushden & Diamonds, and in between an 18-month stint as Cambridge United chairman. "That was nice for me to cut my teeth at Conference level."

Power's experience of setting up Cre8 Publishing, producing match programmes, helped him "know a lot of the commercial people in football" but also led to negative headlines after the company was liquidated. "They said I left owing football clubs millions of pounds but I had already sold the company," he counters, pointing to the fact one of the reported creditors was Tottenham. "I am sure they wouldn't be loaning me players if I owed them the [sums] mentioned."

The Geneva-based Power, who co-owns the weekly Racing Plus newspaper, has ruffled a few feathers in Wiltshire. A frosty relationship with the Swindon Advertiser worsened when, before Swindon faced Peterborough in January, its reporter tweeted news of Nile Ranger's involvement before the line-ups were named. "Peterborough changed their team," he says.

Yet he promises he is in it for the long haul and, under manager Mark Cooper, Swindon lie ninth in League One. "Everyone thought we'd be relegated but we've been sat outside the play-offs all year. With the budget in place and contacts I've got, I want a team that is going to be competitive. There is another £5m worth of revenue if we get to the Championship and it makes a huge difference. That is what we are striving for, but we are not going to put the club at risk at the same time."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test