Swindon make Wise appointment
Tuesday 23 May 2006
Perhaps that is understandable. Swindon have been relegated to League Two after a 20-year absence from English football's fourth flight, with crowds sliding to less than 7,000. Yet their chairman, the former jockey Willie Carson, seemed delighted, chirping as enthusiastically as he ever did on A Question of Sport. Perhaps he is just pleased that he will not have to stand on a box to address the new manager.
"It's hugely exciting for the club to get such a high-profile figure," Carson said. "We've already started one England manager on his way from Swindon in Glenn Hoddle, and I think we might be starting off another one. We're very lucky to get him."
Wise's presence will bring greater attention than a League Two side would usually attract, something that should help draw fans and increased revenue from advertising and sponsorship. It is four years since Swindon came out of administration, but, despite last week's news that the former QPR chairman Bill Power is to invest more than £1 million, money remains tight.
Certainly there was something incongruous about Wise yesterday, particularly with Gus Poyet alongside him, glowering solemnly like a Bond villain's henchman. It all felt like the pitch for an abandoned BBC sit-com: a cheeky Cockney Jack-the-lad-made-good and his Uruguayan sidekick move to the provinces and go into business with a squeaky-voiced racing pundit - all with hilarious consequences.
"It's certainly a long way down," Wise admitted when it was pointed out to him that all his previous experience has come in the top two divisions, "but we're not fussed about that. I've been told I can run the club my way to a certain level. A lot of clubs would not allow me to do that. I was 14 months at Millwall and took them to the FA Cup final [in 2004] and into Europe, so I didn't do too badly."
Dropping down to League Two will also allow him to continue his playing career, and both he and Poyet - now 39 - have been registered for next season. "We'll lace up our boots if need be, but hopefully the other lads will keep us out," Wise explained. "Hopefully the players who've just been relegated will feel they have something to prove."
The feeling around Swindon is that Wise has too. The word most often used by fans was "gamble", with many recalling with distaste the way Wise publicly blamed the forward Neil Harris after his own gaffe had allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to score in that 2004 FA Cup final. A certain sympathy lingers as well for Iffy Onuora, who was dismissed as manager last week.
Carson, though, is adamant that Wise's appointment is a gamble worth taking. "Iffy came in at a bad time, and I hope he walks into another job," he said, "but at the end of the day we got demoted. If I got beat on a horse I'd get the sack and they'd get another jockey. We had to change things and now we're going down a different route."
He also saw positives in Wise's insistence on a work ethic, which has led to him ordering players back from their summer break on 26 June, a week earlier than planned. "In football," Wise said, "there are two types of players - donkeys and racehorses. Gus is a racehorse because he's got the talent, but there's also a place for hard work, for donkeys like me."
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