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MacDonald brings the calm after the storm
THE carnival has passed through, the calm has begun.
If ever proof was needed of how different life will now be at Swindon Town, you only had to be at the County Ground yesterday lunchtime as Kevin MacDonald was officially introduced to the media.
A battle-weary local core of journalists, and one or two from further afield, ventured to hear the new Robins manager speak, and speak well. But this was not the flavour of the day amongst our national friends. Why should it have been?
MacDonald spoke slowly and eloquently. He wriggled free of tricky situations with a verbal athleticism that bodes well for the future. He was considered in his answers and possessed a softly-spoken aura so different to the serrated, abrasive tones of his predecessor.
The closest the 52-year-old got to analogy was a description of his disaffection with Twitter. It was remarkably placid; perhaps refreshingly so.
Rewind 22 months and the contrast is extraordinary. Paolo Di Canio arrived at Swindon Town to a lightning storm of flash photography; cameras peered their necks to get a glimpse of the Italian signing his contract; a veritable army of journalists packed the Sponsors’ Suite from front to back. The crowd of reporters was eight or 10 deep back then - yesterday you could scuttle in with 90 seconds to spare and manouevre into the front row.
Di Canio’s entry was fire and brimstone. MacDonald’s was ice chips and lukewarm copper.
Di Canio announced himself as a caged lion. “This is my destiny,” he said conjuring up the spirit of his inner gladiator; dealing almost solely in hyperbole. MacDonald was pleasant and polite and in no way attempted to emulate Braveheart.
In pure entertainment terms, by comparison to Di Canio MacDonald was dull. He was quiet and insisted that the press should expect nothing more from him. “I am quite a thoughtful person and I tend not to say too much, and when I do it’s because I have thought that through,” he said. “Some people say that’s wrong and that you should speak off the top of your head, but that’s not the way I am.”
Swindon fans should breath several deep sighs of relief. In a world where entertainment has quickly dissolved into domestic abuse, the last thing Swindon Town needed right now was a loose cannon, a rent-a-quote for us hacks who circle like vultures. MacDonald is not a “safe” option, being relatively untried in management, but he is certainly secure.
Di Canio was the sparkle and glamour, the sequin-lacquered signing that turned heads - and his introductory press conference matched his reputation in its celebrity and enormity. Now it’s quite obvious that celebrity has been overtaken by serenity. MacDonald was not about to cause controversy in his first outing, quite frankly he is unlikely to cause controversy at all.
Compare that if you will to Di Canio, who introduced himself with the words: “In life, I always wanted confrontation. To have a challenge. I'm not worried about strong characters.”
For MacDonald a big statement was not needed. He knows in two months’ time he will either have endeared himself to the fans or been quickly dismissed as unfit to lace Di Canio’s leather shoes. He expressed that with confidence and clarity.
“I have known it from afar and the club has been up and down in the last few years, but it is the perfect fit for myself,” he said. “The main aim is to win each game which comes along, and hopefully that will give us enough points to get into the Championship next season.”
And within 20 minutes the Scot was on the team bus to Coventry, the half-dozen cameramen had pulled down their tripods and everyone tootled on home. The calm has begun.
MACDONALD ON: How he arrived at Swindon
It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Earlier this week Jed spoke to my agent, and I came down to speak to him and we got on like a house on fire.
I spoke to Jed on Thursday, but he had spoken to my agent on Wednesday. It came out of the blue myself, but I have looked at one or two other jobs. Jed agreed to see me, we had a chat and he was happy to offer me the job which I was happy to accept.
The big thing is the club is in a good position, they have just been taken over by new people, and when Jed spoke to me he was enthusiastic about football as I am about football.
Maybe Jed more so as a fan, but that doesn’t mean my opinion is any better because I have worked in football a lot longer.
I was impressed with his enthusiasm, and I am convinced we can push on and be successful.
MACDONALD ON: Swindon's past
They are in a good position and traditionally had some good young players come through too, and I have worked a lot on that side, but it was the way Jed portrayed the club to me.
I have known it from afar and the club has been up and down in the last few years, but it is the perfect fit for myself.
The main aim is to win each game which comes along, and hopefully that will give us enough points to get into the Championship next season.
There would be no point in Jed coming to the club if it didn’t go that far forward, because it wouldn’t be viable for him either.
They have been very successful and done very well under Paolo Di Canio, but there are a lot of other good teams in this league and they need another push forward.
The club itself has done fantastically well over the last few years, although it has been up and down, and now we just need to make sure it keeps going forward.
MACDONALD ON: Why he joined Town
Part of it is because of the way Jed sold the club to me, but part of it is also having been reasonably successful as a coach I need to see if I can be successful as a manager.
The way it was portrayed to me is that this is going to be a coaching club because they want to try and bring through young players too, and because traditionally they have had younger players come through.
For me that is good, and having worked with Elite Players in international football and in the Premier League I don’t have any worries about dealing with the senior players.
Initially the important thing is to try and get the victories for the first team, and if we do that and keep pushing on it’s easier to get better quality of players to the club, which in turn helps the younger players when they join in with training sessions.
MACDONALD ON: The state of the squad
We will have to wait and see, but there are obviously depleted numbers in the squad because there are a lot of youngsters knocking on the door.
If we get any more injuries we really will be down to the bare bones, so I will be looking at a lot of games to see if there are any players good enough to come in.
We haven’t really spoken about money, and if I see a player I would like I will speak to Jed and see if we can do something there.
At the moment that is it, and the most important thing is trying to get the team right for Coventry, and then after that we will try to get the team right for the next game and that’s the most important thing.
I’d like to (bring in players from Aston Villa) but Paul Lambert has a lot of young players in his squad, but I have a lot of contacts at other clubs too and I will be looking at a few games.
Even though the lads lost on Tuesday and drew the game before, but being in the position they have been all season and are now they deserve a chance to go out there and start winning games again.
MACDONALD ON: His footballing philosophy
I want to try and win as many games as possible, but that’s eveyone's philosophy.
I want to get the ball down and pass which has been a tradition of Swindon over the years, but it can’t be like that all the time because of the level of football we play at, because other teams will try and stop us.
If we can play the way I would like to try and play then we will win a lot more games than we lose, and hopefully the players will buy into that.
I’m not in a position to speak about Paolo Di Canio, but he was successful here and was a very good player. He is a different character to myself, and I personally like to do what I think I am good at and try to get on with the job.
MACDONALD ON: His backroom staff
I am quite a thoughtful person and I tend not to say too much, and when I do it’s because I have thought that through. Some people say that’s wrong and that you should speak off the top of your head, but that’s not the way I am.
I am a bit of a neanderthal when it comes to modern communication and media websites, but it is nice to hear positive things (about his appointment). That can change very quickly, but it is nice that people are pleased with what Jed has done.
I was getting fed up at home, the missus wasn’t too happy with me, and the golf wasn’t getting any better, so it was right for me to come back.
I had a nice little holiday and played a lot of golf, but I wanted to get back in so otherwise I wouldn’t have come back this early.
I have only just met them (Fraser Digby and Michael Peacock) today and we got on very well, but we will sit down and talk.
Mark is Terry Cooper’s son, the ex-England international, and has played in teams like Birmingham and managed at the lower levels which will be a great, and I think he will be a great ally for me.