By Chris Dunlavy
Phil Brown insists Swindon can still snatch an automatic promotion spot – despite lying nine points adrift with just nine games to play.
Brown, 58, took charge at the County Ground on March 12th following David Flitcroft’s defection to rivals Mansfield.
Three defeats in four had dropped the stuttering Robins out of the League Two play-off positions, and the former Hull boss inherited a side battered 3-0 by Cheltenham in their last home game.
But, with just two of the current top eight to play, Brown – who won promotion from the division with Southend United in 2015 – is optimistic.
“Over the last 20 years, we know how many points have got a team into the play-offs,” said Brown, who was sacked by Southend in January after five years at Roots Hall.
“We know how many points have got automatic. And we know we’re in touch with both. If we can hit the ground running, it’s all up for grabs.
“It’s a very unusual situation. We’ve all been to do our badges. We’ve all been to seminars. We’ve all seen the courses they put on for young managers and coaches.
“But not once have I heard someone say ‘Right, this is the scenario. You’re ninth in the table, you’ve got ten games to win promotion and you need so many points. How do you go about it?’.
“What we’re doing now is literally that.
“We’re not thinking about the future. We’re not making plans for the summer. We’re just thinking about this mini-season and doing whatever it takes to get the points we need.”
Given the length of his contract, anything else would be senseless. With a legal battle brewing over his exit from Southend, Brown has signed only until May.
“It’s a short-term deal and that suits both parties,” says Brown. “The chairman, Lee Power, said to me ‘You’ve got ten games. If we get promoted, who knows? If we don’t get promoted, who knows?’.
“That suits me fine. Whatever happens, I’d rather be working on the training ground than sitting at home in the garden.
“Once you’ve been a manager, nothing else comes close. You want to be in that dugout. Even when I was an assistant, flying under the radar with Sam Allardyce, I just didn’t feel fulfilled. It’s job satisfaction – seeing that return on what you do.
“I was 38 when I started under Sam and, by the time I was 45, I needed something more. Now, it’s like a drug. I can’t get rid of it.
“My first day was the perfect hit. Myself and (assistant) Brian Horton were in at 8am for a staff meeting. At 9.30 we were on the training ground with a new group of players. At 1 o’clock we were watching the Under-23s play Bournemouth.
“Then, we drove down to watch Exeter v Yeovil. For me that’s almost the perfect day. And I only say almost because we hit 20 miles of tailbacks!”
Back in Wiltshire, meanwhile, Brown is convinced his new club have the personnel to battle through the traffic at the summit of League Two.
“We’ve got the players,” he states. “Chris Hussey was somebody we tried to sign from Sheffield United at the start of the season.
“Marc Richards is a very decent goalscorer at this level, and it’s great to get a chance to work with him at 35-36 years old.
“Matty Taylor, we’ve all seen his qualities over the years. Ben Purkiss is now the chairman of the PFA.
“We’ve got a few senior statesmen in there and that’s critical at this stage in a season.
“Oddly enough, they’ve beaten most of the top teams and struggled against the others. When you look at our run-in, probably eight out of the ten are against teams below us. So, we’ve maybe just got to tweak the mentality a little bit. But there won’t be massive changes.”