SPEAK to Lee Johnson and you will quickly discover he makes no secret of his admiration for last season’s surprise packages and today’s opponents – Swindon Town.
The total football instincts of the Wiltshire side, from front to back, were a joy to behold in 2014-15, with the Reds finding that out to their cost en route to two defeats to Mark Cooper’s side, losing 3-0 and 2-0, respectively, when they were well beaten on each occasion.
Swindon earned a rightful reputation as the most stylish side in the division, with Johnson – speaking at a fans’ forum earlier this year – choosing Nathan Byrne as the player he would take above all others from a rival League One side.
Byrne has since earned a big-money move to Wolverhampton Wanderers, with several other leading lights from last season also departing, including Ben Gladwin and Massimo Luongo.
But if the signs of early season are anything to go by, Swindon are not suffering dramatically in their absence.
Swindon sit in seventh place on 11 points, with Barnsley four points and seven places in arrears.
But while Johnson remains a fan of Swindon’s footballing credo and sees similarities between both youthful sides, equally he is intent on developing his own template to turn his Reds side into a divisional success story, in the same way Cooper’s side did last term.
Johnson said: “I think Swindon have always done well in their recruitment and they always play in the right way.
“It is a very secure job and the manager is not under that much pressure to get results, so he can give the players freedom to play a really expansive game and they are a good side with good players.
“They are not quite the Swindon of old and have lost some players.
“But they are very similar to us in so far as they have a lot of talented young players who need to formulate what they are about and get their communication right.
“But I want us to follow our template. Our philosophy will work. We want it to happen, but it won’t happen over one, two or three games. It will happen over 15 to 20 games.”
Michael Smith, who joined the Reds on transfer deadline day from Swindon, is ineligible for today’s encounter against his parent club.