SWINDON is gearing up for another season of highs and lows as supporters, residents and businesses get put through the ringer following the Robins.
The new season begins in earnest tomorrow as Scunthorpe United arrive in town, with fans flocking to the County Ground and traders expecting an upturn in business as a result.
It has been 14 weeks since Town finished last season with a 2-1 home defeat to Rotherham United, and businesses have felt the absence of fans who normally boost takings on matchdays in the town.
The Frying Fish, a fish and chip favourite for fans in Drove Road, is one of those outlets looking forward to welcoming back some familiar faces.
“They’re almost like friends,” said Robin Phillips, 51, the shop’s owner. “This is our sixth season and they come in every home game.
“You can set your watch by them. They will always be there waiting outside at 12pm.
“They’re in that routine of going to the chippy, pub and football, or the other way around.
“You really feel it when they’re not coming in during the off-season, especially at this time of year when all your other customers are on holiday too.
“You do have a rapport with them. They’re always optimistic, enthusiastic customers when they come in. There are hundreds of them, but you do build a relationship.
“They really do have that routine. There’s a bunch of them who come down from Cirencester every home game, who we get on well with.
“Then there’s also the benefit of a big away team coming down here with a lot of fans. Leeds was a big one this summer.
“They were queuing out the door, singing songs. It’s a special atmosphere with football fans.”
Robin is a Swindon Town fan himself. He said he would be happy if the club achieved a mid-table finish or higher.
He said there was an outside chance of the club making the play-offs, but he expected the loss of Nile Ranger and Alex Pritchard would be felt.
Pubs around the County Ground can also expect a roaring trade on home matchdays throughout the season, as fans pour in for a pre or post-match pint.
Magdalena Sawicka, manager at The Tap & Barrel in Manchester Road, said trade would go through the roof on Saturday as the fans return to their usual route from town to the ground.
“This is the best pub in Swindon on matchdays,” she claimed.
“We get a DJ in every time there is a home game and he plays music from noon to midnight. The atmosphere is incredible.
“It’s heaving in here all-day long, and I mean it. It’s a good crowd of people.
“Even with 200 people in here, we know every single one of them. We build a good relationship with them because it’s the same faces.
“For the last three years it has really taken off here. I have been here 10 years, but noticed the increase in interest from the fans in the last three years.”