|view McMahon's match-by-match record
When the board finally lost patience with John Gorman in November 1994, they decided to opt for a unproven young manager with international experience, in a bid to recreate the success the club had with the similar appointments of Macari, Ardiles and Hoddle. They chose Steve McMahon, an England international with many years of success at the highest level with Liverpool.
He joined the club as they were preparing for a Coca-Cola cup match with Derby. Caretaker manager Andy Rowland picked the team, and the Town progressed to the next round. McMahon took full control for the next game - a league match at Southend - and he picked himself in the starting line-up. The Town lost 2-0, and McMahon was sent off.
The fans had to wait for seven matches before McMahon led the club to their first league success - and it came with a surprise 2-1 win over top-of-the-table Middlesbrough. By now, it was obvious that McMahon liked players who had the same footballing philosophy as him - tough and hard-working. Though he was a fans' favourite, Fjørtoft didn't fit into that category.
As transfer deadline day approached, rumours were rife that Fjørtoft would be leaving the club - most sources quoting a fee of between £3m and £4m. When the day finally came, Fjørtoft was sold for £1.3m - McMahon saying that no other offers were on the table. As the Town fans questioned why he was sold at all, McMahon tried to appease them by announcing a new signing, a "promising" left back from Newcastle for £340,000. As it turned out, Jason Drysdale was one of the worst players seen at the club for a long time, and he was freed a few seasons later.
After Fjørtoft left, the goals dried up. The Town failed to score in six of the next eight matches, and were relegated to Division Two. McMahon was quoted as saying the relegation left him "feeling lower than a snake's belly" - the Town fans felt much lower than that.
The Town stormed back the following season, winning the Second Division championship in style. McMahon won three manager of the month awards, and, the manager of the year. The two top scorers that season were McMahon signings, Wayne Allison arriving from Bristol City, Steve Finney from Manchester City - and the only real problems the Town had were breaking down the opposition's stubborn defence, most sides playing for a draw. After two successive relegations, promotion was no less than the Town fans demanded.
The next two seasons followed similar patterns - a decent start, followed by a dreadful run-in. In 1996/1997, the Town held a respectable mid-table position right up until the middle of March, but then scored just two goals in their last ten games - getting thumped 7-0 at Bolton, 5-1 at Oldham and 4-0 at Ipswich in the process - ending up in 19th place.
The following season's demise was far more dramatic. A win at Portsmouth on 31st October 1997 took the Town to the top of the table, a position they held until the middle of November. They remained in a play-off position up until the middle of December, and then won just three of the remaining 24 matches, scoring just twelve goals. Again the Town slumped to huge defeats - 6-0 at Man City, 6-0 at Middlesbrough and 5-0 at Norwich.
The Town fans were by now calling for McMahon's head. After years of attractive football under the three previous managers, a return to the long ball style wasn't welcome, especially when results were not good. McMahon also seemed to only ever bring in either aging defenders (Ian Culverhouse, Mark Seagraves, Gary Elkins, David Kerslake, Alan McDonald, Brian Borrows, Gareth Hall, Alan Reeves, Phil King) or midfielders willing to stick the boot in (Scott Leitch, Lee Collins, Darren Bullock, Peter Holcroft) - and plenty of other players just disappeared off the scene or were sold (Fjørtoft, Digby, Kilcline, Beauchamp, Fenwick, Taylor, Thorne, Watson, Smith, Holcroft, King, Culverhouse....), too many alleging disagreements with the manager.
When the 1998/1999 season kicked off with no wins and just three goals (two of which were own goals!) in the first five games, the calls for McMahon's head grew louder. It seemed useless though, as chairman Rikki Hunt and McMahon seemed united - McMahon saying he wouldn't resign, Hunt saying he wouldn't sack him. Two consecutive derby wins, against Bristol City and Oxford, only strengthened their position. This was followed by a 5-2 defeat at Portsmouth - and when Watford then won 4-1 at the County Ground, the fans decided enough was enough. They held an on-pitch protest, sitting in the centre circle at the end of the match, demonstrating that both McMahon and Hunt should resign. McMahon left the club "by mutual consent", leaving fans to speculate that he had been paid up for the remainder of his contract.
MANAGERIAL RECORD AT SWINDON:
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