|view Onuora's match-by-match record
Despite spending £½ million on George Ndah, the period after the departure of targetman Wayne Allison in November 1997 was unsuccessful for the Town - as they plummeted from the top of the table down into a relegation battle. Manager Steve McMahon dipped into the transfer market again in March 1998, to sign Onuora from Gillingham for £120,000 - a player more like Allison than Ndah was. The effect was immediate - in an eventful debut at Queens Park Rangers, goalkeeper Fraser Digby was sent off early on, yet with defender Alan McDonald in goal, the Town registered a 2-1 win, with Onuora scoring the winner. It was only the third win that Swindon had registered in the 21 games since Allison had left, and Onuora's goal was only the seventh that the Town had scored in the previous three months. The victory effectively kept Swindon in Division One.
Just four games into his Town career, it looked like Onuora's season had been ended by a freak accident in a match against Charlton at the County Ground - Onuora fracturing his cheekbone after colliding with the referee. Nevertheless, he returned for the final two games, wearing a protective mask in defeats against Norwich and Sunderland.
The 1998/1999 season brought some of Onuora's best periods at Swindon. As his partnership with Ndah blossomed - Ndah's pace and power complimenting Onuora's aerial ability and strength - Iffy hit a purple patch in September, scoring seven goals in a period of six successive games in which he played - a spell interrupted by a groin strain that kept him out for two matches, and the resignation of McMahon, who was replaced with Jimmy Quinn.
Though Onuora scored another burst of goals in December, an ankle injury sidelined him for a short period - and on his return to action, January started something of a drought - a goal against Portsmouth in February proving to be his only strike in three months. Nevertheless, rumours around this period suggested that Scotland manager Craig Brown was considering Onuora for a call-up to the national squad - Brown was quoted as saying "we are watching him because he's a big, strong lad, and he is definitely in my thoughts" - but the rumours came to nothing - a suspension being served around the time Onuora was being scouted possibly didn't help his cause.
A winning goal at Crystal Palace in mid-April ended Onuora's lean spell (another result that ensured First Division football for the following season), and two more goals in the following two games brought his total for the season to twenty, comfortably the Town's leading goalscorer, seven ahead of his strike partner, Ndah.
With the club slipping into financial trouble, the Town struggled during the 1999/2000 season, and Onuora was no different. In an unsettled side, he was one of no fewer than ten players who filled a striking role throughout the campaign - and after a difficult opening to the season which saw him net just once in nine matches, Onuora was dropped to the bench toward the end of September. Though he started in one game at the beginning of October, he only regained his place towards the end of the month after Ndah had been sold to Wolves - and over the next few weeks, Onuora rediscovered something of his goalscoring form, netting three times over a period of seven matches.
The last of these goals - a last-minute diving header to rescue a 1-1 draw at Birmingham toward the end of November 1999 - proved to be Iffy's final goal in a Town shirt. As the club's financial difficulties became more apparent, Onuora originally agreed to join Cardiff City in a £110,000 deal in December, despite making it clear that he wanted to stay at the County Ground, and having rejected a move back to Gillingham. After agreeing both the fee and personal terms, Cardiff manager, and former Town star, Frank Burrows pulled out of the deal at the last minute, leaving chairman Cliff Puffett fuming - Onuora had even been left out of the Swindon team for the match at Manchester City to allow the deal to go through.
Just six days after the Cardiff deal fell through, Gillingham made another approach - and this time, Onuora agreed to return as part of a double deal that also took Ty Gooden to Priestfield for a combined fee of £200,000 - Onuora's portion of the fee later revealed to be £120,000. Within a month, the Town went into voluntary administration, and were reported to be losing £25,000 a week.
Iffy's career took him to six more clubs, before he hung up his boots whilst at Walsall, where he moved onto the coaching staff. After losing his job in a backroom reshuffle, he returned to the County Ground in October 2004 as a Youth Development Officer - working for Town manager Andy King, for whom he played whilst at Mansfield Town in the mid-nineties. Onuora was quick to confirm he would not be donning a Town shirt again, but he impressed in his new role, and come the end of the season, he was given more responsibility as part of a backroom trio including himself, Alan Reeves and Ian Woan. When Andy King was suffering with gout at the beginning of September 2005, it was Onuora who gave the post-match interviews, and with the Town in a slump, he came to prominence at an important time. By the end of the month, Swindon had lost five games on the trot, and King was relieved of his duties. Though there was some confusion as to his position at first, Onuora was originally appointed as caretaker manager to replace King - less than a week later, it was confirmed that the position was permanent at a fans' forum, and that no other applications were being considered.
Though Onuora could do little to stop the Town slumping to a club record of eight consecutive league defeats, gradually he managed to make the team more difficult to beat. The two misfiring forwards signed by King in the close season, Jamie Cureton and Tony Thorpe, were left out of the side - Cureton joining Colchester on loan, and Thorpe being put into the reserves before his eventual departure in December. The Town drew three games in October - two away to promotion chasing opposition, before recording his first win over Bristol City, the Town coming from one down to win 2-1 in a match like on Sky TV. When the Town were beaten at Gillingham in January, it was only their second defeat in fourteen league matches - though only three had been won, the run had put Swindon in with a chance of avoiding relegation.
Over the next month, things got even better for the Town. Cureton rediscovered his goalscoring touch and returned from Layer Road - and the Town won four and drew one of the next six, a 1-0 victory over Gillingham at the County Ground propelling the Town out of the bottom four, despite the recent loss of top scorer Rory Fallon, who was sold to Swansea for £300,000. In a tight division, though just one point clear of safety, the Town found themselves in sixteenth position, and for the first time in the season, in control of their own destiny. Unfortunately, this was as good as it got. In a game that smacked of complacency, Swindon twice went ahead against fellow relegation candidates Rotherham, before losing 3-2, then the following week, disaster struck when the Town were thumped 7-1 at Nottingham Forest. It took three more games before the Town recorded their next victory, by which time they had slumped back to 23rd position, and into desperate trouble.
Meanwhile, two of Onuora's signings, central midfielder Paul Smith and forward Lee Peacock - both players attributed with having a major part in the Town's revival - succumbed to injury, and though both players tried to play through the pain barrier for the Town's cause, the team essentially lost two of its major players for the most important part of the season. A must win game versus Hartlepool ended in a draw, then an even more crucial game against MK Dons ended in defeat - and with these results, relegation was staring the Town in the face. The results were even more disappointing because of the missed chances that came the Town's way - Jamie Cureton missing a penalty in the Hartlepool game, and Ricky Shakes missing a glorious one-on-one opportunity against MK Dons just minutes before they netted the winner.
Though Swindon won at Scunthorpe the following week, they were still requiring other results to go their way to stay up - a defeat at home to promotion chasing Brentford meant that the writing was on the wall. Needing victory at Bristol City to have any chance whatsoever, the Town did go one up, but were soon pegged back - the draw confirming the Town's relegation to the fourth level for only the second time in their history.
Despite this, Onuora retained the support of the vast majority of the Town fans - but ultimately too many missed chances in the closing stages were to cost the Town dear. When new investor Bill Power joined the club toward the end of the season, Onuora's future at the club looked bright - until, just a week after Power was quoted as saying that Onuora was the man for the job, the board effectively forced Onuora to reapply for his own position, with rumours rife that Dennis Wise was being lined up as the new Town boss. Though Onuora was offered a position with the youth set-up, he decided to leave - in the circumstances, doing so with the utmost dignity.
MANAGERIAL RECORD AT SWINDON:
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