OUT OF DARKNESS
Swindon Town’s new boss Martin Ling on why he’s a better boss now
NEW Swindon Town boss Martin Ling says his sixmonth spell in “the darkness” can be turned to the Robins’ advantage.
Ling, 49, was diagnosed with depression in early 2013 and spent time in the Priory before making a recovery. However, he was dismissed by Torquay whilst on sick leave and subsequently spent more than two years out of the game. Now Robins chairman Lee Power has offered a route back at the club where Ling enjoyed legendary status as a player – and the former Leyton Orient boss says he won’t regret it. “I’m a better manager now than I was before,” insists Ling, who replaces Mark Cooper at the County Ground.“A lot of football is played between the ears. And when you’ve been into the darkness, it forces you to re-evaluate the brain as a tool.
“Now I’ve learned to cope with depression, I think I understand what goes on between the ears a lot better than I did before .When you’re dealing with a group of men in high pressure jobs, that can only be a help.”
Did Power need reassuring the depression was gone? “Of course,” he adds. “He asked straight questions, I spoke to him openly and honestly about my illness. It’s out there in the public domain so I wasn’t going in there trying to hide anything.
“He didn’t let that cloud his judgement and I’m really pleased he didn’t. An awful lot of people have suffered from depression and gone back to work. Why should I be different?”
Part of the famous Swindon side that won promotion to the Premier League under Glenn Hoddle in 1993, Ling says returning to the County Ground brought memories flooding back.
“Walking round the place was pretty surreal,” says Ling, who played 186 times for the Robins before leaving to join Orient in 1996.“Especially seeing pictures of myself celebrating on the walls.
“The dressing rooms haven’t moved; the shower room hasn’t changed. The only thing they seem to have done is put a few lockers in. It was a bit like going back in time.
“It was a massively good time under Glenn.We played a brand of football that was pretty rare, a 35-2 formation which he’d brought over from Monaco. We passed and moved, kept the ball down. It was all pretty revolutionary at the time.
“It was the most productive time in my career and definitely better than my first spell at Swindon under Lou Macari. Thankfully, people tend to forget that one!”
Beaten play-off finalists last year, the Robins have won just three matches all season and sat 23rd heading into the weekend.
Concern has also been raised over the club’s transfer structure. Link-ups with Spurs and Liverpool have seen the club flooded with young loanees and it was rumoured that Cooper had limited authority over both transfer policy and team selection – an accusation Ling refutes.
“Yes, Lee has a big say in the ins and outs,” he added. “But it’s an open forum and we all have a say. I won’t get players dropped on me that I know nothing about or don’t want.
“People say it’s a strange structure but I think it’s been blown out of proportion. No-one mentioned it last year because it was very successful.
“When the team were winning games, it was a great structure. Because they started to lose, people began to question it. Personally, I’m very comfortable dealing with it.”
And Ling is equally unconcerned about the potential for terrace jibes.
“Football fans can be cruel,” he added. “I know what may come my way. But it’ll be no different to what any other manager faces. Depression is part of who I am and I’ll take whatever comes.
“I can’t wait to get back – back to the mobile going mad, back the email going mad. It’s nice to be back in that mad, mad world.”
Chris Wood celebrates scoring for Leeds at Huddersfield – Page 21
FORMER GLORIES: Ling during his successful Swindon playing days PREPARED: Martin Ling is raring to go at Swindon after his break and, inset, he’s unveiled