SWINDON Town fans spoke of their pride in their heroes after a remarkable season ended in heartbreak last night.
Town missed out on a trip to Wembley for the League Two play-off final after losing on penalties to hosts Port Vale.
The shootout went to sudden death, with Ellis Iandolo missing Town’s eighth penalty to hand victory to the Valiants.
A nervy game went into extra time after James Wilson’s early goal cancelled out Town’s 2-1 first-leg advantage.
It means another season in English football’s bottom division for Town, who reached the play-offs against the odds and all pre-season expectations.
Proud Town supporters have praised the club for their “miracle” turnaround after their very existence was under threat just 12 months ago.
Chairman Clem Morfuni bought the club’s shares in July last year after a lengthy legal battle with former owner Lee Power.
At that point, Town didn’t have a manager, had been relegated to League Two with John Sheridan in charge and were under a transfer embargo. The club only had only six registered players when the pre-season friendlies began.
Vic Morgan – a Town fan for 50 years - says he was worried about whether the club would survive and that the transformation in the last year has been “extraordinary”.
He travelled five hours from his home in Exeter to support his team at Vale Park last night.
“It’s been extraordinary,” said Vic. “They were in the dumps this time last year and nobody knew if we were going to have a club.
“Since the takeover, the optimism has returned and the crowds have returned.
“Everybody’s looking forward to the future, not with trepidation but with a bit of optimism which for Swindon fans is quite a rare thing.
“The head coach Ben Garner deserves a lot of credit because he’s put together a team that is a team. Harry McKirdy stands out as an individual but even he does it as part of a team.
“The away performances have been the real highlights.”
Chris Foote tuned in from a bar in Manhattan to watch his team take on Port Vale.
“I was over the moon when one of the bars confirmed they would show the game,” he said.
“It's been a fantastic season this year. I renewed my season ticket just to experience the rebirth of the club but had no expectations about how well we’d do. Full credit to the club for everything achieved this season.”
Neil McLoughlin and daughter Emily watched the game at home last night – although Emily will have to catch up on the second half after school today.
Neil, who moved to Swindon five years ago, has had a season ticket for the last four seasons.
He said: “I am so pleased with the team this season.
“To be a game away from Wembley after the upheaval and disruption of the summer is nothing short of a miracle.
“Ben Garner has the team playing great football and I think it can only get better.
“They can be proud of themselves. It’s been a rollercoaster ride.”
Connor Mountford, who has supported Town his whole life, hopes Garner and the club will keep the “core group” of players.
He added: “To be in the play-offs considering where we were at the start of the season is practically a miracle.
“Other clubs in the league, who had embargos this year, ended up in a real struggle and we’re the only one to have success. It says a lot about the work that’s been done behind the scenes and the commitment of the staff and players.
“This has been a great season and everyone should be proud of how we’ve done.”