By Tony Leighton
Kevin MacDonald took over as Swindon Town manager last week with a nod of thanks to his immediate predecessors Darren Ward and Tommy Miller.
But central defender Ward and midfielder Miller, who had jointly player-managed the npower League 1 team during the fortnight between the departure of previous boss Paolo Di Canio and the arrival of MacDonald, seem to be just as thankful to have handed the reins over to the new man in charge.
"It was a great experience," said Ward of his first taste of management, "but it was quite tough. It wasn't just a case of looking after the players because there was a new board, new staff, a new chairman and a lot of changes - and Tommy and me were doing that while we were still playing.
"Before the new manager came in we weren't too sure what we were going to do, to be honest. We were thinking, 'where do we go from here?'
"But the club obviously thought highly enough of us to give us the opportunity and we were very appreciative to be given the chance.
"Now we're really looking forward to working with the new manager. It's been good since he got here. He's been very clear about what he wants, he's been calming for the players and we can see he knows his stuff."
MacDonald also saw that Ward and Miller know their stuff when they played key roles in his first match in charge, Ward especially as it was his last-minute goal that earned a 2-1 win at at Coventry City to keep Swindon in third place.
"That result," said MacDonald, "was more about how Darren and Tommy had looked after the team for two weeks or so than about my input in the 24 hours I'd been at the club. They'd obviously worked very hard with the players."
Former Leicester City and Liverpool midfielder MacDonald, who is taking on his first permanent managerial appointment after caretaker stints at Leicester City and Aston Villa, will now work very hard with Ward, Miller and the rest of his playing squad as the Robins look to achieve a second successive promotion.
They won League 2 under Di Canio and last term and now, three points below top of the table Doncaster Rovers but with a game in hand and 11 matches remaining, they could repeat the feat in the higher division.
But no one at the County Ground is getting ahead of themselves. "We'd love to go up automatically again," said Ward, "but it's important that we just get our heads down and concentrate on getting as many points as we can."
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