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One of a trio of Tottenham players signed on loan after a transfer embargo was lifted on the Town just minutes before the transfer deadline closed at the end of March 2013, Byrne was brought in to strengthen a Town side depleted by the departure of numerous players following a takeover earlier in the year.
After making his debut as a second half substitute in a 1-1 draw against Oldham on Good Friday, Byrne took the place of the injured Nathan Thompson on the right side of defence on Easter Monday, a 1-0 defeat at fellow promotion hopefuls Doncaster. The following two games saw Swindon fade from the race for automatic promotion, with defeats at Milton Keynes and Sheffield United, before a place in the play-offs was secured with back-to-back home wins against Crewe and Stevenage - Byrne and fellow loanee Massimo Luongo soon revealing their relief, having thought they had cursed the club since joining.
Though it was reported that the Town had agreed a deal in principle to bring Byrne to the County Ground on a permanent basis over the summer, news on this front went quiet - the diminutive defender, by now switched to the left side of the defence, taking his place in the team for both legs of the play-offs. Though the Town went two goals behind in the second leg at Brentford, they managed to pull it back with a last gasp equaliser to take the game into extra time - but with the Town on top of the game for the first time, Byrne was harshly sent off for handling the ball when he believed he had been tripped, resulting in a backs-to-the-wall performance for the final twenty minutes, and though they survived through to the penalty shoot-out, the Bees went through to Wembley, winning 5-4.
The previously agreed deal seemed dead when Byrne signed a new two year contract at Tottenham - the following week however, the permanent switch to the County Ground took place for an undisclosed fee, believed to be in six figures. Though Byrne stated that he thought the situation and the decision at White Hart Lane was harsh on him, he was also happy to be back.
Suspended for the season’s opener, Byrne returned at left back for the Capital One Cup victory over Torquay - and soon, he proclaimed the Town’s young squad as one of the most close knit groups he had ever been part of. By the end of the month, in one of many switches he would make during the season, he was moved to the opposite flank as an attacking right-sided midfielder in a 4-5-1 formation - and he netted his first goal for the club within eleven minutes of making the switch, tapping home a cross from Nathan Thompson after making space for him with a run into the centre.
In early September, Byrne was harshly sent off with the Town a goal up in a televised clash at Milton Keynes Dons - having run almost sixty yards with the ball at his feet, he lost the ball to defender Shaun Williams - and in his eagerness to retrieve it, he trod on Williams as the ball was cleared. Though the Sky co-commentator suggested that he deserved to see red, both Town boss Mark Cooper and his MK counterpart Karl Robinson agreed that the foul was not intentional - Cooper stated that it was “mistimed, misjudged, tired and a genuine attempt to play the ball.” The club’s appeal against the decision was unsuccessful, and Byrne was forced to sit out three games for serious foul play - missing crucial games against Wolves, Bristol City, and the pick of the bunch - a home Carling Cup tie against Premier League giants Chelsea.
When Cooper switched to 3-5-2 in mid-October, Byrne’s versatility was again utilised - and he moved back over to the left side, this time in a wing-back role. It was from here that he grabbed his second goal - a crucial fourth in a 5-2 win over Port Vale, with the Valiants having battled from three goals down to bring the game back to 3-2. The following month, another formation change brought yet another new role - this time, in an unusual 4-6-0 line-up at Colchester, the diminutive Byrne was used in an orthodox right back position.
When the Town boss continued with this set-up for the following game at Crawley, Byrne again did not see the game through - with four minutes remaining, referee Andy D’Urso showed him a second yellow card, despite television pictures clearly showing that he had cleanly won the ball. Cooper again was incredulous at the decision, and he bemoaned the fact that he was unable to appeal as it was a yellow card offence.
Though Byrne returned to the starting eleven as soon as his suspension was completed, he was dropped to the bench in the New Year as Cooper experimented with central defender Grant Hall at left back - and it was February before Byrne won his place back - which he cemented with the winning goal in a 3-2 victory at Port Vale, his strike completing a comeback having been two goals down at half time. At the end of the month, he added to his total further with another goal in a draw against his former loan club Crawley - his run in the side until the end of the season interrupted by a grade one hamstring tear that forced him out of a home defeat to Wolves in mid-March. Despite the fact that the Town missed out on the play-offs, Byrne declared that the squad was “happy and proud” with their performances over the campaign, but though their eighth place finish was above pre-season expectation, there was some slight disappointment that they hadn’t made it into the top six.
The following season, having spent the majority of pre-season on the left side of midfield, a last minute formation change to a 3-5-2 saw Byrne line up as a right-sided wing-back - and after creating goals in the opening two games, he declared his intention to become the team’s principal creative force. In a settled role, Byrne was one of the stand out performers in a young side playing some wonderful football - no better demonstrated than in the goal he netted in a 2-1 win at Leyton Orient in early October, when he applied the finish to a swift counter-attack, which took just ten seconds from leaving Town keeper Wes Foderingham’s hands to the back of the Orient net. That goal was Byrne’s second in successive games after netting the opener in a man-of-the-match performance in a 3-0 win at Barnsley, after which he revealed that his parents had been teasing him via text message for his lack of goals. At the end of October, he netted his third of the season in another 3-0 win at Chesterfield - after which, boss Mark Cooper described him as the Town’s “most effective player of the season”, but also reminding him that he needed to work on the defensive side of his role.
After a knock kept him out of a 1-0 home win over Preston, Byrne returned for a disastrous trip to Cheltenham in the FA Cup - the following weekend, after a quiet first half in a top-of-the-table derby against Bristol City, Byrne was shifted into an attacking central midfield role in the second period, as Cooper tried to take advantage of the extra man following Wade Elliott’s early red card for the visitors. The move changed the game - and after Byrne had hit the crossbar with a thunderous effort from 25 yards, he later provided the pass from which Michael Smith danced through the City defence for the winning goal that took the Town into the top two promotion places.
With the Town battling at the top of the table, and Byrne one of the club’s top performers, many opposition managers resorted to double marking the wide man - a move which saw Byrne’s own form take a slight dip, but opened up opportunities in other areas of the pitch for the rest of the team. Byrne admitted that he had “scars all down both of his legs” from the close attention he was receiving - but other than one game missed through illness, and being rested in the run-in, Byrne was virtually ever-present - a key figure in a team that flirted with the top two, eventually finishing comfortably in the play-off places - and his performances were rewarded with selection in the PFA Team of the Year for League One.
Having not netted since October, Byrne saved his fourth and most important goal of the season for the play-off campaign - despite not having the best of games, he fired a shot at goal in the last minute of the first leg of the semi-final - his effort from outside the box bouncing over Sheffield United keeper Mark Howard and nestling in the bottom corner to give the Town a crucial 2-1 advantage to take back to the County Ground. In an incredible second leg, Swindon raced to a three goal lead in the first eighteen minutes - each of the goals coming from Byrne’s balls into the danger zone - despite this, the Town were forced to hold on for their place at Wembley, the game finishing in a 5-5 draw, Swindon going through 7-6 on aggregate. Though Byrne described the chance to play at the national stadium as “a dream come true”, the final was a step too far for the young Town side - thumped 4-0 by Preston and any thoughts of promotion lay in tatters.
With many of the Town’s stars expected to leave over the summer following the failure at Wembley, Byrne was linked with many clubs higher up the pyramid - West Bromwich Albion, Brentford, Cardiff City, Fulham, Huddersfield and Queens Park Rangers all reported as showing interest, but with a 50% sell-on due to previous club Tottenham, any transfer would depend on a significant fee. Though the squad was broken up, Byrne was one of the few who remained at the club for the 2015/16 campaign - and he was granted a change in squad number for the new season, after requesting the number 10 shirt to back up his role as the side’s most creative player.
Byrne demonstrated this attacking intent on the opening day of the season - starting on the right flank in a new 4-5-1 formation, he reverted back to his previous wing-back role after Bradford took a 1-0 half-time lead - and in a dazzling seventeen minute spell, Byrne netted the first hat-trick of his career, finishing it off with a superb solo effort, running through the Bantams’ defence before nutmegging the goalkeeper. When the game finished 4-1 in favour of the Town, Bradford boss Phil Parkinson described his performance as “as good as it gets at League One level” - and though Byrne stated that he was fully committed to Swindon and he intended to score more goals for the club, the performance increased speculation about his future further. As the transfer deadline approached, a bid from Huddersfield was rejected, with Town chairman Lee Power adamant that only a seven figure fee would prize Byrne away from the County Ground - and though Burnley were rumoured to have tabled a fee that met the required valuation, eventually it was Wolves who got their man for an undisclosed fee on a three year contract.
date of birth
right wing back
right-sided attacking midfield
left wing back
left-sided attacking midfield
left wing back
attacking centre midfield