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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, Australian under-20 international midfielder Luongo made his Town debut in a 1-1 draw with Oldham two days later. After Swindon lost the next three games, Luongo netted his first goal in a 4-1 win over Crewe - later admitting his relief at the victory, stating that he was beginning to wonder if his arrival had cursed the club’s promotion ambitions.
Once a top-six place had been confirmed, Luongo suffered mixed fortunes in the play-offs - after giving the Town the lead with a fine strike from the edge of the area in the first leg against Brentford with twenty minutes to go, he undid his good work with a rash challenge in the penalty area in injury time - Kevin O’Connor equalising for the Bees from the spot - and though the Town recovered from 3-1 down in the second leg to draw 3-3, they again suffered penalty heartache, as Brentford sealed their place at Wembley with a 5-4 win in the shootout.
Before the play-offs began, Luongo had hinted that any return to Swindon might depend on whether or not the Town were playing Championship football the following season - but despite the play-off failure, Luongo agreed a season long loan for the 2013/14 campaign early in July. Upon agreeing the deal, the Aussie stated that there was more to come from him - and with the mass departures from the club over the close season as the board reined in the overspending of the previous regime, Luongo was preparing to be one of the club’s senior players.
He quickly became a driving force in the Town’s midfield, and netted his first goal of the season against Stevenage in the first home league match, rounding off a fine team move - also winning the man of the match award in front of his parents, who were watching him in action for the first time in England, while visiting from Australia. Before the end of the month, he doubled his goal tally, but admitted that his strike against Crewe was a fluke.
With Luongo’s dynamic displays, it came as a surprise when a £400,000 permanent transfer was agreed with Tottenham before the window closed - the midfielder signing a three year deal with an option of a fourth, with a buyback and significant sell on clause. Manager Mark Cooper hailed the signing as a “fantastic statement by the board”, while Luongo admitted that his mind had been made up by Tottenham - after their many midfield signings in close season, he stated that he wanted “to make my mark and be settled somewhere rather than going out on loan all the time”, and that Swindon’s style was a perfect fit for him. After another fortunate goal in a 4-0 win at Rotherham, Luongo’s team-mates banned him from shaving - his “lucky beard” seen as a good omen as the Town won four games on the spin in October.
After netting two more goals in a 5-2 victory over Port Vale in November, later in the month Luongo found himself as the attacking central midfielder in a 4-6-0 formation at Colchester, as boss Cooper experimented with a new approach. Although Luongo originally credited the formation with helping to educate the Town’s young side, when he scored what proved to be his last goal of the season in a 3-1 win over Carlisle, he stated that the Town had “got their identity back” in moving back to a more orthodox line-up - while Cooper suggested that he was already anticipating interest from bigger clubs in the upcoming transfer window.
After the window closed, February proved to be a mixed month for Luongo - after missing from the spot in a penalty shootout defeat to Peterborough in the Area Final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, and thus missing out on a trip to Wembley, at the end of the month he was called up to the Australia squad for a friendly game against Ecuador - Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou calling him a “young player with promise”, and wanting to “see how he fits into our culture”, ahead of the the World Cup in Brazil. Luongo made his international debut as a late substitute - having been 3-0 up at half-time, he joined the fray with his side down to ten men, and Ecuador back in the game at 3-3 - the South Americans snatching an injury-time winner.
Upon his return, Luongo was rested for game at Crawley, and he admitted that he was not as energetic as earlier in the campaign - stating that “at the beginning of the season, if I got the ball I could run 90 yards if no-one was in front of me, now I’d probably look for a pass”. The decision to rest him appeared to be justified after a man-of-the-match performance at Crewe - Swindon going on to finish the season strongly, but a mid-season blip meaning they finished just outside of the playoff places. With Nathan Thompson suspended, Luongo was named as captain for the final game of season - declaring it as a “privilege”, and that he was pleased with the Town’s final position.
Soon after the season ended, Luongo was named in Australia’s preliminary 30 man squad for the World Cup - and he described the training camp as “most intense” experience of his career to date. Though didn’t play in a friendly with South Africa, he remained in the group as it was whittled down to 27 men that travelled to Brazil, where he played in another unofficial friendly against Clube Varana. Days later, he was named in the final squad for the tournament, becoming the first Town player to be named in a World Cup squad since Jan Fjørtoft 20 years previously, and only the third Town player ever to do so. Luongo admitted that he was “shocked” by his selection, boss Postecoglou said that he “did well, trained hard”, and that “the experience will take him to another level in years to come”. Despite this, he remained on the bench throughout the whole tournament, as Australia were eliminated at the first hurdle following defeats to Chile, the Netherlands and Spain.
When he returned, chairman Lee Power admitted that Luongo had attracted interest from several clubs, but stated that it would take a “ridiculous” offer to see him leave the County Ground. Soon after, the Town rejected a £600,000 bid from Rotherham, and while confirming that the bid fell well short of the Town’s valuation, boss Cooper stated that he was under no pressure to sell his star midfielder.
Though he was granted only just over two weeks of rest before being thrust back into pre-season training, Luongo scored within three minutes of the new campaign in a 3-1 win over Scunthorpe, and it was immediately obvious how much he had benefitted from his international experience - a driving force in the Town’s midfield, and at the heart of some superb passing football being played by the side as they unexpectedly propelled themselves up the league table.
September brought more international recognition - a match against Chesterfield having to be postponed due to call ups for Luongo, fellow Aussie loanee Brad Smith, and Iraqi Yaser Kasim - Luongo coming on as a second half sub against Belgium, before a good performance in a 3-2 win over Saudi Arabia sharpened the focus on him further. After being linked with a move to Brentford in a national newspaper, Luongo stated that though he was “just thinking about playing for Swindon”, he may consider his options if there was potential for a move in January, while manager Mark Cooper talked him up further, stating that he thought the midfielder could make it in the Premier League.
After linking up with Nathan Byrne twice to create goals in a 2-1 win at Leyton Orient in October (a victory that moved the Town into the automatic promotion places), the Swindon Advertiser described his link up play with Byrne as “near telepathic” - the following week, a top-of-the-table clash with Preston had to be postponed, as Luongo was called up for Australia’s matches with the UAE and Qatar. The rearrangement of the games meant that Swindon slipped out of the promotion picture for a period - but after Luongo played through the pain barrier in the rearranged match against Preston, the 1-0 win keeping the Town in touch with the top two, he was named in the Australia squad again for the friendly with Japan - the final game ahead of the AFC Asian Cup tournament - meaning that, along with Yaser Kasim, both of the Town’s talismanic midfielders would be missing for the crucial top-of-the-table derby against Bristol City. While the two were away, Swindon pulled off a superb victory against 10 man City, while Luongo furthered his international credentials with an industrious display in a 2-1 defeat.
When he returned, Luongo was grateful for the rest as he started from the bench in a 2-1 win at Peterborough - and was the outstanding player at Notts County in mid-December, netting a goal as the Town cantered to a 3-0 win. He scored again in a 4-1 victory at Walsall on Boxing Day, before his call-up to the Asian Cup squad was confirmed - meaning that he would miss the whole of January for the Town.
Any hope the Town fans had that Luongo would go under the radar at the tournament were quickly dispelled - selected in the starting eleven for the opening game of the tournament, Luongo was named man-of-the-match after scoring one and creating another in a 4-1 victory over Kuwait. As the Socceroos progressed through the the rounds, Luongo was again linked with Brentford and Wolves, with Spanish side Sevilla and clubs from the German Bundesliga also rumoured to be interested, and Swindon rejected a £2m bid from an unnamed Turkish club, believed to be Besiktas - though his agent stated that it would be “fine by him” if he remained at Swindon until the end of the season, as he was “happy” there. Luongo admitted his surprise at the standard of his performances - but things were only going to get better from him - after scoring the opening goal in the Asian Cup Final against South Korea, his Australia side went on to win the tournament in front of their own fans (making Luongo the first Swindon player to lift a major international trophy), and incredibly, Luongo was named as the player of the tournament, picking up the Most Valuable Player award. Immediately after the tournament, Luongo was repeatedly questioned about his future, but he committed himself to the Town saying that his short term goal was to get Swindon promoted. Meanwhile, back home, as the transfer window was closing, Swindon rejected an offer from Cardiff for his services, but Luongo himself rejected a “life-changing” move to Qatar after a £3.5m offer was accepted - wanting his next club to be one where he could continue his development. Though his mentor and former agent David Magrone advised that he should stay at Swindon at least until the end of the season, Luongo soon admitted that he was leaning towards a move away from the County Ground, but if nothing came of it, then he would be happy to stay at the club, describing it as a “worst case scenario… and that’s not a bad worst case scenario, especially if I continue to be involved in the national team”.
Soon after his return, he netted in a 2-1 defeat at Oldham, before a groin injury picked up in training kept him out against Crawley - but the Australian media again went into a frenzy when he scored both goals in a 2-1 win over Bradford - in truth though, Luongo looked jaded after his return, and Swindon faded from the automatic promotion places. With the constant transfer speculation, some fans harshly questioned his commitment to the Town cause, prompting a fierce response from manager Mark Cooper, who put his blip in form down to tiredness, stating that he was desperate for the Town to win promotion. He was called up yet again in mid-March for friendlies against Germany and Macedonia - but after a groin injury forced him off at Port Vale, and a hamstring injury kept him out against Doncaster, he missed the Germany match - but Luongo was again quizzed by the Australian media about his future, reiterating his desire to help Swindon into the Championship.
After back-to-back defeats over Easter against fellow promotion candidates MK Dons and Bristol City put paid to any realistic hopes of automatic promotion, Cooper rotated his squad during the run in, giving Luongo a much needed rest as the Town prepared for the play-offs. Ahead of the close season campaign, Luongo admitted that he had been distracted by the speculation surrounding his future, and the criticism he had received from some sections of the Town support - also stating that the Town hadn’t been “that convincing” as a team, but that he thought he could be a “driving force” for the semi-final match against Sheffield United, as he would be coming into the game fresh.
In the meantime, Luongo was named in joint third place in the Swindon Advertiser Player of the Year award, as the rumour mill went into overdrive - advanced talks with Aston Villa were mentioned; Crystal Palace, West Bromwich Albion and QPR were all linked - but mentor Magrone also stated that he would consider remaining at the Town, if Swindon were promoted. The Town battled through the semi-final, winning 2-1 at Bramall Lane, before a crazy 5-5 draw in the home leg took them through on aggregate - but although Luongo stated that he thought his big-game experience from the Asian Cup would help him at Wembley, Swindon capitulated in the first half, going down 4-0 to Preston in the final - the Adver’s match review describing him as “absent for much of the game”.
Straight after the game, Luongo was again called up for Australia for their World Cup qualifier against Kyrgyzstan - but he would no longer be a Town player by the time the game was played. Aston Villa were soon reported to have tabled a joint £3.5m bid for both Luongo and Ben Gladwin - and though Luongo stated that he wanted a rest and to put the speculation out of his mind, just days later, an undisclosed double bid from Queens Park Rangers for the same players was completed. With his mentor Magrone, and former Tottenham coaches Chris Ramsey and Les Ferdinand at Loftus Road, Luongo described the move as an “easy choice”, and that he didn’t hesitate to join as their interest in him seemed to be the strongest - Town chairman Lee Power stating that the Town perhaps didn't receive as much for Luongo in the end as had been anticipated, with speculation rife that the double deal was a ruse to avoid as much as possible of the 40% of profit sell-on fee that was due to Tottenham.
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