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Originally signed as a midfield player in July 2011 after he agreed his release from Charlton, and despite interest from League One Walsall, McCormack signed a two year deal at Swindon, making his debut as a second half substitute on the opening day of the season, a 3-0 victory over Crewe. With lots of midfield options at Town boss Paolo di Canio’s disposal, McCormack found himself in and out of the side during the first month of the season, as Swindon’s new look side made a poor start.
After three consecutive games when McCormack was named on the bench, he returned to the starting eleven for a televised 3-2 victory over top-of-the-table Rotherham at the start of September – a game in which defender Alberto Comazzi was harshly sent off. The following weekend, McCormack was forced to move back into the back four as Swindon suffered somewhat of a defensive injury crisis, when Comazzi’s replacement Oliver Risser (who had himself been moved into defence from midfield) limped out of the match against Southend after just sixteen minutes. When the Town registered their third clean sheet of the season, McCormack was named in the back four again for the trip to promotion-chasing Crawley – a game that Swindon convincingly won by three goals to nil. Initially, the move into the defence didn’t last for long – after picking up his fifth booking of the season at Burton in the next game, he returned to the midfield after sitting out a one match suspension – but when that resulted in a 2-0 reverse at Macclesfield, he was again named in the defence for a trip to Exeter in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy – this time, the switch was permanent.
Though perhaps inadvertent, the switch proved to be a masterstroke, as McCormack’s defensive position added new dimensions to the Town’s play – his comfort on the ball at the back leading to both “quarterback” style passes and surging runs forward out of defence to add to the available attacking options, as Swindon’s form improved and they moved up the league standings. Nowhere was this more apparent than at the turn of the year when, with Swindon down to ten men and drawing at lowly Northampton, McCormack moved out of defence with the ball, laid it off and continued his run into the box, where he netted the winning goal deep into injury time, and his first as a Swindon player – a strike that prompted Town boss di Canio to sprint out of his technical area to celebrate with the players and fans in one of the iconic moments of the season.
Perhaps the only blot on McCormack’s book to this point was his disciplinary record – his tenth booking of the season at Barnet in January resulting in a two match ban, returning for an FA Cup tie at Leicester, before helping Swindon into the promotion places for the first time with a superb 4-1 win at Southend, and sealing a place at Wembley with victory over Barnet in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Area Final. Inspired by McCormack at the heart of the defence, Swindon incredibly conceded just one goal at home in the League from the middle of October until the end of the season – form that would go a long way to helping them secure the League Two championship. During the run in, McCormack underlined his status as Swindon’s Mr Versatile – filling in on both the left and right sides of defence as injuries took their toll on the Town’s back line - and with regular captain Paul Caddis out with injury, di Canio chose McCormack as his stand-in skipper.
Caddis' return to action coincided McCormack's wife going into labour - and as the Irishman rushed away to be present at the birth of his first child, the Town registered a 1-0 victory over Plymouth that put them on the brink of promotion. Though Swindon needed just a point at Aldershot to wrap things up the following Tuesday, a poor performance saw them lose by two goals to one - prompting di Canio to accuse a group of players for celebrating promotion too early, with a late night drinking session after the Plymouth game. Though the Town boss partly absolved McCormack due to him wetting the new baby's head, McCormack was one of the group who apologised - and he took his place in the starting eleven for the trip to Gillingham. With the Town 2-0 down with ten minutes remaining, a now trademark surging run forward saw McCormack get Swindon back into it with a thumping strike from outside the box - and though Gillingham scored a late penalty to wrap the game up, results elsewhere meant that Swindon were promoted. The following weekend was a double success for McCormack - a 5-0 victory over Port Vale sealing the League Two title, prior to the game, he was also named as the Town's Player of the Year, after a superb first season.
When di Canio surprisingly stripped Paul Caddis of the captaincy on the eve of the 2012/13 season, McCormack was the Italian’s choice to replace him - and the new skipper started the new campaign in the heart of the Town’s defence, partnered first by new signing Troy Archibald-Henville, then Aden Flint, and then Darren Ward when the latter signed on loan from Millwall. It was into October before McCormack missed a game - a hamstring injury sidelining him for games against Bury and Coventry - but he was soon back in action when he returned to fitness, after being named on the bench for the visit of Scunthorpe, he entered the fray as a first half substitute after Aden Flint was red carded just half an hour into the game.
At the start of November though, McCormack found himself on the receiving end of di Canio’s wrath himself, when the Town boss accused him of “self-diagnosing” his injury and ruling himself out of training - this time with a hamstring complaint on the opposite side to the one that had kept him out previously. After sitting out three matches, when he returned to action, he found he was no longer the first choice selection in the centre back position - the general consensus among the fans being that he hadn’t impressed as much in the role as he had the previous season - and after standing in for Nathan Thompson on the right flank, he soon switched sides to left back, where, with Jay McEveley sidelined, he remained throughout January, before swapping flanks again the following month.
Despite being laid low with a virus in early February, McCormack nonetheless travelled as one of only fifteen players for the trip to Colchester, that the Town won 1-0 - a game that turned out to be di Canio’s penultimate as Swindon boss - and though McCormack played his final game, a 1-1 draw with Preston - the Italian’s final act as Swindon manager was to strip McCormack of the captaincy, after he again took exception to the Irishman’s medical practices - this time visiting a walk-in medical centre instead of speaking to the club doctor. After the Town’s first game without di Canio in charge resulted in a 3-1 victory at Tranmere that took them to the top of the league, McCormack made it very clear during his celebrations that the victory was all about the players.
With the club without a manager and in the middle of a takeover deal, senior players Darren Ward and Tommy Miller initially took over the reins - the duo immediately taking the decision to reinstate McCormack as skipper - a role he continued in for the remainder of the season, as new boss Kevin MacDonald joined the club - and in his first starting eleven, he named McCormack in his original central midfield role, as the Town came back with two late goals to secure a memorable victory at Coventry. Though injury to Jay McEveley saw him revert back to the left back position just two games later, MacDonald again utilised McCormack in midfield toward the end of the season, as Swindon threatened to throw away their place in the play-offs - the skipper providing some much needed drive that had been lacking in the weeks before, helping the Town to back-to-back victories that would eventually secure sixth place in the table.
After the play-off campaign ended in defeat to Brentford, attention soon turned to McCormack’s contract situation - and with his current deal expiring, the Irishman stated that his first choice would be to remain at the County Ground, but only on the right terms. It soon came to light that McCormack had agreed an extension to his contract back in September with former boss di Canio, but the deal had remained unsigned due to the impending takeover, and with four Championship clubs - Huddersfield, Millwall, Barnsley and Doncaster - all showing strong interest, he stated that he was waiting for an offer from the Town board before making a decision. When the contract offer was eventually made, it was only for one year - and when a board-imposed deadline to sign the deal passed, it seemed just a matter of time before he would leave the club - and though chairman Jed McCrory made a last minute verbal offer of a two year extension, it came after McCormack had committed to sign for Brentford on a two year deal, with an option of a third. In a later interview with the Swindon Advertiser, McCormack admitted that he left the County Ground with a heavy heart - and that the initial offer from the Town had disappointed him, and that it helped him to make the decision to move on - the main reason to leave though was the security that the longer deal offered his family, that Swindon’s offer couldn’t match. “I’m a very proud man to have played for Swindon Town. I’m not leaving a happy man, I’m leaving a sad man. The decision I’ve made is for my family and my career and security for my family over the next three years is there. That was the most important thing for me.”
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