Sports Journalist and Swindon Town supporter Tom Otrebski provides our next entry into the Hall of Shame. As it’s the tenth inductee we thought we’ll give him two for the price of one and he chose the strike partnership of Tony Thorpe and Jamie Cureton that just failed to live up to high expectations.
At the start of the 2005/06 season, manager Andy King looked to have made a real transfer coup when he signed Tony Thorpe and Jamie Cureton, who had both been released from Queen’s Park Rangers earlier on that summer.
After the departure of top-scorer and Town icon Sam Parkin to Ipswich for a fee that amounted to peanuts, the arrival of the pair seemed like the second coming. Swindon now had two strikers with proven goal-scoring records without having to spend a penny of Parkin’s transfer fee. Understandably, much was expected of the pair including hopes of them firing the Town to the play-offs for the second time in three years.
In reality, Swindon’s fortunes spiralled in completely the opposite direction that season and you could forgive any Swindon supporters who point to Thorpe and Cureton’s complete and utter failure to deliver as a big reason behind Swindon’s relegation.
Town’s opening day encounter at Barnsley was a sign of things to come. Thorpe missed a sitter after ten minutes then the home side went straight up the other end and scored the opener. After conceding a second early on in the second half, Cureton had the chance to reduce the arrears from the spot. In a moment that seemed to sum up the season just 60 minutes into the first game, the striker saw his penalty saved.
Working at BBC Wiltshire at the time, I shall never forget looking across to Shaun Hodgetts in the immediate aftermath of the penalty and seeing that he had his head in his hands in disbelief. Cureton’s failure to convert was costly: Barnsley had been reduced to ten men and Swindon had their opponents penned back in the hunt for a goal with over half an hour left to play.
Strikers had made the move from Bristol to Swindon before. Despite the success of Wayne Allison ten years before him, the arrival of Tony Thorpe didn’t sit too easily with some sections of support because of his ties to City. The statistics speak for themselves: he made seven appearances for the Town scoring just one goal, a late strike against Oldham Athletic at the County Ground. Interestingly, all of those games ended in defeat for Swindon and his one goal proved to be the last of his professional career.
After rumours of a fall-out with Andy King and further failure to score goals even with the change of manager, Thorpe made his final appearance for Swindon against Boston United in an FA Cup tie. After less than six months at the County Ground, Thorpe agreed a mutual termination of his contract with the club, sealing his place as one of the worst players to ever wear the number 9 for Swindon Town.
When Jamie Cureton signed on the dotted line for Swindon, many supporters expected the goals to flow: with over 100 goals for rivals Reading and Bristol Rovers, Cureton was bound to maintain his goal-scoring standards in this part of the world. However, his failure to hit the back of the net in the early weeks of the season, combined with the Town propping up the rest of the division and Iffy Onoura replacing King as manager, the striker was loaned out to Colchester United. There, in a way that can only typify the fortunes of Swindon Town when things are going against them, Cureton scored three times in his first two appearances for his temporary employers.
Following his return from Layer Road, Cureton was expected to become the second striker to leave unceremoniously. Onoura however, decided to give him a chance and he finally scored his first Swindon goal at Bournemouth within weeks of returning. Despite this early spark, the striker yet again failed to deliver and he managed just six more goals in Town colours, all of them coming at The County Ground and left to join Colchester on a permanent deal at the end of the season. To rub even more salt into Swindon’s wounds, Cureton has gone on to score goals at a host of clubs since leaving Wiltshire and last season passed the 200 league goal milestone.
For a strike-force that brought so much pre-season optimism and promise with their respective records at other clubs, a pathetic return of just seven goals between them played a huge part in Swindon’s demise that season. Their contribution in 2005/06 brings to mind the old saying “you get what you pay for”. In this particular case: precisely nothing. Therefore, I would like to propose that both Tony Thorpe and Jamie Cureton be inducted together into the STFC Hall of Shame.