With just three days before we all descend upon Wembley, the anticipation and excitement is now really starting to build, writes Danny Everard.
Unbelievably just a week ago, 15th March, it was the 43rd anniversary of Swindon’s greatest day and that wonderful victory over the mighty Arsenal in the Wembley mud. That anniversary and our Johnson Paint Trophy final tie this weekend has had my mind racing back over the years, bringing back many happy memories.
Awaiting the arrival of our five Wembley tickets a few weeks ago and watching my eleven year olds face as he examined them, took me back to the day I had to queue in the hope of getting my two golden tickets to watch Stan Harland’s team. Of course it was Don Rogers who was our hero and our great hope, but for me, Harland, our captain, was unquestionably our leader…… I still find myself 43 years on, standing in the shower from time to time, with tears of pride in my eyes, singing out loud “I’d walk a million miles, for one of your smiles, whoa, ohhh, ohh, STAAAA-AAN- LEY.”
Back on a cold morning in 1969 it was all so different to today. No internet booking facilities for tickets then. Having laid awake, I’m sure all night, I was disappointed, having got up early and made my way to the County Ground, to have to join a very, very long shivering queue of supporters. Slowly, very slowly, along with my fellow supporters, I shuffled along in anticipation towards the small ticket office window behind the Town End.
At eleven years of age I clutched my ticket money tight to my chest. My father, who was at work at Pressed Steel Fisher, had given me STRICT instructions. “Keep your money close and once you get our tickets, keep THEM even closer AND DON’T SHOW THEM TO ANYBODY, there’s not going to be enough for everyone and someone might take them off you.” God, I was not just tired and excited, I WAS SCARED STIFF…
My heart must have been pumping like one of the old steam trains that my old school teacher at Park North, Mr Smith, used to go on about chuffing through Swindon Station seven or eight years earlier. I had never known such fear and excitement combined.
After what seemed like an eternity, it was finally my turn. At the ticket window, on tip toes, I forced my monetary offering through the little window. One pound for two tickets, along I’m pretty sure with my vouchers, to see Swindon Town, MY SWINDON TOWN, MY HEROES, MY EVERY WAKING THOUGHT, play the mighty Arsenal at the Empire Stadium Wembley.
I remember thinking; please don’t be sold out, PLEASE DON’T BE SOLD OUT !!!
As the two pieces of paper allowing me and my dad entry to heaven slipped across the counter in my direction, I politely grasped them and pushed my hand and half my arm, inside my jacket and ran….I vaguely remember daring to stop and peek inside my coat to check them. WEMBLEY, it was really true, I was going to Wembley and I had the tickets to prove it. I cried with excitement and joy, before running all the way home to Park North.
Earlier in the 1968/69 season, around the time of the start of our cup run, I had managed to buy an old battered Union Jack flag, in an old second hand junk shop up in Gorse Hill. Back home in Beaufort Green, I had “SWINDON”, stitched in large white letters, emblazoned across it. Now my very own BATTLE FLAG was going to Wembley…
That flag has seen action and victory at Wembley three times, Arsenal 1968/69; Sunderland 1990 and Leicester City 1993.
In 2009/10 the Battle Flag, now residing in Cornwall, never made the Charlie Austin play off final against Millwall, due to my wife’s birthday that weekend! Try as I might I could not convince her that a weekend in London was a great birthday present !
Town as we know lost for the first time ever at Wembley. My Battle Flag was not there. I felt guilty that somehow I had let the team down by not going into battle with them, never mind the infamous Wembley divot.
This March 25th the Battle Flag will be back and carried once more to help do battle at Wembley – this time by my own eleven year old son!
Together we continue the family tradition of being loyal Town supporters, sharing successes and failures together, as he gathers his own memories to remember and sing about to himself in his own shower, in his own middle age!!!
COME ON YOU REDS!!