For our 18th entry into the Swindon Town Hall of Shame, Stuart Temple inducts Australian goalkeeper Frank Talia for his efforts against West Brom in 1996.
Fraser Digby is a Swindon Town legend. In August 1998 Fraser moved to Crystal Palace and his departure left a void in between the sticks at the County Ground which wasn’t really filled until the arrival, from Crystal Palace, of Wesley Fodringham more than ten years later. Digby’s hero status with the Swindon Town faithful may have been the reason both Glenn Hoddle and after him Steve McMahon were so keen to try and replace him as soon as they could.
Hoddle’s would be assassin was Nicky Hammond. He played 94 games for Town, breaking his leg twice and conceding 150 goals, that is 1.59 goals a game compared to Frazer’s 1.33 per game. Hammond ultimately failed to replace the legend and was sold to Plymouth for £40k in 1995.
Fraser’s next challenger was very worthy indeed as it came in the form of Blackburn’s young goalkeeper Shay Given, whose loan spell of five games saw him concede only a single goal. Sadly Blackburn didn’t want to sell their future star to us, but like some greasy second hand car dealer they must have said something like “we can’t sell you this one. But if you liked him we’ve got another one just like him hanging around somewhere, he’s very good he’ll only cost you £150k and he is all yours!”. Blackburn must have been laughing all the way to the bank when Swindon handed over £150k for Frank Talia.
Frank Talia was a clown. As simple as that. During his 118 games he conceded 174 goals at a rate of 1.47 per game, better than Hammond but still not as good as Digby. To give him some credit, Talia did win the Adver’s Player of the Season in 1999/2000, but considering we were relegated bottom of the league there wasn’t many worthy winners of that award.
Add together his awful record, his hefty cost, plus supplanting Digby, these three are probably enough evidence to book him a place in the Hall of Shame… but there is one key piece of evidence that I wish to summit to secure his place in the Hall of Shame.
The Year is 1996, the Month is October, the day is Wednesday 30th. A date for all own goals and gaffes lovers to remember.
October had been a good month for Town fans, having seen the Red Army beat Oxford United, then thumping Hudderfield Town 6-0 – ‘are you Tesco in desguise’ and enjoying a trip to Old Trafford to see Town and Talia concede two in a narrow defeat.
West Bromwich Albion brought a good following and filled the Stratton Bank for this fixture in Division One. Swindon started brightly, creating the best chances and find themselves 1-0 up at half time though a goal from Paul Allen, seemingly confident of a win.
At the start of the second half the Talia masterclass began. Just four minutes into the half, WBA’s right back Paul Holmes made a run down the line and floated a simple cross into the box, right down the throat of the waiting Frank Talia; who was under no pressure from the WBA forwards. What happened next has to be one of the worst goalkeeping blunders in Swindon Town history; ‘worst than Phil Smith versus Leeds?’…oh yes.
Instead of catching the floated cross – which was at perfect catching height and plenty of time to concentrate on just positioning his hands to meet the ball – Talia decided to throw the ball into the back of the net and then flap around on the ground like a fish out of water.
If you saw it in person like me, I’m sure you never be able to forget it. Here’s the video for those not there that day…
Importantly, Talia never played again in 1996/97 with Digby returning to play the remainder of the campaign and all but three games in 1997/98. Talia seemed gone and never to return.
Then Macca did the unthinkable, forcing Digby out of the club and he turned to Frank as his first choice over Jimmy Glass. Talia played in 77 of 99 games in two seasons under McMahon and Jimmy Quinn as Town lurched from disaster to diaster, eventually needing a miracle to survive relegation.
It says a lot for Talia that his final game epitomised his stay at the County Ground. With three matches remaining at the end of the 1999/00 season, Town travelled to Stockport County needing three wins and a miracle to preserve our Division One status. Town’s players were having a mare, although for once Talia was keeping us in the game, but he looked on as Stockport fired in three goals and capped his Town career off after 68 minutes after being sent off for handball outside the area. Town relegated and Talia awarded the man of the match.
After Colin Todd released Frank that summer, Talia failed to make an appearance at Wolves and was restricted to single figures at Sheffield United and Royal Antwerp. However he became a regular at Adams Park for Wycombe Wanderers between 2002 and 2007, infamously slicing the top of his toe off with a lawn-mower in 2004…
Frank Talia please take your place in the Hall of Shame for your efforts against West Brom that day in 1996!