Alex Cooke looks at the hair, the pants and the departure of Swindon Town’s long-serving player, who was told he would be released on Thursday.
Swindon crowds have their favourites. They love down-the-line wingers, they love blood-and-thunder triers, they love goal scorers. Simon Ferry was none of these things and yet, there are few in recent times to receive such universal adulation as the midfielder.
Ferry encapsulated something different. He was effective but also impish. His efficiency in passing, calm in control and reticence in the dribble belied a cheekiness, an exuberance in his play and his off-the-field persona.
His various Twitter accounts were genuinely funny, his hair was often hilarious and his underwear was occasionally all to visible. And so he endeared himself to Swindon fans through charm, not cynical badge-kissing. There was a modesty, an honesty to him. So when I wrote about his passing statistics on here, he thanked me via Twitter, refused to ‘retweet’ and left his mum to ‘Like’ it on Facebook.
Similarly, seeing Ferry and his partner pushing a pram post-match away from the County Ground and back towards their home in Old Town was one of the stranger, but most warming, sights to greet me of a Saturday evening in Swindon. It might not be close to watching Ernie Hunt and Mike Summerbee enjoying a kick-about against kids in the streets of the town in Six Days To Saturday but it is a much greater distance from the hordes of footballing mercenaries who rarely seem entirely sure which club they play for without looking at the logo on their pay cheque.
Ferry’s numerous qualities are best encapsulated in the Argentine notion of the ‘pibe’ – almost a rebellious footballing urchin. The Argentine journalist Borocoto, writing in El Grafico in 1928, described best the national stereotype: “a pibe with a dirty face, a mane of hair rebelling against the comb; with intelligent, roving, trickster, and persuasive eyes and a sparkling gaze that seem to hint at a picaresque laugh that does not quite manage to form on his mouth, full of small teeth that might be worn down by eating yesterday’s bread”. And while Ferry’s hair didn’t rebel against the comb or clippers, and he lacked the lavish talents of Maradona and Messi, at times with his energy, wit and boyish looks, Simon Ferry was Swindon’s own pibe.
But Ferry had his flaws. He was lightweight, he could be bypassed in matches. Danny Wilson clearly preferred David Prutton for a season as rumours circulated about Ferry’s lifestyle. And true, perhaps his career at Swindon has reached a plateau and parenthood might have changed his priorities too, but his recent performances in wider positions showed his limitations in taking on his direct opponent, creating or crossing himself, rather than just feeding others.
However, as he showed one last time against Brentford, he could still change a game, just as he did with the minds of Swindon fans to make them love a non-goal scoring, lightweight, seemingly effortless, little central midfielder.
Which are your favourite Simon Ferry moments and memories? Add them below the line…
Skip to 1m6s for Ferry’s entrance…