Hall of Shame #29: David Peach

David Peach 2.jpeg 9

Should David Peach enter the Hall of Shame? You can decide. But this isn’t just a yes or no decision on whether yet another of Town’s duffers enters this famed collection of crap, your vote will decide how deep the diarrhea actually is. Alex Cooke provides the options.

I never saw David Peach play and those who did are still divided about him. Some saw a good player whose best days had long passed, others spoke of a football so far below what was expected, you’d think he used his sweet left foot to half-volley newborn kittens into threshing machines. So let’s get started.

David Peach was a left-back, part of the same lame legion of duff defenders, which for Swindon already includes the likes of Jason Drysdale, Yinka Casal and Gary Elkins. Except Peach had form. He was an England u21 and B international, he’d played more than 400 times for Gillingham and Southampton, winning an FA Cup along the way. He joined Swindon in 1980 at the age of 30.

Peach was signed from Saints as a replacement for Town’s local, legendary, record-appearance-maker and retiree John Trollope. It was a move that could be described as:

A. Tricky for who ever had fill those famous boots.
B. Impossible. Trollope was, and remains, an icon.
C. As bigger a disappointment as find that on meeting 69hotblonde from Match.com the name comes from his age, weight in stone and perspiration problem.

Peach cost manager Bobby Smith a then club-record sum of £150,000 (which using the Bank of England’s inflation calculator is about £544,000 now). This fee was:

A. A weighty price tag, which made Town fans judge him even more harshly.
B. Pretty good value, as judging by his waistline. He must have been about £10 per pound of meat.
C. The most over-priced thing to come out of Southampton since a peak-time train ticket to London.

Peach scored 64 goals in his career, a good number of which had been from the penalty spot, and so his left foot could be described as:

A. Cultured.
B. A powerful left peg, which while once deadly was getting weak.
C. Like a magic wand – in that some people pretend can do wonderful things with it but in reality is actually completely useless stick.

David Peach made his Town debut in a 6-2 thrashing at Millwall, his debut proved that:

A. He would take some time to adjust to Town’s style and standard of play.
B. He just wasn’t very good.
C. He was as much use as a footballer as Nigel Farage would be as a bath tub, even if you hollowed him out and rammed taps into each eye.

At Gillingham and Saints, Peach had been known for his passing and powerful shooting, as a defender he was:

A. Struggling with the drop from Division One to Division Three.
B. He always got close to his man, largely because he had enough mass to create his own gravity and suck them towards him.
C. He tackled like a man trying to eat jelly with a spade – ineptly, clumsily and with the air of someone who is sure that what he is doing just isn’t good manners.

Peach’s Swindon career finally ended when he was given a free transfer to Leyton Orient.

A. As has happened throughout our history, the club had over-spent and was now cutting back:
B. We tried to sell him for a small fee to Orient in the summer of 1981 but once their chairman stopped laughing he said no. He stopped laughing on 14 December 2004.
C. It was in East London that someone on the mail train finally heard the muffled cries from wriggling bag at the back of the mail train, marked ‘To Timbuktu’.

On the scale of dreadful Swindon left-backs, David Peach is as bad as:

A. Gareth Hall – hefty slow and long, long past it.
B. Jason Drysdale – horribly expensive, but hamstrung by who he had to replace.
C. Yinka Casal – a cruel experiment in managerial desperation.

Read more tales from the Swindon Town Hall of Shame…

50 Years On: 1963/64 March – Swindon in the big time for the first time

1963-1964 Squad Crop 1

Throughout this season Mike Minihane has been taking a look back at Swindon Town’s first season in the ‘big time’, following the promotion to Division Two for the 1963/64 season. Mike continues with a review of March 1964…

Top of the Charts – Little Children – Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas

At the beginning of March 1964 in an attempt to arrest our decline Swindon Town had signed two new players. Norman Oakley, a goalkeeper, had come from Hartlepools United. Hartlepool were rubbish and constantly had to apply for re-election  to the Football League, so we were less than impressed with this, despite being assured that he was their best player and but for him they would have been in an even more dire position, if that were possible. The other was Frank Large, a ‘robust’ centre forward had come from Northampton Town. Frank had always given us a hard time and had scored three against us that season, so his arrival was viewed with more optimism…

And so it proved when both made their debuts at home to Plymouth Argyle, Oakley misjudged a cross to allow Plymouth’s Dave Corbett an easy goal to give the visitors a one goal lead. Corbett was an ex Town player so that was totally to be expected. Then Frank Large became an instant hero, quickly equalising and then scoring the winner five minutes from time. Two signings; one dud and one hero, it could’ve been worse. This was our first home win since mid-December, perhaps things were looking up!

Our next game took us to Charlton Athletic and Frank Large continued his heroics by scoring our first goal in a 2-2 draw, with ‘Big’ Bill Atkins getting the other. This was a very decent point against a team who were going well and in fourth place, our confidence was growing. The following Saturday we were home to Middlesbrough, a mid-table side with a young, highly-rated player called Arthur Horsfield leading their attack. ‘King Arthur’ would later become our then record signing when signed by Danny Williams in 1969 and endear himself to Town fans by scoring 41 goals in just over 100 appearances, a very impressive strike rate.  He didn’t score on that occasion however as goals from Bill Atkins and Don Rogers gave us a 2-0 victory and a second consecutive home win.

1963/64 Swindon Town squad with manager Bert Head Back row: McPherson , Wollen, Atkins, Turner, Harvey, Morgan, Lloyd. Third row: Plumb, Trollope, Hallett, French, Hicks, Smith, Smart, Dawson, Summerbee. Second row: Thorburn, Shergold, Griffin, Rogers, Hellin, Stevens, Leggett, Huxford, Woodruff, Sproates, Peapell. Front row: Lewis, Tabor, Harber, Darcy, Cousins (trainer), Head (manager), Morse (secretary), Colsell, Hunt, Ling, James. Seated: Critchley, Hedges, Corbett, Wrintmore, Hedges

1963/64 Swindon Town squad with manager Bert Head
Back row: McPherson , Wollen, Atkins, Turner, Harvey, Morgan, Lloyd.
Third row: Plumb, Trollope, Hallett, French, Hicks, Smith, Smart, Dawson, Summerbee.
Second row: Thorburn, Shergold, Griffin, Rogers, Hellin, Stevens, Leggett, Huxford, Woodruff, Sproates, Peapell.
Front row: Lewis, Tabor, Harber, Darcy, Cousins (trainer), Head (manager), Morse (secretary), Colsell, Hunt, Ling, James.
Seated: Critchley, Hedges, Corbett, Wrintmore, Hedges

Our Easter opponents were to be Cardiff City, a team we never did well against and who included half the Wales international team, including the legendary Ivor Allchuch, and the Charles brothers, John and Mel. Frank Large continued his fine form, giving us a first half lead, but it wasn’t to be enough and as we went down to a 1-2 home defeat. Three days later on Easter Monday Cardiff completed the double with a 1-0 win at Ninian Park, courtesy of a goal from Mel Charles.

This was the era of three games in four days over Easter and sandwiched between the Cardiff games was a 1-2 home defeat to Leyton Orient which made it a pointless, and miserable ‘holiday’ period for us. We had however won two home games during the month and stopped the rot. Additionally we’d gained a new striker who could put himself about and score goals. It certainly was an improvement on the dire February that had gone before. We were down to 11th place in the League but we already had enough points not to have to worry about relegation. With four games of the season remaining we could relax, secure in the knowledge that another season in the ‘big time’ was guaranteed.

1963-64 March Table

Images courtesy of swindon-town-fc.co.uk

Table from statto.com

50 Years On: 1963/64 February – Swindon in the big time for the first time

1963-1964 Squad Crop 1

Throughout this season Mike Minihane will be taking a look back at Swindon Town’s first season in the ‘big time’, following the promotion to Division Two for the 1963/64 season. Mike continues with a review of February 1964…

Top of the Charts – Needles and Pins – The Searchers

January had been a good month with victories over Manchester City and Aldershot giving us a fifth round FA Cup tie at home to West Ham United. In the League that month Town had a thrilling league game with promotion candidates Leeds United ending in a very creditable draw; finally our pride had been restored. February looked quite daunting however with games against Sunderland, Preston North End and Newcastle United lined up, all of whom were in the top six and serious promotion contenders.

First up was Sunderland away. We’d beaten them at home in December in a truly memorable game. This time it would be different. In front of over 41,000 fans we were taken apart 0-6, with home striker Nick Sharkey celebrating his call-up to the Scotland squad with a hat-trick. The win took Sunderland to top place in the League table, leapfrogging Leeds.

The following Saturday offered us an opportunity for revenge for our 0-4 humiliation at Northampton Town back in September. More disappointment as they ran out worthy 3-2 winners at the County Ground, with one of their goals coming from Frank Large who would be playing for us in a month’s time. We were never in it and many fans had already left the round before Don Rogers’ 89th minute penalty gave us some undeserved respectability in the score line.

The following Saturday the glory of the FA Cup lifted things for us with our third encounter of the season with First Division West Ham United. Two goals for Geoff Hurst and one for Johnny Byrne against a header from a corner from Ken Macpherson gave the Hammers a comfortable 3-1 win. West Ham would go on to win the trophy with a 3-2 victory in a thrilling final against Second Division Preston North End, for whom Howard Kendall would become the youngest ever player ever to play in an FA Cup Final. Losing to the ultimate competition winners was certainly no disgrace.

It was back to reality the following Tuesday however with a league game at Gigg Lane against relegation candidates Bury who were second from bottom. Amongst the Bury line up was Gordon Atherton who would join Town the following season. A goal from George Jones was enough to decide the game in Bury’s favour, giving them precious points in their ultimately successful relegation fight.

1963/64 Swindon Town squad with manager Bert Head Back row: McPherson , Wollen, Atkins, Turner, Harvey, Morgan, Lloyd. Third row: Plumb, Trollope, Hallett, French, Hicks, Smith, Smart, Dawson, Summerbee. Second row: Thorburn, Shergold, Griffin, Rogers, Hellin, Stevens, Leggett, Huxford, Woodruff, Sproates, Peapell. Front row: Lewis, Tabor, Harber, Darcy, Cousins (trainer), Head (manager), Morse (secretary), Colsell, Hunt, Ling, James. Seated: Critchley, Hedges, Corbett, Wrintmore, Hedges

1963/64 Swindon Town squad with manager Bert Head
Back row: McPherson , Wollen, Atkins, Turner, Harvey, Morgan, Lloyd.
Third row: Plumb, Trollope, Hallett, French, Hicks, Smith, Smart, Dawson, Summerbee.
Second row: Thorburn, Shergold, Griffin, Rogers, Hellin, Stevens, Leggett, Huxford, Woodruff, Sproates, Peapell.
Front row: Lewis, Tabor, Harber, Darcy, Cousins (trainer), Head (manager), Morse (secretary), Colsell, Hunt, Ling, James.
Seated: Critchley, Hedges, Corbett, Wrintmore, Hedges

So, four games down, four defeats, three goals scored – two by the centre half and the other a penalty – and thirteen goals conceded. Things were going badly. A home game against third placed Preston North End was probably the last thing we needed, and so it turned out, with Preston running out 4-1 winners with two goals from Alex Dawson, who was to score in the FA Cup Final later that year, one from Dave Wilson and one from Bryan Godfrey. A Mike Summerbee goal was Town’s only reply.

The last game of the month took us to St James Park, the home of the mighty Newcastle United, who were sixth in the league and looking to regain the First Division status they had lost in 1961. Once again we were on the end of a 1-4 defeat, with Bobby Woodruff scoring a late consolation goal after Newcastle goals from Burton, Hilley, Cummings and Suddick. Willie Penman was playing for Newcastle that day; he would join Town in 1966 and become a firm favourite with fans.

It had been a truly awful month, playing teams that were clearly superior and at times looking well out of our depth. Our record for the month was played six, lost six, five goals scored, twenty-one conceded. We’d slipped from 5th position to 11th. With six games to come in March it was going to be a critical month. It looked a little easier, but only just.

1963-64 February Table

Images courtesy of swindon-town-fc.co.uk

Table from statto.com

Hall of Shame #28 – Brunel FM’s radio coverage in 2007/08

Brunel FM 3

Our 28th entry into the Swindon Town Hall of Shame is Brunel FM – the radio station where the listener couldn’t hear the commentary, writes Ron Smith.

One decision in the summer of 2007 summed up the consistent failures life under the Wills’ family advisor Mike Diamandis. The club severed the club’s 18 year old ties with BBC Wiltshire in favour of recent start-up Brunel FM to provide exclusive live match commentary; as the newcomers sought to “follow Swindon Town every step of the way”.

Martyn Starnes, Town’s acting chief executive was jubilant at the time, announcing “We are very excited at the prospect of Brunel FM joining us as our exclusive media partner with immediate effect… They are committed to working closely with us on commentaries, news stories and commercial activities, which are sure to enhance the profile of the club and the radio station.” Unfortunately for all involved this early trumpeting of their ability would prove to be disaster, not only for Town fans, but also for listeners to the BBC Wiltshire having to ensure Shaun Hoggetts’ ill-fated spell on the breakfast show as a means to keep his voice on the air.

Initially, the primary concern from supporters was about the reach of Brunel FM. Their 107.7 frequency covered a small area, around central Swindon, omitting key audiences in West Wiltshire, SN6, the Gloucestershire border and beyond. Supporters with poor or no reception had no alternative but to watch Jeff Stelling & Co. or sign up to the ‘STFCWorld’ service, albeit at a cost of £34 for the season, and hope that the online streaming didn’t crash.

While Craig Rance – the programme controller at Brunel FM – originally said “Brunel FM is serious about serving Swindon with quality radio” the opposite happened. The poor programme production and technical problems started as soon as the season started, which set the stall for their coverage throughout the season.

Long gone was BBC Wiltshire’s post-match hour or more, include a detailed review of the week’s events and any build-up to the game. Instead Brunel FM’s coverage was filled with adverts throughout the majority of pre and post-match, plus a sprinkling of truly dreadful ’80s pop music’ – I’d recall the artists if I hadn’t switched off quicker. Their knowledge of players was generally lacking and the passionless (except when the opposition scored) amateur commentator indicated he perhaps hadn’t stepped foot in Swindon before taking this job. The football was ultimately the sideshow to promoting the station, especially post-match when Paul Sturrock’s analysis of the game was frequently promoted as ‘coming up next’. In the end I found that re-tuning to BBC Wiltshire I could get to hear Sturrock’s Scottish tone before listeners to Brunel FM.

The club’s reaction to this drivel was to seek ‘opinions’ on how to improve radio coverage, but the problems persisted as they failed to take any action…

Playing away at Millwall when Brunel FM failed to dial into Premium TV – who were responsible for streaming the commentary on the STFCWorld service – leading to the club issuing an apology to supporters and providing us with a share of Millwall’s partisan feed commentating on a 2-1 defeat of the Lions.

“We are sorry for the lack of Swindon Town commentary at the weekend. The club is responsible for choosing the radio station to provide the commentary. The radio station is responsible for connecting to Premium TV by landline and Premium TV is responsible for streaming the commentary on the internet. Unfortunately on Saturday the radio station did not dial in to Premium TV. Premium TV tried to contact the radio station and the club without success, so a share of the Millwall feed was provided rather than nothing.”

Then a few days later away at Swansea, Brunel FM’s line kept cutting out and a near 40 minutes was played with no Swindon fans being aware of what was occurring down the M4, yet we were treated to their quality music mix instead. For the record Town lost 1-2. I could go on with the shocking standard of commentary and unprofessional production, but I’d rather read your memories…

At least there was one saving grace from the season under Brunel FM. Alan McLoughlin’s co-commentary was excellent and provided the informed opinion we were all craving, the problem was that McLoughlin didn’t appear every matchday.

The year-long deal with Brunel FM ended in June 2008, which was probably one of the easiest decisions for newly appointed Chief Executive Nick Watkins. His statement recognised the long-standing concerns of supporters of the poor level of coverage…

“Radio commentary for a great many football fans is very important, often it can be their prime link with the club, particularly for those supporters unable to get to the ground or who live in outlying areas. With the imminent return of BBC Radio Swindon & BBC Radio Wiltshire to The County Ground, football will once again be coming into the homes of many more Town supporters”

So what became of Brunel FM? The station was sold twice in quick succession in 2008 when staff allegedly went without pay. In 2009 it was sold again leading to a further reduction in local broadcasting as ‘networked content’ became ever more present. Then in March 2010 the station was closed by administrators, the license was bought by Total Star Swindon and the name disappeared from our airwaves, but their shame lives on…

Read more tales from the Swindon Town Hall of Shame…

Hall of Shame #27: Andy King’s hoofball kick-off routine

Andy King

Alex Cooke looks back at a massive punt and a manager who didn’t changed his kick-off plan, despite years of repeated failure.

You must remember it. It happened at every Swindon kick-off under Andy King, game after game after game: Sammy Igoe (or similar) tapped the ball slightly forward. Then, (often) Matt Hewlett swung the ball over the heads of the Swindon strikers, straight into touch somewhere near the opposition’s corner flag. Town then jogged up the pitch attempting to pressure the opposition into giving the ball back.

It was that simple. At each and every kick-off under King, possession of the football was given up for position on the field. At first it looked like a (then fashionable) rugby-style attempt to feed a forward on the flank, but such was the frequency with which the ball sailed into touch unmolested, it must have been planned. Forget Dennis Bergkamp’s belief that, “behind every pass there must be a thought’, if this was a plan, it left a lot of room on the fag packet (or cigar packet).

As an idea, it was an extreme version of anything advocated by Charles Reep or Egil ‘Drillo’ Olsen, and not even completely in keeping with King’s football, which was direct but hardly pure long ball.

For Reep, someone who did much of his early match analysis at the County Ground, a long ball was always a good ball. It didn’t even matter if the booted punt reached a team-mate or not because even a long pass into space “brings valuable gains and is by no means wasted”. His reading of his own data also showed that “two thirds of goals come after the ball is recovered in the final third”, exactly as King’s massive hoof plan hoped.

Olsen, coach of a Norwegian national team containing Jan Aage Fjortoft, similarly used statistical analysis to claim the effectiveness of balls into the ‘bakrom’ – the area behind the opposition’s defence. His studies also found that a team had a greater chance of scoring again when the opposition’s goalkeeper was taking a goalkick than a teams’ own ‘keeper. So with his aim of getting 99% of passes into this bakrom, he would also have of approved of King’s plan. Despite this also he got Norway to second in the FIFA rankings, and beat Brazil.

King clearly found much to admire in these ideas (although it was unlikely he would admit studying theory) with his habit of watering the pitch in the corners to make sure that the ball slowed there. But this hoofplan was taking even this extreme approach further – actively giving away the ball on the edge of your opposition’s half so they would have to play the ball near their own goal. For, unlike Drillo, the teams being pushed into the corners weren’t Brazil so could happily relieve the pressure with a hoof of their own.

But that isn’t the reason why this kick off ‘plan’ makes the Hall of Shame: even if it has long been proven that there is actually a positive relationship between possession and goals scored. No, to do so would be too subjective – just because I found it tedious. It isn’t even that King played such an ugly, reactive strategy with all of his teams, from the patchworked squad of 2001/02 to one so talented it included Stefani Migloranzi, Sam Parkin, Tommy Mooney, Brian Howard and (sometimes) James Milner.

No, the reason why Andy King’s hoofball kick-off deserves its place is that it didn’t work. No matter how many times the same ‘hoof and press’ plan was used, it didn’t work, even with the 2003/04 team. Using even by the most generous measure (a three minute window since any Town kick off, for a goal conceded or half-time or full-time) Town only scored two of their goals during 2003/04 with three minutes of any kick off. It might be unscientific and dogmatic to base an assessment on just one season but at least Reep would understand such a flawed methodology .

Knowing that something isn’t working and to continue to do exactly the same thing week after week, season after season has to be the greatest failure as a manager, and of anyone, and that is why Andy King’s kick-off plan goes straight into the Hall of Shame. It just needs one touch, then hooooof!

Read more tales from the Swindon Town Hall of Shame…

50 Years On: 1963/64 January – Swindon in the big time for the first time

Dave Clark Five 1

Throughout this season Mike Minihane will be taking a look back at Swindon Town’s first season in the ‘big time’, following the promotion to Division Two for the 1963/64 season. Mike continues with a review of January 1964…

Top of the Charts – Glad All Over – The Dave Clark Five

Morale was hardly high as we entered the New Year in 1964. A dire December had seen Bert Head’s Swindon Town take a mere three points out of a possible ten and we’d slipped down to fifth in the League. However, as a Second Division club there was a novelty awaiting us. For the first time we entered the FA Cup in Round 3 with the big boys.

We’d been dawn home to Manchester City who had improved considerably since our 3-0 demolition job on them back in September and were now just one place below us. This was going to be a tough game. There was a great cup atmosphere and over 18,000 in the County Ground. Swindon got off to the best possible start with a fifth minute goal from Roger Smart who was always one of my favourite players – unspectacular but always hard-working and reliable; I can’t remember ever seeing him have a bad game. The game was well-contested and City, as expected, came back at us with a vengeance. It was no surprise when in the second half they scored a well-deserved equaliser from Alan Oakes. A draw looked odds on and none of us fancied our chances in a replay. However a second goal, again from the industrious Roger Smart, put our noses in front and we held on for the 2-1 victory and a place in the 4th Round draw. All of a sudden, morale was lifted, even when we drew Fourth Division Aldershot away.

A week later, after the Lord Mayor’s Show of the FA Cup, we had the thrill of a league trip to Rotherham United, a bit of a contrast. We’d lost the four previous away games so a point would be more than welcome and a gritty performance saw us get one in a 0-0 draw. A good result in the circumstances but since the City game our eyes had been firmly on the following Saturday’s fixture, the first ever visit of Leeds United. Leeds were top of the league and looking as though they meant business in their quest for promotion. This was in the early days of the Revie era that was to see Leeds dominate English football for the next ten years.  In fact only a win in the final game of the 1961/62 season had saved them from relegation to Division Three.  The nucleus of the side that was to enjoy such success was in their side that day…Paul Reaney, Paul Madeley, Norman Hunter, Johnny Giles, Bobby Collins and the inimitable Billy Bremner. This was going to be some game!

I have two memories of this game that stand out beyond all others. The first was captured by Adver photographer David Evans. It’s a photo of Bill Atkins’ bullet header rocketing into the top corner as the diminutive Bremner jumps desperately on the line in a vain attempt to keep it out. The second also involves Bremner, a combatative player to put it politely. Mike Summerbee beat Bremner with ease and way after he’d gone past him Bremner brought him down from behind in what today would be termed a ‘cynical challenge’. Buzzer picked himself up, strode back to the prostrate Bremner and made to stamp on his face, stopping his foot about half an inch before making contact. Bremner looked terrified; he didn’t commit a bad foul for the rest of the game. The facts of the game are that Bill Atkins gave us a dream start with two headed goals at the Town End in the first 15 minutes.

After that Leeds came back at us and shortly before half-time Johnny Giles headed home at the Stratton Bank end to put them back in the game. The second half was pulsating as Leeds came at us and we strove to hang onto our slender lead. It looked as if we’d do it too, but it wasn’t to be. In the final minutes Norman Hunter of all people forced home an equaliser at the Town End to give Leeds a point which to be fair they probably deserved, but our disappointment at conceding so late was huge. Some Town fans missed the late goal because a limited number of tickets for the 4th Round FA Cup tie at Aldershot were to go on sale at the end of the game. I was lucky because a mate of mine got one for me, although at the time I think I wished I hadn’t had to see Hunter’s goal going in. We’d seen a truly great game though, played with passion and commitment in front of over 19000 fans. We certainly had been given our money’s worth!

1963/64 Swindon Town squad with manager Bert Head Back row: McPherson , Wollen, Atkins, Turner, Harvey, Morgan, Lloyd. Third row: Plumb, Trollope, Hallett, French, Hicks, Smith, Smart, Dawson, Summerbee. Second row: Thorburn, Shergold, Griffin, Rogers, Hellin, Stevens, Leggett, Huxford, Woodruff, Sproates, Peapell. Front row: Lewis, Tabor, Harber, Darcy, Cousins (trainer), Head (manager), Morse (secretary), Colsell, Hunt, Ling, James. Seated: Critchley, Hedges, Corbett, Wrintmore, Hedges

1963/64 Swindon Town squad with manager Bert Head
Back row: McPherson , Wollen, Atkins, Turner, Harvey, Morgan, Lloyd.
Third row: Plumb, Trollope, Hallett, French, Hicks, Smith, Smart, Dawson, Summerbee.
Second row: Thorburn, Shergold, Griffin, Rogers, Hellin, Stevens, Leggett, Huxford, Woodruff, Sproates, Peapell.
Front row: Lewis, Tabor, Harber, Darcy, Cousins (trainer), Head (manager), Morse (secretary), Colsell, Hunt, Ling, James.
Seated: Critchley, Hedges, Corbett, Wrintmore, Hedges

I once got a round of applause in a packed pub for correctly answering a question in the final of a pub quiz; no one else there knew the answer. What is the relevance of this you may be wondering? The question was ‘Which Football League club play on a public park?’  The answer of course is Aldershot, and had I not been to the aptly named Recreation Ground in January 1964 I wouldn’t have known this and would have missed my round of applause. This was our reward for beating Manchester City in the 3rd Round.

We went by train, a ‘football special’. I remember there was a shortage of programmes at the ground and I had an argument with one of my mates over possession of one. I won and I still have it in a box somewhere.  There were 16,000 there, which was a lot for Aldershot. We didn’t play well but early in the second half we scored through Don Rogers and later Bill Atkins scored a second. We then got complacent, Aldershot got a goal back and very late on their centre forward missed an open goal. We came away with a rather lucky 2-1 win, but that didn’t matter, we were in the hat for the 5th Round draw. When the draw gave us a home tie in February against West Ham United, who we’d already played twice in the League Cup back in November we were ecstatic. Now we’d show these cockneys what was what!

1963-64 January Table

Images courtesy of swindon-town-fc.co.uk

Table from statto.com

November & December 2013: Power surge at Swindon

boardroom bout 2

2013 was an eventful and unforgettable year at Swindon Town. Brendan Hobbs jumped at the chance of writing our review of 2013 and you’ve now made it to the final part…

November

Port Vale must hate playing at the County Ground, that’s ten goals they’ve shipped in two encounters. Town galloped into the lead courtesy of a 24th minute N’Guessan strike, but straight after the break two goals in seven minutes should have put Vale to bed, with Ranger and Luongo finding their way onto the score sheet.

Vale responded by taking off three defenders and putting on eighteen forwards, including everyone’s favourite player Lee Hughes. And following a handbag-flying scuffle in the dugout, in which Fraser Digby rolled back the years and displayed the kind of safe handling he was famous for, the triple substitution paid off as in the 73rd minute Tom Pope finished expertly.

The sense of dread grew around the ground; seemingly unsettling our defence even more as typically Lee Hughes nipped in to reduce the arrears further and ratchet the tension up another few notches.

If Cooper wanted a reaction, then he got one, as if the beast had just been angered by a tick bite on its skin, Swindon swelled up and charged down the other end to land the killer blow. A beautiful curling effort courtesy of Nathan Byrne’s right peg flew past a stricken goalkeeper who could only watch and admire – it was a thing of beauty. Just to reinforce our superiority further, Luongo added a super-sexy fifth in injury time.

With Town’s shooting boots firmly laced on, the Town faithful were pretty confident of another goal glut as they travelled up to non-league Macclesfield for a first round FA Cup tie. The impending demolition would act as a fine revenge job as it was the Silkmen who dumped Swindon out of the competition at the same stage last year.

A demolition it was, but unfortunately it was Swindon who copped it, offering up a wonderfully shocking display in which they demonstrated the same levels of defensive ineptitude reminiscent of a Town display under King or McMahon.

To pierce all the doom and gloom Town then travelled to the Essex Wasteland that is the Weston Homes Community Stadium, Colchester and grabbed a two nil win, with Coopers tactical nous coming out on top with an unorthodox 4-6-0 formation. Ajose and N’Guessan, who both played as wingers grabbing the two vital goals which propelled Town back into the playoff picture once more. Yay, optimism!

That went straight out of the window against the all-conquering surprise package (when do they lose that tag?) Leyton Orient. Town deservedly took the lead courtesy of Nicky Ajose, Orient pegged us back immediately with a sublime goal from David Mooney, catching a possibly distracted Wes Foderingham off his line with a fine lob – it had been reported in the previous days Adver that Wes could be off in the January transfer window.

After that it was plain sailing for Orient. Moses Odubajo scoring twice (although I still maintain they were both OG’s), oh and an idiot ran onto the pitch and tried to thump Jamie Jones in the goal, but less said about that the better. Town were down to seventh, yay, pessimism! Town had been ‘found out’ again!

A trip to Crawley beckoned and Town finally claimed a precious clean-sheet, unfortunately Swindon failed to score at the other end, but a point away from home is always a good result nevertheless. During the match Nathan Byrne had obviously been thinking that he hadn’t been a victim of a harsh red card recently, so promptly got one for a splendid tackle in which he clearly won the ball. Mark Cooper was incensed.

The game was played against a background of uncertainty surrounding the future ownership of the club, with rumours surfacing that a secret ‘Power’ struggle for control was currently in full swing.

Meanwhile, the Crawley owners decided after the match that a home draw against Swindon was not good enough for a club of their immense stature so they sacked their manager Ritchie Barker shortly after the game. I’ll bet he was still in those shorts as well, fancy that, a grown man being sacked whilst wearing shorts.

Town got back to business with a nervy three-one win over an improving Carlisle, a game in which a cruising Swindon took the lead through Luongo, but then inexplicably turned off in the second half allowing another ex-Town centre half in the shape of Sean O’Hanlon to head the Cumbrians level.

Straight from the kick off Town finally realised that if they wanted to win, they would need to actually attack at some point – so they immediately set about driving at the Carlisle defence, who quickly buckled and conceded a free kick on the edge of the box. Step forward Alex Pritchard, who for the third time this season, showed how deadly he is from a…er.. dead ball situation.

Dany N’Guessan, on as a substitute, put the game out of reach, combining with another sub in the form of the returning Nile Ranger, to slot home with what was his first and only touch in-between warming up and coming on and the post-match warm down.

DECEMBER

After the Carlisle game, Town enjoyed a 14 day hiatus in the league programme, ahhhh, we could all now take a breath and relax. No chance, because like some previously contained cowboy brawl in a Saloon Bar, the boardroom struggle had now burst through the swing doors and out onto the dusty street – it was all out in the open and everyone wanted to join in.

Mark Cooper did his best to play down the unrest, saying that his troops were focused on the football and nothing else. Needless to say, it was quite a relief when the dust settled and it was Lee Power who strode away from the battle intact – and in charge. Following Jed McCrory stepping down as Chairman, Power released a coherent statement via the Adver and took part in a good Q&A session with fans, like some top model clad in a ten denier body stocking, the apparent transparency was pleasing for all to see.

Sandwiched between league games was a JPT Southern Section Semi-Final encounter with Stevenage. In a game reminiscent of the recent league game with Carlisle, Town dominated the early stages and took the lead through Nicky Ajose but then failed to capitalize on their dominance and seemingly forgot to attack again.

The inevitable Stevenage equaliser came, forcing the game to penalties in which Town amazingly coasted to the win. Back-up keeper Ty Belford delivered a masterclass in annoying wind-up tactics and off-putting antics, saving two and causing the hapless Ben Chorley to launch his effort so far over the Town End the club had to phone the Jury’s Inn to get their ball back.

Back to league action, and Town lost away to Sheffield United, again. I think an agreement should just be drawn up between the two clubs that we simply forfeit the trip to Bramall Lane each year, we’d save on the inevitable petrol, heartache etc. Town going down on this occasion on- nil, with one time Football Manager legend Jose Baxter grabbing the only goal. I tweeted my mate who went to the game to ask him how we played; I received a one word response: ‘Dogshit’.

I feel this is the right place to leave my review of the year, the last few games plus Nile Ranger’s imminent departure all seem a bit too recent to include in a recap. It would be like reminiscing on the colour of my first wee I had when I got up this morning – it’s all too recent and largely unnecessary.

To sum up the year in some all-encompassing final paragraph would be impossible, too much went on – in the boardroom and on the pitch, so I will leave this over-long, rambling piece with a question:

What exactly do you think I’ll be covering in a review of next year?

It’s a terrifying thought….

Read the rest of our review of 2013