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

September & October 2013: League nitty-gritty and cup glamour

2013 MK Dons Alex Pritchard

2013 was a truly eventful and unforgettable year at Swindon Town. Brendan Hobbs jumped at the chance of writing our review of 2013, which has turned into an epic feature of writing; you’ve now made it to part seven and its now 2014, so a Happy New Year!

September

The first bit of business for Swindon in the new month was to secure two more strikers to join the fight. Unknown Mohammed El Gabbas was drafted in on a short term deal and Dany N’Guessan joined after Millwall cancelled his contract. One Millwall fan on Twitter denounced N’Guessan as the worst footballer he had ever seen, which was music to Swindon fans ears as I remember a Charlton fan saying exactly the same thing about Alan McCormack. N’Guessan was no stranger to scoring at the County Ground after grabbing an 88th leveller for Boston United way back in 2006.

Town were provided with the opportunity to flex their muscles on live TV with a tricky away encounter at MK Dons. Alex Pritchard provided one of those ‘wow’ moments and probably the only time I’ve rewound ‘live’ TV on my Sky Box (I know, I’ve not lived) with a fantastic free kick, curled into the top corner. Swindon looked impressive at times, but the Dons always looked dangerous and grabbed an equaliser via another top flight loanee Patrick Bamford. This all happened after a previously comfortable Town were controversially reduced to ten men after Nathan Byrne received his second red card in a Town shirt.

A daunting trip to nailed-on promotion favourites Wolves provided the next test for Swindon, N’Guessan was to net his first goal for his new club in an impressive team performance, the team ultimately going down though 3-2, with Ryan Mason netting the other with an absolute beaut from 35 yards.

The run of punishing fixtures continued with a tricky home game against local rivals Bristol City, who despite being on a wretched run of form, possessed a lot of quality in their line-up, including one time target Marlon Pack and former favourite Aden Flint. It was Flint (obviously) who scored first, nodding home direct from an early corner, Town got back level via Nicky Ajose’s first goal for the club, turning Nicky Shorey brilliantly before firing low into the net. The status quo didn’t last for long though as the impressive Emmanuel-Thomas cut in from the touchline to fire viciously past Foderingham. It was down to that man Ajose again to grab his second to tie the match up just before half-time. The second half was a tight, nervy affair before Nile Ranger deservedly grabbed the winner with three minutes to go.

League Cup fever gripped the Town on Tuesday 24th September, as Swindon were pitted against a genuine Premier League Billy Big Balls outfit in the shape of Chelsea. Town cashed in on the opportunity with the whole corporate thing moving into overdrive as dining tables were crammed into the sponsors lounge as never seen before. And when the lounge wouldn’t take any more some sort of tented village was erected outside to take the overflow, giving the paying customers the effect and experience of a high-class refugee camp – as the majority of the in-mates all ended up their wallets fleeced at the end. The TV cameras were out as well, perhaps sniffing a possible upset, with TV execs imagining an inexperienced Chelsea D team being roughly turned over by a bunch of seasoned professionals from the lower leagues.

When the two team sheets were issued, I’m sure some Sky executives ummmed and arrred about packing up and going home as the Chelsea team was pretty much their ‘A’ affair. True, there were some of the back-up squad were on show, unfortunately for Town, they included players like Juan Mata and Michael Essien. I’m sure some gear was already packed away before someone said, “Well we’re here now and I’m sure the half-time buffet will be good.”

Chelsea never got out of third gear, securing a routine win with two excellent strikes courtesy of Fernando Torres and the mononymous Ramires. I enjoyed the game, and the ground did have a big-time feel about it, with the scrolling electronic advertisements and the instant replays on the big screen but on the whole I felt the atmosphere was a little lacking. It would’ve been interesting if Dany N’Guessan’s effort in the second half hadn’t been ruled out for offside, just to see if Town were capable of mounting some type of Villa style comeback, spurred on by a molten Town End.

As we all filtered out at the end, pushing our way through all the big-time litter and past the shanty village of TV vehicles and marquees I felt a certain joy, maybe because we didn’t embarrass ourselves, maybe it was because of whole spectacle of the game – I’m not sure , but the game felt enchanting and exciting to witness. I hope we have a few more of those sort of nights in the future.

The September programme and difficult run of fixtures came to a close away at Preston, a place that has special memories for Wes Foderingham, who can now add conceding a bizarre own goal to his list of Deepdale joys, with Jay McEveley giving him no chance by looping the ball over his head into the net.

In some way this game provided a turning point for McEveley who had been showing some wretched form. The own goal provided a zenith for his recent poor displays as he finally emerged from his appalling Kim Heiselberg shaped chrysalis and burst into the light as a beautiful Cafu butterfly.

On the whole, the Preston game was very odd, Town were totally outplayed for much of the match but at the death almost spewed up an unlikely point. N’Guessan grabbed what seemed only a consolation with the score at two nil, but Town then laid siege to the Preston goal and a scorcher from Yaser Kasim almost grabbed the leveller, their ‘keeper making a last ditch tip over to deny the Iraqi.

October

October brought a mixed bag of results, first off was a home encounter against a struggling Tranmere side. I did the whole ‘corporate thing’ for this game and was in the Royal Box, it was a good job I did as the game itself was pretty awful, the chocolate torte I enjoyed at halftime however, was not. N’Guessan grabbed the only goal via the spot after Pritchard was hauled down just as he was about to pull the trigger, I was livid; I had a tenner on the diminutive winger to grab the first goal. I booed and whistled but N’Guessan finished with aplomb.

Next up was a thumping four nil away win at Rotherham, a score line so unexpected considering all the home pressure endured by our wobbly defence in the first quarter. Pritchard, Luongo, Ajose and N’Guessan all on target.

Town then dispatched Notts County back at the County Ground, with the effective partnership of Ranger and N’Guessan grabbing the goals, this propelled Swindon to the lofty heights of fifth, not many saw that coming at the start of the season, this ‘cutting your own cloth’ business was seemingly not too bad after all.

Sadly, we were all brought back down to earth with a bump when slick Walsall oozed into Town. A commanding, disciplined performance saw the Saddlers run out 3-1 winners, with Ranger grabbing a consolation goal in the last ten. This left many Town fans panicking, suggesting our style ‘had been found out’ and that the inevitable slide down the table was now just around the corner, now you could never brand our fans ‘kneejerk’ could you?

After a disappointing away showing at that World War II film set that is Boundary Park, Oldham, in which we only had an own goal to show for our efforts in a two-one loss. We pulled up our trousers, rolled back our sleeves and got back to work with a topsy-turvey 5-2 drubbing against Port Vale.

Read the rest of our review of 2013

August 2013: Enter Swindon manager no.3 of the year…. Mark Cooper

Mark Cooper

2013 is nearly over and it has truly been an eventful and unforgettable year at Swindon Town. Brendan Hobbs jumped at the chance of writing our review of 2013, which has turned into an epic feature of writing; you’ve now made it to part six…

August

The season started bright and early against recently relegated Peterborough United. Caretaker manager Mark Cooper made just a few changes to the Town squad that featured against Brentford in the playoffs – in came Alex Smith, Grant Hall, Alex Pritchard, Tijane Reis, Yaser Kasim, Jack Barthram and Ryan’s Harley and Mason, out went pretty much everyone else.

The fixture was going to provide a stern test for the team widely tipped by most as relegation fodder, but our young team equipped themselves brilliantly and in the end were unlucky to not get at least a draw. The one nil reverse courtesy of £1.5 million pound man Britt Assombalonga showing the difference between the two sides on the pitch and off it.

Town were still busy exploring the transfer market, allegedly making several cash bids for Bournemouth Striker Wes Thomas, which were all rebuffed by the Cherries but Town did cause a further stir in transfer circles by opening a dialog with the eponymously tattooed football bad boy Nile Ranger, who was seeking a glorious return to the club on a free.

The opening home game of the season was against Stevenage, this was the first time the majority of fans could see their new heroes in the flesh. Buoyed by the glowing report coming out of Peterborough we all trotted along not quite knowing what to expect. However I don’t think even the most optimistic of Swindon fans expecting to witness such a delightful passing display, by the 90th minute the ‘Ole’s’ were quite deafening – and the score line was only one nil!

The much scoffed at Yaser Kasim, recently released by Brighton following unsuccessful loan stints at non-league Macclesfield and Luton pulled the strings in midfield like a seasoned ten year pro, offering the vision of Pirlo coupled with the tackling of Diego Simeone. Massimo Luongo provided the match winner with a fantastic strike in front of his visiting Aussie parents.

Town then travelled to Shropshire for an encounter with Shrewsbury, a lucky venue in recent years, but on this occasion defensive errors cost the team dear as they slipped to a clumsy two nil reverse. The travelling fans at least got a glimpse of the newly acquired Nile Ranger, who despite lacking match fitness turned in a decent performance.

On the 20th August the inevitable managerial appointment was made. Since MacDonald’s departure the mantra of ‘not Mark Cooper, not Mark Cooper, not Mark Cooper, not Mark Cooper’ had been growing louder and louder, like the repetitive locomotive chatter of the 7:38 to Paddington. But since the start of the season, the drone of these clattering wheels had dissipated to a barely audible murmur. People were quietly impressed with what they were seeing: neat passing football played by some really talented individuals, and by what they were hearing: genuine press conferences which showed player support and provided interesting tactical insight, a welcome change to random head shaking rants and raves.

Something that was impossible to think of at the start of August, was now gathering momentum – the Swindon fans were actually warming to Mark Cooper. His confirmation as the main man at the club was greeted with genuine joy.

The next home game was against pantomime rivals Gillingham, a thoroughly enjoyable encounter despite the two all score line, again some lovely, entertaining football was on show. I mean, any game in which your two full backs score has got to be good hasn’t it? Nathans Thompson and Byrne netting for the Town.

August was brought to a close with a thumping five nil home win against Crewe, Ryan Mason scoring a fine hat trick and a first club goal for the impressive Nile Ranger completing the rout. A Massimo Luongo goal was sandwiched somewhere in-between. Again though, it was the quality of the football that won the day, slick and at times breath-taking.

There was still time left in the month for Swindon to add to their potential firepower with the arrival of proven lower league striker, Nicky Ajose, on loan from Peterborough.

Read the rest of our review of 2013

June & July 2013: Building a Business Plan for promotion…

Steve Murrall 4

2013 is nearly over and it has truly been an eventful and unforgettable year at Swindon Town. Brendan Hobbs jumped at the chance of writing our review of 2013, which has turned into an epic feature of writing; you’ve now made it to part five…

June & July

Although Swindon missed out on any Play Off orientated silverware, the club did win a prestigious award in the close season, with Marcus Cassidy receiving the plaudits as groundsman of the year for League One.

I think a lot of people take pitch quality as a given these days, especially armchair fans who frequently watch the endless bowling greens of the premier league. However if you’ve been to any away games in this division and seen some of the rubbish prepared elsewhere by our rivals you can really appreciate the brilliant nature of our pitch.

Marcus and his team thoroughly deserved the award and in some sense a share of any success we had on the pitch, because without his dedication and hard work us fans would’ve probably spent most of last season craning our necks upward to watch the long balls fly, rather than the ‘on-the-deck’ stuff we’ve been treated to.

The shock waves of all the recent boardroom upheaval and the inevitable financial pinch that followed was starting to be felt as Town were already asking office staff to step forward for voluntary redundancy. But it wasn’t all bad as we were informed that extra income streams were already being explored with Steve Murrall conducting Business Plan presentations, and earlier the announcement that a series of summer concerts were to be held at the County Ground. Some vast income sums were being bandied about, in some outlets it was reported that Town were set to clear a million pounds, guaranteed.

The line-ups were not exactly inspiring on either of the arranged days, certainly not to my taste but I was convinced the people of Swindon would provide a healthy attendance as concerts involving Bryan Adams and Elton John had previously been a roaring success in the past. Maybe not on this occasion though, whether it was down to poor advertising or poor weather conditions neither day looked well attended – with some of the images coming out from the CG suffering a power cut painting a pretty depressing picture. Like some cutting edge news reporter I did speak to an eye witness who attended the Revival Tour evening, who said and I quote “The best entertainment I had all night was when two girls engaged in some ‘foxy boxing’ over a bottle of tango, I threw money” classy stuff.

Big Summer Sessions

Away from the concerts, also joining the various office staff in leaving were two of our best performers from the previous season, with Aden Flint completing his protracted move to Bristol City and Alan McCormack packing his bags to join our recent Play-Off foes Brentford.

Also going, was the often cited ‘big earner’ [definition required] Gary Roberts, as he cleared his locker and was released by the club, straight into the welcoming arms of League Two Chesterfield. He was soon joined by fans favourite Simon Ferry and horrifyingly for this writer, Joe Devera who both eventually joined him in League Two with the financially frail Portsmouth. Tommy Miller and Raffa De Vita also found themselves unemployed, with Raffa only enjoying temporary visits to the Labour Exchange as he quickly joined ambitious Bradford City.

A few fans scoffed at the calibre of club that all of our released players ended up at, as many were always branded as ‘Championship Quality’, but they all joined good clubs, whereas in the past our released players tended to join only Supermarine or Chippenham.

So with office staff leaving, players leaving, some of our new board decided to get in on the act with Hooper and Rice, all part of Jed McCrory’s original consortium, leaving to pursue that always mysterious and oft cited “other business interests”.

Like some reasonably priced, disease free prostitute, it seemed the exit door was currently the only thing getting some constant action, so it was a relief when Swindon finally started bringing in some new talent with Fulham utility man Alex Smith the first in, presumably nodding to Gary Roberts et al whilst they made their way out.

It was evident that Town were pushing for a more youthful set up for the new season, with Spurs youngster Jack Bartham and former loanee Nathan Byrne joining on free transfers. In some quarters fans immediately and mistakenly translated the term ‘youthful’ with ‘cheap’ and the various forums and comments sections already started getting clogged up with some gluey despair.

Some bright moments pierced the gloom however, Foderingham signed a new contract, keeping the stopper at the County Ground until 2015, or until someone offers a big fat cheque for his services. Also bolstering the ranks were further Spurs youngsters Grant Hall, Ryan Mason and Alex Pritchard.

Portuguese Free Agent Tijane Reis was snapped up and it was reported that Town acted like some back-alley slapper having ‘beaten off’ many big clubs to secure his signature. The Tottenham influence also grew with Massimo Luongo returning on loan, having enjoyed Swindon hospitality the previous season. Town also added in the boardroom with Sangita Shah and Lee Power joining McCrory’s team.

Things seemed to be settling down nicely, the squad of talented youngsters was offering intrigue and maybe a little bit of hope to supporters and a few were getting quite optimistic with the new season looming into view.

So Kevin MacDonald decided this was the perfect time to quit, astonishing stuff. I’m not sure what annoyed me more about his resignation, the turmoil it would cause within the squad or the damage it would do to the new season prep? It was going to be neither of these, because the one thing that drives me insane more than anything is ‘new manager rumours’. Every out of work manager starts being linked (Steve Cotterill), or ex-Town players (Shaun Taylor, Luc Nijholt) or one that falls into both categories (Martin Ling), the barmy suggestions (Poyet – yes this was a serious suggestion by certain fans) or the inevitable, the perennially linked Paul Tisdale.

Kevin MacDonald

The Spurs links were unavoidable, with many suggesting that any one of Tim Sherwood, Les Ferdinand or Chris Ramsey were nailed on for the top job. The Adver saw it differently, announcing that Paul Hartley or a returning Glenn Hoddle were favourites for the position. Mark Cooper was put in temporary control of the team as managerless Swindon didn’t hang around in the transfer market, adding Yaser Kasim, Rossi Branco, Ty Belford and Ryan Harley to the ranks.

With no manager in place, it became apparent that these transfers were made by the Director of Football Lee Power, maybe in consultation with Mark Cooper. Many fans were outraged that a managerless club could make such signings – and that no manager would join a club in which they seemingly had no say in the transfer market. A large percentage seemed totally unaware that most European clubs and global giants operate in exactly this way; it’s a way to ensure continuity and provide control, stopping any future Di Canio style scenarios – expensively splurging on players quickly followed by an equally expensive mass exodus when it all goes wrong.

Read the rest of our review of 2013

Big summer sessions image from swindonadvertiser.co.uk

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

1963-1964 Squad Crop

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 December 1963…

Top of the Charts – I Want to Hold Your Hand – The Beatles

After a fairly dismal November where we’d not won a game and score only two goals we were all hoping for better things in December. Only one of our opponents, Portsmouth, was in the top half of the table and two, Norwich City and Scunthorpe United, were third and fourth from bottom. First up was an away game at Swansea Town (yet to become a ‘City’).  Quite a few of us went down on Rimes Coaches, Swansea were in the bottom half of the table and this was a good chance to try back on track. The journey was interminable, there was no M4 then and we seemed to go in the most circuitous route possible, driving up and down any number of dismal South Wales valleys. After what seemed to be about two days, we finally arrived.

We shouldn’t have bothered. Swansea set about us from the off and their centre forward Keith Todd, who’d just be recalled to the side, justified his selection with a very well taken hat trick. The only Swindon player to emerge with any credit whatsoever was Bobby Woodruff who pretty much played Swansea on his own and was described in one match report as ‘a future international in the making’, and although that didn’t happen he did go on the have an illustrious career with Wolves,  Crystal Palace and Cardiff City.

A week later we were at Scunthorpe United who we had taken apart so superbly on the opening day of the season. Scunthorpe were third from bottom and relegation candidates. Before a pathetically low crowd of just over 5,000 they achieved only their fifth win of the season with a convincing 3-0 win, their third goal coming from a Bobby Woodruff own goal. This was our fifth game in a row without scoring and our second consecutive 0-3 defeat. We certainly weren’t doing much away from home.

The following Saturday brought a home game against Portsmouth and a chance to get a desperately needed win and confidence boost. Pompey’s centre forward was Ron Saunders who had a justifiable reputation as a prolific goal scorer with a record of better than one goal every two games. He was to go on to a successful management career with a number of First Division clubs, including Aston Villa, Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion, all of whom were known for their somewhat dour style during his tenure. He didn’t score in this game though as Town, in an understandably rather nervous performance, ran out 2-0 winners with goals from Ernie Hunt and John Stevens. The relief around the ground was huge, finally a win and some goals!

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 opponents for the two Christmas fixtures were Norwich City who with a decent run had pulled themselves up from 19th to 14th in the table. They were a team in form and would be tough opponents. Norwich had recently signed Ron Davies from Luton Town for £35,000. He was rightly regarded by most as the best header of the ball in the Football League. He scored better than one in every two games for Norwich and  was to go on to an illustrious First Division career with Southampton where his scoring record was exceptional, including  four goals, all headed, at Manchester United in 1969.

In an exciting game at Carrow Road in front of almost 21,000 fans, Town led 2-0 at half time through John Stevens and Bill Atkins. The second half was to turn out to be a different story however with Davies amongst the scorers as Norwich ran out 3-2 winners.  Despite the defeat it was a creditable performance and gave grounds for optimism for the return fixture two days later. A great start saw Bill Atkins give Town an early lead but two Ron Davies goals gave Norwich the lead. However this time it was the Town’s turn to come from behind with a late equaliser from Mike Summerbee giving Town a deserved draw.

It hadn’t been a good month but the rot had been stopped and at least there had been some goals to cheer. Town were still fifth in the League, behind Leeds United, Sunderland, Preston North End and Charlton Athletic. January promised to be an exciting month with a home 3rd Round FA Cup tie against Manchester City and a home game against the leaders Leeds. We’d come down from expecting to win every game as had been the case in August and September and a degree of realism had settled in. We were certainly enjoying the ride though!

1963-64 December Table

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

Table from statto.com

May 2013: Play-Off comeback, penalties and agony…

2013.05 Play Offs

2013 is nearly over and it has truly been an eventful and unforgettable year at Swindon Town. Brendan Hobbs jumped at the chance of writing our review of 2013, which has turned into an epic feature of writing; you’ve now made it to part four. There’s a few more to come, this is only…

May

The playoffs loomed in the shape of a two legged tie against a hugely deflated Brentford side. The Bees had a chance to gain automatic promotion with practically the last kick of the regular season but were denied when on loan striker Marcelo Trotta missed an injury time penalty. Their misery compounded by their rivals on the pitch and in the league table, Doncaster, sweeping up the other end to net an improbable winner. Heart-breaking for the fans, but at least they had a second chance against a meandering Town displaying such patchy form.

The opening fixture at the County Ground promised to be a tight one, and that is exactly what was delivered, although the frenetic opening ten minutes gave no indication of this with Adam Rooney getting the first opportunity within the first thirty seconds of the kick-off courtesy of a defensive slip.

In the end the first leg’s score line was decided by a moment of brilliance and a moment of madness from the same player, Massimo Luongo. Following good work from Simon Ferry on the right, the on-loan Tottenham youngster curled a delicious effort from just outside the box into the bottom corner, leaving the goalie grasping thin air. A massive moment, a moment of delirium and also a moment that changed the game.

After a couple more efforts you started getting the distinct impression Town were happy to defend the lead and more importantly as time went on, we looked less capable of doing so – you can only imagine how PDC would’ve reacted.

Sure enough, in the fourth minute of added on time, the constant attacking threat of Harry Forrester received the ball in the box, his bad touch took him away from goal but also into the lunging tackle of Luongo. The ref didn’t hesitate pointing to the spot, if only he had done that earlier as Town themselves had two very good shouts for a penalty turned down. Kevin O’Connor made no mistake from the spot.

Half time, deep breath.

The second leg was played out in glorious sunshine and with the game evenly poised who knew what to expect. I wasn’t expecting a fast start from Town and my optimism was rewarded with some sluggish passing and lacklustre movement, not the greatest of first half performances, with the lively Brentford ramming home their dominance with two easy goals, game over.

Or so we thought, Adam Rooney powered in an effort just before half-time to give us hope for a big turnaround in the second half. But Gary Roberts conspired to kick that dream out of us as immediately after kick-off as he sent a lazy, wafted cross field ball to no-one except a rampant Clayton Donaldson, who practically ran the length of the field to score, game over.

Or so we thought, the lovely Joe Devera pounced in the six yard box to reduce the arrears and we braced ourselves for a Town backlash, a veritable siege on the Brentford goal. It didn’t come and in fact it was the Bees who looked more likely to sting.

Or so we thought, step forward Aden Flint, in the 95th minute, with a penalty shout still ringing in everyone’s ears, that wonderful scarecrow of a man rose like a soaring recipient in a line-out to nod Town level. Now I never went to Griffin Park, so I’ll leave it up to the words of Richard Banyard, mastermind of the excellent http://www.swindon-town-fc.co.uk site, who summed it up beautifully in his match report:

“As I tweeted earlier, when I think back to yesterday, I can’t help but smile. Obviously not because of the result – but the celebrations after Aden Flint’s thumping 95th minute header will live far longer in the memory than what followed. As that ball hit the back of the net, all hell broke loose just behind it – I hugged my dad, I hugged a couple of other complete strangers. You haven’t celebrated a goal properly if you haven’t drawn blood before, or at the very least smashed your sunglasses. I feel a bit sorry for the armchair fans of Utd/City/Chelsea or whoever, who don’t get to experience that kind of raw emotion. These people just don’t know football, not really.”

The only thought going around in my head now was how Brentford would react, denied at the death in the regular campaign, denied at the death in the play-offs, surely this would leave them beaten?

Unfortunately any chance of Swindon snatching the win disappeared after Nathan Byrne’s red card in extra time; the Town resolutely resigned themselves to defending the status quo, holding out for a penalty shootout.

We all know what happened, so let’s not dwell, but it still annoys me to this day that it was left to young Miles Storey to take the crucial kick, whilst ‘senior pros’ like Alan McCormack declined to take one, seemingly shying away from the responsibility.

It capped off, on reflection, a fine season. With lots of highs and lows and off field hassles to keep the various modes of social media at a constant fever pitch – it certainly was action packed and it served as a reminder of what makes watching Swindon an absolute ‘pleasure’.

It was probably best that we didn’t get promotion, what with all the boardroom distractions rumbling on. I feel we would’ve been ill-prepared for an assault on the Championship and any pursuit of consolidation in that league could’ve been detrimental to our long-term health – but we will never know. Brentford wouldn’t know either as they were beaten by surprise package Yeovil in the final, a team we beat with ease twice in the regular season.

So, what would await Town next season? Well, the close season alone provided a few surprises…

Read the rest of our review of 2013

March & April 2013: It was the turn of the KMac…

Kevin MacDonald

2013 is nearly over and it has truly been an eventful and unforgettable year at Swindon Town. Brendan Hobbs jumped at the chance of writing our review of 2013, which has turned into an epic feature of writing; you’ve now made it to part three. Well done…

March

A new month and a new managerial appointment. The announcement of Kevin McDonald’s installation as manager was just barely audible against the background screams of angst from kneejerking supporters disappointed by the lack of vision shown by the board. No Mourinho, Zemen, Giggs or Carragher? A disgrace!

In fact this to me seemed the most visionary appointment of recent times, a coach who had an amazing track record of nurturing young talent was being drafted in with the aim to produce quality players to sell on and make us self-sufficient. But what the fans wanted was another rookie who’s could lurch us close to financial oblivion and provide no legacy whatsoever.

Anyway, McDonald or KMAC as he was now being dubbed got off to the perfect start with an away win at Coventry City, a Wes Foderingham inspired performance which saw us come from behind to nick all three points at the death. With Darren Ward, free from the shackles of management grabbing the winner.

A defeat away to promotion rivals Brentford followed a disappointing draw at home to Walsall, the only remarkable thing that came from these two encounters were back-to-back Simon Ferry goals. The forums were full of chatter concerning the fact that now the wee Scot was free from the tyranny of PDC obviously KMAC was getting the best out of him. He wasn’t to register another strike in a Swindon shirt.

A good win at fellow playoff hopefuls Yeovil Town raised spirits briefly, but two uninspiring back-to-back home draws against Notts County and Oldham well and truly steered our ship onto an unavoidable course for the iceberg.

In an effort to get the good ship Swindon back on track McDonald raided Tottenham’s reserve squad and borrowed Dean Parrett, Massimo Luongo and Nathan Byrne. All were drafted in on loan deadline day as a previously embargoed Town had been stymied right up to the final minutes in any efforts to bring in reinforcements.

APRIL

April was a grim month, Town were outclassed by a strong Doncaster team hell bent on the Championship. A totally listless display, which left Town floundering around like a landed fish on the riverbank – we sort of knew we needed to be in the water but didn’t have the skills or the know how to achieve it. The one nil reverse was the first in a three game losing streak which couldn’t have happened at a worse possible time. Defeats away to Milton Keynes and Sheffield United pretty much condemned us to the playoffs and our automatic promotion chances were finally holed below the waterline, cue Celine Dion, cue Kate and Leo.

At least we finished the home league programme on a high, with thumping wins against Crewe and Stevenage, 4-1 and 3-0 respectively.

Our final league game, away at the soon-to-be relegated Scunthorpe, provided a perfect allegory for the entire season. Through hard work and effort we finally took the lead late on with a James Collins strike, but then immediately after that soaring high, we totally and without warning, capitulated – and conceded three in the final moments – to a relegated team no less. Soul destroying.

February 2013: The end of Paolo Di Canio’s Circus

Paolo Di Canio's Circus1

2013 is nearly over and it has truly been an eventful and unforgettable year at Swindon Town. Brendan Hobbs jumped at the chance of writing our review of 2013, which has turned into an epic feature of writing; you’ve made it to part two…

February

Two things went off the rails in February, our promotion push and Andy Williams’ eye for goal. The much maligned striker had scored six times in January, he was to only score twice more before the end of the season.

With boardroom shenanigans’ getting more and more prominent a stuttering Town and tearful Paolo grabbed an away point from a televised encounter against Crawley, with Adam Rooney getting the leveller from the spot. Di Canio was apparently ‘considering his position’ at the club and on the very next day he announced that he was ‘ready to walk away’.

Unfortunately for us he didn’t say that he ‘was ready to walk away unless fans waved promotional flyers and posters begging for him to stay at the next home game’.

A win in Essex against Colchester briefly raised our choking spirits, before being deflated at home in a one all draw against relegation haunted Hartlepool – Simon Ferry getting a rare strike only to see it cancelled out by the all too common Andy Monkhouse effort. We all waved our promotional flyers and posters, but it didn’t do any good, Di Canio’s mind was already made up despite being ‘overwhelmed’ by the fans efforts.

The zenith of our season was to come in the next game following a fantastic three one win away at a fading but still strong Tranmere Rovers side. A team prepared and charged by Paolo and regimented on the side-line by Fabrizio Picarretta, Town grabbed a win that was to put them top of the table; it also included a fabulous strike from Gary Roberts.

Paolo Di Canio's Circus

A hushed silence enveloped my house after the final whistle as we huddled around the radio listening to an emotionally charged Picarretta give his press statement, my emotionally charged brain tried to fend off his words but eventually I had to come to terms with the fact that this really was the end. It was the end of a truly terrifying and exhilarating rollercoaster ride – the last wonderful performance of the Di Canio Circus had been staged, the ringmaster was off.

McCrory wasted no time installing fall-guys Darren Ward and Tommy Miller as some sort of caretaking dream team (because joint managers always work well) but Town’s February limped to a close with a home draw against Preston and a dire home defeat to Bury. Just when we should have been capitalising and consolidating our position at the top we were too busy capitulating and consigning ourselves to the playoff places.

Read the rest of our review of 2013

January 2013: A Black month at Swindon Town

andrew-black-horsemeat 3

2013 is nearly over and it has been an eventful year at Swindon Town. Brendan Hobbs jumped at the chance of writing our review of 2013, which has turned into an epic feature of writing; this is only part one…

I wondered for an age about the style in which I was going to write this review. Perhaps in a sensible and reflective way, offering emotional insight and a deeply personal view on events? Maybe I could be all hard and analytical, mechanically walking you through each month in turn? Or perhaps I could adopt a lazy, flippant and meandering style in which I write a substance-light, totally factless piece purely to entertain myself and maybe one other person. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which one I’ve adopted, but to give you a clue, it isn’t going to be that different to the rest of my output to date!

I did think I could get all ‘I love 2013’ over this piece, the general public seem to lap up all that recapping nostalgic crap these days.

I can imagine a ‘talking head’ with Dick or Dom or some random woman from Pint of Lager and Packet of Crisps Please. Or maybe some unknown miscellaneous beauty who no one knows but the subtitle at the bottom of the screen cryptically says something like “Pixie Troublebottom, Presenter and Model”. Can you imagine all these ‘C’-listers rambling on about how PDC once punched the dugout and then swore a lot and how they all laughed?

Nah, me neither, so I ditched that idea, so here we go….

Can you believe that it’s almost a year ago that we notched those two back-to-back 5-0 scorelines against table topping Tranmere Rovers and Portsmouth? It does seem pretty recent to me, especially the Tranmere game as I was amazingly hung-over after attending my works Christmas party the previous night.

Now that little event was quite memorable, we had an awful, mass-produced Christmas ‘themed’ meal. Where I’m still convinced to this day that the menu stated the meat we were about to enjoy was merely ‘Turkey Flavoured’ and that the veg was actually fresh.

Unfortunately the meal wasn’t the only thing to lack any kind of good taste as that evening we were treated to some ‘top-class’ live entertainment as well. This came in the form of a ridiculously bad comedian who’s opening gambit was to tell a terrible joke about a plumber and the size of his huge tool, which received zero laughs apart from a couple of childish guffaws from two at the back who were obviously the reincarnations of Kenneth Williams and Sid James.

He counteracted the silence by stating that we were all going to ‘struggle’ throughout his routine if we hadn’t laughed at that. There you go; we were to blame for him being crap.

After an uncomfortable twenty minutes his set finally finished, no laughter, the silence was only punctuated by loud stomach groans and a few barely audible Christ Almighty’s, – not sure whether that was due to the cavalcade of bad material we were witnessing or the vicious turkey related stomach cramps we were experiencing.

After the ‘comedian’ we were treated to a psychic, who seemed to not pick up via the spirits that he was truly awful. Not quite Clinton Baptiste, but pretty close.

He rambled on for what seemed like eternity, with most of the audience wondering if they should all make a dash for the loo before a queue formed due to all the turkey flavoured goodness that was currently hopscotching through our colons. He came out with some bizarre personal claims directed at an obviously suffering data entry clerk who he had dragged out onto the stage. Her only crime was that instead of being doubled up with abdominal pains like the rest of us, she briefly made eye contact with him. But according to the performer, her aura was strong and the spirits had picked her out.

As his set came to a shambling end, he made some bizarre predictions for the future (first contact with a superior alien race was nailed on for August apparently) but seriously, if he had predicted that this time next year we would’ve had as many managers and chairmen as Bristol City have had wins I would’ve snapped and rushed the stage in an effort to put an end to such ludicrous buffoonery.

But in reality, if you reflect back to the Tranmere drubbing of last year, none of us – not even a woeful psychic could’ve predicted that in one calendar year:

  • Only three players from the entire Tranmere match day eighteen would still be here. (Fods, Ward, Nathan Thompson)
  • Our beloved manager would have left in a huff, got a premier league job, got sacked (Well maybe we could’ve all predicted that one)
  • Our beloved board, benefactor and entire club directorship would’ve collapsed
  • We’d have had three different Chairmen and owners
  • We’d have had three different Managers

So here goes for a review of the year 2013, when all hell broke loose and the dust is only beginning to settle (I hope).

JANUARY

What better place to start than the 1st of the month and our second consecutive 5-0 walloping. Town were starting to find some form with first table topping Tranmere being bullied around on the County Ground pitch and then Portsmouth.

The game was close for the first hour before an inspired/desperate substitution from Paolo who threw on James Collins for the ineffective Chris Martin (currently troubling the top scorer charts in the Championship at the moment, now who would’ve predicted that?)

Collins’ introduction provided Town with a fresh impetus and the team went on to score four times in a remarkable twelve minute spell – with Collins himself grabbing a hat trick and Danny Hollands adding another. James wasn’t content with just the match ball as he notched a fourth in the final ten minutes, leaving the full-time scoreboard displaying an improbable five nil result.

A fantastic performance that as well as inspiring the whole team, also enlivened the flagging fitness DVD market as Collins cashed in on his remarkable 30 minutes of fame.

collins 12 minute hat trick

Meanwhile, off the pitch, PDC was demanding backing from the board to boost further forays into the transfer market. Happy with the loans of Chris Martin and the impressive Danny Hollands, Paolo wanted to push on with strengthening his squad for the final assault on promotion. He was to be disappointed.

Back to the match action, hopes were high of repeating the five nil feat for a third consecutive game against a visiting Carlisle, but the Town faithful were left disappointed due to a poor, listless display with very little obvious effort and endeavour from the boys in red. Town scraping through by a 4-0 scoreline – the sales of football related fitness DVDs plummeted.

Next up was a tricky tie away at a resurgent Bournemouth, who were busy climbing quickly up the table using the bodies of vanquished foes as a step ladder. The game ended in a one all draw and despite monsoon conditions it was an entertaining game with the Cherries taking the lead before being pegged back by Andy Williams’ well taken opportunists strike following a David James rick.

The main news coming out from the game was that PDC had apparently rampaged across the touchline and destroyed the away dug-out. Typical of the inflammatory hyperbole that constantly surrounded the Italian, it turned out that it was the goalkeeping coach who accidentally dislodged a pane of Perspex. Nothing to see here.

Three days later though, the Town faithful were hit with a hammer blow. Apparently our beloved benefactor Andrew Black was getting itchy feet and was looking to get out of Dodge, immediately. The fact that Black wanted to remove himself from the club was no great secret, but suddenly there was a timeline with a very firm deadline at the end. “Swindon Town consider administration as club searches for new investors” trumpeted the Adver, following this up the following day with an interview with Black explaining his reasons to befuddled fans.

On the field, Town were to finish January unbeaten with another home win against Shrewsbury reinforced by a creditable draw away at Leyton Orient, the external influences seemingly not having an effect.

We were told by the Adver that several interested parties were vying for the coveted purchase of the club, with a fourth party joining late. Di Canio was very pleased with the state of affairs “There is positive energy. I can’t promise anything because I can’t sort out the situation on my own, but I know that we are in a very good position at the moment and I hope that we can go through.”

Fans had images of various oil rich Sheiks, natural gas laden Oligarchs and far eastern billionaires all vying for a piece of hot Wiltshire action. In reality though, we all sort of knew it would be a bunch of sports centre owners, scrap merchants, disqualified bookies and lower league football chairman scrabbling around purely for a bit of one-upmanship to brag about at the golf club.

Matt Ritchie

On the 30th January the comments section of the Adver was white-hot with activity from many obviously disturbed individuals as first the paper calmly announced that Ritchie was to be sold, to Bournemouth of all places. Shortly afterwards the club issued another statement saying Andrew Black had flogged the club – to an unnamed consortium. Not a single, disgustingly rich individual you understand but to a consortium. Perhaps Mr Sports Centre, Mr Disqualified Bookie and Ms Scrap Merchant had all sold their 52 plate Jags to club together to buy the club.

Not quite, but Town were now in the grasping hands of one Jed McCrory, chairman of Banbury United and self-confessed fan of lower league football. To some he was a saviour, who stopped Swindon suffering further financial heartaches, to others, a chancing wide boy who was only out to line his own pockets.

On the field the form we showed in January was that of a nailed-on promotion side, but unfortunately it was never sustainable in the current climate. Like a passenger on the Titanic who turned to his wife and said ‘I swear I saw something big and white on the horizon’ Town fans were starting to get an inclination about the real turmoil that was to come…

Header image courtesy BitterGillespie