Kasim thanks fans after winning Swindon Town poll

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After Yaser Kasim won the recent poll for the greatest Swindon Town player of the 21st century, the Iraqi speaks to Ben Wills…

Originally posted on Benjamin Wills' Blog:

Yaser Kasim has lavished praise on his fans after he was voted Swindon Town’s greatest player of the 21st Century in a recent poll by BenjaminWillsBlog.

“It’s a great achievement, I personally want to win football games rather than awards but I’m thankful for all the people that voted and thankful that the Swindon fans have taken me to their heart.”

The Iraq International, 23, has made a huge impact in Swindon since he arrived from Brighton and Hove Albion on a free transfer last summer.

So much so that he captained the side in a 1-1 draw against Coventry City on August 30 2014 due to regular skipper Nathan Thompson missing the game due to a suspension.

“Yes, very much so! (This is a proud honour for me), considering I’ve only been here for a year. I’m particularly proud of the team right now also and enjoying the…

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50 Years Ago: 1964/65 November – No Jekyll, just Hyde

1964 Stratton Bank - 50 Years

Mike Minihane continues his look back 50 years to events at the County Ground. Following Swindon Town’s first season in the ‘big time’ Division Two during 1963/64, Town looked to consolidate; however football isn’t that simple…

Top of the Charts:  Baby Love – The Supremes

November was going to be a challenging month with home games against Bolton Wanderers and Newcastle United and visits to Plymouth Argyle and Middlesbrough. Three of these teams were early promotion contenders. Newcastle were strongly fancied to make a return to the First Division and were sitting in second place behind surprise division leaders Northampton Town. Plymouth were in fourth place and Bolton in fifth. Middlesbrough were way down in tenth place so that was the ‘easy’ game.

The first game was at Plymouth. In their line-up was Tony Book, a late starter in the professional game who when signing had been advised by manager Malcolm Allison to doctor his birth certificate by shaving off two years as Allison felt that the club would not be prepared to take on a 30 year old. Book later followed Allison to Manchester City and in an illustrious career of 242 league appearances became the most decorated Manchester City captain of all time in terms of trophies won. He became the classic example of a player who could make a successful career when it seemed that all opportunities had passed by.

In terms of the game Bill Atkins put Town ahead in the 44th minute, a great time to score if you can hold the lead until half time. Regrettably, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Town were unable to do this and in the following minute Mike Trebilcock equalised to make it 1-1 at the break. Half way through the second half Plymouth were awarded a penalty which was converted by Nicky Jennings and with no further goals Plymouth took the points. This was Town’s eighth away loss in a row. Trebilcock later moved to Everton and was to score two goals in their 3-2 win over Sheffield Wednesday in the 1966 FA Cup Final.

1964-65 November Results

The visit of Bolton Wanderers the following Saturday seemed unlikely to stop the rot. Wanderers had both Francis Lee and Wyn Davies in their attack, two of the most prolific goal scorers in the division. And so it proved as Lee scored twice and Davies once in a demolition job with Town’s only reply coming from a John Trollope penalty. Davies moved to Newcastle and became one in their long line of iconic number 9s; Lee and Davies later played together at Manchester City where Lee was particularly successful scoring 112 goals in 248 games. He still holds the record for the most penalties scored in a season which earned him the nickname’ Lee Won Pen’, due more to his fondness for the occasional dive than any oriental ancestry.

The following Saturday’s visit to mid table Middlesbrough did nothing to lift the spirits. An early goal from Mel Nurse, who was to become a big favourite at Swindon when he moved the following year, set the scene. The bright spot was an equaliser from debutant Keith East before half time but then three second half goals gave Boro a comfortable win and Swindon their ninth consecutive away defeat.

The North East theme continued the following Saturday with the visit of second placed Newcastle United. As soon as they ran out in their immaculate black and white strip I feared the worst, they just looked so formidable, and indeed they were. We were a goal down in less than a minute when Alan Suddick scored and then shortly after a little jock called Willie Penman got another. The momentum continued as Newcastle scored twice more before the break with our only reply being a Trollope penalty, his second in three games. After the break Penman rubbed salt in our wounds with his second and a late goal from Stan Anderson completed a 6-1 rout. This was total humiliation.

Willie Penman, the little jock, was of course to sign for Town in 1966 and become a firm favourite with the fans for his skill and tenacity, making a substitute appearance in the 1969 League Cup final victory over Arsenal at Wembley.

This had been as bad a month as it was possible to have; four games, four defeats, four goals scored – two being penalties – and fourteen conceded. Hardly surprisingly we had slumped to twentieth place in the league, only one above the relegation places. The humiliation at the hands of Newcastle had been particularly ghastly. We were clearly out of our depth and in total free-fall.

1964-65 November Table

Table and results from Statto.com

Confessions of… a Mascot Designer…

Rockin Robin Header

To continue our short series of confessions from Swindon Town fans, David Squires admits was the man responsible for designing Rockin’ Robin…

A couple of weeks ago, the mascot for the 2015 Asian Cup was revealed. ‘Nutmeg’ is a large wombat who wears a fixed smirk and a left eyebrow that is permanently arched. The promotional photograph of him standing behind some Australian children therefore took on a something of sinister tone.

Naturally, and appropriately, the design drew some criticism. Mascots are rubbish and succeed only in amusing unintentionally (as illustrated by this wonderful collection of photographs of mascots observing minutes silences, highlighting just how ridiculous we have become as a species: http://www.wsc.co.uk/forum-index/27-football/852607-mascots-observing-minutes-silences).

But despite my loathing of mascots, I have to admit a certain amount of sympathy for whichever sap was given the task of designing Nutmeg, because for a short time in the late nineties I was that sap, and it was in that role that I designed Rockin’ Robin.

Bear with me here, I need to go back a bit.

At the time, I was trying to eke out a career as an illustrator, with very little success. Eventually, it was Swindon Town who took pity on me and I was commissioned to produce a caricature of Steve McMahon to be sold as a print in the shop. This was during the height of McMahon’s popularity, as he had just won Swindon a league title. I set to work on a Godfather-style parody, with a brooding McMahon peering out at the viewer in a Don Corleone-like pose. I dropped it in at the club and returned home, where I prepared for the inevitable barrage of phone calls bidding for my services.

A few weeks of silence passed before I went back into the club to have another chat with the marketing manager. They wouldn’t be able to use the picture, as “Steve” wasn’t happy with it. Still, they did have another project in mind. It was at this point that our conversation was interrupted by none other than “Steve” himself. It was all I could do to stop myself from dropping to my knees and showering his Mizuno trainers in kisses.  The marketing manager introduced me. “Steve, this is Dave – the man who did that Godfather cartoon”. McMahon’s face contracted, his lips pursed into a tight knot, eyes widening. “You cunt”, he hissed, “You made me look like Paul fucking Daniels”.

“Well, Steve, if the skull cap fits, mate” was the response I later dreamed of dispatching to his stupid pink face, but at the time the most I could summon was a nervous laugh and a weak explanation about the complexity of caricature work,  but he’d already turned on his heels and stropped off.

Despite the psychologically scarring impact of this brief exchange, I still had the ‘other project’. The club wanted me to redesign their mascot.

When I first started following Swindon in a serious way, the mascot was just a bloke in a ‘moonraker’ smock. There was no foam padding to protect him from the rain of coins from the away fans penned into ‘The Wedge’; no mask of anonymity to hide his face from the drinkers in his local. As football began to change, someone at the club must have decided that what people really wanted was a show off in a synthetic fibre animal costume. The cumulative effect of thousands of indifferent eyes must have worn this first Rockin’ Robin costume thin, so a re-boot was in order.

I’ll be honest, my heart wasn’t in it, but I followed the brief closely.  Just count yourselves lucky that I resisted suggestions to include those twin identifiers of cool: sunglasses and a baseball cap worn backwards. You all know what he looks like; the costume is mostly the same today. What you may have forgotten is the existence of his short-lived sidekick, ‘Funky Fledgling’, who I designed but – importantly – did NOT name. They wanted that character to be edgey and – oh God – ‘cheeky’, which I expressed in my design by giving him a cape. It was never really established what the relationship was between the two mascots, but Funky Fledgling didn’t stick around very long. Perhaps the dominant robin killed and ate his rival, perhaps a cat got him, or perhaps the drama student who ‘played’ him finished his Drama A-level and moved away to university.

I don’t think I even got paid the pathetically low fee I had negotiated. Around this time the club was in the midst of a routine financial implosion and I didn’t want to add to the list of angry creditors by demanding remuneration for something that I was ashamed of. Not that I’ve ever been allowed to forget my involvement in his creation. “He’s fun, isn’t he?” my friends deadpan whenever Rockin’ is body popping in front of the Town End, and I can always tell if they’ve had time to kill before a game when I receive items of memorabilia bearing his image in the post (the current fridge magnet tally stands at four).

This, however, was not the end of my mascot designing career. The costume manufacturers asked me to provide some more designs as clubs across the land all came to the conclusion that what they really needed to get fans back through their gates was an owl or a fox or a swan or a dog or a lion or a tiger or a dinosaur or a bear or a duck or a lion or a lion or a lion or a lion or a lion or a lion blankly waving at the family enclosure.

I think the worst costume I designed was the Champions League logo driving a Ford Focus, with its feet sticking out of the bottom like Fred Flintstone.

I did a lot of designs for charities and local authorities and a few for rugby league clubs, but thankfully the only design I ever submitted for a football club that got made was Herbie the Hammer at West Ham. My sketch of the costume depicted Herbie in an action pose heading a football. The manufacturers clearly took this too literally, as when they produced the final outfit they made it so that the eyes in his hammer face were always looking up, as if asking the heavens why he had been cursed with such a grotesquely angular head. Herbie also had a teddy bear accomplice, ‘Bubbles’ which I never really understood the point of.

Bizarrely, at one point Timmy Mallet threatened legal action against West Ham, as he believed Herbie infringed the copyright of Mallet’s Mallet. Seriously. However, it wasn’t the prospect of a lengthy court battle with a 1980s television presenter that ended my mascot-designing career, but the request to create a female cat character for Bristol City.

I couldn’t control the urge to lumber them with a ridiculous mascot and got carried away, submitting a frankly offensive creation called ‘Trashton’. This really was a sign of my immaturity; all I had to do was design something inoffensively rubbish, but I got overexcited and drew a street drinker in a boob tube. I didn’t get any more work offers after that.

So next time you see a mascot that looks like an escapee from The Island of Doctor Moreau, think of the poor bugger who sold his soul to design him.

Follow David Squires on Twitter

David on TheGuardian.com – http://www.theguardian.com/profile/david-squires

More of David’s work at TheSunshineRoom.com

Probably David’s finest work – his entry for Neil Ruddock into our STFC Hall of Shame

Rockin’ Robin images – source swindontownfc.co.uk / thisisswindontownfc.co.uk

Mascot images / sketches – courtesy David Squires

Confessions of… A Teenage Fanzine Editor

Randy Robin

In the first of a new short feature ‘Confessions of…’, Matt Arnold writes about being a teenage fanzine editor in the mid-1990s and trying to avoid being sued…

“Oh, the fanzine?”

“YES! I found some copies at home!”


Please, please leave them there”

This is a conversation I have, on average, about four times a season. The last occasion was at half time against Orient last month.

The reason dates back twenty years, to the post-Fever Pitch, pre-forums, pre-social media, pretty much pre-internet mid 1990s. These were the glory days of the Fanzine, or ‘Fans Magazine’ (A note for younger readers; a magazine is sort of like a blog, but trees have to die and everyone loses loads of money).

Back then, across the land, ‘When Saturday Comes’ occupied a special place in all right thinking supporters’ hearts, and, in Swindon, the excellent ‘69er’ had seized with gusto the baton discarded by the deceased, and much lamented, ‘Bring The Noise’.

So, with the misplaced confidence of youth, aged 14 , I concluded I too could offer fellow Town fans informed opinion, entertaining features, and what we were a good fifteen years from dubbing, ‘LOLs’. I was almost certainly wrong.

It started as 16 pages of A5 black and white, retailing for 20p and photocopied on the sly. Definitely not, I should point out as he still gets a pension from them, at my Dad’s place of work. Despite questionable quality, the inaugural issue quickly sold out, due, in no small part, to a tiny first print run. There is, after all, only so much surreptitious photocopying you can do at, what I repeat, definitely wasn’t my Dad’s place of work.

‘The Randy Robin’, as my nascent fanzine was ‘hilariously’ titled, made waves with it’s sophomore edition.  The Adver ran a story, front page no less, about this incendiary tome BEING BANNED from the County Ground. A classic case of ‘The Man’ trying to ‘keep the kids down’ if ever there was one. Thus, I was pictured, pubescent and piqued, outside an empty County Ground, brandishing a copy of my contraband rag.

Except, and here’s a confession, it didn’t really happen like that.

Employing the sort of low cunning that really should have later landed us careers as football agents, my friends and I had decided to whip up some free publicity. So I rang up the club, to innocently enquire whether I could sell the fanzine at the ground. Not unreasonably, the mandarin dispatched to deal with this upstart, informed me what I already knew, that only official publications, ie the programme, were permitted.

Murmurings about this snub to entrepreneurial schoolboys by crusty officialdom soon reached the ear of a friendly journalist, and, lo, tidings of this little local difficulty were duly dropped through the Town’s letterboxes just days later. Profile plumped up by the local paper, the next few issues the Randy Robin followed a familiar course.

While most teens loudly berate what they perceive to be their parents’ failings, it was the dubious paternal influence of the Swindon Town board we regularly raged against on our pages. Alleged mismanagement by these older squares even inspired the fanzine’s finest hour, a special free edition, produced in under 24 hours, as a response to the deadline day (under) sale of Jan Aage Fjortoft.

It would be naïve, and not a little self deluding, to suggest that the swiftly photocopied scribblings of a schoolboy helped fan the flames of protests that erupted post-match behind the Arkells the match after the flying Norwegian departed. But in a time before forums and social media, that issue of the Randy Robin promptly articulated the anger that most of the home crowd felt.

Aside from our often inexplicably irate editorials, and adolescent angst, much of the material was light hearted, even silly, designed, in the days before smart phones, to fill a few minutes pre match. It was always a wonderful feeling to see fellow fans, some of them actual adults, flicking through our work in the stands.

But it couldn’t last.

An end of season issue included a collection of quotes cribbed from various sources, summing up Towns campaign. When produced on my parents’ word processor, this seemed far from our most contentious piece. We had, after all, in the very same issue, filled the center spread with a Wild West-style poster of Town board, who were, apparently, ‘Wanted for the Attempted Murder of Swindon Town Football Club!’

The motive behind this melodrama escapes me now, and indeed, I suspect wouldn’t have stood up to much scrutiny at the time. Never the less, it went unremarked on.

Unlike the aforementioned article, which included a quote, attributed to a local journalist, about how “The words Steve McMahon and ‘man management’ don’t go together in the same sentence”. The remark had been lifted, not from the journalist’s own writings, but a piece in a fairly niche Football League magazine. A magazine it transpired that I’d managed to misplace, as said journo penned an angry polemic in the Adver, strongly denying ever having uttered this sentence. Perhaps, in fear of a Sam Morshead-style banning from the club, the slighted hack showed no remorse, giving the fanzine both barrels in print.

He, rightly, derided our legally dubious disclaimer in the front of each edition ‘We’re all under 16, so please don’t sue us’; before drawing readers attention to our flagrant, shameless and un-credited use of the paper’s copyrighted photos in the fanzine.

‘The Randy Robin’ limped on, but this was the beginning of the end. By the start of the next season some fans were refusing to pay for their copy, as it was “full of lies”. An accusation, incidentally, that you could apply to many teenagers writing about football today; only they do it on their mobile phones and have the ability to convince the world, via their ‘In The Know’ Twitter account, that they are an informed industry insider, rather than a football-obsessed adolescent.

And the less malevolently minded can share with fellow fans anywhere in the world, thoughts, jokes, opinions, even, if they must, ‘banter’, 24 hours a day.

There is have no need for arcane, off-line entities like fanzines.

Today’s youth (and how my 14 year-old self would hate that I grew up to use that phrase) will never know the pleasures of waiting for the local paper to drop on the mat to hear the latest transfer news, of following your side’s midweek away games on Ceefax, or, yes, of writing up and distributing your own ill-advised thoughts on actual printed paper.

Printed paper that definitely wasn’t photocopied at my Dad’s place of work by the way.

Follow Matt Arnold @HaroldFlem

The best I’ve ever seen #3: Dave Mitchell’s header vs Watford 4 January 1992

Dave Mitchell vs Watford 1

When Simon Bayliss saw our ‘Best I’ve Ever Seen’ feature, starting firstly with Rory Fallon’s overhead kick against Bristol City being chosen, and then Will Dixon nominated by Vic Morgan, he contacted us to nominate the best goal he’d ever seen scored by Swindon Town…

This certainly is not an easy choice. I’ve seen some screamers in my 38 years watching the Town; remember Steve Foley away at Blackburn in the Play-off semi in 1990? There have also been some scrappy goals which still meant so much at the time; like Paul Bodin’s 90th minute winner against Portsmouth in February 1993 when we’d played them off the pitch all match and totally deserved the win.

However I’ve picked Dave Mitchell’s header against Watford in the FA Cup at the County Ground in January 1992. This choice is not just for the way he finished it, but also for the fantastic build up to the goal which is probably the best I’ve seen – I say probably as choosing one goal from many hundreds means I’ve no doubt forgotten many good goals.

We’d beaten Millwall 3-1 at home on New Years Day three days previously, our first league win for 10 games. So I turned up on the Saturday reasonably confident that we’d found our scoring boots and could carry this on against Watford. Just over 10,000 turned up for the match, this was when the FA Cup still meant something and you could still get bigger crowds for cup matches than league games.

Town got off to the best possible start after four minutes with Duncan Shearer chesting down a lovely long ball from Ross MacLaren and half volleying it past David James to put us one up. Six minutes later and we were two up, and this goal is my nomination…

Watford’s Jason Drysdale, yes him, unwittingly started the move off by hitting a weak cross which Colin Calderwood had to stoop to head; it was hit that badly. If only Steve McMahon had been there to see that we may not have paid £340,000 for him some three years later!

Colin headed it to Ross MacLaren and Ross hit another lovely long ball to Dave Mitchell just inside the Watford half. Mitchell hit a lovely first time pass on the volley to Martin Ling who surged forward with the ball.

When Ling got to just outside the penalty area he passed it out to the right to Duncan Shearer who placed a precise first time cross which Dave Mitchell threw himself at and sent a bullet header flying over David James.

As the commentator says on the official club video for that season; “What a goal, what a superb goal, you won’t see better than that, and the County Ground erupts, that was absolute perfection.”

After that explosive first ten minutes we had to wait until just before half time for another goal, this time it was Watford who scored when Luther Blissett hit a cracker of a goal over Nicky Hammond.

Luther Blissett then made it 2-2 thirteen minutes into the second half with a header from a corner, he got to the ball well but i think Hammond should have beaten him to it.

However, Micky Hazard created the winner with ten minutes to go, running from inside his own half to just outside the penalty area where he threaded a lovely pass for Duncan Shearer who placed the ball into the corner of the net out of the reach of David James.

The reward for this win was a trip to Cambridge United in round four, where we got revenge for the two league defeats with a comfortable 3-0 win, beauty beat brawn that day.

Back to my nomination, and I really can’t think of a better build up to a goal along with an excellent finish, however if people think there are better ones, then please nominate them, preferably with footage from Youtube to remind me of goals I’ve forgotten.

Want to nominate an entry into our ‘Best I’ve Ever Seen’ feature? – Then please complete this form with your contact details and brief nomination and we’ll be in touch…

50 Years Ago: 1964/65 October – A brief cameo by ‘Almost ten past Haffey’

1964 Stratton Bank - 50 Years

Mike Minihane continues his look back 50 years to events at the County Ground. Following Swindon Town’s first season in the ‘big time’ Division Two during 1963/64, Town looked to consolidate; however football isn’t that simple…

Top of the Charts:  Oh, Pretty Woman – Roy Orbison

September had been a bad month with two wins and five defeats but at least it had ended on a high with the 4-1 demolition of Huddersfield Town, even if they were bottom of the league. The following Saturday saw the visit of Derby County who were sixth in the league and going well. It started badly as Eddie Thomas gave the Rams an early lead and we all feared the worst but we rallied and by half time were 3-1 up thanks to two Ernie Hunt goals and a rare goal from full back Owen Dawson. Soon after half time Ernie Hunt completed his hat trick to give us an unassailable 4-1 lead. Derby scored with a late penalty but the 4-2 score line represented an emphatic and deserved victory.

Two consecutive home wins with eight goals scored went a long way to restoring belief and it was with optimism that we went to Highfield Road the following Saturday to face Coventry City. Our away form hadn’t improved however and we were soon two goals down, but thanks to a quick reply from Ken Skeen and an Ernie Hunt penalty we were on terms at half time. The game could have gone either way in the second half but thanks to a late goal the Sky Blues ran out narrow 3-2 winners. The performance however suggested that we were improving on our travels.

Southampton were our next visitors and our games with them were always strongly contested as was the rivalry between the two sets of fans. For once Terry Paine and Martin Chivers didn’t score and with five minutes to go the score stood at 1-1 with Ken Skeen having got on the score sheet for the second game running. Then, with time running out, up popped Keith ‘Gladys’ Morgan with his only goal of the season for the winner. Victories over the Saints were always sweet.

1964-65 October Results

The pattern of good home form and poor away form was now well entrenched. Away we’d lost all six games; at home we’d won six and lost one. We had yet to draw a game. This was well before the era of three points for a win however and we were down to 14th in the league. With our next visitors, Cardiff City, languishing at the foot of the league we approached our next home fixture with justifiable confidence. On paper Cardiff had a decent side with four Welsh internationals including a young Peter Rodrigues and a rather older Mel Charles.

We started very well with a goal from the in-form Ken Skeen and another from Mike Summerbee to give us a 2-0 half time lead. Then, thanks to a very poor refereeing decision, things started to go wrong.  Trollope brought down their winger, Greg Farrell, at least a yard outside the penalty area. To the fury of the crowd the referee gave a penalty which Barry Hole stepped up to take. I have to concede that his penalty was one of the best I ever saw as he ran up to take it with his right foot and then switched to his left, rolling the ball into one corner as Norman Oakley went the other way.  Not long after however Peter Leggett who had come into the side as right winger to enable Summerbee to operate as a central striker, restored our two goal advantage. Leading 3-1 with just over twenty minutes to go we should have been able to see it out but it wasn’t to be. City threw Mel Charles forward to take advantage of his well-known ability in the air and he duly obliged with two excellent headed goals for a final 3-3 score. It had been an entertaining game with six goals scored but given our away form we were not in a position to drop home points.

In an attempt to shore up the defence we’d signed a new keeper, Frank Haffey, a somewhat eccentric ex-Celtic player and Scottish international whose claim to fame was conceding nine goals in Scotland’s 9-3 defeat to England at Wembley in 1961; which gave birth to the joke ‘What’s the time? It’s almost ten past Haffey’. Perhaps not surprisingly it was his last game for Scotland.

Frank was what in current terminology is known as a ‘big unit’. In those days the opposing centre forward would always clatter the keeper whenever a cross came over. In Frank’s case they just bounced off him. He made his debut in our next game away to Preston which we lost 1-2 with Summerbee getting our late consolation goal. The following Saturday he made his home debut against Ipswich Town and helped us to a convincing 3-1 win, courtesy of goals from Bill Atkins, Mike Summerbee and an own goal. Frank was only to play four games for us; he left the following month after a rumoured bust up with Manager Bert Head because he refused to dive on the car park concrete surface during training. He went on to move to Australia where he became a cabaret singer. You couldn’t make it up!

So the Jekyll and Hyde pattern continued. Of our four home games we had registered three wins and a rather unlucky draw; away we had lost twice. This was not too worrying as long as our home form remained. However with home games against Bolton Wanderers and high-flying Newcastle United and a trip to Middlesbrough to come in November some of us were starting to feel nervous.

1964-65 October Table


Table and results from Statto.com

At Home with the Bodins: Does Billy Bodin still wear dresses?

Billy Bodin 2

In our first dip into the weird and wonderful world of the Swindon Town Matchday Programme, this article from August 1994 raises a few questions about former Town player Billy Bodin and does he still wear dresses? Aww isn’t the two-year old Bodin cute…

At Home with the Bodins

Click image to open