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: You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’; The Righteous Brothers
January had certainly given us a glimmer of hope that we might avoid the dreaded drop. But February looked to be a tough month in which to pick up points, with three of our four games being away from home. Despite our recent couple of successes on our travels our away form overall was dreadful. However our first opponents, Huddersfield Town, were even worse than we were, being second from bottom of the division.
Our cautious optimism didn’t last long however as Huddersfield took a fourth minute lead and added a second goal before half time and a late goal from Dennis Brown was all we could muster in reply. A 1-2 defeat was disappointing to say the least, if we couldn’t pick up points at Huddersfield what chance was there?
The following Saturday saw us at Derby County. In fifth place and going well they were a much more daunting prospect. We were quite right to be worried, Derby took a 2-0 first half lead and then added two more soon after the break. Again, our late reply, through Mike Summerbee was a mere consolation in a 4-1 thumping. Our two away defeats had seen us fall to nineteenth place, only one point above the relegation zone.
We desperately need to get something from our only home game of the month against Coventry City who of course were managed by the kipper-tied showman Jimmy Hill. Jimmy had brought great changes to Coventry with his ‘Sky Blue Revolution’ and had guided the club to the Third Division Championship the previous season. They were continuing their good form and were comfortably in tenth place. Apart from changing the team’s colours to sky blue he also penned ‘The Sky Blue Song’, somewhat bizarrely sung to the tune of ‘The Eton Boating Song’. After leaving football management in 1967 he went on to a successful career in broadcasting, racking up over 600 appearances as presenter of BBC1’s Match of the Day. I thought he was a complete pillock and couldn’t stand him, although of course it didn’t stop me watching Match of the Day.
At this time I was working for Swindon Borough Council (in an extremely lowly position). On the Monday after the game the talk at work was about an altercation that had occurred at the match between Hill and the Mayor of Swindon, who was a nice old boy, very popular in the town and very well-respected. It seems that the Mayor had the misfortune to be sitting near to Hill at the match. A Coventry player committed a bad foul and there was a subsequent scuffle between him and the victim. The Mayor was, quite rightly, outraged and when Hill started shouting the odds said to him ‘your man started that’, to which Hill replied, ’yes, and he’ll finish it too!’
On this occasion however justice was done as Town ran out 4-1 winners with two splendid Ernie Hunt goals from distance and others from Mike Summerbee and, of all people, full back Owen Dawson. As a manager Hill was not the greatest loser and perhaps it was a smart move on his part to become a TV football pundit. He never liked us. I clearly remember an edition of Match of The Day when we were in the second division. It was early in the season and we were in second place having won two and drawn one of our three games. Reviewing the table he referred to us as ‘Swindon, that up and down team’. What was he on about? We were unbeaten, albeit after only three games.
Most importantly the Coventry win had given us a big boost and lifted us to 16th place. The last game of the month was at Cardiff City who were also struggling, another game from which we needed to take something. On paper they had a good side with four Welsh internationals playing on the day – John Charles, Peter Rodrigues, Ivor Allchurch and Barry Hole. It was a close game but, as usual, we came away with nothing from a 0-2 defeat, so it was back down to 19th in the table.
With only ten games left and some daunting fixtures in store things looked worrying to put it mildly. We had however played superbly against Coventry and were still picking up points at home. We might yet get out of trouble if we could grind out a few points away from home, however ugly it might be. The problem was however, that we didn’t really do ugly. We were just too nice for our own good.