A goalless draw with Notts County ensured Swindon Town have gone five games as hosts without a win. Here’s Bitter Gillespie’s account of the game…
1957 was the year Elvis Pressley declared he was “All Shook Up,” a song that stayed for weeks at number one. Equally it’s 1957, now that due diligence has taken place that Swindon Town’s debts reign from. It’s unfathomable how 57 years and two administrations later, no-one else has found this £30,000 misdemeanour before? Yet 1957 is the year that haunts the club, the year Sam Burton, Walter Bingley, and Arnold Darcy graced the Town shirt.
It’s 1957 and still there is another 3 years before Kevin Duncan MacDonald even manages to take his first breath; alas Swindon Town never ceases to take your breathe away. Furthermore, Di Canio himself (who complained tirelessly about the embargo) holding his former employers to ransom it seems, along with the supporters he held so dear to his bosom beating heart.
“Well, please don’t ask me what’sa on my mind. I’m a little mixed up, but I’m feelin’ fine,” Elvis declared.
The King would only have been 78 had he not been fated by barbiturates. It’s then I realise I have sat staring into the turf of the County Ground, far from the madding crowd and the 22 players, referee and two assistants that I am supposed to be focussing on. I shudder to think what I have missed in terms of football. I glance up nervously at the scoreboard, it’s 0-0. That’s a relief nothing missed then?
My focus sets sharply on the football when I notice the opposition are waltzing around in pink. Furthermore Swindon have seemingly come out of transfer embargo and signed a new player; anchoring the play effortlessly; the new loanee from Syco TV Dermot O’ Leary. Kevin MacDonald had clearly earmarked O’Leary’s contribution to anchoring live TV, that he made him the new focus of all of Swindon’s best passing moves. There was no more Ward or Flint’s raking boots up through the channels as directed by Paolo Di Canio, but everything went through O’Leary the trusted anchorman of this show at hand.
With O’Leary’s role clearly working, the likes of McCormack and Roberts looked confident and revitalised. Time after time McCormack bulldozed, nut-megged, and wandered his way down the left flank as if no pink opposition existed. Buoyed by these effortless attacks Roberts was equal to McCormack’s forays and joined in the fun. The first thirty minutes had set the platform for Swindon to claim all three points, as there was nothing on show from the men in pink that Swindon had to worry about.
That was until the 30th minute when McCormack brought down Bishop needlessly to offer Notts County a free kick in a good position. Up stepped Alan Sheehan and all too often in recent times we have seen ex-Town players claim goals that ultimately take the three points away from the County Ground. However what happened next only justified my belief that this game was Swindon’s for the taking. Sheehan sliced his effort 40 yards wide of the goal, the County Ground smiled, and Sheehan raised a blush with more rose pink than his shirt.
It’s then I noticed Alan’s hair was jet black, it was never that dark when Danny was in charge, it was possibly an even darker tint than Gary Roberts. It’s then 1957 began haunting me again, as I hallucinate Roberts and Sheehan on each wing in Elvis white suits singing,
“What’s wrong with me? I’m itching like a man on a fuzzy tree. My friends say I’m actin wild as a bug. I’m in love. I’m all shook up. Mm mm oh, oh, yeah, yeah!”
It’s an image I couldn’t shake for the rest of the half. Miller did try his hardest to shift this image by sending a solid and straight drive from a free kick in the 36th minute with Bialkowski palming it away with Leacock subsequently clearing.
However we’d see if any half time talks could stir a goal out of either side, but MacDonald’s talk would have been, “more of the same, and goals will come.” Conversely Kiwomya would have asked if any of his pink battalion had turned up at all. The spine of their pink team was spineless with a nervous Leacock, an ineffective Bishop (there’s been a few of those in our time), and Showunmi having a game he’d rather forget. Equally Greg (Troy) Tempest the young trainee on the left wing with curly wig for disguise was having a mare. Had I been Kiwomya I would have put him out of his misery and taken him off. Tempest obviously had Marina on his mind, cue Elvis, “Maybe I didn’t treat you quite as good as I should have. Maybe I didn’t love you quite as often as I could have. Little things I should have said and done I just never took the time. You were always on my mind.”
It wasn’t until the 58th minute that Kiwomya did the kindest thing and replaced Tempest with Arquin.
In the 72nd minute my hallucinations truly took a hold, when the laboured Showunmi disappeared to the dugout only for the release of the most comical cameos I have ever seen at the County Ground; enter Bencherif. While the Easterly wind was bitter, from another direction came Bencherif on his Mistral wind, dismounted his camel, tethered with Thomas Edward Lawrence, and entered the show. In short, I have never seen a more obscure looking ‘athlete’ (please see Algerian Hammer thrower Hakim Toumi) who seemed to have left his compass with T.E. Lawrence as he ran in opposite directions to where a compos mentis footballer would ordinarily run.
The second half was more of the same, with Town dominating but even with O’Leary orchestrating, there was no X-Factor where it mattered. I would have personally taken off Williams, as it was clearly not his day. His frustration showed, as he tried to perform miracles rather than play the simple ball. Ferry forced a brilliant save from Bialkowski with a header from 10 yards and Louis Thompson entred the scene for the wounded Miller had a good shot deflected for a corner in the 58th minute.
The trouble is without scoring even a Sunday League team can muster at least one chance in 90 minutes, hence Ward made a fantastic block to deny Bishop. Then on 69 minutes Foderingham made his obligatory amazing save per game to deny Judge.
On 76 mintues Rooney headed against the post and Collins took an age to react and get any kind of shot away from the rebound, with Sheehan blocking his effort. The 81st minute saw Bialkowski make another superb save, this time with his foot that just minutes before was apparently falling off, and Ferry’s follow up was snuffed out. The 88th minute Bialkowski makes another save with his legs to thwart Collins, and from the corner Bialkowski blocked Ward’s header from 5 yards. You get the picture? Tomaszewski 40 years later!
So the game was going to be another Swindon performance without producing the cutting edge with home advantage. Even so I have to refer back again to Bencherif and how he bundled over the diminutive Louis Thompson, not out of malice but by simply running the opposite way to what his thougths were telling him. It appeared this oversized ‘action man’ had been pulled apart and put back together by the evil Sid Phillips, and his dog Scud.
If Swindon manage to keep O’Leary fit for the rest of the season and somehow escape the wrath of 1957 and Di Canio and lift this embargo, Swindon could find themselves in the top two automatic positions. Without adding to this squad as injuries and suspension threaten, seven games may be too much to ask of this team, even with their obvious strength of character. This was not a dull 0-0 this was an entertaining affair, and with the genius of signing O’Leary why would it be any different.
The last press conference words Elvis ever uttered was, “I hope I didn’t bore you.” Something that neither Elvis or Swindon Town could ever be accused of. So roll on Oldham, this is going to be an exciting end of season.