Hall of Shame #11: Wearing the white kit at Wembley in 2010
This Sunday sees Swindon return to Wembley for the second time in under two years. The build up to this match provides an obvious opportunity to induct into the Hall of Shame the decision back in May 2010 to forego wearing the famous red and white…
A week before the Play-Off Final with Millwall, Swindon Town announced the surprise decision that team will be taking to the Wembley pitch wearing their white second strip.
“We had to inform the Football League of our kit choice a few weeks ago,” said a reluctant Town Chief Executive Nick Watkins who, after putting off publicly releasing this information for weeks, was starting to see the shit hitting the fan. Watkins added “The white kit is popular with the squad. After consultation with the players the manager’s decision was to play in white” and putting the inevitable spin on the decision he pleaded with Town fans to consider “the team wore white in 1969 and hopefully Swindon Town can enjoy Wembley success again this year”. Watkins obviously forgot Arsenal play in red…
At the time and still to this day, supporters couldn’t see the sense behind the decision. Why would the club, players and management decide against wearing their Club colours for our biggest game since we beat Leicester 4-3 back in May 1993, particularly as the Millwall blue provided no clash to force the kit change issue…
After not expecting the level of resistance, Watkins soon had to deny the club were cashing in on promoting different sponsors – as the white kit was emblazoned with EA Sports – or that the hope was to flog unsold stock; reiterating his earlier hopes of reigniting the 1969 spirit to spur Town to another famous Wembley victory. His summary of the issue was to the point “If we win this time, nobody will care what colour we are in.” Words he would come to regret.
Indeed most supporters, myself included, put up with this bizarre decision. The resistance was largely muted with nowhere near as much vitriol and campaigning as the white FA Cup kit and sponsorship by ‘The People’ had generated last Autumn. We were shocked, however fans soon realised we had no choice but to support the team. The decision was unilaterally taken some three weeks previously, with no hopes friends could be found at the Football League or the FA who would be willing to relax their rules to allow a u-turn.
The flaw in the Club’s rationale was that Swindon didn’t turn up at Wembley and Millwall secured a deserved victory. When supporters look back at that fateful day the white kit is top of the agenda for what was wrong about the day along with that bobble.
What the decision to forego the traditional red served to signify was how our relative success had all gone to the players’ heads a little too soon.
It makes you cringe when revisiting Danny Wilson’s justification for the kit. Speaking to the BBC, Wilson commented “It’s going to be a hot day and the team will need to keep their cool as much as they can,” adding “I think white is what everybody would say will help us”. With Wembley more gloomy November than heatwave in May, it seems Michael Fish provided Wilson with the forecast…
At the time the gaffer was backed up by captain Jonathan Douglas who showed a blatant disregard for our history with his statement to BBC Wiltshire “At the end of the day it’s only a jersey and if we win it, the jersey doesn’t matter… To be honest I don’t know what all the fuss is about really.”
While Wilson consulted with some players, it now appears not all were party to the decision highlighting the rumoured clique that existed which would come home to rest the following season.
TheWashbag.com has spoken to Vincent Pericard who confirmed the “white kit was very popular with the squad because it looked great”, however tellingly he was “never consulted on the decision” and our former striker “sympathises with the fans and this is something the board has to take into consideration”.
That’s the point. The Board are there to guide the club – ultimately on behalf of the supporters – and control the players and management according to our values and identity. There’s no more outward and visible sign of our Club than the red and white of the Robins, which is our greatest collective asset. To pander Wilson, Douglas and the few who took this decision upon themselves, the Board gave the players too much influence to determine a matter which should never have been up for discussion.
The red and white of Swindon Town isn’t something you can choose to ignore. Unfortunately this was a lesson the board needed a second public outcry from the supporters in 2011 to finally realise the colour of our first choice kit should always be red.
Danny Wilson and Jonathan Douglas your rationale was ignorant and completely flawed, while Nick Watkins should’ve known better and told the squad this matter was never on the table. Your decision to wear the white kit goes into the Hall of Shame.