Going Up! 2006/07 – A distant view on promotion under Wise & Sturrock
Australian based Swindon Town supporter Steve Hall recalls events from our previous promotion from the fourth tier in 2006/07, long haul flights and an affinity for the Monkey Hangers.
My vivid recollection of the final game of the 2006-7 season is a testament to the unreliability of memory – or perhaps to early (or not so early) onset Alzheimer’s.
My attendance at the County Ground that season was sparse – a mere two games; my excuse for my paltry support was my residence in Sydney, Australia.
Thanks to my job selling publishing software I was lucky enough to travel to Europe at least twice a year, sometimes more, between 1996 and 2007 (often for the London and Frankfurt Book Fairs). As much as possible I used to organise my travel plans around Swindon’s fixtures, or, if they were playing or too far away I would combine visiting my parents in Hartlepool and watching my home town team.
Since 1963, when I moved ‘down South’ from Hartlepool to Wantage at the age of 12 and fell in love with Swindon, my loyalties have been Swindon first, Hartlepool second. So that season was of particular note as both teams vied for promotion and the champion’s pennant in League Two.
In fact the season started with a cracker of a game, as far as I could tell listening to the radio Wiltshire commentary courtesy of my subscription to Swindon Player (or whatever it was called back then) – Hartlepool 0, Swindon 1 thanks to not one but two penalty saves by Peter Brezovan. As a fan of both teams I had some mixed feeling but I was glad of the three points. My Hartlepool supporting younger brother’s feelings were far from mixed – he was at the game in spite of living in Madrid, and he was underwhelmed by the result and felt robbed to say the least.
I was equally underwhelmed in September when I arrived in the UK after a hectic 6 days involving a flight from Sydney to Heathrow, a 5am arrival, a quick tube into London for a business meeting then a boozy lunch with a mate, an afternoon flight to Stockholm for a one day meeting the next day, back to Heathrow, then a night in the car driving round the North Circular looking in vain for a hotel before sleeping in the car for 3 hours and going on to work (that will teach me not to stuff up my hotel bookings).
But what overwhelmed me much more than travel exhaustion was a depressing and inept 1-0 defeat by Peterborough after I’d expected a stellar performance based on Swindon’s great start of 7 wins from 8 games under Denis Wise. A couple of weeks later I saw Hartlepool perform much more convincingly when beating Wrexham 3-0 (Swindon drew 1-1 with Boston that day but I had to visit my folks at least once that trip).
And then back to the antipodes listening to early morning games on the internet for the bulk of an eventful season with Wise deserting for the hated Leeds, Sturrock coming in, inconsistent results but enough to keep us in contention.
Then the London Book Fair arrived and another 5.30am arrival on Friday 13th April. I had to be in London at the crack of dawn on the Sunday and Bury was too far away – so I missed out on our 1-0 win there. Instead I was at Wycombe, where Hartlepool more or less made certain of promotion with a tight 1-0 win, then at the County Ground for the penultimate home game of the season. That was more like it – Swindon put in an impressive first half to be 2-0 up against Mansfield and held on through an uninspiring and uneventful second half.
Then that final game – Swindon vs Walsall. Hartlepool were on 88 points. Walsall were on 88 points. Swindon had 84 points. Bristol Rovers, with 69 points after having beaten Swindon the previous week and finished our hopes of winning the title, needed to win at Hartlepool to make the play-offs. Milton Keynes Dons (spit) were 4th on 81 points.
I remember it so clearly. Hartlepool had never won a title in their history and this was their big chance. I had no mixed loyalties here. Swindon couldn’t win the title, it was Hartlepool or Walsall as Champions and Swindon with promotion unless we lost and MK Dons won by a lot. Hartlepool needed to win to take the title, or draw and have Swindon win. We needed a draw to be certain of going up.
Hartlepool went 1-0 up. The championship was theirs if they could hold on. Swindon went 1-0 up thanks to the Beast. All was looking great.
Then it fell apart. Bristol Rovers pulled one back, then another. The dream for Hartlepool was over.
Swindon’s dream was a different matter. By the time Walsall equalised in the 93rd minute it was academic. MK Dons won but it didn’t matter – we were promoted, Walsall took the title. Celebrations all round – even for Bristol Rovers (who, ironically, I used to watch occasionally when I was at Bristol Uni in the early 70s, just to cheer for the opposition, when Swindon weren’t playing) who made it through the play-offs to clinch the final spot..
As I said, I remember it so clearly – but a search of my diary this week surprised me.
According to my diary, on Saturday 5th May 2007 I went for a swim at Manly Beach that morning. I wasn’t at the game at all. I’d followed the entire saga of the final day at midnight Sydney time via Radio Wiltshire, Radio Cleveland, Soccernet and the Internet. I could have sworn I was there, but I wasn’t.
I guess my vivid memories of the game are due to the great descriptive talents of the Radio Wiltshire team, memories of the previous home game which I had attended, jet lag, advanced old age and probably a few pints of Trafalgar Pale Ale from the Lord Nelson, my Sydney local.
Nonetheless a great season that I followed from afar and from the County Ground as much as possible.
Images from swindon-town-fc.co.uk