Life after the great success…

Some supporters have had the joys of experiencing Swindon’s rise to the top of English Football through the late 80’s and early 90’s. However, some haven’t been as fortunate and have only dealt with the aftermath that followed. Adam Johnson is one of those fans…

‘‘And surely that means it’s the Premier League for Swindon Town…’’ Words that to me are a fantasy but too many are a reality.

That playoff final in 1993 v Leicester doesn’t exist in my life as a Swindon Town fan. Neither do the names Hoddle, Ardiles, Macari, Calderwood, Moncur, Jan Aage Fjortoft and others of Town’s stint in the top flight.

As a result, you should feel sorry for those of us who this applies to. Not because I haven’t enjoyed being a Town fan since 1996 but who knows whether it’ll happen again. It very well could, it also very well may not.

So you have an idea of my span as a Swindon fan, my first ever game was when Town lifted the Second Division title after a 0-0 draw v Stockport. All I really remember is Wayne Allison hitting the bar in front of me in The Stratton bank as a 7 year old.

In the time following that Premier League season, it’s been interesting. No, interesting doesn’t sum it up. It’s been exciting, depressing, exhilarating, exhausting, outstanding, confusing, moving and tearful.

We aren’t alone as supporters in having these feelings towards their club but the last 19 years have brought about the following, deep breath, 4 relegations, 5 near relegations, 3 promotions, 3 playoffs, 4 mid table finishes, 14 managers, 7 owners, 2 administrations and 2 near cases of liquidation.

We’re the first ever club to go into administration twice and the first club to go from the Premier League to League Two. I wondered when watching Harchester United on Sky One where they got the script from as football couldn’t be that ridiculous. Maybe it can.

I’ve often used the phrase ‘well, at least it’s never boring’ when describing why I support Swindon Town. We may have spent 11 out of the last 18 years in the equivalent of League One but that has possibly been the only stability at SN1 along with Curly Withers…

The interesting thing is that you may expect me to write about how we as younger fans have had to put up with a lot for little success on the pitch. Actually, I’m not at all.

I look back between 94 with McMahon to 2013 with Kevin MacDonald with names like King, Malpas, Evans, Todd and Di Canio wedged in between and don’t look back with regret. You may question my sanity but it’s true.

Of course there are moments I wish never happened such as Adam Virgo’s goal in 2004, David Cotterill scoring at Ashton Gate in 2006 to send Swindon down to League Two, the famous Wembley bobble, numerous boardroom struggles & the selling of my Swindon idol Kevin Horlock when I was seven.

However I still look back on the past with a slight smile of memories gone by. Fans get very attached to their clubs and after the hard times, when you finally have that moment of success, the reward is much greater.

One of my favourite nights as a Town fan was the Playoff Semi Final v Charlton at The Valley. It was 17 years since my first trip to The County Ground and I’d never seen Swindon play at Wembley, let alone be promoted from League One to The Championship.

People probably expect me to say the Stephen Darby penalty but actually I was a fit of nerves, it was when Danny Ward scored that little dink through the legs of the Charlton keeper that brought us back into the game. A dream that looked like being snatched away unfairly, like Brighton, was back in the realm of possibility.

The celebrations won’t be repeated for a while as that was 17 years’ worth of hope spilling over. It’s the pain such as going to Ashton Gate to see Town relegated and travelling to Stockport to see Swindon throw away a 3-0 lead with 15 minutes to go that gives you the ammunition for such crazy celebrations. It’s a relief as well as joy.

I can think back to Danny Invincibile’s volley v Peterborough, when I was a ball boy so had free range to run on the pitch, Rory Fallon’s overhead kick v Bristol City, Darius Henderson’s double at Ashton Gate, Andy Gurney’s free kick at Elland Road, Aden Flint v Brentford and although none of these memories have brought Championship football back to SN1 we cherish them.

Sure I haven’t seen Swindon finish higher than 17th in the old Division One but when you look back over the numerous tribulations Swindon have been through, we can be sensible and say we’ve done well to have a club, let alone one penalty away from a 2nd League One playoff final in four years.

A club that has been in administration and almost gone out of business twice is still seen as having Championship football potential. I have no way to think of what it was like in the past, this is just what Swindon Town is to me.

Swindon Town is my local club that have normally been in the 3rd tier of English football and aim for higher. Someday we may get there. As a football league fan you learn it’s dangerous to have expectations, not everyone can get promoted.

Every fan dreams of The Premier League but in my mind Swindon Town are a top half League One club. To others we may be underachieving in League One, I don’t know, but anything above League One would be a bonus in my mind.

Am I gutted to have zero experience of the 93 playoff final? Yes of course. The thought of Swindon Town being a Premier League team doesn’t fit into my brain and I probably won’t need to process that information in my lifetime, although I bet that’s been said before…

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