50 Years On: 1963/64 October – Swindon in the big time for the first time

1963-64 First Goal

Throughout this season Mike Minihane will be taking a look back at Swindon Town’s first season in the ‘big time’, following the promotion to Division Two for the 1963/64 season. After the highs of big match opponents, Mike continues with a review of October 1963…

Top of the Charts – You’ll Never Walk Alone; Gerry and the Pacemakers. Who would have thought then this would become one of the greatest football anthems ever.

The catastrophe at Northampton, when we had failed to get a shot on target the entire game and the Cobblers had looked likely to score every time they went forward, was of course a blip. Luckily we had a game the following Tuesday when we would get back on track and all would be well. The bit players in this scenario were Charlton Athletic, a mid-table side who we would easily dispose of at the County Ground. After Sunderland and Manchester City this would surely be a breeze. So sure was I of this that I told my mate that if we failed to win I would knee our French teacher (a guy who scared the shit out of us every lesson) in the goolies. It was to be a rash statement.

Charlton clearly hadn’t read my script. In front of a very respectable crowd of over 19,000 despite twice taking the lead through Don Rogers and Mike Summerbee we had to settle for a 2-2 draw as equalisers from Mike Bailey (who would move on to have an illustrious career at Wolves and become an England international) and Mike Kenning restored parity.  I was almost as disappointed as I was at Northampton; we were always supposed to win at home, having to settle for a draw just wasn’t on.  As it turned out Charlton finished a creditable 4th in the Division so it wasn’t that bad a result. The following Saturday however my spirits were lifted as we beat Bury 2-1 with a late winner from, of all people, Keith ‘Gladys’ Morgan, who hardly ever scored.  The Bury team included Gordon Atherton who joined Town the following season.

1963/64 Swindon Town squad with manager Bert Head Back row: McPherson , Wollen, Atkins, Turner, Harvey, Morgan, Lloyd. Third row: Plumb, Trollope, Hallett, French, Hicks, Smith, Smart, Dawson, Summerbee. Second row: Thorburn, Shergold, Griffin, Rogers, Hellin, Stevens, Leggett, Huxford, Woodruff, Sproates, Peapell. Front row: Lewis, Tabor, Harber, Darcy, Cousins (trainer), Head (manager), Morse (secretary), Colsell, Hunt, Ling, James. Seated: Critchley, Hedges, Corbett, Wrintmore, Hedges

1963/64 Swindon Town squad with manager Bert Head
Back row: McPherson , Wollen, Atkins, Turner, Harvey, Morgan, Lloyd.
Third row: Plumb, Trollope, Hallett, French, Hicks, Smith, Smart, Dawson, Summerbee.
Second row: Thorburn, Shergold, Griffin, Rogers, Hellin, Stevens, Leggett, Huxford, Woodruff, Sproates, Peapell.
Front row: Lewis, Tabor, Harber, Darcy, Cousins (trainer), Head (manager), Morse (secretary), Colsell, Hunt, Ling, James.
Seated: Critchley, Hedges, Corbett, Wrintmore, Hedges

Next up was a tough away trip to Preston North End, a big club who were fancied for promotion. Despite a creditable performance we lost a well-contested game to a Doug Holden goal. No disgrace there, in the event Preston finished 3rd, only narrowly missing out on promotion.  More notably as a Second Division side they reached the FA Cup Final that season, losing a thrilling game with West Ham by two goals to three, with the 17 year old Howard Kendall becoming the youngest player to play in a cup final.

A midweek League Cup tie against lower level opposition provided the chance to get back to winning ways and it was taken with a comfortable 3-0 home win over Southend with goals from Don Rogers, Bill Atkins and Mike Summerbee, setting up a third round tie with First Division West Ham, who we were to play three times that season

The following Saturday we were up against a team who had been a First Division side the previous season, Leyton Orient, who had been relegated along with Manchester City. That counted for nothing and they went the same way as City but with a heavier defeat. Two goals from Ernie Hunt started and finished the scoring and further goals from Mike Summerbee, Don Rogers and Keith Morgan made it a 5-0 demolition. There were plenty of goals in the side and a particularly good sign was that they were being shared out among the forwards.

The month closed with an away fixture at Plymouth Argyle and a very large contingent of Town fans made the ‘football special’ train trip down to Devon.  Plymouth had finished in mid table the previous season and were clearly out to put the ‘new boys’ in their place. Added edge was given to the fixture in the fact that they had just signed Cliff Jackson who had been a Town regular in the previous promotion season, contributing a creditable 14 goals.

Of course the usual thing happened with ex-players and Jackson soon put Argyle one up, much to the delight of their fans. Ernie Hunt equalised before the hosts took a 2-1 half-time lead through Alan O’Neill.  That was it for them though as we took over the game, with Ernie Hunt equalising and then a real rarity, a headed goal from Don Rogers, the only one I ever saw. A rocket free kick from Bobby Woodruff put the icing on the 4-2 victory cake.

So, three wins, one draw and one defeat in the League for the month, with thirteen goals scored against six conceded. We were joint top of the League in the illustrious company of Leeds United and Sunderland. Northampton clearly had been a blip. Or had it?

1963-64 October Table

Images courtesy of swindon-town-fc.co.uk

Table from statto.com

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