50 Years Ago: 1964/65 August – Buried by the future King of the Kippax

Mike Minihane continues his look back 50 years to events at the County Ground. Following Swindon Town’s first season in the ‘big time’ Division Two during 1963/64, Town look to consolidate, however football isn’t that simple…

Top of the Charts:  A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles

Having experienced my first full season the previous year I was by now totally addicted to Swindon Town. I would go to all home games and such away games as I could afford from the income generated by my Saturday morning butcher’s round.

When the first team were playing away I would watch the Reserves (the ‘stiffs’ as they were then known) in the Football Combination which was a very good league containing most Football League reserve teams in the south of the country, including many First Division clubs. You would often see First Division players who were returning from injury or who were out of favour. You could walk round the ground from the Town End to Stratton Bank, stand behind the visitor’s goal and exchange good-natured banter with the visiting keeper and talk to the players when there was a lull in the action – all this for next to nothing. Then there was the Youth Team to watch midweek and also occasionally Swindon Boys. I was totally immersed and obsessed.

Despite our poor finish to the previous season there was still great optimism about our prospects for what was to be only our second ever season In Division Two. The heady days of the previous August and September  when we had carried all before us were still fresh in the mind. Thus it was with a sense of expectation that we viewed our first fixture – a trip to Bury who had finished in a lowly 18th place the previous season.

It all started as well as it possibly could have with Town taking the lead within the first minute through Bill Atkins. Soon after however it all went pear-shaped when ‘keeper Norman Oakley sustained a cracked collarbone. This was the era before substitutes, let alone goalkeeper substitutes. Full back Owen Dawson went in goal and we were down to ten men. Bury certainly took full advantage and by half time had run in four goals to put the result in no doubt. Two more second half goals gave them a resounding, if a little fortunate, 6-1 victory.

A notable performance that day came from a young Bury player called Bell, who scored a hat trick. Colin Bell would go on to a glittering career with Manchester City, winning FA Cup and First Division champions medals, as well as 48 caps for England. Nicknamed the ‘King of the Kippax’ after the famous stand in Maine Road he is widely regarded as Manchester City’s greatest player.

After the Bury debacle it was good that we had a Tuesday night game to try and put things right. A young keeper called Tony Hicks who had come through the apprentice ranks came in for the injured Oakley. He looked rather short for a ‘keeper but compensated with excellent reflexes and was a very decent shot-stopper.

Our opponents were Crystal Palace, freshly promoted from Division Three. I don’t think that ‘park the bus’ was in currency as an expression in that era but that’s exactly what they did with a totally negative and defensive performance that prompted Bert Head to an uncharacteristic post-match rant. Justice was done however as in front of over 17,000 fans we saw them off 2-0 with a brace of Ernie Hunt goals and Tony Hicks keeping a clean sheet on this debut.

The following Saturday we hosted Leyton Orient for whom the young David Webb, later of Chelsea fame, was making only his third performance as right back and was marking Don Rogers. I remember that he had a very severe hair cut but already had the makings of a good player but he wasn’t quite good enough to prevent Don Rogers scoring the only goal of the game to give us our second victory in five days and put us a healthy 7th place in the League.

With two home games won after the heavy Bury defeat, for which there were extenuating circumstances, hopes were high for a very busy September with  no less than seven League games and a League Cup tie scheduled. It was going to be a busy month…

1964-65 August Table

Table from Statto.com

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