50 Years Ago: 1964/65 November – No Jekyll, just Hyde
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 looked to consolidate; however football isn’t that simple…
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November was going to be a challenging month with home games against Bolton Wanderers and Newcastle United and visits to Plymouth Argyle and Middlesbrough. Three of these teams were early promotion contenders. Newcastle were strongly fancied to make a return to the First Division and were sitting in second place behind surprise division leaders Northampton Town. Plymouth were in fourth place and Bolton in fifth. Middlesbrough were way down in tenth place so that was the ‘easy’ game.
The first game was at Plymouth. In their line-up was Tony Book, a late starter in the professional game who when signing had been advised by manager Malcolm Allison to doctor his birth certificate by shaving off two years as Allison felt that the club would not be prepared to take on a 30 year old. Book later followed Allison to Manchester City and in an illustrious career of 242 league appearances became the most decorated Manchester City captain of all time in terms of trophies won. He became the classic example of a player who could make a successful career when it seemed that all opportunities had passed by.
In terms of the game Bill Atkins put Town ahead in the 44th minute, a great time to score if you can hold the lead until half time. Regrettably, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Town were unable to do this and in the following minute Mike Trebilcock equalised to make it 1-1 at the break. Half way through the second half Plymouth were awarded a penalty which was converted by Nicky Jennings and with no further goals Plymouth took the points. This was Town’s eighth away loss in a row. Trebilcock later moved to Everton and was to score two goals in their 3-2 win over Sheffield Wednesday in the 1966 FA Cup Final.
The visit of Bolton Wanderers the following Saturday seemed unlikely to stop the rot. Wanderers had both Francis Lee and Wyn Davies in their attack, two of the most prolific goal scorers in the division. And so it proved as Lee scored twice and Davies once in a demolition job with Town’s only reply coming from a John Trollope penalty. Davies moved to Newcastle and became one in their long line of iconic number 9s; Lee and Davies later played together at Manchester City where Lee was particularly successful scoring 112 goals in 248 games. He still holds the record for the most penalties scored in a season which earned him the nickname’ Lee Won Pen’, due more to his fondness for the occasional dive than any oriental ancestry.
The following Saturday’s visit to mid table Middlesbrough did nothing to lift the spirits. An early goal from Mel Nurse, who was to become a big favourite at Swindon when he moved the following year, set the scene. The bright spot was an equaliser from debutant Keith East before half time but then three second half goals gave Boro a comfortable win and Swindon their ninth consecutive away defeat.
The North East theme continued the following Saturday with the visit of second placed Newcastle United. As soon as they ran out in their immaculate black and white strip I feared the worst, they just looked so formidable, and indeed they were. We were a goal down in less than a minute when Alan Suddick scored and then shortly after a little jock called Willie Penman got another. The momentum continued as Newcastle scored twice more before the break with our only reply being a Trollope penalty, his second in three games. After the break Penman rubbed salt in our wounds with his second and a late goal from Stan Anderson completed a 6-1 rout. This was total humiliation.
Willie Penman, the little jock, was of course to sign for Town in 1966 and become a firm favourite with the fans for his skill and tenacity, making a substitute appearance in the 1969 League Cup final victory over Arsenal at Wembley.
This had been as bad a month as it was possible to have; four games, four defeats, four goals scored – two being penalties – and fourteen conceded. Hardly surprisingly we had slumped to twentieth place in the league, only one above the relegation places. The humiliation at the hands of Newcastle had been particularly ghastly. We were clearly out of our depth and in total free-fall.