Swindon Town FC is a football club located in the large former railway town in Wiltshire, which is eighty miles west of London. The club were formed in 1979 by Reverend William Pitt as Spartan Club, before taking on their present title four years later.
Swindon were originally an amateur club, competing in local friendlies and in the FA Cup, until turning professional in 1894 and becoming founder members of the Southern League. In 1896 they moved to The County Ground to play home games.
The club had a good spell as it finished runners up in the league in 1909 and 1910, when they also reached the FA Cup Final where they were defeated by Newcastle United. Town won the Southern League in 1911, and the following season they once again reached the last four of the FA Cup. This time Barnsley denied them a final appearance after a replay.
After another league second place finish, they lifted their second title in 1914 and in 1920 Swindon Town were founder members of League Division Three South, defeating Luton Town 9-1 in their first game. Apart from one season where the club were forced to apply for re-election, nothing out of the ordinary took place. In 1958 when the League was re-organised, Swindon were placed in Division Three.
'The Robins' won promotion to Division Two at the end of the 1962-63 season, but were relegated two years later. They found shrewd managers in Danny Williams and Bert Head as they assembled a fine team with Don Rogers the outstanding act with his pace and goals. In 1969 they won their way to the League Cup Final, where they beat Arsenal 3-1 at Wembley.
To see the glorious day in the Wembley mud, click here:
The success led to promotion back to Division Two and a place in the following seasons Anglo Italian Cup. They reached the final and won 3-0 away to Napoli. Town made it a double as they also defeated AS Roma over two legs in the Anglo Italian League Cup Winners Cup.
A new Main Stand was built at The County Ground but the great run didn't continue. Unfortunately Head had moved to Crystal Palace several years earlier and signed Rogers in 1972. In 1974 Swindon were relegated to Division Three, and it was from that status that they were League Cup semi-finalists in 1980. Eventual winners Wolverhampton Wanderers defeated them over two legs.
Two years later Town were relegated to the League's basement, which is where they remained for four seasons until lifting the Division Four title. The following season the team under the managership of Lou Macari won another promotion via the play offs.
Osvaldo Ardiles stepped into the managers seat after Macari left for West Ham, and in his first season at the helm, the team won the Play Off Final against Sunderland with an Alan McLoughlin goal. This should have led to promotion to the First Division for the first ever time, but it was not to be.
An investigation by the Football League acting on an exposee from The People newspaper found the club guilty of thirty six breaches of breaking the rules in relation to illegal payment to the players and tax fraud throughout the 1989-90 season.
Chaiman Brian Hillier was jailed and West Ham forced Macari's resignation over the matter. The club secretary and treasurer were both given suspended sentances. Sunderland were promoted in Swindon's place. After an appeal Swindon were allowed to remain in Division Two, rather than Three as was originally decided upon.
Ardiles during the next season to be replaced by player manager Glenn Hoddle, who carried on the passing style of football with Colin Calderwood as skipper. After a season and a bit Hoddle produced a side that went on to win promotion at Wembley in May 1993 after a superb Play Off Final saw Swindon defeat Leicester City 4-3.
To see highlights from this classic, click here:
Hoddle moved to Chelsea that summer with Town in the Premier League. His assistant John Gorman took over, but it was a tough season for the club, even with signings such as Andy Mutch and Jan Aage Fjortoft. Steve McMahon was brought in as manager in November, but he couldn't save the team from relegation despite reaching the semi finals of the League Cup. They went down again the following season, but won promotion at their first attempt.
Jimmy Quinn replaced McMahon in September 1998 with the club in a dire financial state. In January 2000 Swindon entered into administration with an estimated £4M debt and losing £25,000 a week. Chairman Rikki Hunt was forced to resign, to be replaced later that season by business tycoon Terry Brady who took the club out of administration. The team were relegated at the end of the season.
Several managers had a go at reviving The Robins fortunes with little success. The goals of Sam Parkin and Tommy Mooney fired Town to the play offs in the 2003-04 season, which also saw plans for a new stadium, hotel and gym in the Shaw area of the town rejected.
Further financial issues marred the season after which included the non payment of tax bills. Long time club benefactor Sir Seton Wills, who had put in an estimated £10M over the years, once again helped in troubling times.
Andy King lost his job as manager in 2005 to be replaced by Iffy Onuora, who couldn't keep the side up. He departed with Dennis Wise and his assistant Gus Poyet coming in. They won the first six games of the 2006-07 season before leaving to join Leeds United. Paul Sturrock was appointed and he took the side to promotion.
However, there was plenty of disgruntlement behind the scenes with a power struggle taking place in the boardroom at the same time that the redevelopment of The County Ground was being attempted. The club entered administration once again, before a consortium including Willie Carson sorted out the problems.
Another consortium took over the club in 2008 as Sturrock moved to Plymouth Argyle, to be replaced by Maurice Malpas. After a year Malpas was sacked with Danny Wilson coming in and saving the side from relegation. The following 2009-10 season saw Town reach the Play Off Final, but Millwall defeated them in the Wembley showdown.
After the defeat, star striker Billy Painter and club captain Gordon Greer were sold, inconsistent form dipped and the team were relegated with Wilson been relieved of his duties. The board took the highly publicised but controversial move to appoint Paulo Di Canio as the new manager.
Di Canio led the team to good cup runs and the League Two title at his first attempt, as well as having an argument or two along the way. Predictably enough Di Canio resigned in February 2013, citing the board selling players behind his back as his reason. Kevin MacDonald came in and took the team to the play offs. Town were defeated by Brentford and MacDonald left by mutual consent just three weeks before the start of the 2013-14 season.
Mark Cooper took over team affairs and led the side to the play off final in May 2015, where they went down 4-0 to Preston North End at Wembley. Cooper departed in October 2015 and following short term tenures from owner Lee Power and Martin Ling, the first team coach Luke Williams was put in sole control.
Swindon Town FC will compete in Football League One in the 2016-17 season.
Swindon Town 0 Hull City 0 (Monday 31st August 1987) Division Two (att: 9,600)
My visit to the County Ground for this evening kick off wasn't even on my radar twenty four hours earlier. I was out on the Sunday night having plenty of ales when I was chatting to my good mate Nick Groombridge in The Other Place, Scarborough. He was telling me that there was a chance that a couple of lads in there were talking about going to Scarborough's game at Colchester, where away fans were meant to be banned and then going onto Swindon.
It sounded a bit far fetched, even after plentiful beers, but I asked if there was any chance of going with them? Sure enough the next morning I was stood at the station in a slightly dehydrated state awaiting my ride.
Mick Young and John 'Doomie' Dyer did turn up and we did go to Colchester and get in on players complimentary tickets. It was now time for part two of the day.
Now I'm still not quite sure how we did it, but we did. Mick's driving was rather rapid around the M25 and M4. It was a lovely day and I remember getting my first view of Windsor Castle. We were watching the clock and the road signs and ever minute counted.
We found The County Ground easy enough and Mick even made negotiating the famous 'Magic Roundabout' outside the ground look simple. It was just a parking spot we were struggling for, but he soon slid the car into a tight spot on Shrivenham Road. This was handy as the away entrance was just down the road.
We just about made kick off, as we looked around our surroundings. The County Ground was a big enough venue and different on all sides. We were on the corner of the open terraced Stratton Bank, which ran behind the goal. To our left was the Shrivenham Stand.
This angled away from the pitch in the centre and had terracing downstairs with a seating deck above, which was unused following a fire. The far Town End was a low stand with terracing and finally the large Main or Arkells Stand on the far side originally had a large seating deck with a wall at the front and a bit of space to the pitch. By the time of our visit parts of the lower seating section had been installed.
The stewards were friendly enough and arranged for the programme sellers to return at half time as they'd disappeared from outside the ground by the time we'd arrived. The game was a typical early season encounter with both sides sounding each other out, without wanting to risk too much. A draw was a fair result from what I remember.
At full time Mick started the long drive home, in which we stopped for nutrition in Oxford. I know I slep a lot of the journey as I had to be up again at 4.15 to get to the Post Office for work the next morning.
It had been a long but brilliant day out with good people.
Wednesday 15th August 2012
I returned to The County Ground nearly twenty five years after my first visit. I was on the second day of two watching football and visiting grounds. I had been at the Exeter City v Crystal Palace match the previous evening, and after calling in to Tiverton and Taunton, I got out at Swindon before heading to nearby Shrivenham for their FA Cup tie with Kidlington.
The walk to the ground from the station took around ten minutes, as I walked around trying to get inside for a proper look. All gates were closed, but I did get a peep through some of the gates.
Since my previous call, The County Ground had changed. It was now all seated as a legacy of the teams promotions. The Shrivenham Stand was gone to be replaced by a new Don Rogers Stand. The Arkells Stand now had seats in all the lower tier. The Stratton Bank was still open but with seating on the steps. The Town End was also structurally the same apart from the seating addition.
I took some photos that give a good impression of the ground, before walking up the road to catch a bus out of town to take a look at Swindon Supermarine FC.
The old photo of the Shrivenham Road Stand has been scanned from a book.