While our Boxing Day opponents may have a vastly differing level of income to ourselves there is one way in which the two clubs have very much in common. Unlike many more recently formed clubs which traditionalists see as “parvenus,” Swindon and Wrexham have long and proud histories.
Such clubs are integral to the histories of their respective towns and hopefully this will mean that when our Museum is established it will have items of interest to people who are not necessarily football fans but are interested in the wider history of the town.
In Swindon on 1st June 1906 a tram full of people overturned on Drove Road and people lost their lives. A disaster of a much greater scale struck Wrexham in 1934. The scale of the disaster is shown by the fact that, at the Wrexham match, I will be sitting next to a person who shares a name with no less than 18 people killed in that disaster when an explosion and cave in left over two hundred men trapped underground in what remains to this day as their tomb. Ironically many of those who died were working a double shift so they could attend Wrexham’s match against Tranmere.
Such events make me regret the many times I hear the word disaster being used in relation to the loss of a football match. For most of us there will be a next season but for those in the tram and mine disasters there wasn’t and the term disaster is justifiable. Tragedies are remembered as markers of time in life of a town, so football matches will go down in a family’s memory “that was Uncle Bill’s last match” or “I missed the Torquay came as I got married.” Such things explain why so many of us value remembering the history of our football clubs.
I am a great believer that just as battle honours on flags and regimental silver can add to the esprit de corps of a regiment, so preserving and honouring its history can improve the morale and performance of a football team.
Many members are looking forward to the New Year with some trepidation fearing the manager is underfunded and that we may not even reach the play offs. Let me give two bits of information from the pages of our history. The Minute Book shows that Swindon were unable to sign the goalkeeper they wanted because the keeper in question wantedtoo much money. They had to settle for “second best.” That “second best” was Peter Downsborough. Could any keeper, however much they were paid, have produced a display like he did on 15th March 1969 to help bring the League Cup to Wiltshire?
For the second I turn to one of Paul Plowman’s books. Season 1959-60 P46 W19 D8 L19 Position 16th Season 1960-1 P46 W14 D15 L17 Position 16th Season 1961-2 P46 W17 D15 L14 Position 9th. Season 1962-3 P46 W22 D14 L10 Position 2nd.
You might be astonished to learn that the manager was the same for all four seasons. In fact the team that started the 61-62 season had only four changes from the one that started 1962-3. One, the veteran Sam Burton, had retired due to injury, one had been sold for a goodly sum, and the other two both returned to play more than half the matches in the promotion season. Patience and loyalty can sometimes achieve as much as all the riches of Croesus.
The contracts of players of yesterday year are fascinating in many ways besides showing how much the player concerned was earning. I have just acquired Ernie Hunt’s contract for the 1964-5 season for the Museum and if any of you have such contracts of Swindon players tucked away in your attic we would be pleased to add it to the Museum’s collection.
Lastly, can I say how pleasing the response to the guided tour has been. I big thank you to our
President John Trollope and also Keith Morgan who made the tours more enjoyable by their
presence but also by their knowledge on changing training and preparation methods. I am hoping
to be able to confirm that two more tours will be taking place in January to find out the dates first please sign up to become a friend of the museum here – https://stfcmuseum.org/support-us/
Hope you are having and continue to have a good Christmas.