Pages: [1] 2   Go Down
Print
Author Topic: The team that conceded 100 goals  (Read 1677 times)
pauld

Offline Offline

Posts: 22890





Ignore
« on: Saturday, March 28, 2020, 15:38:26 »

Good article in The Athletic, sympathetic look (despite the headline) at our season in the PL, written by a sports journo who used to be a Town youth player:

https://theathletic.com/1689888/2020/03/28/swindon-town-premier-league-100-fjortoft-gorman/

Some of the same stories as in the recent LS podcast with JanAage but some different ones too
« Last Edit: Sunday, March 29, 2020, 11:46:37 by pauld » Logged
4D

Offline Offline

Posts: 14381


I am real




Ignore
« Reply #1 on: Saturday, March 28, 2020, 15:53:19 »

Goals surely? 
Logged
tans
You spin me right round baby right round

Online Online

Posts: 20207





Ignore
« Reply #2 on: Saturday, March 28, 2020, 15:59:42 »

Can anyone paste it here for those that dont subscribe?

Just watching the 93/94 review. Fucking hell even Dennis Wise scored a header against us
Logged
pauld

Offline Offline

Posts: 22890





Ignore
« Reply #3 on: Sunday, March 29, 2020, 11:46:51 »

Goals surely? 
Well spotted. Just testing!
Logged
pauld

Offline Offline

Posts: 22890





Ignore
« Reply #4 on: Sunday, March 29, 2020, 11:49:39 »

Can anyone paste it here for those that dont subscribe?
Ah, yes, sorry

Unwritten: The story of the team who conceded 100 Premier League goals
By Stuart James Mar 27, 2020 25

It was the final day of a long and unforgiving season. Swindon Town’s relegation from the Premier League had been confirmed a fortnight earlier and John Moncur decided it was time to lighten the mood as the players gathered in the home dressing room about an hour and a half before kick-off.

Swindon had conceded 95 goals from 41 league games and Moncur, whose party tricks included climbing onto the roof of the team bus while it was en route to away matches, took the view that laughing about their predicament was better than crying.

With John Gorman, Swindon’s manager, yet to come into the dressing room, Moncur picked up the pen next to the flip-chart and played to the crowd. “I wrote a treble down and put some odds up,” he says, smiling at the memory. “It was something like Elvis to come back from the dead: 80-1, Shergar to be found alive: 50-1, and then us to concede 100 goals, which was the odds-on favourite.

“It was just a bit of fun. We were done. It’s a bit like now. What do you do? Do you worry all about this virus? I can’t do that. And I didn’t want to get relegated. It killed me. But it’s how you deal with it.”

Moncur would have made a good bookmaker. Leeds United were the visitors that May afternoon in 1994 and Chris Fairclough scored their fifth and final goal in the 90th minute. It was a goal that didn’t matter at all. But it also mattered a lot.

“It had happened,” Moncur says, ruefully.

Swindon become the first top-flight team in 30 years to concede 100 goals in a season, and nobody has done it since. Leeds were the fourth club to put five past them that season. Everton scored six. Newcastle racked up seven and Jan Aage Fjortoft couldn’t believe his ears on the coach journey home from St James’ Park that evening. “Shaun Taylor (the captain) turned to me and said, ‘At least Andy Cole didn’t score.’ I said to him, ‘For Fuck’s sake, Shaun, every other Newcastle player scored!’”

It is, on the face of it, easy to see why Swindon’s one and only season in the Premier League is defined by that goals-against column. Even allowing for the fact that the top flight was later reduced from 22 teams to 20, Swindon conceded goals at a ratio (2.38 per game) that is unrivalled in the modern era.

That, however, does not come close to telling the story of a season that saw them win a lot more friends than matches, with Gorman’s unwavering commitment to playing open and expansive football. Swindon scored 47, which was more than 10th-placed Aston Villa and only six fewer than Arsenal, who finished fourth. They even put four past Manchester United, the double winners, across two meetings.

Life was rarely dull off the field, either. There was the pub lock-in that ended with their player-of-the-year stealing the keys to the youth team minibus, the ponytailed central defender who invited team-mates to play chess on his narrow boat, and the Dutch midfielder who asked to borrow the record signing’s car whenever he picked up his mother-in-law from the airport because her hair was too high to fit in his Porsche.

Fjortoft will tell that last, utterly bonkers, story later but for now, he is focusing on football and coming up with an interesting analogy when he thinks about the way that Swindon’s solitary year among the big boys has been perceived ever since.

“I saw an article about teams who did badly in the Premier League, and we are not the worst,” Fjortoft says, “but I think conceding 100 goals is a story of its own. I also think we were a symbol early in Premier League history for being that charming team that wanted to pass the ball but in the end, still lost.

“We were like that Norwegian who was the first to get zero points in the Eurovision Song Contest. There are a lot of countries who have got zero points, including the UK. But everyone remembers that Norwegian guy who, by the way, died two weeks ago. I think we were a symbol of that somehow.”

It seemed like an unusual request when Gorman poked his head around the boot-room door at the County Ground and asked the apprentices to pack “flats” for his players on a cold morning in late November. “Flats” were trainers and that generally meant running, which ended in pre-season.

Swindon were still waiting for their first Premier League win at the time — a run that stretched to 15 matches — and Queens Park Rangers were up next, at home on a Wednesday night. Gorman’s team only had six points on the board, Fjortoft was yet to score in English football and the players’ confidence had taken a battering.

What happened in the Shepherd’s Rest is not in dispute. The only question surrounds when exactly it took place. Gorman says it was 48 hours before the QPR game. Several of the players say it was the day before. My memory — I was a second-year apprentice at the club at the time — isn’t good enough to confirm one way or the other. But I do remember the handbrake turns on the cricket square and being late home for tea.

That Moncur is laughing before he starts to tell the story says it all.

“We went out for a run. It was one of them: ‘Let’s change the momentum.’ I then had a mad idea — and this is true — there was a pub there (near the training ground). I was close to John — I loved him, really — and I said, ‘John, let’s sack this. It ain’t half cold. How about let’s go and have a little heart-warmer?’ I used to drink brandy. And I was thinking he’d say no. He went, ‘Shall we?’ Whether he planned it or not, I remember going into the pub. Well, fuck me, I think that was the greatest afternoon I’ve had in football!

“It was, ‘Right, let’s have 16 large brandies.’ Within half an hour, it was eight Guinness, 10 more of them brandies, steak sandwiches. The jukebox was on. The geezer had a lock-in, we were partying in there until about 5pm.”

All the while, the apprentices and John Trollope, the youth-team manager and a club legend who played 770 games for Swindon, waited and waited, wondering from where and when the first-team would return, so that we could pack up their training kit, go back to the County Ground and get home to our digs.

We found out the answer when a familiar face was spotted behind the wheel of our minibus, sitting alongside a former England international, wheel-spinning and leaving tyre marks everywhere. “I remember nicking the keys and driving it over the cricket pitch when we got back to the training ground,” Moncur says, giggling. “Terry Fenwick, an old team-mate of mine at Tottenham, he was in the passenger seat. We laughed for ages about that. That’s how crazy it was.

“But, to be fair, it (the afternoon at the pub) worked. That was the maddest game. Luc Nijholt got sent off after 10 minutes. I think I dropped a one-liner into Buzzer (Nicky Summerbee), ‘Thank fuck we prepared well for this one.’ But we ended up winning 1-0 with 10 men. We had a lot of bonding that day before, had a few rows, had a few cuddles, and I think there’s a place for that sometimes, especially when you’re struggling like we were.”

Keith Scott, a £300,000 signing from Wycombe Wanderers earlier that month, scored the goal and there were raucous scenes afterwards. Swindon, written off by anyone and everyone before a ball had been kicked, were off the mark at last.

“That was one of the best changing rooms I’ve ever been in when we won that game,” Andy Mutch, the former Wolverhampton Wanderers striker, says. “I remember we were pretending to blow those party (horns). It was a great celebration, that, because it was like a relief — we’d finally got a win.”

Gorman sighs a little.

“It’s always hard to speak about it because people only remember winners,” he says. “So it’s a bit frustrating when I go back to Swindon, which is a lovely place, and people tend to think, ‘You took us down.’ If only they knew — any manager would have found it hard.”

Gorman (below), who turned 70 last August and is as nice a man as you could wish to meet, pauses for a moment as he thinks back to that summer of 1993. “I might as well tell you the true story,” he adds. “Everybody knew that Glenn was going to Chelsea. I said, ‘Well, whoever is going to be the new manager is going to be right in the shit’, because there were about eight players out of contract. That manager turned out to be me.”

Gorman On Sidelines

Glenn Hoddle’s departure to Chelsea shortly after Swindon won promotion via the play-offs was entirely expected. Gorman’s decision to stay certainly wasn’t. The two were close friends and a double act — Hoddle the player-manager, Gorman the No 2. Almost everybody at Swindon had said farewell to the pair of them.

“I had one last person to see,” Gorman says, “and as I was doing that the chairman, Ray Hardman, came running after me as I was going down the stairs and said, ‘John, you’re going nowhere. We want you to be the manager.’ Glenn was waiting, saying, ‘Come on, John!’ because we were going to meet Batesy (Ken Bates, the Chelsea chairman).’”

Gorman talked the offer through with Myra, his late wife, and says he went against her better judgment by turning down the chance to be assistant manager at Chelsea in favour of taking over at Swindon. Hoddle was also disappointed. “Glenn and me fell out for the first time because I’d already said I was coming,” Gorman says. “But because of the chairman and how they felt about me, and the chance that it gave me to be a manager, I took it. My heart ruled my head, if I’m being honest.”

It would have been hard enough to compete in the Premier League with the promotion-winning team, let alone a side that had been severely weakened in the aftermath of Wembley. Swindon lost their two most influential players that summer in Hoddle, who, even at the age of 35, was outstanding, and Colin Calderwood, the long-serving captain who left for Tottenham. Both were part of a three-man central defence, leaving Gorman with the impossible job of trying to replace them on a shoestring.

“We wanted to play football (in the Premier League),” Moncur says. “But it wasn’t like the previous year because you lose two of your best footballing players from the back — they started off all the attacks — and it’s difficult then.”

With money tight and the contract renewals dragging on, Gorman made only three signings during the close-season. Adrian Whitbread joined from Leyton Orient, Nijholt arrived from Motherwell and Swindon paid Rapid Vienna £500,000 for Fjortoft. That trio were never going to be enough.

Swindon lost 3-1 at Sheffield United on the opening day. That was followed by a cruel home defeat against Oldham four days later. The only goal was scored in added time and it floored Gorman, literally. “It was the last kick of the game and John went prostrate — that was how much he cared,” Moncur says. “But when you’re putting messages out like that, your manager doing a dying swan, it sometimes goes through the dressing room.”

The next two games saw Swindon lose 5-0 at home to Liverpool and 5-1 at Southampton. Four games, no points and 14 goals against. “We were all arguing in the changing room at Southampton,” says Mutch, who had joined from Wolves for £250,000 prior to the Liverpool game. “David Hay (the assistant) said, ‘What are you all arguing for? We’re going down anyway.’ We’d only played four games at the time. We had a laugh about it. He didn’t mean it in a bad way. It was a case of, ‘Accept where we are and let’s try and improve.’”

The new signings who arrived after the season started — there were no such things as summer and winter transfer windows then — tended to be old faces. Fenwick, Frank McAvennie and Lawrie Sanchez were all 33. Brian Kilcline was 31. Even Mutch was 29. “We went from being the youngest team in the Premier League to the oldest in history,” says Fjortoft.

Gorman wonders what would have happened if Fjortoft had got off the mark sooner — the Norwegian couldn’t stop scoring once he started but his first goal didn’t arrive until the middle of January. That said, the biggest problems were at the other end of the pitch. Swindon couldn’t stop shipping goals.

Asked whether the 100-goal statistic hurts him, Gorman replies: “Yeah, it does, because people throw that in your face. They don’t say that we scored so many. The reason we let in so many is because we went out to play.”

That is not to say that Gorman doesn’t have a few regrets.

“If I look back now, I did make mistakes by signing too many experienced players. Everyone is advising you. But when you get experienced people, they tend to think they know more than the manager. One of the biggest mistakes — and I gave him a big, big chance — was Fenwick. I loved him. I stuck by him and really looked after him.

“But I’ll never forget, we were playing Arsenal at home. I remember I said, ‘We’re going to go back to three at the back because they’ve got so much pace with Ian Wright and Kevin Campbell.’ The players,  Fenwick in particular, were saying, ‘Gaffer, don’t do that, we’re playing so well.’ They were saying, ‘Let’s stick to what we’re doing.’ That was the first and last time I ever listened to players!”

Swindon lost 4-0.
Logged
pauld

Offline Offline

Posts: 22890





Ignore
« Reply #5 on: Sunday, March 29, 2020, 11:49:52 »

Part 2:

Amid all the doom and gloom at Swindon that season, there were plenty of moments of laughter, too.

“That team was fun to be around,” says Fjortoft. “When you travel around London with Moncur climbing out of the roof window at the back of the bus, going forward to the front — we could hear him crawling along — and knocking on the roof… the chairman was looking around, thinking, ‘Fuck, what’s going on here?’ He had to open the roof window at the front and Moncur came climbing down. That happened all the time when there was a queue with so many cars.”

These days, somebody would have been holding up a phone to film Moncur, who, to borrow Mutch’s description was “off his cake” but 1994 was a different era. Fjortoft says he was about the only Swindon player with a mobile back then and that was only because his wife was pregnant. “I had one early,” Fjortoft explains, before realising what he has just said. “Early? I was 27 years old!”

Fjortoft’s room-mate in those days was Nijholt, a Dutch midfielder who scored his only Premier League goal in a 2-2 draw with Manchester United that saw Eric Cantona sent off for stamping on Moncur (below). Nijholt was cool. He liked his clothes, enjoyed a cigarette, had a reputation for being handy when it came to martial arts and drove a Porsche at a time when almost every other Swindon player had a sponsored Honda.

“Luc was a typical Dutch guy,” Fjortoft says. “Not only did he have a Porsche, he had a French car that was one of the smallest that has ever been made. But the problem is that his family came over all the time and his mother-in-law had the highest hair in the history of hair. So there was no chance he could fit his mother-in-law in the car. So he ended up going to Heathrow and borrowing my family car all the time.”

Nijholt also fancied himself as a card player. “He thought he could play in Las Vegas,” Fjortoft says. In reality, Nijholt played on the M4, M5 and M6. Blackjack was the card game of choice on the team bus and always ended with the teetotal Fjortoft being asked to keep score on the way home because, in his words, “everyone ended up basically pissed.”

The deep-thinkers met after training on a narrow boat moored at Osney Mill Marina, in Oxford, to play chess. Kilcline, who signed from Newcastle for £90,000 in January, had politely declined Swindon’s offer to put him and his partner up in a local hotel and chose to live on the water instead. Mutch was invited over one afternoon to take the former Coventry City captain on at chess. “That’s right. And he beat me,” says Kilcline, still sounding a little annoyed. “Lawrie Sanchez came on the boat as well. I think he was just inquisitive.”

Later in 1994, Kilcline ended up getting married in a registry office in Swindon, 24 hours after Lynn, his wife-to-be, found him collapsed outside the town’s main train station following the players’ Christmas night out.

A larger than life character, Kilcline was wearing cowboy boots at the time — and it hadn’t been a fancy dress party.

On the pitch, Swindon were never able to build any momentum that season. Their only back-to-back wins, over Tottenham and Coventry, were bookended by a 6-2 away drubbing against Everton — it was 2-2 with 19 minutes remaining — and a 5-0 thrashing at Aston Villa.

Fjortoft recalls a psychologist being brought in at one stage, although the problems weren’t really in people’s minds. “I don’t know if you remember,” says Fjortoft, “but before I was out of the side, we played the first team against the second team in training — and we lost. And I remember then, to make it worse, we played you guys, the youth team, on a Friday and we lost that game as well. So it wasn’t just down to that we were playing against the best players.”

While Fjortoft, who finished up with an impressive tally of 12 league goals, rues the chances that he missed at the start of the season, when he struggled so much that he was on the verge of returning to Norway in the January, there is no getting away from just how bad Swindon’s defending was at times.

“I love Shaun Taylor. If there was a war tomorrow, I would call up Shaun straight away. But we have to be honest, we were not that organised at the back,” Fjortoft says. “I’ve seen some of the goals back — there was a programme in Norway where they went through old clips — and the marking was sensationally bad.

“I think John would, if we were sat around now, say that we didn’t manage to organise the team as good as we should have. That’s not a secret and not to put people down. I also remember either Fraser (Digby) or Nicky (Hammond, the goalkeepers) said they couldn’t have stopped any of the 100 goals, and that just sums it up somehow.”

Swindon’s relegation was confirmed when they lost 4-2 at home against Wimbledon in April on a day when Vinnie Jones ended up retrieving a ball from the laundry roof and John Fashanu scored with a terrific 30-yard lob. The scoreline felt symptomatic of the season.

Gorman admits some people thought he was “mad” for being so wedded to his football philosophy but there is little reason to believe that things would have turned out much differently if he had decided to compromise. Looking back, he takes great pride from the fact that players such as Moncur, Kevin Horlock and Summerbee all flourished that season and went on to bigger and better things in their careers.

As for Gorman, he would reunite with Hoddle in the England set-up and then at Tottenham, but has always been held in high regard by those who played under him at Swindon. “An absolute diamond of a bloke,” Mutch says.

If anything, Gorman cared too much. “I remember sitting in his office and he was worried about people writing in and he showed me a couple of letters,” Moncur says. “I said, ‘Listen, at the end of the day, fuck ‘em’. It probably shouldn’t have been that way around. He should have been telling me that. But John took it to heart that season because he wanted it so badly. I take my hat off to him. He genuinely believed in us. But it would have been a miracle if we’d stayed up with that budget and the players.”

It is worth remembering that there are some really good memories from that Premier League season, too. Swindon drew at Highbury, took four points off Spurs, came within five minutes of winning at Anfield, held the Premier League champions, and a generation of young Swindon fans grew up watching Fjortoft doing that iconic aeroplane celebration (below). They also managed to win away from home in the Premier League at the last time of asking.

fjortoft

“I played one of my best-ever games at QPR that day. I just got in the way of everything,” says Hammond, who was one of four goalkeepers to play in the Premier League for Swindon that season. “It was a beautiful day and I remember Jan was playing Let It Be on a piano in the reception at the team hotel before we left. I think it was at the Hilton, just around Shepherd’s Bush, and we all had a singsong. We then drove 10 minutes to Loftus Road and saw supporters holding a coffin, ‘The death of Swindon in the Premier League.’”

So it proved. Swindon have never returned. The £350,000 parachute payment that followed in 1994 — another sign of how things have changed — was little help when it came to covering the cost of the Premier League contracts that had been signed the previous summer, and Swindon ended up suffering back-to-back relegations. Although they then won promotion the following year, in 2006, Swindon became the first former Premier League club to drop into the fourth tier, which is where they are today.

Fjortoft is probably right when he says that history has judged their brief stint in the top flight a little unfairly.

After all, the statistics show that 14 Premier League clubs have had a lower points-per-game ratio than Swindon’s 0.71, and 67 of the other 81 teams to have been relegated averaged fewer goals per match.

The problem, of course, is that people will always remember those three numbers in the goals-against column.
Logged
tans
You spin me right round baby right round

Online Online

Posts: 20207





Ignore
« Reply #6 on: Sunday, March 29, 2020, 12:16:52 »

Cheers Pauld, good read that
Logged
donkey
Cheers!

Offline Offline

Posts: 6283


He headed a football.




Ignore
« Reply #7 on: Sunday, March 29, 2020, 12:30:16 »

Cheers for that,  Paul.
Logged

donkey tells the truth

I headed the ball.

eeeeeeeeeeeeeee-aaaaaaaawwwwwww
Peter Venkman

Offline Offline

Posts: 34749


Enjoy yourself its later than you think.




Ignore
« Reply #8 on: Sunday, March 29, 2020, 13:17:48 »

Cracking read that, thanks for sharing Paul.
Logged

Because I chose to play the fool in a six-piece band
First-night nerves every one-night stand
I should be glad to be so inclined
What a waste! What a waste!
Rock n Roll don't mind.
OOH! SHAUN TAYLOR
- FACT!

Online Online

Posts: 13063



WWW

Ignore
« Reply #9 on: Sunday, March 29, 2020, 13:23:23 »

Someone sent that to me and I've just finished reading it funnily enough. Some of it was covered in the recent Loathed Strangers podcast with JAF of course. Great article, who wrote it?
Logged
tans
You spin me right round baby right round

Online Online

Posts: 20207





Ignore
« Reply #10 on: Sunday, March 29, 2020, 13:24:27 »

Stuart James - used to be yts and first year pro here in mid 90’s
Logged
Peter Venkman

Offline Offline

Posts: 34749


Enjoy yourself its later than you think.




Ignore
« Reply #11 on: Sunday, March 29, 2020, 13:25:13 »

Great article, who wrote it?
By Stuart James Mar 27, 2020 25
An ex Town apprentice.
Logged

Because I chose to play the fool in a six-piece band
First-night nerves every one-night stand
I should be glad to be so inclined
What a waste! What a waste!
Rock n Roll don't mind.
Peter Venkman

Offline Offline

Posts: 34749


Enjoy yourself its later than you think.




Ignore
« Reply #12 on: Sunday, March 29, 2020, 13:26:19 »

More on Stuart James...

https://theathletic.co.uk/1267816/2019/10/07/1267816/

https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2009/mar/31/apprentice-cleaning-boots-frank-lampard
Logged

Because I chose to play the fool in a six-piece band
First-night nerves every one-night stand
I should be glad to be so inclined
What a waste! What a waste!
Rock n Roll don't mind.
pauld

Offline Offline

Posts: 22890





Ignore
« Reply #13 on: Sunday, March 29, 2020, 13:30:27 »

To alleviate my (slight) guilt about copying the piece, can I suggest that especially at the moment, a sub to The Athletic is an excellent investment for any football fan? Some really excellent writing on there, they both cover the mainstream stuff much better and in more depth than the regular press (e.g. their coverage of the Man City ban from Europe was streets ahead of anything I read elsewhere) and they also often surprise me with things I didn't know I was interested in until I started reading about it. Really is very good.
Logged
Costanza

Offline Offline

Posts: 9873


**Est Quod Est**


WWW

Ignore
« Reply #14 on: Sunday, March 29, 2020, 13:57:36 »

I wouldn't be surprised if Stuart James appears on a Swindon Town focused podcast in the not-too-distant future....
Logged

Pages: [1] 2   Go Up
Print
Jump to: