Awayday preview : Swindon Town, Saturday 6 October
How to get there
According to many, some sort of armoured vehicle would be the most sensible means of transport, though parking for Green Goddess fire engines and Centurion tanks is severely limited on match days. So we’d advise letting the train take the strain, and if you insist on wearing colours then a sturdy tin hat might be in order.
At times in the past, The County Ground has resembled a bear pit. Those who attended the play-off final in 1987 will never forget the place erupting in ballistic and aggressive celebration at the equaliser, and by all accounts the infamous 1979 clash was even worse. But the terraces have gone and the tatty but charismatic stand along the side was replaced before it fell down. It now looks a bit sad, an all-seated botch job lacking charm and atmosphere. We’ll probably be on the old converted Stratton Bank and we’ll get wet if it rains. Nice big traditional floodlights though.
I’ve stumbled across more violence in this town than anywhere else in my life, and not just with Gillingham (I was once among Bolton fans ambushed on the way from the station). My memories from the mid-80s clashes revolve around smashed coach windows, riots on the magic roundabout, stones pounding on train windows and row upon row of heavily protected police. But it would be unfair to resort to violent stereotypes and tar all Swindon fans with the same brush. The majority are amiable, humble, witty and welcoming. They are also stupendously thick and smell of pig shit.
Known nationally as The Robins. Known in Medway, Reading and Oxford as The Neanderthal Dingles.
Where to Drink
A long, long way away.
Pure evil through and through, past season ticket holders have included Harold Shipman, Peter Sutcliffe, Ian Huntley and Wee Willie Carson.
Have there been any? Ray McHale, I suppose. And Wilf Tranter, who was pivotal in the May Day brawl. I was never a fan of Alan Mayes and Andy Rowland either. Kenny Stroud, there’s a wanker for you. And Steve White. And that lanky twat who played in the play-offs. Not Fraser Digby, but the striker. Dave Bamber! Peter Coyne and Charlie Henry, naturally. Don’t get me started on Lou Macari. Or even Glenn Hoddle. Other repulsive former managers include Steve McMahon and, of course, Dennis Wise, the repugnant little shit. Don’t forget Kevin Horlock, though most of his evil was carried out at Wembley a year after leaving Swindon. Other than that I’ve never really had a problem with any of them.
Well, we all do. Even those who weren’t born…
- David Hutchinson. A referee who never turned his back on a crowd again. His flourishing of a red card in Danny Westwood’s face on the say-so of Ray McHale left him decked by a middle-aged Gills fan shortly afterwards. Fun and frolics and perimeter fences all round
- Lester Shapter. “Somewhere in the region of 4,000 travelling supporters looked on in stunned disbelief as Terry Nicholl was sensationally sent off.” So trumpeted the Gills programme following defeat at The County Ground in May 1979, which put a terminal dent in our promotion charge. Shapter simply revved up an already delicate fixture by dishing out two yellows to Nicholl for alleged fouls on the whinging McHale, despite being yards away from play, and ended up provoking a brawl in the tunnel afterwards.
- Dean White’s bullet header after Steve Bruce had hit the bar in front of a rabid Rainham End in a top of the table clash in Keith Peacock’s first season. An early Micky Adams strike in the away fixture completed the double and helped condemn Swindon to relegation. In the same season – in the days when the Gills appeared on tv twice a decade – our 15 minutes of fame on Match of the Day against Fulham was aired to the constant backdrop of “Sw-i-i-indon, Sw-i-i-indon, can you hear us on the box?”. Happy days
- A ruined Christmas in 1986 when a near 10,000 crowd stood through a miserable 3-1 defeat. In an ill-judged gesture of seasonal goodwill the Swindon team were sent to The Rainham End to wave at the crowd before the game started. The Rainham End waved back.
- Howard Pritchard’s delightful curly cross-shot that gave us an early lead on Bank Holiday Monday in the run-in, the first of four fixtures against them that month. Only a highly debateable penalty saved the home side
- The first ever play-offs : the ticketing traumas….Cascarino barging Digby over…Bamber’s disallowed goal…Lovely Les Berry losing his bearings and lobbing Phil Kite (thankfully wide)…Dave Smith’s late free-kick winner that prompted an impartial steward to bounce ecstatically on to the pitch….Lester Shapter – again!…the Elsey rocket which gave us an unassailable 2-0 lead in the second leg…Swindon hitting the bar….Swindon hitting the bar again…Swindon hitting Phil Kite again and again and again….Swindon hitting everything except the back of the net…not being able to breath…11 minutes from the promised land…Swindon hitting the back of the net…twice…the pitch invasion….the riot police…the dilapidated football specials back to Medway…Steve Fucking White and Friday night at Selhurst….wanting to cry…
- Valentine’s Day 2006 – mass stupidity all round as Byfield makes a daft challenge on the keeper and the ref just can’t help himself. It wouldn’t be Gillingham at The County Ground without a sense of injustice – but we were awful that night. Undone by Iffy on the home bench, of all people
A 4-4 draw where football is the winner…
The Morty Vicker