DON’t go breaking my heart
Why oh why, Don, did you do it?
Without that famous league cup final, I doubt if I would have become an Arsenal fan. I started out up for Swindon as did nearly everyone. But Arsenal kept trying to win on a muddy pitch and somehow a dogged Swindon side got a goal by Roger Smart against the run of play. It was all Arsenal but no goals until Bobby Gould scored on 86. I now cheered for Arsenal and was sure, being a top team against a 3rd division one, that now they would win. Arsenal had flu problems though, and the massive effort to get themselves back in the game seemed to take its toll in extra time. The most famous Swindon player ever, Don Rogers, who forms part of their name, scored 2 and Arsenal were beaten. The fact that I was gutted told me something. This was my team. I was born to be a Gooner.
But despite wrecking my dreams, I retained a soft spot for Swindon. And I was always going to choose them for this series. Because they made me Arsenal. From now on I would cry when we lose and add an az when we win.*
Their greatest day ever
They gave us a harder time than the Spuds
You might suspect that Arsenal are going to easily come out on top in this rivalry. You would be wrong. Yes we have far more trophies but not on the head to head. They win by virtue of going home with the League Cup and we got no trophy in our nine matches against them. 3 wins each and 3 draws.
There is something likable about Swindon, though. They sport the Arsenal colours, Don Rogers, their iconic winger, has a stand named after him, always nice to see a player being recognised in this way. I could be wrong but I am not sure many clubs have stands named after players.
The rest of the County Ground seen from the Don Rogers stand
Now, I am guessing you would think that every metric I look for Arsenal would come out on top. And you would be wrong. Let’s talk about most league appearances by a player. We have David O’Leary on 558, they have John Trollope 1960 to 1980 with 770 and a total of 889 easily beating O’Leary on 772.
More ways they are ahead
Arsenal were always the innovators in English football? Eh, hello, Swindon beat us by 6 months in having floodlights in the 1950’s.
They were founded in 1879, well ahead of us in 1886. And their first game against us was in 1911 in the FA Cup. They lay down a marker for what is to come with a 1-0. One nil to the Swindon would have been ringing out if it was the modern day. First blood to Swindon.
Even Herbert Chapman found them hard
The next came in the FA Cup again in 1929 in the 5th . Now this was the era of Herbert Chapman, with all the star names – Eddie Hapgood, Bob John, David Jack, Joe Hulme and others. We were the mighty Arsenal and they were in the 3rd division. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy? No are Arsenal and we make life hard for ourselves. 0-0 in the first game and then a little revenge in the 1-0 we got in the second with the fabulously named James Brain allowing the fans to sung our song if only they had known about it at the time. It took us 3 games to get a goal against them so they are ahead in that, too.
All the rest came in my era. I remember them all. The first match was also my first blog and you can read about it here. Like I said at the start, they beat us so the first 2 trophies they played us they beat us. Swindon, you are breaking my heart.
So did Bertie Mee and especially Terry Neill
And so we got a chance to get revenge for ’69 in 1972, FA Cup 3rd round. On a muddy, muddy pitch, Geordie Armstrong of the double winning side, and Alan Ball, who wasn’t, got the 2 goals needed for us to progress. It was Alan Ball’s first goal for us and at least it was a bit more than a tap in like Geordie’s. So now we had 2 Fa Cup wins to their one. But they still had that trophy up on us so I put them ahead.
Even the great Liam Brady couldn't stop them
The next time was the League cup in 1979. We had a top side with all the Irish players. They were in the 3rd division. We were at Highbury. 1-1 and it went to replay and a classic cup game. Steve Walford scored an own goal and then gave them a deflection for their second. 2-0 to the Swindon at halftime. We had no Liam Brady for the first game and he came back for the second. Probably the best player in the league at the time, he would surely put manners on these upstarts? Eh, sort of, he played out of his skin, still referred to as the best display ever seen at Swindon’s County Ground, scored 2 goals and assisted Brian Talbot for the other but they scored one in the second half to take it to extra time.
And Andy Rowlands got a late winner to mean that for the League Cup, Swindon are our daddies.
A very small revenge in the Premiership
You might be amazed but Swindon once got into the Premier League. In 1993-94, we played them twice. Now, they fell like a stone back down into the championship and we played our part in that a couple of days after Christmas at the County Ground. 4-0 to the Arsenal with Ian Wright and Kevin Campbell with a rare hat-trick. They conceded 100 goals, still the record. They got a little bit of revenge at Highbury in April with a 1-1 but for the Premier league, we can claim the win in the head to head.
Or maybe this was their greatest day ever?
But as you can see, I have to give them the lead overall. They beat us at Wembley, their most significant trophy. And they and QPR are the only 3rd division teams to win it. The FA Cup was never won by a 3rd division team.
Swindon – better than us?
So there you have it. A tiny team, with tiny attendances, trying to play in the mud at other tiny teams all their life, are laughing at us in the League Cup. We are a bit better than them in the FA Cup and they managed a draw against us in the Premier league, when we were packed full of top players and playing at Highbury.
Be afraid, Gooners, be very afraid, if the name Swindon Town pops out of the spinning balls in any of the cups. They like beating us.
Cry + az = crazy *