Swindon Town F.C.: Review of the 1908-09 season


May 7, 1909
It is a distinct pleasure to review the past football season as far as the Swindon Town Club’s performances in the Southern League have been concerned. Still the pleasure is not altogether free from two elements of disappointment. There has been regret that the Town, being so near to the coveted top position, have not succeeded in reaching it; and there has been the disappointment that the hundred goals, which looked so very possible of attainment, have not been reached, although the Club has fallen short by the narrow margin of only four goals.

Never before has the Swindon Club enjoyed such a large measure of success as it has done during the past season. There have been times when the luck of the Club seemed to be entirely out, when failure seemed to hang over it like a black pall threatening its annihilation. But, it is a true sporting axiom, that when in the bitter depths of defeat, the true sporting instinct asserts itself, and it did so in the case of Swindon. Supporters of the Club will readily admit that Swindon Town have had no, what may be called, natural advantages to spur them on and provide that essential vitality which is not altogether remote from the important consideration of £ s. d.

It is generally admitted that while sport is nominally understood to be associated with football, a far more important consideration prevails, and that consideration has to do with the capture of and the retention of players who are valuable in the matter of securing or leading to the securing of goals, for, apart from the personal merits of such players, they are most essential factors in the creation of big gates, and big gates, after all, are the “hy and wherefore of football.”

The proposed formation of a Third Division might have enhanced the attractiveness of football as a sport, but if it did not do this it would certainly have emphasised the commercial element. However, on Friday, the Football League rejected the scheme for a Third Division of the League and the Southern League will presumably jog along on its old basis. The result is not surprising, although endorsed by the Management Committee, for the League clubs have a way of their own, and a three-fourths majority is not very easily obtained.

A proposal to postpone the consideration for twelve months failed, and a resolution by Mr. H.G. Norris that the Third Division should be open to applicants securing the greatest number of votes was, of course, valueless, consequent on the rejection of the scheme. It would, however, probably have secured greater justice for New Brompton than they seemed likely to obtain at the hands of their colleagues, and Croydon Common naturally felt that they also had been none too well treated.

The Swindon Town Club, as stated, is not one which happens to be established in a bed of roses, so to speak; it is a Club entirely supported by working-men in an essentially working-men’s town, and probably there is not another Club in the Southern League which has more heroically faced the battle of adversity than that which today represents the Wiltshire colours, with 49 points as the runners up of the Southern League.

Since Swindon happened to be one of the first Clubs to throw in its lot with the Southern League on the occasion of its inauguration in 1894, it may be of interest to give figures of the Town’s doings as from the first Southern League season. It will be noticed that in the first seven Swindon managed to finish ninth out of nine clubs competing, and again in the 1900-01 season and in the 1901-02 season they also succeeded in finishing at the bottom of the table. But their subsequent performances have more than emphasised any virtue that may be associated with the saying that “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

In the 1907-08 season the Town, with a remarkable home record, finished fifth in the table, and, as stated, as the result of last season’s work they have finished second and broken all Southern League in the matter of goal scoring.

The following table will show at a glance the performances of the Town since the inauguration of the Southern League: –
swindon-town-1908-1909-season-season-by-season-in-southern-league

It would be idle to declare that the past season, as far as Southern League matches have been concerned, has been productive of really interesting features. When a football season finishes and one looks forward to the next season, invariably one is tempted to turn to the Southern League for the provision of something new and startling. At the end of the 1907-8 season the vacillation of the Southern League as a controlling body was responsible for the peculiar outlook, and again the Southern League at the end of the 1908-9 season is responsible for the somewhat perplexing outlook. Critics last season were tempted to declare that the Southern League might well have been on the same elevated plane of importance as the First League.

The action of Queens Park Rangers, the loss of Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham, the inclusion of Exeter City, Southend United, and Coventry City invested the Southern League with more than ordinary interest at the beginning of last season. The new clubs have, without exception, during the past season acquitted themselves remarkably well. Exeter City finishing sixth with a total of 42 points, Southend twelfth with a total of 38 points, and Coventry have just managed to escape the bottom position with 34 points, Brentford constituting the tail end with 33 points.

Swindon, in common with other Southern League clubs, has exhibited that peculiar inability to display away the form they have shown at home. Had the Town not lost against Southampton at the County Ground on September 19, when the score was 2-0 against the homesters, and on December 26, when the score was 1-0 in favour Bristol Rovers, there might have been a different tale to tell with regard to the leadership. As it is, now that the season is finished, Swindon shares with Northampton, Portsmouth, Bristol Rovers, and Southend the honours of only having lost two home matches. But against this, Swindon holds the unique position of being the only club in the Southern League which has not drawn a match at home. The 18 matches which they have won at home constitutes a record, Luton and West Ham coming nex with 16 matches won at home, one drawn, and three lost respectively.

Another feature of the past Southern League season has been the almost phenomenal number of goals scored by Swindon, and perhaps in this respect the following figures may be of interest. In the first season, Millwall scored 68 goals to 19 against in 16 matches. In the 1895-6 season, Millwall again headed the list with 75 goals to 16 against in 18 matches. In the 1896-7 season, both Southampton and Millwall scored 63 goals each, with 18 against, in the case of Southampton, and 24 against in the case of Millwall, out of 20 matches. In 1897-8 Bristol City, who held the second position, in a Southern League of twelve clubs, scored 67 goals to 33 against, out of 22 matches. In 1898-9 Millwall, although third in the table, scored 59 goals to 35 against, out of 24 matches played.

In 1899-1900 Southampton, though occupying the third position, scored 70 goals to 33 against, out of 28 matches. In 1900-1 Southampton, who won the League Championship of that season, scored 58 goals to 26 against, out of 28 matches played. In the 1901-2 season Southampton again, though third down, scored the highest number of goals, namely, 71 to 28 against, out of 30 matches played. In the 1902-3 season Southampton broke the record up to then by scoring 83 goals to 20 against, out of 30 matches played, winning the Southern League Championship. Again in the 1903-4 season Southampton were on top with 75 goals for to 30 against, out of 34 matches played.

In the 1904-5 season Bristol Rovers took the lead, scoring 74 goals to 36 against, out of 34 matches played. Another change was provided in the 1905-6 season, when Luton, who although fourth down, scored the largest number of goals, namely 64 against 40, out of 34 matches played. In the season 1906-7 Millwall, although seventh down, scored the greatest number of goals, namely, 75 to 50 against, out of 38 matches played; and in the 1907-8 season Queens Park Rangers, who won the Championship, scored 82 goals to 57 against, out of 38 matches played, so that it will be seen that Swindon easily take the lead this season in the matter of goal scoring, although they have had the misfortune to have luck against them in the matter of the championship.

However, when the figures, as far as the Championship are concerned, are analysed, it will be noted that Northampton during the past season have been singularly successful away. No other club in the Southern League can boast of 10 matches won away, the nearest club to that creditable record being Southampton with 6 wins, 6 drawn, and Plymouth Argyle 6, with 4 drawn. Swindon have only succeeded in four matches away, defeating Leyton on September 26 by two goals to one, Southampton on January 23 by a sensational six goals to nil, Exeter on March 17 by four goals to one, and Bristol Rovers on April 9 by three goals to one. The Town also drew five games away, viz., with Plymouth Argyle, on November 7 (1-1), Northampton, on November 28 (1-1), Coventry, on December 25 (1-1), Norwich City, on January 2 (0-0), and Crystal Palace, on February 20 (1-1).

Reading have the distinction of losing the smallest number of matches away, viz., 7, though against this has to be recorded the fact that they have drawn more matches away than any other Southern League club, namely, 9. Swindon have lost 11 matches away, which figure is also credited to Exeter City. Whilst Swindon, with their 68 goals scored in home matches, easily take the lead, they are seven goals less than Northampton in the total number scored in away matches, the Midlanders having 35 to their credit to Swindon’s 28, the next club in order being Reading, who scored 27 goals away.

There is no doubt that during the past season the Swindon Town Club has been very largely indebted to the popular inside right, Harold Fleming. Never before in the history of Swindon has a local player been discovered who has more fully justified the confidence placed in him. Indeed, Fleming has done more than serve his Club; he has brought honour to the town of Swindon by reason of the fact that his prowess in the field favourably attracted the attention of the Football Association in London, and it may be safely asserted that his appearance in the Crystal Palace arena on April 3, when he played for his country in the International match against Scotland, is but the prelude to further equally, if not more notable appearance in the season which in a few more months will dawn upon the football world.

Fleming, who, it is a matter of gratification to record, has signed on for Swindon for another season, scored last season in Southern League matches 29 goals, performing the “hat trick” in two matches viz., that on September 5, against Norwich City, at the County Ground, when he scored three goals, and that on January 9, against Reading, at the County Ground, when he again scored three goals. Archie Bown comes next with 16 goals, Jefferson next with 9 goals, four in the match on September 5 against Norwich City at the County Ground, and three in the match on September 9 against New Brompton at the County Ground. Bob Jefferson, who has served the Town remarkably well as outside right, has scored nine goals, while George Rushton has scored 7, Billy Tout 6, Frank Heppinstall 3, Fred Fenton 2, and Charles Bannister 1, though of course, all these players have not appeared in every Southern League match, with the exception of Jefferson, who has turned out in all the 40 matches.

Swindon Town, 1908-09.
swindon-town-1908-1909-season

It is a little premature as yet to make any statement with regard to the financial position of the club. Of course, Swindon’s defeat in the first round of the competition proper by Plymouth Argyle at Home Park on January 16 by one goal to nil made a considerable difference to the revenue as compared to the previous season, when the Town were fortunate enough to get into the third round. It is stated that as the result of the past season’s working there is a four-figure balance at the Bank to the credit of the Club.

However, the true state of affairs will shortly be forthcoming at the annual meeting of the shareholders this month. As far as the figures displayed at the County Ground for the information of the public on the occasion of Southern League matches are concerned, they represent a total for the season of £2,877 0s. 2d, the largest “gate” being on December 26, when the Town played Bristol Rovers, the amount shown on the blackboard as gate was £253 18s, the Southampton match on December 19 coming next with £224 17s. 9d, the smallest gate being £66 11s 9d on the occasion of the match with Exeter City on Wednesday, October 7. The smallest Saturday gate was £70 0s 6d, on September 9, on the occasion of the match with New Brompton.

With regard to next season, it may at once be said that the Town Club intends to go ahead. It would be unpolitic at this stage to enter into anything like details as to future conditions, probabilities, and possibilities. The football atmosphere is at the present time so liberally charged with electricity that the ball of controversy is likely to be kept rolling during the whole of the hot summer months. It is some satisfaction to know that the Swindon Town Directors are fully alive to their responsibilities and obligations, and also that they have made a good start in having secured the signatures for another season’s service of men like Fleming, Tout, Bannister, Jock Walker, Billy Marshall and Peter Chambers, the popular captain, who, it is said, had a better moral influence on the Town players as a Club than any previous captain.

At the time of writing there seems to be some doubt as to whether Archie Ling will remain with the Club, but whether the Town secured a Leeds City goalkeeper or any other goalkeeper from a distance, if he comes up to some of the excellent qualities of Ling, he will ensure for himself a cordial welcome from the Swindon Club’s supporters.

With regard to the South Eastern League, there has not been very great interest shown in that department. Still, the League has provided some very interesting games at the County Ground, and the Swindon second string have given a very creditable account of themselves. John Skillen has been successful in scoring 13 goals, the top score, Jack Lavery 9, Billy Boland 8, Fenton 7, and O’Neill 6, Dibesdall and Kembrey 5 each, Rushton 4, and Heppinstall 3.

The total gate receipts for S.E. league matches at the County Ground have been £382 5s 4d, the largest amount taken being on the occasion of the first match of the season on September 2 against Chelsea, being £39 4s, the second best gate being £30 16s on the occasion of the match with Brighton and Hove on October 10.

Southern League record.
Following is a complete list, for reference, of the First Division Southern League matches played by the Town, with the results during the season 1908-9:

swindon-town-1908-1909-match-fixture-southern-league-home-matches

swindon-town-1908-1909-match-fixture-southern-league-away-matches

South-Eastern League record.
Following is a complete list of reference of the South-Eastern League matches, with the results, played by the Town second team during the season 1908-9: –

swindon-town-reserves-1908-1909-match-fixture-south-eaterns-league-home-matches

swindon-town-reserves-1908-1909-match-fixture-south-eaterns-league-away-matches

South-Eastern League, final table.
swindon-town-reserves-table-league
(Swindon Advertiser, 07-05-1909)

Southern League, player statistics, from Swindon Town website:
Charles Bannister (35-1); Archie Bown (37-16); Peter Chambers (32-0); Fred Fenton (15-2); Frank Heppinstall (24-3); Jimmy Hogan (9-9); Bob Innes (3-0); Bob Jefferson (40-8); Harry Kay (14-0); Jack Lavery (20-13); Archie Ling (40-0); Mattie Lockhead (9-0); J. Lowe (1-0); Billy Marshall (27-0); George Ruston (20-7); Billy Saunders (1-0); John Skillen (2-0); Billy Tout (38-6); Jock Walker (39-0).

XX

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