Hoddle (second from right) transformed the way Swindon played. (©PAphotos)
I know that Don Rogers is an all-time Swindon great. He played 490 times in two spells between 1962 and 1977, and was the two-goal hero of that 1969 League Cup final victory over Arsenal. His 181 career goals for Town make him the club’s third all-time leading marksman.
For some generations of Swindon Town supporters, however, Rogers and that great Wembley triumph is something that only our parents can wax lyrical over. It is another great Wembley victory that provides the hero who, for me, stands head and shoulders above every other player to have represented the Robins.
Glenn Hoddle was a magician who had always epitomised the fine art of passing football. He played for Tottenham in the first game I ever saw live, a 3-3 draw with Southampton at the Dell in 1979. As a seven-year-old I was totally enthralled by his touch and skill, and equally mesmerised by his appointment at the County Ground in 1991, following the resignation of fellow ex-Spur, Ossie Ardiles.
The club, its fans and the whole town were still suffering from the hangover of non-promotion to the top flight and, despite Ardiles’ popularity, needed a lift. His first task was to prevent relegation from the second division, a feat achieved with only two wins and a draw from the final eight games of the season.
The following season saw Hoddle begin the rebuilding that would eventually yield promotion to the Premier League in 1993. He bought in several players, Shaun Taylor, Paul Bodin, John Moncur, Dave Mitchell and Martin Ling who would all be key players throughout the promotion season. Swindon finished eighth in the league that year, inconsistency and the sale of top-scorer Duncan Shearer in March preventing Hoddle’s side from making the playoffs.
His presence always galvanised Swindon and his influence certainly generated the free-flowing, positive football for which Swindon sides are renowned. In all, the player-manager made 75 appearances in a Town shirt, predominantly as a sweeper from where he could spray his trademark quality passes. He was instrumental in the most amazing game I’ve ever seen when, with Swindon 4-1 down at Birmingham and only half an hour to go, he didn’t panic. Rather than change the 11 on the pitch, Hoddle inspired a terrific comeback and a 6-4 win.
Never prolific in front of goal, Hoddle could nevertheless find a quality finish. He only scored three goals, all in the promotion season, but two of them were well worth the ticket price.
Swindon kicked off the promotion season with a 1-0 at home to Sunderland, Hoddle dropping his shoulder to sell a dummy from a standing start and striking a left-foot thunderbolt into the top corner from fully 30 yards. His last goal in his final game for the club, the first in the epic play-off final victory over Leicester, was a right-footed pass into the net; I always remember David Pleat gushing about it in the commentary of the game.
Despite the cloud that returned to the County Ground when he left to take over at Chelsea, he remains an English football icon, a legend who brought the big time to Swindon Town. I will never tire of watching my idol, the maestro, at work.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.