I have too many books and not enough shelves, and have decided that the football books should be the first to go. They’re the most interesting, and therefore the most likely to distract me from writing my thesis.
The first one to be found a new home will be Peter Swan’s autobiography. It has been in my possession for less than a week and I’m already half way through my second reading. It’s brilliant, poignant, moving stuff, and you really should try and get hold of it any way you can.
Swan was a skillful centre back in the days when players like that were all too rare. He came through the ranks at Wednesday, travelling from Armthorpe while working at the pit before he got his first full-time contract. He soon broke into the side and became a brilliant defender, playing 19 games for England and travelling to the 1962 World Cup in Chile, although he was laid low with dysentry for most of that tournament.
He was once described by an Italian football magazine as ‘one of the best defenders in the world’, and was part of the Wednesday side that finished second to Bill Nicholson’s Tottenham team in 1961. Of course, that was a high point and things soon got worse for the club. Manager Harry Catterick left to join Everton, and then there was the scandal that robbed Wednesday of Swan’s best years.
Swan, David Layne and Tony Kay all bet on Wednesday to lose away at Ipswich, a game they played in. This was of course highly illegal, and when the plot was uncovered by The People newspaper, Swan went to prison and was banned from playing football for life.
The book veers away from self pity, but it’s clear that Swan missed out on a lot through his own actions. The World Cup win in 1966 is most often cited, but of course Wednesday also got to the cup final that year and we like to wonder what might have been, had the stuffing not been knocked out of the club by the trial and bans.
The book covers his return after the ban was lifted and his difficulties in finding the right level as a manager and player. He never explicitly says so, but I suspect that the scandal continued to blight his career after he came back. Some thought he was tainted, and many people don’t really want that taint of corruption around their club. The Football Association in particular were very reticent about replacing a badge Swan had lost, ignoring him until this book was published and journalists with connections made representations on his behalf.
The competition is of course based on attendances, as actual results are dull and have an annoying tendency not to favour Sheffield Wednesday. So you have to guess how many people will attend the Sheffield Wednesday vs Coventry City game on the 1st of April. Send your entries to footballinfinland ‘at’ gmail ‘dot’ com, with COMPETITION as the subject. Include your name and address.