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After forty-two years in the third tier of the League, Swindon secured their first ever promotion to the Second Division with a young side that were brought mostly through the Town's own youth system.
Following a successful start to his managerial career at Swindon, Bert Head was rewarded with a five year contract extension in January 1958 - and with money at the club tight, the security that the contract provided allowed him to focus on youth. In 1960, after record signing Jimmy Gauld had been released, Head pitted two sides against each other in the annual practice match - the "Probables", made up of the Town's senior players, against the "Possibles", consisting of the club's youngsters. When the Possibles shocked the senior side - winning by seven goals to two, and then repeating the victory behind closed doors - it prompts Head to throw them into the first team fray - and after fielding some of the youngest squads that the League has ever seen, including the youngest ever full-back partnership, by the time the 1962/63 season was beginning, other clubs were looking to replicate Swindon's model for the future.
With evidence from the previous season suggesting that adding experienced signings to the young squad actually upset the balance of the side, Head doubled down on his policy - signing just two players in the close season - Peter Leggett, a highly sought-after forward from Weymouth, and Owen Dawson, a reserve full-back from Portsmouth. The squad spent two weeks of their pre-season training programme on a camp in Weymouth to prepare for the new campaign.
Wearing a badge on the shirt for the first time, the Town had a satisfactory opening to the season - drawing at Barnsley and thumping Coventry by four goals to one - but after failing to register victory in their next four games, not helped by defensive mistakes against Northampton and Coventry, they slumped into a mid-table position.
During the first half of the campaign, it was the Town's away form that seemed to be preventing any sort of bid for promotion - though the Town comprehensively beat Hull, Brighton, Wrexham and Bristol Rovers at the County Ground, they failed to score at struggling Crystal Palace and Carlisle, and then contrived to lose at third-bottom Halifax despite being three goals up with just twenty minutes to go - Barry Tait scoring a seventeen-minute hat-trick before the Shaymen grabbed a late winner.
Despite that, a 3-1 win over table-topping Watford brought the Town to within two points of top spot with a game in hand, but they then again failed to win in four - after losing at Bristol Rovers, it seemed that the away hoodoo would be ended at Ashton Gate, only for the Town to again relinquish a two goal lead. Defeat at Port Vale at the end of October left Swindon in ninth place, and six points off promotion (with only two points awarded for a win).
After beating Reading in the cup with three goals in seventeen minutes, at the tenth time of asking the Town broke their away duck with victory at Millwall - Cliff Jackson scoring a hat-trick, all with his head, as his side fought back with two goals in the last twenty minutes to claim the points. The following weekend, Jack Smith netted twice in the first ten minutes as the Town thumped Southend by four goals to one to jump over them in the table - a match notable for the debut of seventeen-year-old Don Rogers, who would receive an England Youth call up before the end of the year. A week later, the Town emerged victorious to leapfrog their opponents again - but the victory over Notts County was tarnished by a serious injury to Terry Wollen - a broken leg from which the full back never really recovered. The upturn in results saw the Town go into the Christmas period in third place, just a point off second, but also only two points clear of tenth placed Southend.
And then came the big freeze.
After the second vs third clash at Northampton was called off because of fog, the Town lost at Bradford Park Avenue on Boxing Day - three days later, a blizzard swept across the south of the country, with snow drifting up to twenty feet in places - freezing temperatures ensuring that the snow remained into February. On December 29, a record number of League games were cancelled - a week later, the Town's cup tie at Luton was postponed, and it would eventually be called off three times before finally being played at the end of January.
In the middle of the month though, on a date when 42 of the 46 scheduled League games were cancelled to break the record once more, the Town managed to circumnavigate the weather - wearing yellow gloves and basketball boots on a snow-covered County Ground pitch, to thump Queens Park Rangers by five goals to nil. Though Rangers manager Alec Stock protested that the pitch was "not fit for professional football", referee Norman Hough allowed the game to go ahead - and with the lines marked out in blue paint, the Town players' boots gave them more grip on the slippery surface, and they finished up clear winners, with Jack Smith claiming a hat-trick. The victory moved them into the promotion places for the first time, albeit on goal average - with all the teams from second to sixth on thirty points.
The QPR game proved to be the only League match played in January - after the following match away at Hull was abandoned at half-time, the Town beat Luton in their thrice cancelled cup match - setting up a plum tie at home to Everton that was played just three days later. It proved to be a step too far for the Town's youngsters - going down 5-1 to a team packed full of internationals.
Still though, the weather wasn't beaten. The Town again managed to get a game on during the first weekend of February - one of only four matches played in the League - and the two points gained over Crystal Palace kept them in second place. The following weekend, the Town played their first team in a reserve match against Birmingham after their game at Wrexham was cancelled - and when the thaw eventually came, the tons of sand that were spread over the County Ground pitch became "a sea of squelching mud", causing the home match with Halifax to also be postponed. Thankfully, the Supporters' Club were able to make a £5,000 donation to the club to make up for some of the lost gate receipts, and the Football League were granted a two week extension to the season. To maintain the squad's match fitness, a friendly was arranged at short notice in Dublin against Drumcondra - the team flying over to Ireland the night before a 3-2 victory was recorded.
If the early season had been littered with points dropped from winning positions, the Town certainly made up for it once the freeze was over. Visiting Watford in a promotion clash, the Town came back from 3-1 down to draw, they won against Bristol City despite being two goals down, and came from behind to beat Reading at Elm Park. Although Port Vale registered the Town's first reverse in thirteen games with a comeback of their own, Swindon got back in on the act the following weekend, coming from behind again to beat Shrewsbury. Over this period, manager Bert Head's contract had expired - and with no new deal signed, it seemed that he might be offered the job at Brighton - eventually though, a new five year deal was arranged, to which Head said, "I am happy with the new arrangements. I have never wanted to leave Swindon, particularly at a time like this when we are seeing the results of five years' hard graft. I want to see it through to the end."
At the end of March, Swindon travelled to Northampton for a crucial top-of-the-table clash - a bruising encounter saw 36 fouls registered, but the Town came away with a point that put them top of the league on goal average, with two games in hand over second-placed Peterborough. Consecutive victories over Millwall and Bradford took the Town into April with a three point cushion - but they then suffered from a bit of a wobble.
Fortunate to come away from Southend with a point, after being handicapped by Owen Dawson's early injury that reduced them to ten men - John Stevens netting with the Town's only chance of the game - the Town went into the Easter period facing home and away clashes with fellow promotion chasers Peterborough. The biggest league crowd of the season at the County Ground (over 23,000) saw Ernie Hunt put the Town in front within 45 seconds on Good Friday - but after conceding twice in two minutes later in the half, the Posh went home with the points - and though the Town recovered the following day with a thumping victory over Colchester, in which John Stevens netted a six minute hat-trick, Peterborough again recorded victory in the return match on Easter Monday, putting them just a point behind Swindon - leaving boss Head to describe the Town's promotion task as "a right battle". The situation was not improved the following weekend, when Jack Smith was carried off at Notts County, reducing the Town to ten men for the final thirty minutes - the resulting 2-0 defeat only softened by the fact that Peterborough also lost, and Brighton were held at Coventry. Later in the week though, victory for Peterborough at Crystal Palace saw them jump over the Town and into second place.
With the season having been disrupted, the table at this stage was difficult to decipher due to the variation in the number of matches each team had played - Peterborough on 49 points, a point ahead of the Town but having played 42 games, two more than Swindon; fourth-placed Bournemouth on 46 points, but having played one game fewer; and fifth-placed Coventry just a point worse off on 45, but only having played 37 matches - five fewer than the Posh.
This made the Town's next match crucial - a home match against Bournemouth. Don Rogers was recalled to the starting eleven, and in a cup-tie atmosphere helped by a large away attendance and a bright, sunny afternoon, John Stevens gave the Town the lead midway through the first half, only for Peter Thompson to equalise just two minutes later. Early in the second half though, Ernie Hunt netted from the penalty spot, and that proved to be the winner - the victory putting the Town back into second place. Hunt's accuracy from the penalty spot proved to be a crucial element of the Town's success - he netted all seven spot kicks that he took over the season. Three days later, the same players both scored again in a comfortable 2-0 win over relegation-threatened Carlisle - the contribution of John Stevens during this stage of the season also vital to the Town's success - only in the side due to injury to Jack Smith, and having only played a single game earlier in the campaign - Stevens scored seven goals in ten appearances to help keep his side in the promotion hunt.
Now two points clear of Peterborough, the Town were expected to cement their position further with their game in hand against bottom-placed Halifax - but with a performance described by local reporter R.C.E. as "desperate and disorganised", and finding visiting goalkeeper Peter Downsborough to be "reliable and quick-thinking", the Town went behind early in the second half, and were only rescued by another late penalty scored by Ernie Hunt.
Two days later though, victory at Colchester put the Town on the brink of Division Two. After hitting the crossbar early on, the recalled Roger Smart netted either side of half-time to seal the points at Layer Road - defeat for Peterborough at Southend meaning that despite being in third place, with just two games remaining, the Posh could no longer catch the Town. With three games in hand, fourth-placed Coventry were six points behind (although all of their remaining games were away from home) - behind them, Port Vale and Bournemouth would also need a string of results to catch Swindon. All would play again at least twice before the Town would meet Shrewsbury in twelve days' time. Bert Head was bullish - "now we'll wrap it up on Tuesday against Shrewsbury", he said.
Coventry faltered - losing at Hull and drawing at Southend; Bournemouth won at Brighton but lost at Colchester, and Port Vale beat Bristol City - then the day before the Town's crucial match, Bournemouth won 3-0 at Port Vale to end the Valiants' promotion bid. The results meant that victory against the Shrews would confirm promotion to the second tier.
Over twenty-thousand fans packed into the County Ground on a Tuesday night - but on a muddy, slippery pitch, it was a tense affair - and the Town seemed to struggle under the pressure, with the Shrews in the ascendancy for much of the game. In the second half, only a fantastic clearance from Owen Dawson prevented the Town from going behind - with goalkeeper Mike Turner in no man's land, Shrews forward Frank Clarke lobbed the ball towards the open goal, but somehow, Dawson managed to get back and head it clear.
Just when it seemed time would run out, it was Roger Smart again who popped up with a late winner - goalkeeper Miller getting a hand to his shot, but unable to keep it out - and two minutes later, the referee's final whistle prompted a pitch invasion, as the Town supporters celebrated reaching the second tier for the first time in the club's history.
Breaking off from the champagne celebrations, manager Bert Head commented, "I have always been confident, right from the early stages, that our youth policy would see us into Division Two. We have had our ups and downs on the way though, naturally, but our faith has never wavered. Now everybody in the club has seen all the hard work and time spent on the youth policy rewarded by the most memorable achievement in the club's history - promotion to Division Two."