Believe it or not, Swindon Town once graced the promised land of the Premier League. In 1993-94, for one short season, Swindon fought a losing battle against immediate relegation back to what is now the Championship. Despite this, it was a memorable campaign for Swindon, and even though they only spent a single season in the top division, Swindon still hold two Premier League records over two decades later.
Promoted in 1992/93 via the play-offs, the Robins immediately took a blow as their inspirational player-manager Glenn Hoddle left the club to take over at Chelsea. Swindon also lost their inspirational defender and captain Colin Calderwood to Tottenham Hotspur, and striker David Mitchell to Turkish side Altay. In their places came Adrien Whitbread and Norwegian striker Jan Åge Fjørtoft. Fjørtoft would go on to become a cult hero at the County Ground, but it took him until after Christmas to score his first goals for the club. Unsurprisingly they spent the entire season fighting an unsuccessful battle against relegation. So unprepared for the challenges of the top division were Swindon that they finished the season dead last in 22nd place. A meagre five wins saw them finish on 30 points, an impressive 13 behind 19th placed Ipswich Town.
At the time, Swindon were far and away the worst team to have ever taken part in the Premier League (although the league was only two seasons old). This tag lingered for a while – one of Swindon’s ‘proudly’ held top flight records – until they were surpassed by the abject performances of Sunderland (twice), and the impressively poor Derby side of 2007-08.
But even Derby, bad as they were, could not break Swindon’s other two records. One is so bad that it seems unlikely to be broken any time soon.
Derby, in a season where they won just once, lost 29 games, and amassed a pathetic 11 points, conceded a hefty 89 goals. Swindon, having won five and lost 22, ending the season on 30 points, conceded exactly 100 times. Now, granted, Swindon conceded so many in a season that saw them play four more games than Derby, but the record is still an impressive one. Considering that many pundits have been hailing this season’s Aston Villa team as one of the worst in Premier League history (although whether they merit such a tag is a debate for another time), you would expect them to be conceding hatfuls of goals, but not so. But even though Villa have been putting in a string of tepid and gutless performances this season, they have only managed to concede 57 goals – a poor record, but one that is still a long way off of Swindon’s efforts.
Clearly, it will take a really, truly, exceptionally awful team to overhaul Swindon’s 100-goal record. Luckily for the Premier League, few teams are ever likely to be as bad as Derby were, let alone do even worse. Moreover, given there are less games now than in Swindon’s one season of top-flight football, it seems unlikely that this record will ever be broken.
The other record that Swindon are still lumbered with is this: no team has conceded more goals at home in the Premier League in a single season. Swindon’s record is 45 conceded in 21 home ties – a fortress the County Ground most certainly was not.
This record is, however, one that could conceivably be overhauled, even with less games to play. Since 1993/94, both Derby and Wolverhampton Wanderers have come within two goals of Swindon’s record, despite only playing 38 games.
For a team that has only spent a total of 42 games in the top flight, Swindon has made sure that it will spend a very long time as an obscure trivia question in the dullest of Premier League pub quizzes. Hopefully one day Swindon can get back to the Premier League and try and win some dignity back for – or failing that, they could try and break the records themselves..!