AFTER extracting 160 names from a list 1,200 strong, the final selection of a ‘best eleven’ was no easy task.
For Town’s last line of defence I had three candidates in Sam Burton, Peter Downsborough and Fraser Digby. Local boy Burton played right through the 1950’s on his way to more than 500 appearances, while Downsborough performed heroics at Wembley in 1969. But Digby, coming to Swindon as an untried youngster, matured into a first class keeper as the club progressed to the top flight.
In the centre of defence George Hudson and Stan Harland were strong contenders. But Colin Calderwood took on the mantle of captain at just 20, leading the side from the bottom tier to the top.
Alongside him for part of that journey was Shaun Taylor - brave to the extreme and more of an aerial threat than Harland going forward.
On the right at the back Rod Thomas would get the nod in many ‘best’ XIs and Wally Dickenson from the 1920’s came to mind. But Billy Tout could operate anywhere down the right and had a great scoring record from distance or set pieces.
On the left, internationals Jock Walker and Paul Bodin came close but there was really only one choice for me. John Trollope played almost 900 games for the club, where he spent more than half of his 71 years as player, manager and coach.
In the middle a combination of steel and creativity could perhaps include Ray McHale and Alan McLoughlin. But I have Joe Butler and Ernie Hunt, whose paths crossed briefly at Town in 1965.
Butler was a tireless worker and strong tackler, while Hunt provided the guile.
Sitting just behind my front three and given a free role would be Harold Fleming, his prominent aquiline nose picking up the scent of any viable route to goal.
Up front, I think few would argue with the inclusion of Harry Morris and Don Rogers. However, there were many options on the table for a third striker - Maurice Owen, Duncan Shearer and Sam Parkin to name just three.
My vote eventually went to Steve White who, like Owen, cost the club just a signing on fee and gave the club many years’ service - but ‘Chalkie’ scored goals at a higher level.
Alongside him, the muscular Morris bulldozed his way to a goal almost every game for an incredible seven years. And Rogers was simply the most talented and exciting player I have witnessed in the red of Town during my 50 years of watching them.
PAUL PLOWMAN'S GREATEST TEAM SWINDON TOWN XI: Fraser Digby; Billy Tout, Colin Calderwood, Shaun Taylor, John Trollope; Joe Butler, Ernie Hunt, Harold Fleming; Harry Morris, Steve White, Don Rogers.