Maurice Owen was a loyal one-club man, making 601 first team appearances. And like John Trollope, the only man to play more games for Swindon Town, he served the club for 37 years.

It was 65 years ago this week, in December 1946, that Owen signed on the dotted line to become a part-time professional. At the time the ex-Chindit, who had served in Burma towards the end of the War, was still an apprentice at the MG car works in his home town of Abingdon.

At 5ft 10in Owen was not tall, but he was good in the air and quick over the ground. Eight goals in just three Combination games brought him a rapid introduction to League football on January 11, when he hit a hat-trick in a 5-0 demolition of Watford. By the end of the season, he had notched 16 goals in just 17 appearances including a four against Mansfield.

Just 13 months after playing at Reading and District League level with Abingdon Town, Owen found himself taking on top flight defenders when Swindon were drawn away in the FA Cup to losing finalists of the previous season, Burnley. Far from overawed in front of a 34,000 crowd, he scored Town’s second in a 2-0 win and went on to finish his first full season, 1947/48, as top scorer with 17 goals.

Scouts were soon alerted and Swindon received various offers for their prize asset. In the summer of 1951 the directors decided to accept a £14,000 bid from Norwich City – but Maurice decided to stay !

Another good Cup run in 1951/52 brought him six goals – including a Third Round replay winner at Ninian Park – in addition to 18 in the League. This earned Owen selection for an England ‘B’ international against France in Le Havre, but he did not make the final 11.

Early in 1955, the club’s financial predicament encouraged the board to again discuss the possible transfer of Maurice – to local rivals Bristol City – with a fee of £7,500 having been agreed. But again he swiftly informed manager Maurice Lindley that he did not want to go.

Owen made what would be his final appearance at centre-forward in October 1957, after which he dropped back to wing-half. But Good Friday in 1959 was a bad day for Maurice, as he broke a leg at Doncaster and was sidelined for the whole of the 1959/60 season.

When he returned in August 1960 it was at centre-half, where he helped nurture talented 17 year old full-backs Trollope and Terry Wollen. Ten days after making his final League appearance in May 1962, Owen joined them in celebrating promotion for the first time ever.

Having stepped down from first team duty, Maurice still slipped his boots on occasionally for a third team game. And, after serving another 13 years as trainer and reserve team manager, he could still be seen around the County Ground, where he was groundsman until he reached 60 in 1984.

By Paul Plowman