JOHN Trollope made his debut for Swindon Town in 1960 as a 17 year old and did not leave the club until 1996, when he was unceremoniously dumped by Steve McMahon for reasons he still does not fully understand.

Trollope is, of course, revered among Town fans, and those further afield, for holding the all-time record for most league appearances at one club, 770 games over 20 years.

His club record 889 appearances in total, with only three from the bench, is unlikely ever to be broken.

He was also a part of the Third Division promotion-winning 1968-69 side that were also responsible for the single biggest triumph in the club’s history. Trollope is one of the mud-drenched band of heroes that overcame a two-division gap to beat Arsenal in the 1969 League Cup final.

There were other triumphs - promotion in 1963 and the 1970 Anglo Italian Cup win over Napoli - but also the relegations that Trollope describes as his biggest lows as a player.

He is a warm and receptive person to talk to. There is no wavering in the 71-year-old’s voice when discussing the day he found out his services at the club were no longer required.

Speaking to him in the County Ground lounge named after the manager under whom he served as assistant in the 1980s - Lou Macari - we discuss the most bitter moment of his involvement with Town.

His dismissal by McMahon, after 37 years of service to the club he supported as a boy, still rankles today.

His tone remains calm. In truth there is nothing audibly different to when the topic of conversation drifts on to the League Cup win, but the words are stark.

“Steve McMahon was the manager and it was just out of the blue,” explains Trollope. “He just said I want you to leave and on the same day I left.

“He didn’t give me any inkling that he wasn’t happy with what I was doing. He didn’t watch the youth team, he never watched me doing any training.

“That is why I’m slightly bitter about it because if you’re going to get the sack you want an explanation as to why. I would have liked to have been given the chance to do what he wanted me to do, rather than say nothing and say ‘I want you to go.’

“I just got on with my job. I didn’t mix with the senior staff that much and maybe that was what it was - that he didn’t feel I was the man for him. That’s football. (Those kind of dismissals) are even more so now because they do take their own people around don’t they? At the time after 36-37 years it was hard to take.

“I felt other people at the club could have put their neck out for me because, at one time, I was told I had a job for life when maybe I could have found myself something else. But I’m over it now.

“It took quite a few years to get over it actually. I’ve been back off and on. I’ve been involved with other clubs and worked for the Football League, so I had to come back to the club from around 1998.”

Having brought through the likes of Paul Rideout, Nicky Summerbee and latterly Sol Davis into the first team, Trollope had no reason to suspect unhappiness with his work.

However, for the first time in four decades, he was no longer employed at the County Ground.

Having been in football that long, what he did next was a real surprise.

“I didn’t have a job so I went on the post, which is the best job I’ve ever had. It was so relaxed, just knocking the letters through the letter boxes with a good bunch of lads who I worked with,” he says without qualms.

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Trollope back in his coaching days with Swindon Town

However, the following year he was back in football, down the M4 at the Memorial Ground, again bringing through youngsters.

“Bristol Rovers asked me to go as youth coach in 1997. I was at Rovers for about a year but I disagreed with how the manager wanted me to develop boys, so I left there.”

As a youth coach, Trollope wanted his players to play in a similar style to the way Mark Cooper has Town playing currently, with the ball on the floor and even occasionally adopting a back three.

The Rovers boss at the time, a certain Ian Holloway, wanted something different and Trollope left.

His next role saw him make periodic returns to the County Ground as a league area representative, monitoring clubs in the south, of which Swindon was one.

After holding that down for several years he took a job at the Wolves academy before returning for a year to the Swindon youth set-up in 2008.

Since then he has worked periodically as a scout for his son Paul in his various managerial and coaching jobs.

Trollope senior is evidently a man with a strong work ethic and, only this year, as a man well beyond the retirement age, has he made a return to the County Ground as a fan, attending games with former teammate and fellow club legend Don Rogers.

“It’s only this season I’ve been able to come regularly because I’ve had other jobs on Saturdays and midweeks,’’ he explained.

“I’m friendly with Don (Rogers) and he arranges for me to come to most of the games. Don told me they were playing some good stuff. My neighbour goes as well and she said how well they’re playing and Don said ‘Do you want to come then?’ I said ‘Yeah, if I can get a ticket’.

“I get one every game now so I’m back and I’ve been watching quite a few games. Except for the Rochdale game, where Rochdale had a good plan and beat them, I think they’ve been good.”

Those who saw Trollope as he racked up game after game in the 1960s and 1970s will be glad to hear that he is a more regular attendee at the County Ground and enjoying the treatment a club legend deserves.

Unlike today, players of his era could not attain contracts which had the potential to secure them financially for life, something Trollope was keen to stress.

“The money they earn, even at this level, compared to the ordinary working man is quite a difference, whereas in our day it wasn’t much more,’’ he said.

“What we did was we had a basic (wage), we had a summer wage and then we got an appearance fee to go in the first team.

“If you were in the first team it wasn’t too bad but if you weren’t, in the summer in the early 60s we all got little jobs because you used to finish in April and not start back until July. We used get little jobs just to supplement our money.”

The idea of any of Town’s current squad having a different summer job is unimaginable, even if the idea Nathan Thompson or Wes Foderingham as a summer temp at Sports Direct is quite amusing.

Though Thompson, the skipper, is probably thenearest modern equivalent to Trollope in terms of his status and role in the squad.

A local lad, making his debut at a young age in the backline and going on to be named captain, the parallels are certainly there.

But as much as he would like it to happen, Trollope thinks it is unlikely that Thompson or anyone else in this era will break his record, mostly because of the way fitness is measured and managed.

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Trollope runs out to make his 700th appearance for Swindon Town 

“If somebody stays at the club long enough to beat my record then that would be absolutely brilliant. Records are there to be beaten and I’ve had it since about 1978 so it’s a long time for people to try to get towards what I did,’’ he said.

“I played 770 league games and I did miss a season because I made a comeback to break the record in 1980 so you’re talking about 40 a season for about 19 years at one club.

“There are a lot of things that are in the game now and they say they’re tired because they’re playing Thursday and they’re playing Sunday.

“I went seven years from 1961 to 1968 without missing a game and they’re saying they’re tired because they played on a Thursday?

“The after-care and the preventative stuff is much more than we were ever given, so what’s the difference?

“Our pre-season was a lot of cross country (running) and a lot of physical stuff but it did us no harm. In the 1968-69 season, when we won the League Cup, our hardest day was a Thursday when we were playing on a Saturday.

“You do that today and you might have some questions going. That’s how football’s developed.

“I’m not saying what they do is wrong, but I don’t think they’re any fitter than I was. To play all those games on heavy pitches, you had to have some fair legs on you.”

Fair legs were certainly a requirement on the day of Trollope’s finest career achievement, the aforementioned League Cup win.

In 1969, the Horse of the Year Show was still a feature on the Wembley calendar and had left the surface at the Empire Stadium in a terrible state.

Trollope believes that the heaviness of the Wembley turf that day played to Town’s advantage, with Danny Williams ensuring his side were in top physical condition.

His memories of the day are a bit of a blur, understandable after 45 years, but he can recall his task - marking England international John Radford - very clearly.

“My main memory was who I was marking, John Radford. He had been playing for England just before we played.

“He was one of their main players and he did give me a torrid time for the first 20 minutes. It was good our goalkeeper Peter Downsborough had one of those days and he helped us get through it. From then on I held my own a little bit,” he adds with pride.

“The memory goes so quickly with regards to the actual day

“We were fit. Danny Williams, the manager at the time, made sure we were fit and Arsenal were obviously a top club but, so say, they’d had a bug in the club the previous week, which they say weakened them.

“It went to extra time which played into our hands, especially with someone like Don to go through and score like he did.

“Just to play at Wembley, especially as we weren’t a top club, we were third tier at that stage, was absolutely superb. Nobody gave us a chance and we came back and had a parade around the town and it was a brilliant day for us.”

Trollope almost never got his day at the famous old stadium. An injury saw him miss the majority of the club’s dramatic cup run and only another injury to his replacement Owen Dawson allowed Trollope back in the side.

Having played the preceeding 366 games, including the League Cup first round win over Torquay, Trollope broke his arm in the against Hartlepool, just the week after, to end his run of consecutive appearances.

The story of the day tells of something only possible in the days before the rise of physios with medical qualifications and sports science degrees.

“It was a long kick up and I went up with their big centre forward and I toppled backwards, he fell on top of me and my arm was underneath,” Trollope explains.

“I didn’t realise straight away, I took a throw-in and I thought something’s not right here and he said you better come off. No fuss, I played on for a bit and it wasn’t until I reached down and there was a lump in my arm and he said you better come off.

“The thing was we travelled all the way down from Hartlepool and it wasn’t reset until the next day so I came on the coach all the way back with a broken arm.

“It wasn’t easy watching from the sides after playing so many games. It was an arm, so I felt I could train but I wasn’t allowed to as I had a plate put in and things like that. Without me, they did well but that’s football. You fall apart and you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth.

“Owen Dawson, who came in for me, and Rod Thomas came over to left back and they were good full-backs. That means you’ve got to wait for your chance sometimes.

“The lad who took my place for most of the season because I was out into the new year got injured and I was lucky enough to play in the final, so that kind of thing was little bit lucky for me.”

The casual manner in which Trollope describes how close he was to missing out on the biggest moment of his career sums him up beautifully.

He is a Town legend, but he does not carry himself like those who consider themselves the footballing deities of today.

There will not be many like him ever again and that is a great shame.