THE LAST time Town chairman Lee Power appointed a manager of a professional football club he plumped for someone from leftfield whose last managerial job was in Norway.

The man in question was one Jimmy Quinn, who Power handed the reins to at the Abbey Stadium in 2006 when the current Town supremo was in charge at Cambridge United.

The Northern Irishman has had a fascinating career. He was prolific in the Football League, once managing 40 goals in a season for Reading; he played for Northern Ireland at the World Cup in 1986; did not hang up his boots until he was deep into his 40s; has taken two sides to play-off finals as a manager and is currently an HGV driver.

Quinn left Town twice for a profit as a player, before returning to manage the side and was at the helm for the catastrophic 1999/2000 relegation campaign when Swindon were last in the second tier.

There is not a shortage of subjects to cover when talking to Quinn and he is a natural storyteller. He still does after-dinner speaking gigs and it is not hard to tell why.

Swindon Advertiser:
Jimmy Quinn direct proceedings at the County Ground

It is a shame that the lasting memory many Town fans will have of Quinn is the manager who took them down to Division Two. Whilst the man himself does not dispute that season was a disaster, there were plenty of mitigating circumstances, including the fact that at one point Quinn, then aged 40, had to put his boots back on to make up for a player shortage.

Quinn admits there are a few things he would do differently from his time at the helm of Town, including showing a bit more resistance to certain people in the boardroom. However, former chairman Rikki Hunt, not an entirely popular figure with Town fans, is not one of them.

“I took over the team and they were bottom and I kept them up that first season, but the second season, well,” Quinn explains in an exasperated manner.

“It was an absolute nightmare, but the chairman at the time, Rikki Hunt, was fantastic, you know. He was spot on with everything.

“He never put me under pressure, he backed me and gave me the job. He brought Steve McMahon in and the fans didn’t like Steve – for whatever reason – and ended up giving Rikki a bit of stick.

“I was gutted to see Rikki Hunt go. The fans didn’t really like Rikki, but they didn’t really know the man. He was a great fella, he backed me and that’s what you need as manager.

“He was a decent bloke and a decent chairman in my eyes.”

With Swindon in administration it was a difficult time to be in charge, but Quinn feels certain people, namely Cliff Puffett, who succeeded Hunt, did not get it.

“We had a couple of physios go; big Dave Moore went back to Grimsby. It wasn’t a good time,” adds Quinn.

“We ended up losing a lot of people from the club; not just the playing staff, but in the offices people were losing their jobs. That’s what happens when you go into the admin – you have got to cut your cloth accordingly.

“I remember Cliff Puffett coming to me one day and saying I had to get rid of some of my coaching staff.

“I said ‘listen Cliff, if you think I’m going to my staff and telling them they haven’t got a job any more I’m not doing it. That’s your job.’ “Mike Walsh, who was my assistant, took redundancy and I still think he’s waiting for his money now.

“The board would be coming to me and saying we had to sell some players or else we can’t pay the bills. I was sitting on the phone trying to sell players and of course when you do that your bargaining power goes straight out of the window.

“I remember selling Iffy Onura and Ty Gooden to Gillingham. Iffy was a big, strapping centre-forward and Ty was a flying winger and they were worth £6-700,000 of anybody’s money, but we ended up getting a £200,000 for the both of them. We got them off the wage bill, but I didn’t see any of that money, it went to pay bills.

“When we went and stayed overnight ,we had to take cash with us because hotels wouldn’t take a cheque, never mind pay by credit card. I had to take cash and pay over the counter when we were up playing whoever we were playing at the time.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If I was at a club and the board came to me and said I had to sell players, I would say ‘no I’m not’, because if you sell your better players you’re not going to win too many matches.”

Swindon Advertiser:
A happier Quinn off on a run

On a limited budget many of Quinn’s transfer gambles were made with the budget in mind. However, he did have successes. Quinn brought in crowd-favourite Giuliano Grazioli, impressive youngster Paul Thirwell and future England international Michael Carrick.

The story of Carrick’s arrival in particular is indicative of the time: “Harry Redknapp let me have Michael for a couple of months for nothing.

“Harry said ‘if you’re going to play him, then you don’t have to pay his wages, just put him in a hotel’.

“I don’t know how much he was on at the time, but I put him in a hotel in Cricklade, one of the pubs there. He loved it and Harry never charged us a penny for him.

“Incidentally, I think the White Hart are still waiting for the money for Michael’s room.”

However, Quinn was left to work with a lot of the players brought to the club by his predecessor McMahon. Not all of whom the Northern Irishman was very keen on.

“We had a couple of players under contract who weren’t my cup of tea to be honest with you,” he said.

“As a manager, come Saturday you can’t influence a match. When you put a team out, you have to know the lads are going to roll their sleeves up, give it everything they’ve got and show the quality for whatever level they’re playing at. That wasn’t happening.

“The club went into admin and I introduced a load of young players into the team and we beat Kevin Keegan’s Fulham, we drew against Forest – we had some great results with a team of kids.

“If the club had stuck with those kids, they would have had a great team in three or four years’ time.”

The manner of Quinn’s jettison from Town still rankles with him. The club had found new investors towards the end of the doomed season and, whilst Quinn was still beavering away trying to find players and steady a sinking ship, in the corridors of the County Ground other plans were being made.

“Towards the end, I hardly saw any of the board, even on matchdays. You could smell something was in the background,” said Quinn.

“We beat Fulham, Charlton Athletic - who were runaway leaders at the Valley - but the board never took any of that under consideration.

“They got some investors interested in the club and they probably said ‘well we don’t want to put any money into the club unless we have our own manager at the club’.

“Having played for the club and worked under those circumstances, it was just disappointing how they dealt with it.”

How the board dealt with it was to line up Quinn’s replacement Colin Todd without first getting rid of their incumbent.

It was all too obvious for Quinn, who has not forgiven Todd for the way he went about positioning himself at Town.

“I went to watch a player in Northern Ireland and left Alan McDonald in for the game against QPR and apparently Colin Todd was in the stands sitting with the board,” explained Quinn.

“He was a little bit naughty, Colin, and I haven’t seen him since. I’ve always had it in my mind that if I did see him I’d give him a piece of it.

“The board had primed him for the job. I wasn’t very happy about it and I told the powers that be that they were an absolute disgrace and out of order. I’ve always been straight with people and I was straight with them.

“Colin took and brought in a load of players from all over the place, incidentally all off the same agent, a fella called Bill Coady. That tells you something.

“Then next minute he jumps ship and goes to Derby and leaves the club back to square one again.

“It was Cliff Puffett who, in the end, came to see me under instruction from the board and said the club was making a change. So I replied ‘Cliff, I could have told you that three or four weeks ago’.

“I was very disappointed when they sacked me. They can say what they want. That I might not have done this or that, but I was bringing a lot of young players through, the club were in admin and we were finding it hard paying bills.

“I was sat there trying to sell players to pay bills and whatever. What do they expect me to do, win the league? It doesn’t work like that.

“What I didn’t understand at all was getting rid of me and paying me a few bob to leave then getting a new manager in and find the money for his players.

“Cliff was new to the job and under a lot of pressure from different places and couldn’t cope with it.”