The latest installment in our ‘Town Fans Abroad’ section comes from Paul Joyce, a Swindon supporter based in Germany.
Paul has been living in Munich for the past 23 years and shares his memories of the Robins, and what it’s like to cheer them on from afar, with TrustSTFC.tv…
When did you start supporting STFC?
I’ve been a supporter all my life. I was born in Swindon in 1971 and despite being brought up 12 miles away along the A420 in between Swindon and Oxford, Swindon was my local team. My dad was a fan, so it was just natural that I became one too.
First game? Memories of it?
The first game I have memories of going to was the FA Cup tie against Arsenal at the County Ground on December 11, 1979. It’s possible that I was at a game before then but the Arsenal game sticks in my memory. Back then we used to go in what was then known as the Shrivenham Road stand on the top tier near the half-way line. At eight years old I will always remember the immense noise at that game with close to 22,000 in attendance, even more so when the goals went in.
I was overwhelmed by the whole experience. I was hooked and couldn’t wait to go to another game afterwards. We never had a season ticket and just used to go some Home games when we could, depending on finances and always tried to go to the cup games if we drew a big team.
A couple of months later I was at the Spurs game in January 1980 where there were 26,000 at the County Ground. I had less of a view that day and remember being in the Town End peering through the fence barrier, until I got lifted up and a steward let me sit pitchside with my dad behind me on the other side of the low fence. Great memories.
Favourite STFC moment?
There have been so many highs and lows whilst supporting Swindon and there are too many to narrow down. The various cup upsets that we won have to be up there, as well as winning the Division Four title with the then record-breaking 102 points was a great season. All of the promotions, of course, with the 4-3 win v Leicester being particularly memorable.
Favourite STFC player ever?
Where do I start? When I first went to games Peter Coyne became my favourite along with Alan Mayes and Charlie Henry, I just liked the way they played the game. There has been some great players to grace the pitch in a Swindon shirt and I will be forever amazed that Glenn Hoddle was there.
Someone who in my mind was one of England’s most gifted players to ever put on a pair of boots and I was there when he scored that sublime goal versus Sunderland in the first game of the season. I had to pinch myself…but favourite ever? That has to be Jan-Aage Fjortoft. A wonderful player during his time with the club, a great scorer of goals and both on and off the pitch one of the nicest players I’ve had the pleasure to meet
When did you move abroad? Where? And why?
I left the UK in August 1993 and moved to the Munich area with the company I was working with at the time (National Semiconductor). They had many small European offices and planned to build a brand new European HQ just outside of Munich.
My job at the time was one that was being relocated. I was 22 and decided to move over, along with approximately 50 other families and colleagues. They needed as many people to relocate as possible so there were lots of incentives to be had and I just thought I would go for at least a year and see how it went. I’ve been here 23 years now!
Are there supporters clubs for STFC or other supporters of STFC around you?
I know one other STFC fan in Munich but I’m sure there are a couple more. We don’t tend to meet up that often, especially as we are not on TV that much. There are no supporter clubs that I’m aware of.
What’s it like supporting STFC abroad? How do you keep up to date with news? Is it a big occasion when they’re on TV?
Supporting Swindon from afar is a little strange. With social media being what it is these days its very easy to keep up with the results, news, watch fans videos of goals, etc. but there is still a distance. I see the results to see if we’ve won and am naturally happy when we do but if we’ve lost I tend to forget about it as there is not much I can do from here. I can’t shout my encouragement pitchside at the next home game, so it’s a little strange.
Is it easy to keep up to date with STFC abroad?
I think Twitter is a great medium for getting little snippets of info about the team, updates on goals (thank you to all fans/reporters who provide us with a Twitter style teleprinter and play-by-play updates). I used to also follow some of the players but got frustrated when we’ve lost a game and I would then see a tweet from someone having a laugh and a joke hours later at some restaurant or bar.
When I used to play for a local team I had no interest in doing anything until the following day after a heavy defeat. So I unfollowed them all. Not every player is the same but still, I’d rather not see those tweets. Even living outside of the UK, there are ways to watch Swindon on TV when they are on and see the goals from each matchday.
Who are you living abroad with? Are they STFC fans? Do they share your passion?
I live with my wife, daughter (six years old) and son (two). None of them are really Swindon fans, although my wife has been to one Swindon game. Fortunately for her the only game she attended was against Bristol City when Rory Fallon scored his brilliant overhead kick. That’s not a bad memory of Swindon Town to carry around so I think it’s best she stays on a high.
Being half-German my daughter seems to have become a little bit of a Dortmund fan as one of her old kindergarten teachers is a fanatic fan of theirs. My son is too small to even know anything about football right now unless I am watching a game.
A little bit later I will give him a ball and take some penalties with him. Depending on how high he kicks the ball over the fence will determine whether we aim for him to play for the German squad or the English one!
Can you get back to the County Ground?
We get back to the Swindon area two or more times a year but it doesn’t always coincide with a home game. I try to go as often as I can but not being able to go does not make any less of a fan.
I’ve flown back for the Wembley visits to see the wins and the losses. The Johnstone Paint Trophy final in 2012 was a particularly bad day as my father passed away the same day. He was ill for a while so it was expected but still a shock to get a call at 10 past midnight and also knowing that your mate was due to pick you up at seven to go to the County Ground to catch a travel bus.
All of the family told me I needed to go to the game and it’s what my dad would have wanted. He was at many of the big games, including being at the old Wembley for the 1969 League Cup Final win versus Arsenal so knew the big game occasions. I tried to enjoy it but somehow knew it was going to get worse when I saw that Bostock and McEveley were due to start. Both were good players but to bring two people in to the club on such a big day, just like that was a ballsy move. It could distrupt the team or they could be match winners. It just wasn’t a good day all round.
Have the locals in Germany learned from you the ways of STFC? Have you made more STFC fans abroad?
Apart from a couple of fans in Munich I don’t know too many fans outside of the UK, except a mate in Australia. The locals don’t really know anything about Swindon Town and to be honest it doesn’t really come up too often.
If you’re a football fan in this town you are typically a Bayern Munich or 1860 Munich fan. They don’t currently play in the same league but there is still a huge rivalry. I’m a football fan so I love all football from around the world but Bayern Munich have rarely been lower than third place in their league the last 15-20 years. Where is the fun in that?
The lows are never a good experience but you have to go through them to enjoy the highs even more. Something you definitely get with Swindon Town.
If you are a ‘Town Fan Abroad’ and would like to share your experiences of following the club from hundreds or even thousands of miles away, get in touch by emailing info.truststfc.com.