Swindon Town. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
WHAT a way to go. On its final day the domestic season had saved an absolute cracker for us as Swindon, with the last act of a heart-stopping drama, scored a controversial penalty to secure their place among the elite for the first time in their 73-year League history.
It was a thrilling way for Glenn Hoddle's team to right the wrongs of three years ago when Swindon won the Second Division play-off final but were demoted because of foul play in the boardroom. Fittingly yesterday, Hoddle had the first word and a big say in the winner but as to whether he stays or goes, we have to wait and see.
As in 1990 the men from Wiltshire played a dangerous game with their supporters' celebrations. Three up by the hour, they were seemingly inked on to the Premier League fixture lists for next season when Leicester roused themselves with three goals in 12 minutes before, just as happened a year ago on this stage against Blackburn, they went under to a disputed penalty award.
At three apiece it was Hoddle the manager who had to make an impact. 'Heads up, it's still only 0-0,' he implored his troops, who were so deflated by Leicester's unexpected revival they looked destined for defeat. Then it went to Hoddle the player for the last, telling intervention. With six minutes remaining a 50-yard pass from the right foot that in his 36th year continues to make wonderful waves went spinning over the Leicester defence and Steve White, the substitute, was on to it in a flash.
As the goalkeeper, Kevin Poole advanced, down went White under the challenge and to the fury of the blue shirts, the referee, David Elleray, pointed to the spot. Paul Bodin, one of five survivors from Swindon's class of 1990, stepped up to earn the spoils with a sweep of his left boot. Hoddle rated it his proudest moment in football. 'To take a club up that has never been in the top flight and in these circumstances is a great feeling,' he said. Meaningful words from somebody who has achieved so much and entertained so many. The words that would mean most, though, to the Swindon fan would be something to the effect of: 'I stay.' On that, he was reluctant to play ball.
With Chelsea (their chairman Ken Bates had a VIP seat at Wembley) and Tottenham thought to be waiting, primed with lucrative contract offers, Hoddle dummied his way around the 64,000-dollar question. Asked if he would see out the remaining year of his contract, he replied: 'I would be silly to put myself in that situation. There's a lot of maybes, a lot of speculation but that's all it is. When the dust settles I will have to look at things if those things are there.'
On the pitch Hoddle only makes perfect sense, the clarity of expression evident as he sweetly guided the ball home for Swindon's first three minutes before half-time. Two minutes into the second half it was 2-0 after Craig Maskell finished off John Moncur's pass and in the 53rd minute Shaun Taylor headed the third with the Leicester defence all at sea.
Julian Joachim supplied hope for Brian Little's team in the 57th minute, Steve Walsh got the comeback well and truly on the way 11 minutes later and, unbelievably, there was Steve Thompson within a minute dancing through for the equaliser.
It was great fun while it lasted but in the end all in vain, leaving Little with a second cruel failure in successive years, while Leicester have still to win after six visits to Wembley. 'I was surprised the penalty was given but I'm not going to change it and I've no doubt it was awarded honestly,' Little said, before adding with a weak smile, 'This sounds like the same speech as last year.'
Leicester City: Poole; Mills, Whitlow, Smith, Walsh, Hill, Oldfield, Thompson, Joachim, Agnew, Philpott. Substitutes not used: Gibson, Ormondroyd.
Swindon Town: Digby; Summerbee, Bodin, Hoddle, Calderwood, Taylor, Moncur (Hazard, 88) MacLaren, Mitchell, Ling, Maskell (White, 78).
Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).
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