Goalkeeper TONY HICKS made little more than fifty League appearances, but his brief career saw ‘highs’ that many others have failed to reach - playing at Old Trafford and Villa Park and pitting his wits against the likes of George Best and England’s World Cup winning trio of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters.
Tony, whose grandfather Freddy was a pre-first War Town player, joined the club straight from school. “We got six pounds a week as an apprentice,” he remembers. When he signed a professional contract in October 1962, that went up to £25 ! He made his first team debut a year later, in a League Cup tie against Southend, during a season that saw a talented young Town side reach the final of the F.A.Youth Cup. They beat Portsmouth and Arsenal, before finally bowing out to Manchester United in a two-legged final. Apart from Tony, only wingers Don Rogers and Bruce Walker made any impact at Football League level.
Four months after that final, Tony made his Second Division debut for Town after Norman Oakley had been injured in the opening minutes of the season. There were 17,000 at the County Ground and Tony kept a clean sheet as Town defeated Palace 2-0. “There used to be bigger crowds at our reserve games than go to watch the first team now,” he commented. He made 27 League appearances in 1964/65, which ended on a sour note as Town were relegated on the last day of the season.
Manager Bert Head left and Danny Williams arrived that summer, but neither Tony nor Norman were to be first choice for the following season. “I don’t think he really liked us !” said Tony. Danny duly brought in Peter Downsborough. Tony made just four senior appearances in 1965/66, but when Peter was injured in the following December, he enjoyed a lengthy run - which included eleven Cup ties. In the F.A.Cup, Town held West Ham to a 3-3 draw at Upton Park before winning 3-1 in the replay. Then in the Fifth Round, Town met Forest - who finished as runners-up to League champions Manchester United. Goalless at the City Ground, Town drew again in the replay and eventually went out after a third battle at neutral Villa Park.
But following that pinnacle in his career, Tony made just one more League appearance and was virtually discarded at the end of the season. “I had the chance to go to Torquay or Swansea, but I didn’t want to leave Swindon to be honest,” he reflected. Instead, Tony travelled to Frome and played in the Western League for a season. He then turned out for a number of local clubs, St Josephs, Gorse Hill and Park, before finally hanging up his gloves following a broken leg.
Tony worked as a driver for Arkells before spending twenty years as a milkman. Latterly he and his two sons, Terry and Chris, ran six discount shops in and around Swindon. “They did all the running around, as I was semi-retired then,” said Tony, who now lives in picturesque rural Gloucestershire.