Way, way back in the 1978/79 season a young lad of polish origin went to see Swindon town for the first time having grown up a stones throw from the county ground the draw of chants of come on you reds on match days was to much to resist .
Finally he would see his first match but it was not what he saw on the pitch that would enchant him it was what was going on in town end that had him transfixed.
Jam-packed and full of noise he longed for the day when he could stand on those hallowed terraces.
Eight years later he found himself stood on those terraces with his mates mostly of Italian descent a jock and a lanky English lad watching Lou macari lead his team to the championship with record breaking points the lads celebrated like never before good times where on the way the following season Swindon would find themselves in the first ever play offs and the fans went to town .
The lads not wanting to miss out on the festivities bought a couple of air horns and bought a union jack it was not much but seeds had been sown they would soon go onto bigger things but every journey has its first steps.
Swindon won those play offs and promotion to the old div 2 after a replay at sellhurst park which would be some of the lads 1st away trip the lads now had fell under the spell of following a football team.
The following season a few more away games were notched up and the fad of inflatable objects flooded the terraces of the country noticing Swindon had none of there own the lads went to a toy store and bought 6 inflatable alfs and an eight foot whale that for the following months would be bounced around the stands at Swindon and one or two away grounds sometimes even being bounced out of the grounds themselves.
1989 came and with it something that would change the way these lads would support their club forever.
In October of that year Italy would play England at Wembley the Italian lads jumped at the chance to see their heroes and wanting to see a big international match a young pole tagged along.
Nothing could have prepared these lads from Swindon as to what awaited them some 8,000 Italian tifosi made way to the capital and for the first time the lads witnessed the fanatical support given to the azzurri by these tifosi . Outside the ground out of nowhere a fanatic turned up with two huge bin bags full of air horns and started handing them out to fellow fans, once inside the famous stadium the Italian fans would not shut up as huge flags and banners filled the away end and the air was filled with exotic songs.
The lads were hooked and on returning to Swindon all chipped in some cash and went out and bought some material and made a big banner to pass around the terraces at Swindon , later that season Swindon would once again find themselves in the play offs to division one.
The town went play off mad and ticker tape crazy remembering the fanatic with bags of air horns the lads went to Hal fords and cleared them of their stock of air horns.
The night before the semi final against Blackburn some of the lads broke into the county ground and stashed the horns in the toilets. Come match day the sky was filled with ticker tape and the endless drone of air horns this could have been Argentina 78 and not the county ground Swindon it was an easy mistake to make Swindon would win and weekly awaited.
The lads organised a coach painted their faces stocked up on air horns all though Swindon would win the game this story would not have a happy ending Swindon were denied entry to division one for financial irregularities .
Town fans would take to the streets in protest, but for the lads a few of them anyway there was no time to dwell as they were off to work in Italy for the summer and to catch a game or two in Italia 90.
While in Italy the lads went to see a match in Rome if they thought what they saw at Wembley some months earlier it was nothing compared to the hysteria of the Italian capital, some five hours before kick off the curva nord was packed with fanatical supporters bouncing bon seats waving flags like their life’s depended on it ,the sound of fire crackers and home made fireworks echoed in the cathedral of a stadium the lads were completely awe struck , this would bring another story that would have an unhappy ending ,but after what they had seen in the olyimpico stadio they could not wait to return home and spread the word .
During the following season two old friends would be reunited at Swindon matches and two groups of mates joined forces and voiced their support together the now larger group included Italians a pole a few Irish lads a Jamaican and a few English lads it was more like the united nations them a group of football fans but there style of support was definitely Italian, after a five year absence English clubs would be allowed into Europe again.
And in the second round of the uefa cup Aston villa would face inter Milan , wanting to sample more fanatical support a few of the lads got tickets in the inter end and went to see .
Inter brought about 1,000 fans however a small group of lads of about 150 stood shoulder to shoulder as they bounced up and down singing their songs in front of then a long banner which read boys san graced the terrace not sure what this ment the lads from Swindon joined up with the boys from Milan as the teams entered the pitch something happened that left the boys from Swindon delirious. Two large Italian skinheads threw two distress flares onto the pitch burning a hole in the net smoke filled the air and the boys san went berserk foaming at the mouth as they sang but nothing compared to the beauty of the flares the Swindon lads just had to get hold of some it did not matter how.
In 1992 the champions league final between barca and sampdoria would take place at Wembley so once again the lads made way to the two towers buying tickets from o tout in the doria end the lands then sat outside the ground and enjoyed the pageantry and colour of the occasion whilst they got talking to some doriani who were enjoying some exotic tobacco.
What they told the Swindon boys was its not just the team but the supporters and went on to tell of the ultras tito it would change everything for the lads and what was waiting inside the ground would be the most magnificent display of support the lads would ever see . They returned home to retell the stories that they had heard and what they had seen with the other lads at this point foreword the lads would be known as ultras Swindon.
They got to work and made at the time one of the biggest flags in the league .and on the opening day of the 1992 93 season at home to Sunderland the ultras Swindon displayed their flag to the amazement of the watching Swindon faithful the ultras Swindon had arrived but they had their ace card up their sleeve in a few weeks the hated oxford utd were coming to town and it was to be live on TV so on a Sunday in September the county ground was full for the derby. The ultras flag was passed around the stands before the match and when the teams ran out the ultras pulled out the trump card and two Wessex distress flares got ignited and got thrown onto the pitch ala inter at villa .stewards panicked not knowing what to do Swindon fans watched wipe eyed as smoke filled the sky as the flares burned this event earnt the respect of the ssf the old south side firm and Swindon’s top firm and also would make it onto local news.
Soon people of Swindon would talk about the flares against oxford and just who or what is an ultra.
Although it was 1992 before the group of lads became known as ultras Swindon there is some debate as to when the group was actually formed some claim it was 1989 after seeing the fanatical following of the azzurri the lads tried to bring some of the songs and style of support to the county ground some claim it was 1990 after a couple of the lads came home from Italia 90 with fantastic tales of what they witnessed not to mention the experience standing with inters boys san at Aston villa.
But most say the true birth of ultras Swindon came in 1991 when the two groups joined forces.
Back then it was a time before the internet and such things as fan forums where a decade away, so it was hard to find out about the ultra scene.
The lads watched a lot of European games on satellite TV and had seen many banners draped access many terraces with names like commandos ,Vikings ,boys , ultras ,drughi,and many more but never truly understood what they meant and just assumed that they were meant for the teams and that the fans considered the players to be Vikings or commandos or that they were ultra , after speaking with members of sampdoria's ultras tito in 1992 it became clear as to the meaning of the banners and the lads set about spending the summer bannering it up .
And over the 1992 93 season they displayed there banners and twirled scarves in a continental style, little did they know at the time that this would be the greatest season in Swindon towns history. Still smarting from the injustice of the 1990 match fixing/financial irregularity scandal the town fans demanded justice and in the 1992/93 season they got just that.
Swindon once again found them selves in the promotion play offs and in the past the lads/ultras had always turned it on after a 3.1 home win against tranmere the ultras headed north armed with there banners smoke bombs bought from a local joke shop and 4 Wessex flares. It was a tense night on the Wirral and as the teams ran onto the pitch the ultras Swindon let off smoke bombs and a couple of flares leaving a couple in reserve for emergencies the away end looked spectacular as banners and flags got passed around and red smoke filled the air . The town lost 3.2 on the night but it was enough to see then to the twin towers, at the final whistle the ultras ignited their final flare as one had been let off to celebrate the towns second goal of the night, the celebrations lasted long into the night but soon attentions were turned towards Wembley.
At the time one of the ultras members’ dads was a former chairman of Swindon town and offered to get tickets for the ultras days before they went on sale so after many phone calls the ultras managed to raise over ?600.00 for the tickets.
We managed to round up 55 bodies for the match and had to organise a coach to take them all to London , so the day of the final arrived and the Zanzibar bus as it was named set off for Wembley at 08.00hrs , on arrival at the stadium the ultras found that they were the first Swindon fans there so set up camp on a bank outside the stadium and set out there banners and flags also for the match giant letters were made spelling out Swindon town each stood 4 foot high and once held up looked impressive very impressive.
For some 6 hours the ultras sang every song known to Swindon fans and a few that were not so well known.
Many Swindon fans took pictures of us through out the day not quite knowing what to make of it all and we even got our picture on the front page of a local newspaper, it was a great day all-round for all involved a 4.3 victory saw justice served and the newly formed premier league awaited for the boys from Swindon.
Still euphoric after the play offs the ultras could not wait for the season to start with grounds like infield old Trafford and Highbury to visit it sure made a welcome change from going to port vale Brentford Bournemouth etc, during the summer we spread the word of ultras Swindon through world soccer’s fan world and made friends on the cotenant coming notably bologna boys of Paris saint Germaine ,commando ultra of Olympic Marseille who like Swindon 3 years earlier had found themselves relegated for financial irregularities and shared the belief that it was the fans who got punished as those who carried out the crimes severed all ties with the respected clubs ,also links were also formed with Sparta Moscow and ironically inters boys san who were a huge influence of ultras Swindon after meeting an Italian exchange student who was studying in Swindon . Through these links we learned more about the ultra culture and how ultra groups sell merchandise like tee shirts and scarves to raise money to organise displays , sadly in order to make money you need money and seeing as ultras Swindon were made up of students dole dossers and lads just starting out in the working world cash was tight ,also another obstacle was the strict ground regulations which prohibited things like flags on poles fire works and other pyrotechnics so with little to work with the ultras did all they could we made a new ultras banner which we would spend ages explaining its meaning to fans not as clued up as we were ,and would sing constantly and use our scarves to twirl and hold up in display.
We had grown in number to about 35 as a few mates of mates decided to tag along and though we never considered ourselves as an official fan club with no membership as such over the season others would come and join unofficially a couple of other town fans turned up one day with ultras balboa scarves and said they seen then whilst on holiday and thought of us which was a sign that we had made an impact.
Things would also get better as we introduced our selves to then manager john Gorman who in time we would visit his house to celebrate a family birthday, through this connection we would discover that our heroes thought what we war doing was great which was the best complement ever, sadly on the pitch things were not going as planned and every week we seemed to get beat we may not be winning on the pitch but our support was winning the battle on the terraces.
As for mentioned ultras Swindon were limited to what we could actually achieve in terms of displays and such forth how ever we managed to light up a few games quite literally with our second love Wessex flares away at both spurs and Everton (which would have consequences)and home to Aston villa and champions man utd.(spit)(also would carry consequences)the man utd game at home was our big one and for this we pulled out the stops , we all clubbed together what ever cash we could and bought 2.000 red white and green cards to organise a choreographed display on the south side and a few of us chose to stand on the Stratton bank with our big flag and a Wessex flare everything went to plan and the display looked magnificent it was a hard fought match which we drew 2 and should have won it also saw the mad Frenchman Eric wankona get sent off and the ultras would have a special treat in store for him and put to use some French insults taught us by our French connections . Inevitably Swindon got relegated and things would get worse for our love of flares the consequences would be high the ultras lost a couple of members including its leader and founder member and it went on our home the south side was to be knocked down and replaced with a 5,000 all seater stand things did not look good
The 1994?95 season was a mess on and off the pitch to say the least it would end in relegation again for Swindon it would see our best player Jan arge fjortoff for peanuts and it would almost see the end off the ultras .
The Southside had gone and in its place stood the new Intel stand seeing as the town end was now a family stand Stratton bank given to away fans there was nowhere for fans who wanted to sing and shout to go also added to the conundrum you had to by tickets in advance it came near on impossible for the remaining ultras to stand together a few of the glory boys had gone now we did not play in the top flight anymore and others had left Swindon to go to uni.
It was a dire season to say the least with one exception we would reach the semi final of the league cup against Bolton the banned ultras went heavily disguised with the others and a mini bus made the trip north after winning the home game 2.1 and leading 1.0 in the away leg we had one foot in Wembley and were already thinking of the Zanzibar bus but like everything that season it went to pot and we ended up losing 4.3 on aggregate our dreams shattered , things hit an all time low when on the last day of the transfer window our star player Jan the man was sold to boro for next to nothing it was the final nail in the coffin and in protest the ultras burnt all there banners outside the ground to vent our anger ,john Gorman was sacked and we went down after the excitement of previous seasons this was a hard nut to chew .
The 1995/96 season saw Swindon in the second division a new manager in the form of Steve McMahon was in charge and a new optimism filled the air for the first time in a long time if ever we were a big club and after the pain of two relegations it would be eased with the winning of the title also it saw the voice return to the county ground the ultras who got banned had served there time and other fans who sought to sing had congested an the a block of the Intel stand sadly though most of the other ultras had left to go to uni or start jobs else where one went to oz never to return one became a sports reporter for local radio and went on to work for sky sports , the remaining lads would keep there ultra beliefs but never bothered making any new banners but did acquire a large union jack which ultras Swindon was sprayed onto and it seemed to suit the more English style of support now in place at Swindon.
A couple of work mates would come and join us but for the best all that remained of the ultras was the original lads who started following town back in the 80s and this is how things would remain until present day the next few seasons saw Swindon promoted and relegated again managers came and went and with them disappeared any possibility of promotion.
In the early part of the new millennium the town end under went a transformation the family stand was no more and once again it would home the vociferous supporters and once again it would start to rock and once again the town end re found its force . The last of the ultras would return to the place it all started and the union jack would be displayed just to let those who bothered to go anymore we were still about.
Whilst away in Amsterdam on one off the boys stag do we robbed the hotels lining cupboard of some sheets as we thought they would make good banners , once again the ultras Swindon would be represented by there banners and over the coming months others would be made and displayed .
In 2003/04 season Swindon found them self once again in the play offs and seeing as we have always pulled out the stops for the play offs this time we would do it properly we approached the club and asked permit ion to do a display grounds man Ron Topp was more than willing to allow us to do so but gave a big no when we asked if we could use flares (it was worth a try)instead we knocked up a couple of big flags on bendy poles and once again set out red and white cards on every seat in the town end .
Before the game we were allowed on to the pitch to wave our flags and the full stadium erupted sadly due to ma communications breaks down our choreography did not work so well it was still a great day we had made links with grounds staff and had been allowed to organise a display this meant the future looked good sadly a last minute equaliser denied us a trip to Cardiff against arch rivals Bristol city one can only dream of what could have been and sadly the Zanzibar bus would not be travelling to Wales.
Late 2005 and Swindon are fixed in the relegation zone when out of the blue a lad named rob tuck would come up with the loud and proud campaign this exited the members of ultras Swindon greatly for long after we formed it seemed that other Swindon fans shared our philosophy and since then we have supported the campaign and offered advice on forming a group or extending the already formed ultras and have put rob and his loud and proud lads in touch with the Red Ultras of Aberdeen and other fan sites of an ultra nature.
A second group was formed and the red army was formed n now Swindon has two groups and the future looks good I am sure we will continue to support each other in coming seasons and hopefully achieve great things together as the saying goes two heads better than one in this case two groups.
Over the 14 years since forming ultras Swindon we have travelled to see many big European games including champions league finals,uefa cup ties, cup winners cup finals, world cup and euro championships and have stood with ultras from Roma, Milan, Lazio, Inter, Juve,Parma, Ascoli, Sampdoria,Torino and have spread the word of ultras Swindon.
We have experienced many highs and lows but have always been loyal to Swindon and will continue to do so even though most of us are getting to old for this sort of thing and have families to consider our away days may not be as many as they used to be and the Zanzibar bus may have given its last trip (never say never you never know the Zanzibar bus may ride again)but one thing is certain we cant help falling in love with Swindon as for a long time they took our hand ,hart and whole life to .
Ultras Swindon - today, tomorrow and always. Forza Swindon.