Not so beautiful

FOOTBALL hooligans from Swindon are featured in a new book charting the history of the troublemakers that have blighted the beautiful game.

Hooligans 2: The M-Z of Britain's Football Hooligan Gangs' features gangs associating themselves with Swindon Town namely The Aggro Boys and the Swindon Active Service (SAS) and recalls details of violent clashes with other rival mobs from Bristol, Reading and Oxford.

Author Nick Lowles and Andy Nicholls, a former Category C football hooligan, who has served time in jail for football-related offences, have compiled the new study.

And Mr Lowles said Swindon's history of football hooliganism has been largely consigned to the past, thanks to the efforts of the town's police force.

"If you look at Swindon, the police have been very proactive in the last five years in terms of stopping hooliganism," he said.

"Twenty or 30 years ago it was part of the culture of young men in towns and cities across the country, but now you are talking about 10, 20 or 30 people rather than the hundreds that you used to see.

"What we tried to do with the book was to present an historical account of what football used to be about for some young men and it is very different now to what it used to be like 20 years ago."

The book provides a potted history of Swindon Town intertwined with violence associated with the club over the years.

According to Hooligans, the first reported violence at a Swindon match was the club's 1970 Anglo-Italian Cup final win over Napoli in Naples, which saw lumps of concrete being thrown onto the pitch by angry Italian fans with 12 minutes to play.

Swindon were subsequently awarded the trophy, but required the help of tear gas to safely return to their dressing room.

The earliest mob in the town was the Swindon Town Aggro Boys (STAB) who were active in the 1970s and drew members from as far afield as Gloucester.

A home game against Wrexham in March 1978 saw the away goalkeeper pelted with darts, stones and a golf ball.

Club chairman Cecil Green later proclaimed: "We intend to stamp out this thuggery. The incidents were diabolical."

A new hooligan gang emerged in the 1980s. The Southside Scuffing Firm (SSF) were named after the area of terracing they occupied.

And in a match at Northampton Town, then boss Lou Macari walked straight into a mob of more than 100 SSF members chasing the home mob up the street. Macari said the incident was "worse than a Celtic-Rangers game".

In the 1990s, the Swindon Active Service came to prominence and it is believed they were at the centre of several hostilities with fans of local rivals Oxford and Reading.

In September 1998, 19 fans were arrested at the home match with Oxford, while a little more than a year ago, 17 fans were arrested in the biggest crackdown on Swindon Town violence ever carried out by the town's police prior to Swindon's festive fixture at Bournemouth.


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