When Peter Coyne joined the Town 22 years ago, he had already experienced the ups and downs of life as a footballer. From scoring two hat-tricks for England as a schoolboy and then making his League debut for Manchester United at just 17, Peter had become a ‘forgotten hero’ and was about to apply to Royal Mail for a job when a telephone call put his career back on track.
The caller was Lou Macari, recently appointed manager at the County Ground. “I was in two minds as to what to do”, remembers Peter. “But it took me about ten seconds to decide !”
Peter had been banging in the goals for Hyde United in the Cheshire League – 63 in just 117 appearances – when Lou rescued him. Town were in the old Fourth Division at the time, but Peter was no stranger to that level as he had spent four years at Crewe since being released at Old Trafford - and had been top scorer at Gresty Road in three of them. His old boss there, Harry Gregg, was now number two at Swindon.
And Peter settled in Wiltshire quickly, netting 15 times in 1984/85, second only to Colin Gordon. He might have bettered that in the following season when Town ran away with the Division Four title, but a stomach strain kept him sidelined from early November until January. Peter still finished with 14.
He opened 1986/87 with a ‘double’ as Swindon won 2-1 at Bolton, but appearances were more sporadic and Peter’s tally was just eight for the season. But his goal at Ashton Gate on the final day of the normal League programme was well received by Town fans as it prevented arch rivals Bristol City from getting into the play-offs ! Peter’s strikes at Wigan and at home to Gillingham set up Swindon for a final showdown that was to take them up another level.
Peter remained at the County Ground for another two years, but following the departure of Lou Macari, he went to Aldershot on loan in August 1989. Two months later, he was on his way back to the north-west to sign for Colne Dynamoes. “They were ahead by a mile and had the League won by Christmas”, he explained. But the bubble burst when they were prevented from going up to the Conference because their ground failed to meet the required standard. “The chairman, who was a multi-millionaire, just pulled out and we were all left high and dry.” He moved to Radcliffe Borough then on to Glossop and Wilmslow Albion, before deciding to quit.
Peter, 47, now lives and works in Manchester as a security officer at the airport. He originally teamed up there with his brother Ged – the ex-Manchester City player, but Ged has now emigrated to Malta, while Peter has reduced his hours to part-time, allowing him to concentrate on holding coaching courses for both City and United youngsters.
He took his UEFA ‘B’ coaching badge in January. “Both Colin Gordon and Colin Calderwood took theirs at Swindon while I was there and I should have done the same” he admits.
Meanwhile, Peter’s son Tony, 28, is making sure that the family name lives on in the local soccer scene, as he currently plays for the breakaway FC United of Manchester in the North West Counties League.
(First published by Wiltshire Newspapers/Swindon Advertiser November 2005)