Sheffield Wednesday legend Peter Swan’s sad story a salutary lesson even for the players of today
Swan’s run of 19 consecutive England caps was ended when he caught tonsillitis before the 1962 World Cup, and dysentery when he got to Chile.
As damaging as that was, far worse was to come at the end of that year.
In the days when footballers were still poorly paid, Swan and Wednesday team-mates Tony Kay and David Layne saw it as an insurance policy against their win bonuses when they bet on their team to lose at Ipswich Town in December. Unfortunately for them, their prediction came true.
Kay was named man of the match by The People that day, and all three insist they did what they could to avoid the 2-0 defeat.
“We lost the game fair and square,” said Swan in 2006. “But I still don’t know what I’d have done if we’d been winning. It would have been easy for me to give away a penalty or even score an own goal. Who knows?”
It cost him more than he could ever have imagined.
Swan had been a cornerstone of Harry Catterick’s Owls side which finished First Division runners-up to double-winners Tottenham Hotspur in 1961.
Upon his death last week aged 84, Kay called him, “The best centre half in England at the time. He could head a ball, nothing got past him in the air, and he could play a bit. Hard as well.”
When The People uncovered the story, Swan received a lifetime ban from football.
It remains a landmark case – in British legal history as one of the first cases of a taped conversation being used as evidence, and in English football history as one of its biggest scandals.
Swan went from top of Alf Ramsey’s list, according to the great man himself, to four months in a Lincoln jail, imprisoned along with his team-mates.
He sold cars and ran pubs until his suspension was lifted in 1972.
Derek Dooley took him back to Hillsborough on a 12-month contract that allowed him to push past the 300-game mark for the club he turned professional with in 1952 but after 17 games he essentially became an old head in the reserves, a job he did not want when he turned down a new deal to see out his career at Bury.
Swan won the FA Trophy in the first of two spells managing Matlock Town but was shunned by League football, in charge of Worksop Town and Buxton, then pubs in Sheffield and Chesterfield.
As if he has not suffered enough, Alzheimer’s took hold in later years.
Betting remains a scourge of the game, only now it is welcomed onto the shirts of the players too.
Swan’s sad story is a reminder of why every professional footballer in the land should steer well clear of it. That is why, sadly, his name needs to live on for all the wrong reasons.
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