If one regret lingered to the end for Peter Swan, it was perhaps that so many people believed he fixed a football match.
There was never any fixing, according to Swan or his Sheffield Wednesday team-mates Tony Kay and David ‘Bronco’ Layne. Once — and only once — the three of them bet on their team to lose, alerted by Layne to the opportunities there were to make money gambling on football. They were trying to be smart and cover their win bonuses because they always seemed to lose at Ipswich.
None of them coasted, scored an own goal or conceded a penalty in the game in December 1962. Kay, in fact, was named man of the match in the same Sunday newspaper that would later expose them.
Former England international and Sheffield Wednesday star Peter Swan died at the age of 84
They tried to help the Owls beat Ipswich, the defending champions at the time, but they lost.
Each of them made a £100 profit on a £50 bet at odds of 2-1 and soon became the highest-profile footballers found guilty in a betting scandal that shocked the nation. They were sentenced to four months in prison and banned from football for life.
Swan, who died on Wednesday aged 84, was an established England international and the scandal has served to mask what a wonderful footballer he was.
‘The best centre half in England at the time,’ said Kay on Thursday from his home in Southport. ‘He could head a ball, nothing got past him in the air, and he could play a bit. Hard as well.’
Swan made 301 appearances for the Owls and won a total 19 caps for England in his career
However, Swan’s accomplishments were limited due to his involvement in a betting ring
Sheffield Wednesday were a fabulous side in those days, regularly finishing in the top six and, under Harry Catterick, runners-up behind Tottenham’s Double winners in 1960-61.
Swan was one of the stars: charming, popular and a defender who came through the ranks at Hillsborough and made his debut at 19. Tanned and good-looking, he had his baggy shorts shortened at a sports shop in Sheffield to make him seem taller, more athletic and more intimidating.
Swan made his England debut at 23 and played 19 international matches in a row until he fell ill on the eve of the 1962 World Cup.
Many expected him to partner Bobby Moore as Alf Ramsey forged his team ahead of the next World Cup on home soil, but, by then, he was engulfed by scandal. Swan served 10 weeks of a four-month prison sentence.
‘Money is the root of all evil,’ he said in his book Setting the Record Straight, written with Nick Johnson and published in 2006. ‘The only thing I had done — and I knew I had done it and done wrong — was the bet.’
The life bans were lifted in 1972. Aged 36, Swan returned to Sheffield Wednesday for a season and supporters packed in and cheered his every touch on his comeback but the club were on the slide.
He served ten weeks of a four-month sentence and missed out on the 1966 World Cup, which England won on home soil
The life bans were lifted in 1972. Aged 36, Swan returned to Sheffield Wednesday for a season
He went on to play for Bury and, as player-manager, led Matlock Town to win the FA Trophy at Wembley.
Swan owned pubs in the Chesterfield area after the end of his career, and had lived for many years with Alzheimer’s, reinforcing the connection between dementia and heading the ball.
Old scars reopened in 1997 when the story was dramatised in a BBC film The Fix starring Steve Coogan as the journalist who broke the story in the People.
In the film, Layne’s character said ‘we threw the match’ and this caused friction because Kay was paid as a consultant.
As it transpired, he was not consulted in any real depth, and they remained on good terms although never truly able to escape the notion that they once fixed a game.