Swindon and Rovers legend ‘Chalky’ White happy to help son Joe at Sodbury helm
CHIPPING Sodbury Town are optimistic the vast experience of shrewd former pro Steve White can count for plenty as they strive to clamber further clear of the Toolstation Premier Division basement, writes Simon Parkinson.
The 59-year-old local ‘boy’ agreed recently to act as “mentor and helper” to his own son Joe, who was handed the managerial reins in the wake of Neil Simons’ departure.
With the duo now firmly at the Ridings rudder, Sodbury have shown more promising signs of late to offer hope of finding an escape route for good, as a 3-2 home victory over a Cadbury Heath team who had smashed in ten goals without reply in their previous two appearances amply demonstrates.
While 28-year-old one-time Bristol Rovers prodigy Joe, a first-team forward currently sidelined by injury, is the man indisputably in charge, his famous father is never too far away in lending a few words of wisdom having been a prolific goalscorer throughout an action-packed career with Rovers (two spells), Luton Town, Swindon Town, Hereford United and Cardiff City amongst others.
Asked about his most cherished recollections, ‘Chalky’, as he is known affectionately in the game, recalled: “There’s been a few and one of the highlights has to be winning the old Second Division title (now called the Championship) with Luton in 1982 under David Pleat to go up to what is now the Premier League, although being given a pro contract with Bristol Rovers at 18 is right up there too.
“Then there were the two goals I scored for Swindon against Gillingham in a third game in the 1987 play-off final to win us a place in the old Second Division.
“Our (Swindon’s) 1990 Wembley Division Two play-off final under Ossie Ardiles against Sunderland was also memorable although not all for the right reasons!
“Even though we only won 1-0 we’d absolutely annihilated Sunderland to reach the Premier League for the first time in the club’s history. At 31 it was the first time I’d played at the home of English football but the whole thing was soured by what I can only describe as financial misdemeanours behind the scenes.
“To begin with we were demoted, as punishment, two divisions by the Football League all the way back into the Third Division (now League One), although on appeal to the FA we were instead told we could stay in the Second Division with no promotion and Sunderland would go up to the top division in our place.”
White and Co didn’t have to wait too much longer to clinch a coveted place in the English top-flight. The season was 1992-93 and Swindon, with former Tottenham and England star Glenn Hoddle now overseeing operations as player-manager, reached a Wembley play-off final once more having finished fifth in the second-tier standings.
The final against Leicester City, watched by 74,000 captivated spectators inside the stadium and a national TV audience, has gone down in Swindon folklore and White played an instrumental part in the achievement.
“It was hair-raising to say the least,” he smiled. “We were 3-0 up and flying and Leicester came back to make it 3-3. I then came on and won us the penalty that saved our bacon as Paul Bodin put it away and we won 4-3.
“With the penalty situation Glenn Hoddle had struck a long ball forward for me to chase and as their keeper Kevin Poole came out, he just clipped me with his left hand and I went down.
“When you’re in full flight you only need to be gently touched to lose your balance. I was on to that ball and got the first touch with my head as I tried to take it around him.
“Coming back along the M4 after that was amazing – there had been 30,000 Swindon fans at both the finals – especially when you’re not a top-grade England international as I certainly wasn’t. They were great times.
“I was also fortunate to have played under four great managers in my career – David Pleat, Ossie, Hoddle and Lou Macari, a brilliant manager who brought seven or eight quality players to Swindon and sold some of them for a fortune, lads like Bodin, Duncan Shearer, Nicky Summerbee, Fitzroy Simpson and Colin Calderwood amongst them.
“Lou’s recruitment nous was fantastic.”
Of his new-found role alongside son Joe at Sodbury, White explained: “Joe has been keen to get into coaching; he’s currently taking his B-licence badge and he believes he has it in him to take on the manager’s job at Chipping Sodbury and do it well.
“He’s not only had experience of playing at Paulton, Odd Down, Chippenham and Shortwood among other clubs at the level having begun his career as a pro at Bristol Rovers, but he undertook a three-year sports course at Hartpury College where he played too, as well as at Filton Academy.
“Joe’s now teaching Maths and PE in Swindon and it’s all helped develop his maturity and communication skills, which of course you need in football management.
“He asked me if I’d be willing to act as his mentor at Sodbury, to help on matchdays and any other areas in an advisory capacity and I was happy to oblige.”