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TOWN v VILLA: Eileen's not sure who to shout for
AS A staunch Aston Villa fan, you’d think Eileen Winter would only consider donning claret and blue when her Premier League heroes come to Swindon for a League Cup fourth-round tie this evening.
But the charming and chatty former licensee at the King’s Arms in Old Town, the pub where Robins stars of the past often congregated, has integrated so deeply into life in Wiltshire that she’s finding it hard to decide which team to cheer for at the County Ground tonight.
Having taken on the responsibilities of running the Wood Street watering hole in 1985, Eileen quickly ingratiated herself with the Town heroes of yesteryear and held the post for 15 years prior to the turn of the millennium and her subsequent retirement.
She hosted several Swindon managers and dozens of players down the years and, despite her family’s roots in Aston, she has become a closet Robins fan and frequently keeps the customers entertained at her place of work - the Baguette Bar on Prospect Place - with football-related chat.
“I came to the King’s Arms in Wood Street in 1985 and met quite a few of the managers - Ossie Ardiles, Lou Macari - and the boys used to come in on a Saturday,” she told the Advertiser.
“It was quite early in my time there, about 1987 I suppose. On a Saturday evening the players used to look beautiful in their smart suits and they’d all come in and stand right in the middle and be adored by everyone around them. “I used to speak to Lou Macari.
“I used to have a rugby team who came in every couple of weeks. The Swindon Old Boys. They were great lads but they were rugby boys and as you know they’re a bit noisy.
“The two teams were in at the same time and they tended to fall out a bit - a bit of name-calling. There was a lot of jostling and I was the one who sorted all the trouble out so I shot in the middle of them.
“I told the rugby boys to calm down or I wouldn’t have them back again and I think the football team backed away and they left.
“But the manager came in the following morning to apologise for what had gone on. Unfortunately I had gone on holiday and I missed him and they didn’t come in then for a long, long time so I presume the manager said ‘you’re not going up to that dump any more and getting into trouble.
“The rugby boys stayed away for a bit but came back.
“The managers used to come in in the mornings when it was nice and quiet, have a coffee and a chat and that really was the way it was.”
Eileen will be attending tonight’s match with her grandson Charlie, another die-hard Villa fan who lives in Devon. She’ll be faced with the conundrum of joining in the Swindon chants or shouting for the visitors, and it’s a decision Eileen is not willing to make. Therefore, she has decided to root for both.
“It’s very difficult this decision because being round at the shop I talk to so many Swindon fans,” she said.
“We discuss the pros and cons. The majority of them know I support the Villa so they’re delighted when we’re not doing very well.
“I shall probably call for the Villa, mind you I shall probably shout for both of them - whoever scores a goal I’ll yell for.
“Hopefully because of my age I’m hoping to be able to shout and then apologise to all the fans sitting around me.
“If I was in the home side I would wear the red and white out of respect to Swindon, but underneath it’s all claret and blue.
“I bleed claret and blue.”