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Neil Godwin: The Next Episode

Started on 16 April 2022 by Jack
Latest Reply on 19 August 2022 by J_ames

Swindon Town announce County Ground expansion

Swindon Town Football Club have today revealed that they will be expanding The County Ground by 9,125 seats for the 2027/28 season.

Club chairman Clem Morfuni unveiled the redevelopment plans for the home stadium of the club after a season of having limited capacity due to the stadium not being an all-seater ground.

The stadium works are expected to be completed by July 2027 at an estimated cost of around £11million, giving the club an all-seater 23,281 capacity stadium for the 2027-28 season.

The disappointing news for fans is that while the construction is ongoing this season, they will have to play over one hour away at Southampton’s St. Mary’s Stadium for the upcoming Premier League season, after Swindon stayed up on the final day.

“We are delighted that we are able to make this vital step forward for the club ahead of the 2027-28 season. The redevelopment of The County Ground is something that we have been aiming for since we purchased the ground the other year as we want to encourage as many Swindon fans as possible to come down and watch the team, which hasn’t been possible for many as it has been consistently sold out.” said chairman Clem Morfuni.

It was revealed by the club’s senior leadership that such is the club’s great financial state, they have not had to seek out any alternative funding through the form of loans or grants in order to expand the stadium. Instead, the club have cleared all of their debts which amounted to around £3million this summer.

Following Swindon’s narrow survival, the search for new players for their second Premier League season is underway, with names from around the continent being touted for the club.

We have been busy yet again in the transfer window as we reach the beginning of our second consecutive Premier League season, with 15 players leaving permanently for a total value of £82million, including some players signed just the season before.

Our most emotional goodbye was for Josh Pask, who has been with us since signing on a free transfer from Coventry City after struggling to break into their Championship side. From there, he went on to win two promotions with us and a place in our Premier League squad, finishing up with 137 appearances for us. He joins Championship side Derby County for £1.4million where we wish him the best of luck.

Oliver Burke, Josh Tymon, Oli McBurnie, Falaye Sacko, Lewis Travis, Nathan Tella, Jayden Bogle and John Buckley, all from our Championship Play-Off winning side have all left on permanent deals, with profits made on most players.

As for the relatively unsuccessful signings of Álex Blesa, Caleb Okoli and Adamo Nagalo, they have also departed after one season meanwhile our top scorer from last season joins fellow former striker Oli McBurnie at AEK Athens in Greece where I am sure they will work great together again.

We also began to shift some of our unused youth players who have been out on loan spells with Jonathan Brown leaving us for Sheffield United in an £8.5million deal after joining us for just £1,200 from Canvey Island in 2023. Our very own academy product Geoff Pring-Meechan has also left for Aston Villa in a £9million deal.

In return, we brought in 12 new first-teamers who I believe to be great improvements on those who are currently in the squad and those who have left, racking up a £110million spend in the process.


Bartol Franjic was the first defender to join the club in a £5.5million deal from Bundesliga’s RB Leipzig. He has come in to replace the outgoing Josh Tymon and will scrap for his place with other left-back options of Álvaro Fernández, Tomás Cunha and Felipe Henrique.

Despite signing for Leipzig for £19million last season from Anderlecht, Franjic struggled to make an impact on the first-team, making only two appearances in all competitions. His time with Anderlecht and Dinamo Zagreb was much better, earning him cup and league winners medals.

After the Franjic deal, we decided to improve at centre back, bringing in English centre back George Armstrong from the MLS side Seattle Sounders for a huge £21million fee. He comes in to replace the likes of Josh Pask, Caleb Okoli and Adamo Nagalo who are all departing centre backs.

He signed for Seattle in 2025 for £10million from Stoke City and has made incredible progress during his time there and for a homegrown English centre back, I think we have made a good deal to bring in Armstrong.

However, our main signing at the back was the £18million deal bringing Braga’s David Carmo to the club. He will certainly be a starter in most games this season and I am sure that he will bring much-needed confidence back to the likes of Joe Wollacott to have a player like him defending his goal.

He made 135 league appearances for his boyhood club Braga and won both the Europa Conference League and the Taca de Portugal whilst at Estádio Municipal de Braga.


We felt a key position for us was the centre of midfielder and we first brought in Manchester United’s Federico Navarro for a small £6.5million outlay.

The Argentinian midfielder made 37 appearances in all competitions last season, winning the English League Cup in the process and the year before, winning the UEFA Super Cup.

For a small fee just below the £4million mark, I felt that Brighton’s de la Cruz was a good value for money and a decent squad player on the wing if necessary.

Since his outstanding performances for River Plate in Argentina, Nicolás de la Cruz struggled to find a way into the Brighton team, something that I am looking to change during his time at Swindon.

Luca Sangalli adds an experienced head to our midfield core with three years of Premier League first-team experience with Fulham and impressing whilst being there.

Over four years, Sangalli made 101 appearances for Fulham and even helped on their promotion push from the Championship in 2022-23.

Despite not getting any younger for a winger, I feel that the addition of Jack Harrison for only £11million from the relegated Leeds United was one of our deals of the summer.

For eight years, Harrison was a key part of Leeds United’s first-team squad, taking the Premier League by storm following their 2020 title-winning season in the Championship under Marcelo Bielsa. In 292 appearances, Harrison has scored 55 goals from the wings for the Whites and we hope that he continues to do that in the top-flight for us.

£12million may seem like a lot for a squad player, but I feel like Amoo has a lot of room to grow into despite his limited opportunities for games this season with Harrison in front of him.

Amoo joined Ajax for £21million from Freiburg in 2024 but failed to make much of an impression with players ahead of him in the starting lineup. However, knowing that Ajax valued the player at almost double the price we paid at one stage says to me that there is a good player in Amoo yet.

Despite only playing one full season at Championship level for a Championship team, I am still stunned at how cheap we were able to sign Nathaniel Carey from Nottingham Forest for. At £8million I believe that he is a steal and he will rocket up in value in the squad and in terms of monetary value.

Last season was his key breakthrough season for Forest, making 44 appearances and scoring 5 goals and assisting 5 from the centre of midfield for Mark Bonner’s side. I can’t wait to see how he fares for us at such a young age with such clear talent and potential.

Neuhaus is another great, experienced technical player from the Bundesliga, joining us for £6.5million from Leipzig alongside Franjic.

He has struggled at Leipzig over the past two years but we feel that he can be a key part in our midfield for the upcoming new season.


Joao Pedro was our replacement for McBurnie before we decided to sell up on Yacine Bouziane after spotting a better long-term option for the club. He joins Harrison from Leeds United for only £6million, a fraction of the £27million Leeds paid for him only last summer.

In 11 appearances last year, he scored 4 goals for Leeds as they struggled to stay in the top-flight.

When the 19-year-old top scorer in the Serbian SuperLiga became available for only £5million, we had to say goodbye to Bouziane who was our hero last season. Zarko Nakic looks like a fantastic talent already and a great long term option.

Only in 2024 did he sign for the Serbian champions and immediately score 6 in his first 13 games in 2024-25. This was followed up by his first full season, finishing as the division’s top scorer with 23 goals in 33 games alongside 2 more assists.

Well you really don't like doing things the easy way! Congrats on staying up and a very strong transfer window followed. Perhaps not your most exciting signing - but I rate Neuhaus a lot. Mr. Reliable in the middle of the park with a well-rounded skillset. Swindon must be looking forward to a much higher finish next season.
Christ almighty that's a lot of outgoings, especially the loans! Absolutely nuts, but it'll give you the financial flexibility due to getting fees or the wages off the books. The fact that you've been able to spend as much as you have, without putting the clubs future in jeopardy is testament to the way that you've handled the finances since taking the job.

Looking forward to seeing how Žarko Nakić handles the adjustment to playing in the Premier League, whilst you're right in saying the deal for Nathaniel Carey is a steal. Great work on that one!

Best of luck next season, I'm expecting European qualification this time around ;)
congrats for avoid the relegation and great signs you have made maybe you can finish at 10º or 8º
Carey looks like a serious gem, Jack. Good pick! Also, I really like Nakic. Both looking great to start a dynasty for your attack.

Justice: It's more excitement this way I suppose ;) I am really looking forward to how these new players come together after what was a pretty torrid season last time.
James: The loans do two jobs for us 1: frees up the wages as mentioned but more importantly 2: they give valuable first-team experience to youngsters who need it, meanwhile keeping the U23s and U18s pretty streamlined so that they can make their own progress too.
Deadzpool: It's been a big shift in transfers so we're hoping for a more comfortable year that's for sure!
Slipky: I was shocked to see him on the market for that valuation! Nakic has a great track record in Serbia at such a young age, it seemed like a no-brainer to take a small punt on him.
Carey looks like a great immediate impact. Solid season opening if you ask me :)

Slipky: He's been great to have, he's taken the step up from the Championship at such a young age tremendously. Like a new Bellingham ;)

“Neil,” Víctor Stinfale welcomed Neil Godwin to the room that he had booked for today’s meeting. “It’s a pleasure to meet you and we thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us today.”

Coming just off the back off a good 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Arsenal at St. Mary’s Stadium was next up for Swindon Town and preparation was key for such a quick turnaround for the midweek clash. Godwin had to tell Swindon’s team that he had to run a family errand for the afternoon, leaving his assistant Scott Marshall in charge of training for the day.

Víctor Stinfale was a character with a chequered past. He was an Argentinian lawyer, famously the sole legal of Argentine football legend Diego Maradona in his later years before his death in November 2020. He became infamous for his notorious quote of: “If Hitler gives me a million dollars, I defend him”, making clear his willingness to defend any type of crime or criminal.

A former goalkeeper for Nueva Chicago, Stinfale even substituted in the Argentine First Division in the mid-1980s. Many considered him the “owner” of Deportivo Riestra in Argentina, with Stinfale leaving his businesses in the names of his trusted peers to avoid embargoes, but ensuring that everyone surrounding him knew that he was making the decisions. He was hailed as the man who saved the club that was near extinction in Argentina, celebrating promotion with the club back in 2014.

However, in 2016, Stinfale served 70 days in prison, accused of “facilitating a place for the sale of narcotics, manslaughter and serious wrongful injuries” after five young people died at a party in Costa Salguero - an event that there was evidence that Stinfale was one of the main organisers.

Following his release, he famously described the prosecutor who accused him of being a “coward and a criminal” before going even further to say “I'm going to kill prosecutor Delgado”.

In October 2022, Víctor Stinfale made his return to football after leaving his assumed role as ‘President’ of Deportivo Riestra. He floated Aston Villa Football Club on the Stock Exchange after becoming chairman of the club following former owner Nassef Sawiris’ departure.

Upon agreeing to the meeting with Stinfale and the managing director Manuel Figueredo, Neil Godwin wanted to make it clear that he was open to joining Aston Villa for the football club and it’s prestige in the footballing world, not that he was wanting to work under Stinfale in particular and Manuel Figueredo.

Godwin was aware of the man’s history before meeting, but it didn’t faze him. He had met too many dodgy characters in football to be worried about Diego Maradona’s ex-lawyer.

“Víctor, Manuel, it’s good to see you both.” Neil Godwin said as he shook hands with the pair.

“Please, take a seat Neil.” Figueredo said, pointing to the chair behind Neil.

“Thanks,” said Neil. “So, now that we’re here and you have my attention, what can I do for you gentlemen?” he said with a cheeky smile on his face.

“Well, to get down to details: we are wanting to offer you £35,000 per week for an initial two-and-a-half years - so altogether in the region of £4.5million - to keep Aston Villa from relegation this season, and to begin a rebuilding process for the club that will restore it to its former glories.” Víctor boldly laid out for Neil.

The contract for Neil was an incredible jump. The total value of his deal with Swindon Town currently stood at little over £1million. This was a huge step in salary and it was for a very achievable task.

For Neil, it was a matter of loyalty over the opportunity to build a prestigious side, both domestically and continentally back to the top of the footballing pyramid.

He had studied Aston Villa’s playing squad and predicaments and staying up was a pretty simple challenge, it was mainly whether Víctor would back him financially in the January window to begin the rebuilding process.

For example, the current first-team had eight players left from Steven Gerrard’s reign which ended five years ago in December 2021. They weren’t bad players, but they were a resemblance of a club which hadn’t wanted to progress much and were still stuck in it’s ways. Neil needed reassurance that this would change.

“£70million available for January, immediately. From there we can look at the situation and decide, but it will be above the £60million mark regardless in the summer. How does that suit you, Neil?” Víctor proposed the club’s transfer budgets despite already spending £26million in the summer, with £9million spent on Swindon’s Geoff Pring-Meechan who has yet to make an appearance for the club.

Neil sat back and nodded his head. That kind of funding was the level that was required for a club that had clearly been standing still for a while now. He felt that Aston Villa was an honest club and a move here would not be ‘selling out’ as such, like it would be to one of the oil-rich sides that purely rely on wealth to win trophies.

Aston Villa had a personality that hadn’t really been awakened since 1992 with their 2nd place finish, and particularly not the the extent of their almighty 1982 European Cup victory.

“Send me through your proposal in writing, I will have a long think about it and I will reach back out to you. I appreciate the meeting, though.” Godwin said after 30 minutes, before making his way out.

I'm extremely unsure how to feel about this! On the one hand: Villa is an attractive proposition. But is it really the right move for Neil to make!? I'm just not sure. I have a feeling that Neil will remain loyal to Swindon, but the fact that he's open to leaving... that gives me hope that he'll find a club worthy of his talents.

Godwin Era ends at Swindon as Villa Park move confirmed

Aston Villa fans woke up to the beginning of a new dawn this morning as the Villains announced Neil Godwin as the club’s new manager.

After 5 years and 152 days at Swindon Town, Neil Godwin finally called time on his spell with his boyhood club, leaving the Robins with a legendary status at the club with 233 league appearances for the club during his playing days, followed by a phenomenal managerial performance which saw him lead his team up from League Two all the way to the top-flight and surviving relegation within a five-year period.

“He can be proud of himself with what he has done here. He has not received any help from anyone. The rise and rise of Swindon Town over these past few years have been down to one person and that’s Neil Godwin.” Max Connor, a Swindon Town fan spokesperson commented.

“He has more than deserved his opportunity to work at an admittedly bigger club, to earn more money for himself and go on to win some more trophies elsewhere. We’ll always love him and welcome him back at the County Ground when we return there.”

Godwin replaces former manager Arne Slot at Villa Park, who spent 4 years at the club but ironically was given the sack straight after a defeat to his successor’s team Swindon Town.

Over his five year spell at the County Ground, Godwin won the League Two title in his first season in charge, before achieving back-to-back promotions by finishing 2nd in League One the season after.

With a consolidating first season in the Championship in 2023-24, Godwin secured Swindon Town’s return to the top-flight for the first time since 1994 with a Play-Off Final victory against Ipswich Town at Wembley Stadium thanks to a Taylor Richards brace.

Former OGC Nice manager Martín Demichelis was said to be the media favourite to take over from Slot given his associations with Aston Villa’s Argentinian ownership and partly because no one expected Godwin to be open to departing his boyhood team, but the 42-year-old Englishman has been given a contract until 2029 and a licence to rebuild the ageing Aston Villa squad, with rumours of a £70 million transfer kitty being prepared for the upcoming January window.

Neil Godwin’s opening press conference as new manager of Aston Villa is booked in for Friday 4th December and will face a fierce local rivalry against Wolves in his first game on Saturday at 17:30.

James: Well, well, well... It seems the temptation was too much ;)
I'm seriously unsure how to feel about this :( It's going to be a big job for Neil to return Villa to their past glories of the 1980's, but if anyone can do it... It's Neil. Best of luck at Villa Park, but the pressure is definitely on!

Meeting the Press

Neil, you sit here as the new manager of Aston Villa Football Club. How are you feeling ahead of this new challenge?

”I am absolutely delighted to be here, it is quite an overwhelming moment for me to be leading one of England’s most prestigious teams, a European champion.

“I think that this club is primed for success and even through a rough patch in the club’s history recently, we can mend that to make the good times come back and really begin to challenge towards the top table. Aston Villa is a club with huge potential and it takes the right ingredients to realise that.

“I can’t wait to get started.”

In joining Aston Villa, you have left an immensely successful project with your hometown club Swindon Town, presumably leaving many disappointed over at the County Ground. Did you have any reservations leaving Swindon?

”I would be lying if I said I didn’t. We obviously created something really special over that five-year period. Clem Morfuni and I worked wonderfully together as a team all throughout our journey from the bottom of the Football League, right to the top of the English pyramid and it was a joy to experience with everybody along the way.

“As I understand it, Richard Thomas will be taking my role temporarily whilst a replacement is found and I think that Clem will get things right. He has grown into a fantastic leader at Swindon and the fans there should be proud to have him in charge.

“There are clearly promising times ahead for Swindon - a lot to look forward to - there are a great bunch of young players, mixed in with experienced lads and I hope that the next manager can get things right and carry on what we started all those years ago.”

From Clem Morfuni to Víctor Stinfale as the man that you will be working alongside, what are your thoughts on the chairman’s vision for Aston Villa

”With all due respect to Víctor and the great time that we had speaking together about the position here, his vision went as far as hiring me and he asked me what my vision was.

“I already took time out to take a look at this squad as manager of Swindon, but knowing that I wanted this job, I took an even more in-depth look and towards the longer term as well.

“This season may have to be about simply achieving the best position possible in the league, given our starting position as I have taken over. From there, we want to be recording top-half finishes, building up the squad in my own vision and hopefully head towards the European competitions.

“Then we are nearing the end of my contract and we will discuss further about our plan, but with all being OK, we should be looking to become one of the best teams in the division.”

Víctor Stinfale has clearly seen you as the number one candidate for the job at Aston Villa. Why do you think this is?

”I think I have proven my ability in many different scenarios, from the crisis we were in at Swindon when I first joined, to beating all expectations to be promoted to the Premier League in 2025.

“I think Aston Villa have been lacking a long-term vision despite the great job that Arne [Slot] has done here over the past few years. I have already done that with Swindon and I have an idea of what to do here. We need to change the mentality of the club into winners and that has to start from the top.”

You spoke of a winning mentality, with the Premier League out of the question, Aston Villa remain in the FA Cup. Is that something that you will be looking to challenge for?

”Absolutely. I want us to compete in every single competition that we are entered into, hence our Wembley trips in the FA Cup with Swindon those years ago whilst we were in League Two and League One. We had a winning mentality driven into those players and as a result, felt that we could take on anybody.”

Your first five matches will be against Wolves, Southampton, Man United, Sheffield United and Brighton - how many points can Villa fans be expecting to pick up from these first games of your tenure?

”That first game is an extremely significant one, being such a close rivalry for the fans so to get a win against Wolves should fire the starting pistol for even more victories. We want to win as many as possible and with no disrespect intended to those clubs you mentioned, I think we have a good chance of picking up a good amount of points.”

Regarding your backroom staff, Arne Slot’s assistant Sipke Hulshoff and goalkeeping coach Frank Boer both left with his sacking. Will you be going back to Swindon to bring in some of your former colleagues to join you here?

”No, not immediately. I have a great working and personal relationship with pretty much all at Swindon but I would not want to disrupt my successor. I want to give him the option to work with some of my people and decide if they are the people that they want alongside them. If they don’t think that they are the best option, then I may consider reconnecting with some old friends, yes.”

You have the current Premier League top scorer Ollie Watkins at your disposal, how important will he be to your goals this season and in the future?

”I have met with Ollie already and discussed his role and preferences, and how I intend to utilise him in my team. He is a superb player and not only that, has been a great servant for the club, hitting double figures four out of the seven seasons that he has been at Villa Park.

“He will be incredibly important for us for the remainder of the season.”

Finally, with the January transfer window just around the corner, are there any plans in place for the club’s activity?

”I spoke with Víctor upon taking the role of a few players on my radar, who I feel would be good additions. We are monitoring them and speaking with their representatives and clubs.

“As a whole, the squad may need re-energising but at this current position, we need signings that are essential and that will also bring us long-term benefit.”

James: It's always a sad moment to end an era like Swindon's... Who knows, we may return? But the focus is on Villa now, and to get the club back up the league and become a challenger to the current crop, which the likes of WHU, Everton and Southampton are currently doing! It's a prime time to wedge a club of Villa's size between the usual 6 clubs and the actual top 6.

We have been busy in my first transfer window at Villa Park, trying to bring in some fresh, young players to an ageing Aston Villa squad.

In doing so, my goal was to bring in two young players that can play in the middle, through the spine of the team as some call it. Málaga’s centre-back Leopoldo Velasco and Bayern’s central midfielder André Ratzsch both seemed to fit that bill very well.

All told, we spent around £85million in the January window with Meschack Elia and Aaron Hickey’s deal totting up the total.

Heading out was our starting goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic who stated that he would press for his move to Southampton if it was rejected, so we accepted Southampton’s £26.5million offer, which I thought was a fair deal for a 32-year-old goalkeeper.

We also sold right-backs Bernardinho and Kaine Kesler Hayden for a combined £8.5million, with our left-back Ridvan Yilmaz going to Sivasspor for an additional £3.5million.

The club did lose money on Christian Kouamé who was brought in in 2024 for £17million, but now joins Olympiakos £12.5million one season on from scoring 13 in 19 games in the Premier League. However, he has really struggled this season with only one goal in his eight games.

28-year-old Óscar was our biggest outgoing this season, bringing in £18million for a player that both visually and statistically has been underwhelming since his £12million move from Sevilla in 2022/23.

With concerns about his work permit, Róger Guedes made a move back to his home country to Internacional for £5million, meanwhile reserve player Hansen-Aaroen joins Championship relegation battlers Reading for £6million.

With a deal agreed back in December alongside Ratzsch, Velasco joins as a very talented young defender from Malaga for his £13.5million release clause.

Velasco, 19, has already made 68 appearances for his boyhood club, winning promotion from the Spanish second tier just last season, making 31 league appearances along the way. However, this season he has been a shining light in what has been a poor Malaga team that is struggling in the LaLiga relegation zone.

André Ratzsch was our landmark name for this window, merely because of his fee of £40million alone. Some have said that the valuation is way off Ratzsch’s actual ability and experience, but at the age of 20, he has the ability to become our midfield dynamo for at least the next decade.

Starting his career with Hannover, he impressed in the competitive reserve side before a £5.5million move to the German champions, with a loan back agreed within the deal and was named in the 2.Bundesliga’s Team of the Year for 2025/26.

However, with the likes of Goretzka, Deisler, Asensio and Weigl all ahead of him (just to name a few), Ratzsch has struggled to break through at Bayern Munich and as such, wanted to depart for first-team football but Bayern were only willing to sell for £50million, but we were able to knock them down further to the finalised £40million figure.

Following the forced sale of Livakovic to Southampton, we needed to bring in a starting goalkeeper, with Pontus Dahlberg and Jed Steer our only option at the time. With Burnley recently relegated and struggling with the wages in their squad, they were happy to let Nick Pope leave.

The deal went against my initial idea of bringing in youth, but with his ability I am happy to let him become our number one for the next six months before possibly becoming our back-up come the summertime when we can begin to evaluate our options a little better.

Joining us from Switzerland is right-winger Meschack Elia from Young Boys after eight incredible years for him in the top-flight. From the right-wing, Elia has scored 84 goals in 222 appearances for the club, winning the division's top scorer award 5 times in his career.

Along with this, Elia led them to 11 trophies during his stay at the club, which included seve-out-of-seven league titles, with the club in the vicinity of taking the lead in the league again this year. With £13million spent on the winger, I think it is a small gamble for potentially large gains.

Finally, coming in to fill in for the departing Yilmaz is 24-year-old Scot left-back Aaron Hickey for £16million from Spurs. With the position needing more quality and depth in general to compete with Matt Targett, it seemed like a good deal for everyone.

Spurs had only bought the player in the summer from Atalanta and has only made 15 appearances in all competitions for them but we are hoping to provide Hickey with some stability in his career now which is something he hasn’t had since moving away from Bologna, where he first impressed.


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