The Big Time
Swindon Town were leading 2-0 against Ipswich Town as the Final headed into the 5th minute of the five added minutes of injury time and the 32,000 strong Swindon following were whistling for the referee to blow for the final time.
Taylor Richards had been the star of the match, scoring both of Swindon’s goals with a tidy piece of play finished off with a near-post smash into the back of the net in just the 2nd minute of play.
His second came just before half-time with an outstanding free-kick from 30 yards away from goal, placing it at Hladky’s near-post again.
Right now, Swindon’s assistant manager Scott Marshall had his hands placed on Neil Godwin’s shoulders as he mentally prepared himself to celebrate. In contrast, Neil Godwin kept his arms folded, watching on with a straight face as the ball rolled out for a goal kick as Joe Wollacott went to collect the ball slowly to the right of his goal.
The towering presence of English duo Josh Pask and goalkeeper Ethan Flowers also stood together, awaiting the final whistle. Swindon Town were seconds away from the first top-flight football at the County Ground since 1994.
Joe Wollacott prepared his goal kick for a big kick upfield and as soon as the ball met his boot, the decisive final three whistles went. The whistles indicated that Swindon Town were going to be a Premier League football club for the first time in just under 30 years.
Some of the playing squad ran to grab hold of the nearest red shirt, meanwhile others simply fell to their knees both in exhaustion and relief that this long campaign that had highs and lows ended with one of the biggest prizes of all in what is the most rewarding fixture in English football.
Neil Godwin was piled on by about five of his staff members, including former Luton manager Nathan Jones who was a first-team coach at the club. After the pile-on on the touchline began to fall away, his assistant pulled him up so that he could celebrate with all of his team before heading towards the Swindon Town end of the stadium to show his appreciation to the fans.
“EE-I-EE-I-EE-I OH, UP THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE WE GO!
WHEN WE WIN PROMOTION, THIS IS WHAT WE’LL SING,
WE’RE THE CHAMPIONS! WE’RE THE CHAMPIONS!
NEIL GODWIN’S KING”
chanted the Swindon Town fans in a noise that Godwin had barely heard before.
Inside, Neil Godwin was burning with pride, hearing his name chanted all around Wembley Stadium - the national arena - was something that he had long dreamed of even as a child, before his playing career aspirations even came to fruition.
A Swindon lad, born just ten minutes from the County Ground, becoming a club favourite during his playing years and now becoming a club legend for taking the club back to the top-flight after so many years in the doldrums, yo-yoing between the third and fourth tiers of the game. The experience was overwhelming for everyone involved, but especially for him and the local players involved who had grown up with Swindon throughout their childhood.
As the entire coaching and medical staff teamed up with the playing squad on the pitch, dancing up and down in front of the deafening sound of the jubilant Swindon fans, the owner who had been able to reorganise the club from the beginning of Godwin’s era, also joined them on the field to the sound of more cheers from the fans and the staff.
This was only the beginning, though. They all had to go up the 107 famous Wembley steps to lift the Play-Off trophy awaiting them at the Royal Box.
As they queued up to receive their winners’ medals from the Football Association and English Football League representatives, the trophy shone in the midsummer sunshine and it was beautiful.
It was the captain and star goalkeeper that had been with the club from League Two and now to the Premier League Joe Wollacott who would lift the trophy with the entire squad around him. There was no better individual to raise the trophy for Swindon and he received the second biggest roar as he did it, with the fans saving their voices for the last man to lift the trophy, Neil Godwin.
As Godwin made his way back onto the field, Sky Sports reporters surrounded him for a post-match comment and he stopped by to speak.
“The feeling I have right now, it will struggle to be topped. I’m a Swindon boy, a Swindon Town fan, a Swindon Town player and I have taken my club back to the elite footballing hub of the world and there is nowhere else I would rather achieve this with.
“I’ve worked with some of the best people in my career over the past four years, from the board to the players and staff at the club. I believe that the way we have kept the atmosphere consistent throughout all of these years, from the rare low points to the more frequent high points, that is what has carried us through to become a Premier League club.
“I’ve had interest, I’ve had offers that other managers at the levels that I have been at would have immediately taken, but there’s something about this place for me that goes beyond even my personal attachment to Swindon as a hometown, as a fan of the club. I think my judgement and passion for this project has now been rectified and I can’t wait to discuss the next stages of the club now that we are mixing it with some of the biggest clubs in world football.” Godwin said to the media, though he was cut short of continuing as Oli McBurnie popped a champagne bottle right behind his manager, pulling him back into the celebrations.
The night would continue into the very early hours for all involved as they would parade around London in the knowledge that they were all Premier League players and staff.
What a ride it's been! This save has been simply incredible throughout and I'm delighted with where I have managed to take this team, with a group of misfits from the lower tiers along with some experienced players. We've managed to turn the odds into our favour from January and now we can look to build even further!