By John Lyons
NEIL ASPIN admitted it was a ‘wrench’ to leave Gateshead after moving into the Football League to take over at former club Port Vale last week.
Appointed manager at the National League club just under two years ago, he left the Heed 16th in an incredibly tight table, just four points off the play-off positions.
No one can say Aspin doesn’t deserve his EFL opportunity. The former Vale defender has spent a dozen years in management with Harrrogate Town, FC Halifax Town – where he enjoyed three promotions and set Jamie Vardy on the road to glory – and hometown club Gateshead.
The 52-year-old said: “It’s always nice to manage your hometown club and I must say the chairman and his wife (Richard and Julie Bennett) have been really good to me.
“They are the reason why the club is playing at that level. With the fanbase they have, someone has to finance it.
“Gateshead are just a few wins away from being in a good position and there’s a good set of lads. It’s always difficult when you leave a good dressing room. The players train well and didn’t cause me any problems.
“You don’t expect all the players to like you when you’re a manager, but I have had a lot of nice messages from them.
“Sometimes you can leave a club on not very good terms and with bitterness, but that’s not been the case. I’m leaving a good team behind.”
He’s a #PVFC legend.
Neil Aspin leaves Gateshead on “very good terms” for League Two strugglers Port Vale #gfc
— The Non-League Paper (@NonLeaguePaper) October 4, 2017
Aspin spent a decade at Port Vale as a player, making more than 400 appearances, and became a fans’ favourite. The bulk of that time Vale featured in the second tier, but they have fallen on hard times since then.
Relegation from League One last term was a hammer blow and this season has started in disastrous fashion with boss Michael Brown departed after a 1-1 draw against Forest Green Rovers last month and Vale owner Norman Smurthwaite has plumped for Aspin to get them back on track.
Aspin added: “If you have been at a club for ten years, you’re always going to have a special feeling for them. Whenever the job became available over all the time I have been in management, I always hoped I might get a chance – and this time it’s come about.
“I know people don’t tend to last too long in any hotseat in the Football League, it’s a gamble, but I want to take the chance.”
Aspin wasn’t at Gateshead’s midweek goalless draw at AFC Fylde due to the speculation, accepting the position at the League Two club on Wednesday.
Heed assistant manager Lee Nogan took charge of the side at Mill Farm, but it was left to Micky Cummins to lead the way in yesterday’s home clash with Bromley.
But for Aspin, the aim has always been to get into the Football League.
He continued: “When I was at Halifax and got a part-time team in the play-offs and to the top of the National League, I would have hoped I would be given a chance in the League.
“I just kept plugging away and the reason I have got the job is I played at Port Vale for ten years and have that experience in management. A combination of the two things has helped.”
*This article originally featured in @TheNonLeaguePaper, which is available every Sunday.