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Ex-Palace, West Brom, Bristol Rovers coach front-runner for Swindon job

An ex-Palace, West Brom, Bristol Rovers coach has been named the front-runner for the Swindon Town manager’s job according to reports.

It’s been a miserable few months for Robins fans after watching their club get relegated, finishing 23rd place in League One for the 2020/21 campaign.

We also saw a new manager and signing come in, only to then leave without playing a single game because of the troubles going on behind the scenes at the club.

However things are now looking more positive for Swindon whose chairman Lee Power has transferred his shares in the club to move a takeover closer to completion.

They have been the subject of a bid by Australian businessman Clem Morfuni, who has a minority stake, and it ends a lengthy ownership battle for the fourth tier club who have fought recent financial problems.

The EFL confirmed that it has granted Morfuni consent to acquire additional shares, having passed the league’s owners’ and directors’ test.

“It is now a matter for the shareholders to conclude any associated transactions,” a spokesperson said.

“The EFL is looking forward to working with the new ownership as they seek to ensure a successful and viable long-term future.”

So who is tipped to be manager of Swindon?

Well that man is former Bristol Rovers boss Ben Garner, who was sacked by Rovers last November following an 11-month spell in which he was tasked with lowering the wage bill and building around young players however results turned dismal quick.

He took over with the Gas sitting in 4th place in the League One table but 33 matches later, with just six wins registered in all competitions, he left them 18th and three points clear of the relegation zone.

Understandably, a lot of supporters hold him responsible for the relegation, even if successors Paul Tisdale (26.3 win percentage) and Joey Barton (16.7%) also struggled whilst again trying to work with a squad put together by Garner and Tommy Widdrington, the director of football.

It’s reported by BristolLive that Garner has been placed at 4/6 by bookmakers to take over at the County Ground, with Tisdale also among the contenders at 16/1. Mark Cooper is listed too.

Ex-Palace, West Brom, Bristol Rovers coach front-runner for Swindon job

Meanwhile, former Swindon striker Jan Aage Fjortoft is said to be “saddened” by the situation at the League Two club.

“The state of the club is embarrassing, and someone needs to sort it out,” the 54 year old told BBC South Today.

“To go down a division is something that can happen, but what is saddening now is that the club is not well run.

“It is tough in the professional game in England, but you have to give yourself a chance.”

“I don’t know all the things that have happened at the club or all the politics, but it is so sad for the fans to have it this way,” Fjortoft added.

“There is a proud history, with the 1969 League Cup and all the great players they have had over the years.

“It is disrespectful for the fans, who have made their club the identity of a whole town and region.”

 

Fjortoft joined the Robins in the summer of 1993 from Rapid Vienna, getting on the scoresheet 12 times in 36 league games as they were relegated from the Premier League.

“I still remember the feeling when I flew into Heathrow and knew that then-manager John Gorman would be there to meet me,” the Norway international said.

“I didn’t know a lot about Swindon Town but straight away I saw how important this club was – and is – for the community and the town.”

“I was very fortunate to be there at a time when we were playing the best teams in England.”

Fjortoft remained at Swindon until March 1995, going on to have spells with Middlesbrough, Sheffield United and Barnsley before a switch to the Bundesliga.

The former footballer has no turned to being a pundit, interviewer and columnist, and reckon Swindon’s future can be cleared up and supporters can rally around the club.

“There is not a lot of time until the start of the season, but in League Two there are a lot of games, so there is time to adjust,” he said.

“But you have to sort out these things.

“Hopefully the takeover will be smooth so they can start building a football club again, and the fans can do whatever they can to help this club to unite.”

Fans reacted with the ex-Palace, West Brom, Bristol Rovers coach a front-runner for the Swindon job…

@GeorgePBishop8: #BRFC @Official_BRFC I can see he didn’t do very well with you guys, but what’s his style of football like?

@ajstfc: Ben garner new manager is not good news!

@rickrose4: Wouldn’t be against it.

@swindonmatt35: Won 6 of his 33 games in charge. No thanks

@LonnyJock: In fairness to BG he wants to play fluid attacking football based around possession but IMHO he attempted to enforce this too quickly at Rovers & the players weren’t good enough when he took over. He signed some very bright prospects but collectively they lacked experience

@BassMasterRich: People already moaning about the potential of Ben Garner being appointed. Short memories. Remember, we had John Sheridan here last season. Who could ever be worse than him? Well, other than Paul Hart obviously #stfc

@joshua35833596: Everyone moaning about Ben Garner, yes not first choice but nobody wanted Wellens at first and look how it planned out 🤷🏻‍♂️. Again if Ben Garner is appointed, he has a few weeks before the season starts, going to be a big rebuild, hell need everyones support.

@Mntg89: If it does end up being Ben Garner as our manager, as much as it doesn’t excite me, it definitely can’t be as bad when Sheridan was in charge. Hopefully Garner learnt a lot from his time at Rovers. #STFC

@Rich38709046: Ben Garner? Just announce Paolo and we’ll sell 10k season tickets #stfc

@OneRoversVlogs: The scenes if Ben Garner goes to Swindon 🤭😂😂

@Harley1883BRFC: Swindon would be better off going bust than appointing garner

@bristolbluegas: If Garner becomes manager of Swindon then the best of luck to him (but not when they play us!). Nice bloke, it just didn’t work out at Rovers, that happens. There’s talk on FB of booing him when they play us at the Mem. Why anyone would want to do that is beyond me..🙄🤷‍♂️

@di1cox: Good news for Rovers if Garner does go to Swindon, that should be one of the two relegation places taken.

CLEM MORFUNI STATEMENT:

Firstly I would like to say how excited, relieved and proud I am to be the new owner and chairman of this fantastic Swindon Town football club. I hope that under my tenure as custodian of this club that the day that I leave the club it is in much better place than it is today.

Before I map out my intentions and my plans for the club I want to tell the fans that you’ve got your club back, a football club should be the heartbeat of the town and the local community and should be something that the whole town and surrounding communities takes great pride in. Without fans you don’t have a club and I want to thank every supporter (many who I have got to know personally) who have fought for their club and helped me to gain control. I know I am indebted to you and will work hard to make this club a club all our fans can be proud of. Last season we came last in the football league in terms of fan engagement; this season I aim to come first.

Many people have questioned why a successful plumber who runs, owns business that turns over $200m a year globally and lives on the other side of the world wants to own an English League Two club. The first reason is: I am the biggest football fan in the world. I play 11 side 2 times a week (very badly I might add). I set my alarm to wake me up in the middle of the night to watch Premier league games; when in England, I organise my meetings and my work schedule to try and see as many games as I can. I don’t know why, but I’m football mad.

The second reason is I am now a complete Swindon Town fan. I have as many friends in Swindon as I do in Sydney. I got introduced to the club by Zavier Austin 7 years ago. I became a shareholder and since then I have grown to love the club and the supporters of it and fully understand how important the club is to them. I want to give the supporters a club they deserve. I also want to put on record my thanks to Zav, firstly for bringing me to the club and secondly for all his support over the last 18 months and helping me to get to this position. Zav will be on the advisory board which will be assembled in the coming weeks and will be very much a part of taking this club forward.

I want to make some promises to you the fans: I will not take any money out of this club, I don’t need to. I will invest my money and my time; I will be over as often as I can (or as much as my family will let me); I don’t want to be an aloof owner on the other side of the world; I want to go on this journey with you, I want to be in the town end with you. My aim isn’t to use the club as a vehicle to pay for my lifestyle. I will provide full transparency of the financial position of the club at all times.

I also want to make it clear that I am fully aware of how difficult the situation that I am inheriting is. We have a great fan base which is the most important thing and also is what gives us a chance but, other than that, we have hardly anything to start with. We have no management team, we have hardly any players, we have no infrastructure and a large number of creditors with potentially large debt (much of which is unclear and will need to be resolved quickly). Also, we are just over 3 weeks away from the start of the season. But I am so excited. What a challenge we all have on our hands to turn this great club around. It’s going to take good strategic planning, a considerable amount of finance in the short term but above all it is going to take unity, it is going to take the board, the management team, all staff within the club, the players and the fans to come together and to buy in to what we want to do. If we all pull together and we stay united we can turn this club around and take it back to where it belongs. My minimum aims are: to build a sustainable Championship club; to own the 50/50 County ground with the fans; to very significantly improve and fully modernise the County Ground; to find and fully develop our own training ground; to have the best academy outside of the Premier league; to have a young first team with high quality players that have come through the academy; to have a fan base that is growing and where as many as possible of the children in the town and surrounding communities are Swindon fans and their heroes are Swindon players. I know that is a million miles away from where we are now and it’s going to take a great deal of work, resources, vision and effort but if we pull together, indeed if we stick together, we can and we will do it.

We will have lots of issues to uncover and resolve in the coming days, and there will be many urgent problems to deal with. Throughout this we will aim to give you regular updates and, please rest assured, we will call on you when we need your help too.

Finally, I just want to say a massive ‘thank you’ firstly to the existing staff, coaches and players for their efforts over the past few months, in light of significant uncertainty and whilst not being paid, and also a massive ‘thank you’ for all your support in helping me get here.

I now I ask you to look forward, be positive and support your great club; let’s show everyone what a great club this is.

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