Neil Aspin

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Neil Aspin
Personal information
Full name Neil Aspin[1]
Date of birth (1965-04-12) 12 April 1965 (age 53)
Place of birth Gateshead, England
Height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Playing position Defender
Club information
Current team
Port Vale (manager)
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1982–1989 Leeds United 207 (5)
1989–1999 Port Vale 348 (3)
1999–2001 Darlington 50 (0)
2001 Hartlepool United 10 (0)
2001–2004 Harrogate Town
2009–2015 F.C. Halifax Town 2 (0)
Total 617 (8)
Teams managed
2005–2009 Harrogate Town
2009–2015 F.C. Halifax Town
2015–2017 Gateshead
2017– Port Vale
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Neil Aspin (born 12 April 1965) is an English former professional footballer and football manager who is now manager of EFL League Two club Port Vale.

A solid defender who could play at centre-back and right-back, he was a good marker and an adept tackler. He started his professional career with Leeds United in 1982, where he made 244 appearances over a seven-year spell. He was sold to Port Vale for £150,000 in 1989, and remained at Vale Park throughout the 1990s, making 348 league appearances. He was made Port Vale F.C. Player of the Year in 1990 and 1994, and was also named in the PFA Team of the Year for 1993–94. He won promotion with the club out of the Second Division in 1993–94, and also lifted the Football League Trophy in 1993. He then spent 1999 to 2001 with Darlington, and also spent a brief period of 2001 at Hartlepool United. He played in play-off final defeats with Leeds, Port Vale and Darlington.

He spent 2005 to 2009 as manager of non-league Harrogate Town. In 2009, he took up a position as manager of F.C. Halifax Town. He managed Halifax to three successive promotions in his first three seasons at the club, taking them from the second tier of the Northern Premier League to the Conference Premier before he was sacked in September 2015. He was appointed Gateshead manager in November 2015, before he was installed as Port Vale manager in October 2017.

Playing career

Leeds United

Born in Gateshead, County Durham, Aspin began his career as a trainee at Leeds United, a club he supported as a boy despite its distance from his hometown.[2] He made his debut against Ipswich Town in February 1982, aged just sixteen years old.[2] He was the second youngest ever débutante for the club, behind Peter Lorimer.[2]

At the end of the 1981–82 season Leeds lost their First Division status, and he remained at Elland Road for seven seasons of Second Division football, during which Leeds finished between fourth and tenth, always coming close to promotion but never succeeding in regaining their top-flight status. The closest United came was in 1987, when they lost 2–1 to Charlton Athletic in the play-off Final replay at St Andrew's.[3] John Sheridan had put Leeds ahead in extra-time, only for Peter Shirtliff to score in the 113th and 117th minutes to break United hearts. This followed disappointment in the FA Cup, where Leeds had reached the semi-finals, only to suffer defeat to Coventry City at Hillsborough, again in extra time.[4] Aspin played in the game after he postponed his wedding, which had been scheduled to take place on the day of the semi-final.[2] He was voted the club's Player of the Year in 1985.

Under the management of Allan Clarke, Aspin made the right-back position his own. He retained his first team place under Eddie Gray and Billy Bremner, until he fell out of favour under Howard Wilkinson, losing his place to new signing Mel Sterland. Having played 244 games in league and cup for the club, he was sold to Port Vale for a £150,000 fee in July 1989.[2] Leeds finally won promotion in 1989–90.[2]

Port Vale

Port Vale were preparing for their first Second Division campaign in 32 years when "Aspo" arrived at the club. He played 51 games in 1989–90, as the club recorded an eleventh-place finish. He immediately established himself as a firm favourite with the supporters at Vale Park, taking the club's player of the year award at the end of the campaign. He was also entrusted with the club's captaincy.[2]

"Aspo was one of those guys who played with a very basic philosophy. Either the ball or the player could pass him, but never both – and he often preferred to clear the player rather than the ball."

— Robbie Earle writing in 2012.[5]

He played 46 games in 1990–91, also scoring his first goal for the "Valiants" in a 3–2 win over Portsmouth on 19 January. He was consistent again in the relegation season of 1991–92, making another 46 appearances. He played 48 games in 1992–93, and played a leading role in the victorious Football League Trophy campaign of 1992–93.[6] The Trophy final was played at Wembley Stadium, and Aspin played alongside Peter Swan and Dean Glover to help Vale record a 2–1 win over Stockport County.[7] He also played in the play-off Final, which ended in a 3–0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion.

Vale won promotion into the First Division at the end of 1993–94, and Aspin was voted Player of the Year for a second time.[8] He was also elected to the divisional Team of the Season, as voted for by members of the Professional Footballers' Association.[9] Vale retained their second tier status in 1994–95 and 1995–96. Aspin also played in the 1996 Anglo-Italian Cup Final, as Vale lost 5–2 to Genoa.[10]

He made 38 appearances in 1996–97, as the club posted their highest ever post-war finish (eighth in the second tier). He played 29 games in 1997–98 and 32 games in 1998–99. In January 1999, manager John Rudge, who had signed Aspin ten years earlier, was replaced by Brian Horton. Aspin also left the club at the end of the season, with 348 league appearances to his name, and even enjoyed a testimonial featuring Vale supporter Robbie Williams.[11]

Later career

Following his departure from Vale, Aspin remained in the Football League with Darlington. The "Quakers" reached the Third Division play-off Final in 2000. However Peterborough United won the game 1–0, leaving Aspin with his third defeat in a play-off final.

Darlington struggled in 2000–01, and Aspin left the club in January 2001 to sign for Hartlepool United. He played ten league games as the "Pools" reached the Third Division play-offs, where they were defeated by Blackpool at the semi-final stage. At the end of the campaign Aspin joined Northern Premier League First Division side Harrogate Town as a player-coach.

Harrogate topped the table by a ten-point margin in 2001–02, and spent 2002–03 in the Northern Premier League Premier Division. The club pushed for promotion in 2002–03, before the club was invited to join the newly formed Conference North after a fifth-place finish in 2003–04. He was expected to return to Darlington as a defensive coach,[12] only for the move to fall through after the club reversed its decision.[13]

Style of play

A solid defender who could play at centre-back and right-back, Aspin was a good marker and an adept tackler.[14]

Managerial career

Harrogate Town

Aspin was back at Harrogate Town halfway through the 2004–05 season as manager. His stay would last for four and a half years. In this time he consistently kept the North Yorkshire side in the top half of the Conference North and pushing for promotion to the Conference Premier. The closest they came to this was in his first full season 2005–06 when they qualified for the end of season play-offs but lost 2–1 to Stafford Rangers on aggregate in the semi-finals. In the three following seasons, Harrogate finished sixth twice (one place outside the playoffs) and ninth in 2008–09, which was to be his last with the club. However, he did manage his first success as a manager at the end of the 2007–08 season as Town won the West Riding County Cup. In April 2009, after a discussion with the club chairman, Aspin decided he could not take the club any further with the budget on offer, and announced his decision to leave.[15]

FC Halifax Town

He was appointed manager of Northern Premier League Division One North club F.C. Halifax Town on 28 April 2009.[16] In his first season with the "Shaymen" he led them to the Division One North title, winning the league with 100 points, with the team scoring 108 goals.

In his second season in charge he led the "Shaymen" to back-to-back promotions when they won the Northern Premier League Premier Division with 98 points and again scoring 108 goals. In his first two seasons the team had only lost six league games, allowing Aspin to pick up several Manager of the Month awards, as well as the Non League Paper Manager of the Year award.[17] In August 2011 he sold Jamie Vardy to Fleetwood Town for an initial fee of £150,000, which later rose to around £500,000. He had signed Vardy from Stocksbridge Park Steels for £16,000 just over 12 months previously.[18]

After defeating Ashton United on penalties in the Peter Swales Shield,[19] Aspin led his team to the FA Cup First Round for the first time in the club's brief history, where they lost at home to Charlton Athletic.[20] Halifax secured a play-off spot at the end of the 2012–13 season, and won a third successive promotion with a 1–0 victory over Brackley Town.[21] He also added the West Riding County Cup to the club's trophy cabinet with a 1–0 victory over Guiseley.[22]

In the club's first season in the Conference Premier he led the club to a fifth-place finish, securing a play-off spot. They lost out to Cambridge United at the play-off semi-final stage, squandering a 1–0 first leg lead after Lee Gregory had scored from the penalty Spot.[23]

Halifax had a great start to the 2014–15 season and Aspin was named as the division's manager of the month after leading the club to five wins in six games in August.[24] During that same month he signed a new two-year contract with the club.[25] He was linked with the vacant management position at former club Port Vale the following month.[26] On 1 October, now aged 49, he played himself as a 69th-minute substitute for Lee Nogan in a 3–0 defeat at Guiseley in the first round of the West Riding County Cup.[27] Halifax's promotion push collapsed at the end of the season, and they ended in ninth place on a run of just one win in their final 15 games.[28] He was sacked on 17 September 2015 following what the board described as "a prolonged period of indifferent results stretching back to February 2015".[29]


On 27 November 2015, it was announced that Aspin was to be appointed manager of National League club Gateshead on 30 November after signing an 18-month contract.[30] He stated it was "lovely to come back" to his hometown club.[31] He led the "Tynesiders" to a ninth-place finish in 2015–16, and signed an extended two-year contract in August 2016.[32] He was named National League Manager of the Month for February 2017 after leading Gateshead to within touching distance of the play-offs with a series of victories.[33] Gateshead ended the 2016–17 campaign in eighth place, 12 points outside the play-offs. At the time of his departure Gateshead were 15th in the National League table.[34]

Port Vale

On 4 October 2017, Aspin was appointed as manager of former club Port Vale, who were 22nd in EFL League Two after a poor start to the 2017–18 season; his former manager John Rudge also returned to the club in an advisory role.[35] Aspin said that his new squad was too big with 33 senior professionals at the club, and added that he would try to find a formation to suit the players at his disposal and that he wanted the team to push further forward to support target-man striker Tom Pope.[36] He picked up his first win as Vale manager on 14 October, with Pope scoring a brace in a 3–1 home win over Cheltenham Town.[37] Aspin went on to be nominated for the EFL League Two Manager of the Month award after three wins in five games and five goals in the month of October.[38] He signed a new two-and-a-half year contract with the club in December 2017.[39] He was also nominated for that month's Manager of the Month award after collecting 13 points from Vale's five matches, including a 4–0 victory over league leaders Luton Town and a 1–0 win over promotion chasing Coventry City; however the award instead went to Danny Cowley at Lincoln City.[40]

In the January transfer window Aspin allowed two departures, plus Gavin Gunning left the club after rejecting a contract offer and centre-back Tom Anderson was recalled from his loan; incoming were non-league players Dior Angus, Luke Hannant and Callum Howe, as well as loanees Donovan Wilson, Zak Jules, Charlie Raglan and Kyle Howkins.[41] Aspin remarked that the four centre-backs brought in did not cost the club much financially, and that he would have liked to have strengthened in other areas "but for one reason or another it just hasn’t happened".[41] However he managed to convert Cristian Montaño from a winger to a left-back and Antony Kay from a centre-half to a central midfielder, and guided the club to safety with two games to spare.[42] Vale ended the campaign in 20th-place – the joint-lowest finish in the club's history – with just one point above the relegation zone, having been out of the relegation zone on goal difference upon Aspin's arrival at the club.[43]

Building for the 2018–19 season, Aspin released ten players and transfer-listed a further four, whilst bringing in ten new signings and five loan players. Incoming were mostly free transfer signings and included promoted Wycombe Wanderers goalkeeper Scott Brown, Cambridge United captain centre-half Leon Legge, 30-year old Carlisle United central midfielder Luke Joyce and troubled but talented Peterborough United striker Ricky Miller (signed for an undisclosed fee); also arriving were Alfreton Town winger Brendon Daniels, Aldershot Town Player of the Year Manny Oyeleke, The New Saints centre-back Connell Rawlinson, Gateshead defender Theo Vassell, Stevenage midfielder Tom Conlon, and former Bournemouth loanee Ben Whitfield, whilst former fan's favourite Louis Dodds, teenage striker Idris Kanu, forward Scott Quigley, full-back Mitch Clark and midfielder Lewis Hardcastle also joined on season-long loan deals.[44] The team had an indifferent start to the season, with the highlight being a 1–0 victory at local rivals Crewe Alexandra on 22 September.[45]

Managerial style

Aspin has stated that he wants his players to be "honest" by not feigning injury or otherwise attempting to cheat, and that he tries to be respectful towards officials.[46] He also has a reputation for honesty in dealing with the media, giving fair assessments of his team's performances.[47] He does not allow his players to wear gloves during first-team matches.[48]

Career statistics

Playing statistics


Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League FA Cup Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Leeds United 1981–82 First Division 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
1982–83 Second Division 15 0 4 0 0 0 19 0
1983–84 Second Division 21 1 3 0 2 0 26 1
1984–85 Second Division 32 1 1 0 0 0 33 1
1985–86 Second Division 38 2 1 0 3 0 42 2
1986–87 Second Division 41 1 5 0 8 1 54 2
1987–88 Second Division 26 0 1 0 3 0 30 0
1988–89 Second Division 33 0 2 0 4 0 39 0
Total 207 5 17 0 20 1 244 6
Port Vale 1989–90 Second Division 42 0 3 0 6 0 51 0
1990–91 Second Division 41 1 2 0 3 0 46 1
1991–92 Second Division 42 0 1 0 3 0 46 0
1992–93 Second Division 35 0 3 0 8 0 46 0
1993–94 Second Division 40 1 5 0 6 0 51 1
1994–95 First Division 37 0 2 0 1 0 40 0
1995–96 First Division 22 1 4 0 4 0 30 1
1996–97 First Division 33 0 1 0 4 0 38 0
1997–98 First Division 26 0 2 0 2 0 30 0
1998–99 First Division 30 0 1 0 1 0 32 0
Total 348 3 24 0 38 0 410 3
Darlington 1999–2000 Third Division 29 0 2 0 3 0 34 0
2000–01 Third Division 21 0 3 0 2 0 26 0
Total 50 0 5 0 5 0 60 0
Hartlepool United 2000–01 Third Division 10 0 0 0 1 0 11 0
FC Halifax Town 2014–15[50] Conference Premier 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0
Career total[a] 615 8 46 0 65 1 726 9
  1. ^ Complete statistics for Harrogate Town and F.C. Halifax Town not known.

Managerial statistics

As of match played 13 November 2018
Managerial record by team and tenure
Team From To Record Ref
P W D L Win %
Harrogate Town 18 January 2005 26 April 2009 202 89 48 65 044.1 [51]
FC Halifax Town 28 April 2009 17 September 2015 332 178 78 76 053.6 [52]
Gateshead 27 November 2015 4 October 2017 94 37 28 29 039.4 [53]
Port Vale 4 October 2017 Present 62 21 17 24 033.9 [53]
Total 691 325 172 194 047.0


As a player


Port Vale

As a manager


Halifax Town


  1. ^ "Neil Aspin". Barry Hugman's Footballers. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Leeds United: My Whites playing days – Aspin INTERVIEW". Yorkshire Evening Post. 18 April 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  3. ^ "Aspin forgets about settling old scores as Shaymen seek shock". Yorkshire Post. 12 November 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  4. ^ "Hillsborough History". 26 May 2007. Archived from the original on 15 May 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  5. ^ Earle, Robbie (12 January 2012). "Here's my promotion-winning Vale team". The Sentinel. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  6. ^ Kent, Jeff (1996). Port Vale Personalities. Witan Books. p. 10. ISBN 0-9529152-0-0.
  7. ^ a b Kent, Jeff (1993). The Port Vale Record 1879–1993. Witan Books. p. 236. ISBN 0-9508981-9-8.
  8. ^ a b "Neil Aspin". Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  9. ^ a b Lynch, Tony (1995). The Official P.F.A. Footballers Heroes. Random House. p. 150. ISBN 0-09-179135-9.
  10. ^ a b "Anglo-Italian Cup 1995/96". Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation. Retrieved 12 July 2010.
  11. ^ Sherwin, Phil (2010). The Port Vale Miscellany. Brimscombe Port: The History Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-7524-5777-2.
  12. ^ "Neil Aspin set to return in new coaching position". Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  13. ^ "Neil Aspin not returning to Quakers as coach". Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  14. ^ Kent, Jeff (December 1991). Port Vale Tales: A Collection Of Stories, Anecdotes And Memories. Witan Books. p. 298. ISBN 0-9508981-6-3.
  15. ^ "Football: Aspin to leave Town after season ends". Nidderdale Herald. 9 April 2009. Retrieved 15 April 2009.
  16. ^ "FC Halifax Town: New boss at Shay". Halifax Evening Courier. 28 April 2009. Retrieved 28 April 2009.
  17. ^ "Neil Aspin Picks Up Award". FC Halifax Town. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
  18. ^ "Port Vale: How Neil Aspin showed Jamie Vardy the way with a stunner from Vale's 5,999 goals". The Sentinel. 21 April 2016. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  19. ^ a b Hills-Taylor, David. "Pens the Difference in Peter Swales Shield Curtain Raiser". Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  20. ^ "FC Halifax 0–4 Charlton". BBC Sport. 13 November 2011. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  21. ^ a b "Brackley Town 0–1 FC Halifax Town". Archived from the original on 7 June 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  22. ^ a b "Seddon's goal wins West Riding County Cup for FC Halifax Town". Yorkshire Evening Post. 15 May 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  23. ^ Osborne, Chris (4 May 2014). "Cambridge 2 – 0 Halifax Town". BBC Sport. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  24. ^ a b "FC Halifax Town Manager Awarded..." Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  25. ^ "Neil Aspin signs FC Halifax contract extension". BBC Sport. 12 August 2014. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  26. ^ "Neil Aspin one of the favourites for Port Vale post". Halifax Courier. 19 September 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  27. ^ "Match Details - Guiseley 3-0 Halifax Town - WRCC - 1st October 2014 | Aylesbury United FC". Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  28. ^ "Aspin looks ahead after late blows". Yorkshire Post. 27 April 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  29. ^ "Neil Aspin: FC Halifax sack boss after one win in 10 games". BBC Sport. 17 September 2015. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  30. ^ "Aspin appointed Gateshead boss". Gateshead FC. 27 November 2015. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
    "Neil Aspin: Former Halifax boss appointed Gateshead manager". BBC Sport. 27 November 2015. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  31. ^ Wilson, Scott (27 November 2015). "Neil Aspin delighted to be back home with Gateshead". The Northern Echo. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  32. ^ "Neil Aspin and Lee Nogan: Gateshead management duo sign new deals". BBC Sport. 18 August 2016. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
  33. ^ a b "Gateshead's Neil Aspin is Manager of the Month". ITV News. 8 March 2017. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
  34. ^ "Lee Nogan takes charge of Gateshead game amid Neil Aspin speculation". BBC Sport. 3 October 2017. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  35. ^ "Port Vale: Gateshead manager Neil Aspin returns to former club as manager". BBC Sport. 4 October 2016. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  36. ^ Baggaley, Michael (13 October 2017). "Neil Aspin says Port Vale can't afford to sit back". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  37. ^ Baggaley, Michael (14 October 2017). "Neil Aspin thrilled as Tom Pope double helps Port Vale beat Cheltenham 3-1". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  38. ^ Baggaley, Michael (7 November 2017). "Port Vale's Neil Aspin and Tom Pope shortlisted for October awards". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  39. ^ "Neil Aspin: Port Vale manager signs extended two-and-a-half year contract in Burslem". BBC Sport. 22 December 2017. Retrieved 22 December 2017.
  40. ^ Baggaley, Michael (12 January 2018). "Port Vale's Neil Aspin controversially misses out on manager-of-the-month award". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  41. ^ a b Baggaley, Michael (1 February 2018). "Port Vale missed out on signings before deadline, Neil Aspin reveals". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  42. ^ Baggaley, Michael (22 April 2018). "Comment: So many clubs would love a supporter like Port Vale's Tom Pope". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 22 April 2018.
  43. ^ Baggaley, Michael (5 May 2018). "Shocking performance at Cambridge sums up Port Vale's season". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  44. ^ Baggaley, Michael (6 July 2018). "Are Port Vale stronger than last season after their 11 signings?". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  45. ^ Baggaley, Michael (4 October 2018). "Neil Aspin selects highs and lows of his first 12 months in charge at Port Vale". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  46. ^ Baggaley, Michael (22 January 2018). "Neil Aspin says Port Vale are being punished for playing fair". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  47. ^ Baggaley, Michael (19 August 2018). "Port Vale 1, Crawley 0 Verdict: Important win but not a performance to swear by". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  48. ^ Baggaley, Michael (15 January 2018). "Port Vale boss Neil Aspin explains ban on gloves in first-team games". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  49. ^ Neil Aspin at the English National Football Archive (subscription required)
  50. ^ "Stats". Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  51. ^ "2004–05 Harrogate Town Results". Soccerbase. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
    "2005–06 Harrogate Town Results". Soccerbase. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
    "2006–07 Harrogate Town Results". Soccerbase. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
    "2007–08 Harrogate Town Results". Soccerbase. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
    "2008–09 Harrogate Town Results". Soccerbase. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
  52. ^ "FC Halifax Results". fchd. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
  53. ^ a b Neil Aspin management career statistics at Soccerbase
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