FORMER Swindon Town chief executive Nick Watkins has pledged his support to Swindon Town Supporters’ Trust’s pursuit of buying the County Ground, admitting it was a project he tried to move forward during his five-year tenure at the club.

As reported by the Adver ahead of the Trust STFC’s annual meeting in March, the fans’ organisation have been in conversation with Swindon Borough Council about the purchase of Town’s current home for the last two years, with an initial bid of £1.1million tabled.

A meeting between the respective parties took place on April 27, in which it is understood the council continued to show a willingness to sell to the Trust, although a final price is still to be agreed.

Having explored a similar plan during his five years at the County Ground between 2008 and 2013, Watkins has given the Trust a huge shot in the arm by lending them his considerable knowledge of the size and scope of the project at hand.

“I have been exceptionally impressed by the work, energy, vision and professionalism that Stephen Mytton, James Phipps and others have done in bringing Trust STFC into the position that it now occupies,” said Watkins, whose remit with the Trust will go no further than the County Ground bid.

“It is a far cry from where it was in 2013 and they are to be applauded for the commitment and passion.

“I have always believed that a redeveloped County Ground not only offers long-term financial security for the club, something that has long evaded it, but also it would offer an important gateway into a town that is rapidly growing. “It was unfinished business when I left the club in March 2013 and so if I can support the new initiative in some small way, then I would be delighted to do so.

“However, my interest lies only in a redeveloped County Ground project, I have no desire to be involved beyond that. My life outside of football every Saturday afternoon and the occasional Tuesday evening, has very much moved on.”

The Trust are set to hold a fans’ meeting at the MECA, in Regents Circus, this evening, starting at 7pm, to update supporters on the progress of the bid as well as other issues raised at their AGM and are pleased with the progress being made with their proposal.

A Trust spokesperson said: “We are delighted to report that, subject to conducting his own due diligence around Trust STFC’s redevelopment plans and meeting the key board members, in principle, Nick would be willing to give his support to the re-development initiatives. “He has stressed, however, that his interest is restricted to the development opportunity, because this was a project he was very committed to.

“He recognises that financial self-sustainability for Swindon Town can only ever be achieved through the ownership of core assets and their subsequent commercial exploitation. “When in office and in pursuit of the County Ground redevelopment, Nick spearheaded the discussions with Swindon Borough Council, developers, architects and potential commercial partners.

“The discussions around this important project were fast gaining momentum before Andrew Black and fellow investors withdrew further funding in January 2013.”

Watkins left Town in March of 2013 after a consortium headed by Jed McCrory assumed control of the club.