A rough guide to... Newport County

Cod Almighty | Article

by Miles Moss

1 August 2016

The resurrection of Newport County was one of the glories of the game. But now the revival is fading and recriminations are in the air.

How are you?

Newport County – or Clwb Pêl-droed Sir Casnewydd if you're feeling a bit Cymraeg after this summer's Euros – are a vague acquaintance; someone you've nodded to a few times down the pub, but don't really know that well. Of a mere eight encounters in their current incarnation, County have the slight edge, having won three to Town's two. However the last Newport wins were the play-off semi-final defeats in 2013, which have perhaps left the Mariners with a score to settle.

Short time, no see?

Last time we wrote about Newport they'd been on the up-and-up, with promotions from the Hellenic League to the Conference. After promotion to the fourth division, the first two seasons were pretty solid, with 14th- and then 9th-place finishes.

Last season, by contrast, was full of incident. Having lost manager Justin Edinburgh and his stand-in Jimmy Dack earlier in 2015, County started the 2015-16 season with Terry Butcher in charge. This must have seemed like a promising appointment, but it soon all went tits-up.

Euromillions jackpot winner Les Scadding resigned as chairman to spend more time with his family. And the rest of his £45 million. At his other home in Barbados. Like you do. By October, when the supporters' trust smashed its £195,000 fundraising campaign and took over, the club was rock-bottom, with five points from the first ten matches. The trust sacked Butcher, and results picked up under his replacement John Sheridan, until Oldham poached him and Warren Feeney took over. Keeping up with this?

'Inconsistent' is the word for last season: the biggest winning streak was two matches, though a 10-game unbeaten run under Sheridan meant that on 12 March, when they beat Portsmouth 3-0, they had 40 points. Just as well, as the last quarter of the season comprised three draws and eight defeats. County finished staring into the abyss in 22nd, and their supporters breathed a sigh of relief.

How are you feeling?

Dodgy elections and political mud-slinging seem to have been de rigueur this summer, and Newport joined in the fun. The messageboards were full of accusations about a dodgy election for the latest trust board, missing ballot papers, nepotism and favouritism, financial wrongdoings, conspiracy theories... it didn't sound like the best atmosphere to start a season in and early results have not been encouraging. Let's hope it all blows over and they can have a nice cup of tea and get on with the football.

Squad-wise, a few names jump out, not least Lenell John-Lewis, who might have been pulling on a Town strip again but for an untimely knackered knee which scuppered the move. That injury seems likely to keep 'The Shop' out until Christmas. Maybe he'll use his spare time to film an advert.

While County carry on looking at Lenny's knee and drawing air in through pursed lips, they've been quick to sign up the vast experience, not to mention girth, of Jon Parkin. We can scoff. But hey, so can he. Sorry, that was an open goal. You can't miss an open goal... this whole paragraph is going to come back to haunt me, isn't it? To be fair, Parkin is currently Newport's top scorer with three goals.

Finally, I must mention another new signing, defender Jazzi Barnum-Bobb. Jazzi Barnum-Bobb played on loan from Cardiff last season, but Jazzi Barnum-Bobb has now signed a permanent deal, that Jazzi Barnum-Bobb has. I have no idea if he's a good player or not – I just can't stop saying his name.

Where are you from?

Newport has a broad range of industries to boast about, large insurance and financial companies, technology manufacturing bases, and Airbus Defence and Space. The Office for National Statistics and the Patent Office are also local employers – plenty of variety there for schools' careers officers to suggest to the sullen kids of the city who don't know what they want to do when they grow up.

It's this sort of diversity that seems to have saved Newport from the very worst during economic crashes. Coal, unsurprisingly, was behind the port's rapid growth in the 19th century, but where the Great Depression utterly devastated the south Wales mining communities, Newport had, quite literally, other irons in the fire, with local foundries, engineering industries and farming to help take up some of the coal slack.

The Exiles, not actually exiled, have played their home games back in Newport since the early 90s, but have only been at Rodney Parade since 2012. I've looked at Rodney Parade on Google Earth, and I like what I see. The ground is on the banks of the River Usk, right in the centre of Newport and a short walk from transport links, local shops, pubs and houses. There's no car parking on site, but if a big expanse of tarmac is your priority over a picturesque setting in the heart of a community, you need your head examining. Think on, Grimsby planners.

You must be so glad to be alive?

There may be some sniping and shenanigans going on right now, but Newport have come back from the dead. Relegated, relegated, bankrupted and forced out of business in 1989 over what now looks like a top-division weekly wage, £330,000, they're back up here the hard way after a fan-generated resurrection, homelessness and four promotions.

Even on the darkest days, any Exiles fan who has been through that must be able to take a step back and be glad they still have a club to cherish.

The image on the front page is a cropped image of the city of Newport, showing Rodney Parade on the bank of the River Usk. © Copyright Robin Drayton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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