Lottery winner has new dream: Newport chairman sets sights on Football League
Les Scadding is already a multimillionaire and today life will get even better if his team are promoted
In the recent second series of the BBC drama The Syndicate, about a group of working-class Yorkshire folk who win the Euro Millions lottery, episode one revolved around whether the unmarried mum entrusted with the winning ticket had managed to lose it. The equivalent programme about Les Scadding would have portrayed him as an unemployed tanker driver in his late 50s standing in a Newport Tesco realising he had forgotten his usual numbers and wondering whether to save the money instead.
It was a life-changing, Sliding Doors moment. Before the doors slid shut on his way out, "I just asked for two lucky dips. Those two lines, one won £7.68 and the other £45.5 million". He and his wife, Sam, did the usual thing, splashing out on some property and cars, but this afternoon's reward is one that money cannot (yet) buy.
As chairman of Newport County, Scadding gets to sit in the Royal Box at Wembley and watch his team take on Wrexham in the Conference play-off final. The winners rejoin the Football League, which in Newport's case would be in their centenary season and after an absence of 25 years.
The club's fall from European football in 1981 (as Welsh Cup winners, with John Aldridge scoring the goals) to successive relegations, loss of League status and bankruptcy, was shocking, and the town still spits at the name of Jerry Sherman, an American owner with grand plans who never wrote the necessary cheques. Scadding at that time was watching from the other side of the Severn Bridge, being a Bristolian who followed City and Chelsea.
By the time he asked for his two lucky dips on that fateful day four years ago, Chelsea already had a new owner, with even more money; and Bristol City were unfortunate that, having lost his job, Scadding had long ago been persuaded to join his sister in Newport.
He sympathised with County's nomadic existence as a reformed club in the lower leagues, forced as they were by a dispute with the Football Association of Wales to play in England at Moreton-in-the-Marsh and then Gloucester before returning home to share Rodney Parade with the two local rugby teams.
"I never saw them in the old days at Somerton Park," he said of the club's former home, now a housing estate. "It was quite a feat to get themselves up and going again, having a two-hour trip every time for a home game at Moreton-in-the-Marsh, when every game was like an away game. Then one of the directors I knew, Chris Blight, said why didn't I come down and see a game?" A shrewd move, coming just at the right time for Scadding too.
"I thought, 'I like this' and became a director. I didn't realise how restricted they were financially. I just wanted to be involved and I'm glad I did, I needed to have a focus in my life. It's OK playing golf and having a life of luxury but believe me it does get boring. This has given me a focus – get up in the morning, do what I want, then go down to the ground, get involved. I've got the time, no work commitments. So it's every boy's dream I suppose."
Since becoming chairman early this season, he has been so busy that there has been no time to visit the Barbados home where his neighbours are Sir Bruce Forsyth and Wayne Rooney. Crucially, however, that involvement does not mean simply pouring money into the club. "I was very upfront from the word go, I told everyone that I'm not an open chequebook or a sugar daddy."
When Newport's fine start to the season under the former Tottenham full-back Justin Edinburgh began to falter, however, Scadding personally financed the transfer of striker Christian Jolley from AFC Wimbledon, whose goals were vital in securing a play-off place; Jolley scored again when Grimsby Town were beaten in the home leg of the semi-final last weekend in front of 6,615.
Both today's finalists are actually owned by supporters' trusts. Edinburgh said: "We're classed sometimes as moneybags but every other player we've brought in has been a free transfer. We have a good budget but it probably isn't in the top five of the Conference. The chairman is making it solid and concrete, which is the right way to do it. My last club, Rushden & Diamonds, ceased to exist because of spending what you haven't got."
Scadding, now 63, has learnt lessons too, after beating testicular cancer, coming through a divorce and remarrying, becoming unemployed and then deciding to buy those £2 Lucky Dips.
"When people say it doesn't change your life," he said of the lottery win, "that's probably the worst thing anyone can say. It does change your life, but it's how you allow it to. I've never changed from what I am. I've always been me. I still go in shops and think, 'I'm not paying that'."
The same applies to buying footballers, although Edinburgh, who has just signed a new contract, may be shopping for some this summer. Today's events at Wembley will decide whether any new recruits will be playing in Newport County's first League campaign since 1988.
Wrexham v Newport County is live on Premier Sports today, kick-off 3pm
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