Newport given green light to build for promotion

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Of all the clubs who have dropped out of the Football League since re-election was replaced by relegation, Newport County have had the most problems to overcome.

Of all the clubs who have dropped out of the Football League since re-election was replaced by relegation, Newport County have had the most problems to overcome.

The Gwent club went out of business during the 1988-89 season, their first in non-League football. Resurrected by their supporters and exiled from their home town because of disputes with the Football Association of Wales and the local authorities, Newport found themselves playing in the humble Hellenic League using a tiny ground in Gloucestershire, 85 miles away, as their base.

Promotion to what is now the Dr Martens League was soon won, as was a return to their old ground, Somerton Park, but their refusal to join the League of Wales meant another spell of exile in Gloucestershire. It took a High Court injunction to bring them back to their home town, and in 1994 they moved into Spytty Park, a new council-owned stadium.

Since then Newport have twice won promotion to the Dr Martens Premier Division, but their hopes of further progress to the Nationwide Conference, and their dream of a return to the Football League, have been threatened by difficulties in developing Spytty Park.

Newport Borough Council shocked County in the summer by announcing that it might be up to 10 years before it could find the funds to bring the stadium up to Conference and League standards. Last week, though, after weeks of lobbying, the council changed course and revealed that the required money would be made available in the near future.

County will also raise some of the funds needed. The club's chairman, John Williams, said that the council "should be applauded for the confidence it has shown in the [County] board of directors, and for its ambition to bring first-class football back to Newport.

"Sport has an important place to play in the future of Newport," Williams added, "and the town is baying for success. We are hungry for that success, and we ask the people of Newport to support that appetite and make the dream a reality." However, County slipped into the relegation zone after last weekend's 3-1 defeat to Folkestone Invicta - a result manager Tim Harris described as "nothing short of embarrassing".

Tomorrow, though, Newport turn their attention to the FA Cup - they entertain their South Wales rival Merthyr Tydfil in the second qualifying round. On police advice, the tie is all-ticket and will kick off at noon.

Another FA Cup derby sees Weymouth entertain their Dorset rivals Dorchester Town. Weymouth's new striker Darran Rowbotham, recently recruited from Exeter City, is likely to be marked by his brother Jason, the former Plymouth Argyle defender.

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