Simon Hart: Justin Edinburgh offers second chances at born-again Newport

Life Beyond the Premier League

To the outsider, South Wales is a place associated with the old stereotypes of rugby, coal mines and male voice choirs yet it is developing a nice line in football fairy stories too, and not just for the presence of Swansea City in today's Europa League play-off draw. The rebirth of Newport County AFC is arguably an even more romantic tale – one involving exile from Wales, five promotions, a lottery-winning chairman and, now, a spectacular return to the Football League after 25 years.

If beating Accrington Stanley 4-1 in their opening League Two fixture last Saturday was not pleasing enough, Justin Edinburgh's side then went and won 3-1 at Brighton in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday – a victory wrapped up by a goal from a player who 12 months ago was working as a postman, Conor Washington, and which has earned them a second-round trip to West Bromwich Albion.

Newport's club president David Hando was one of 500 travelling fans at the Amex Stadium, and was there at Rodney Parade last Saturday too when, as he explains: "We had to turn people away." It is a far cry from the day in February 1989 when Hando saw Enfield turn up for a Conference fixture at Newport's old Somerton Park home only to find the gates locked. That came nine months after relegation from the old Fourth Division; the winding-up order that followed concluded the ruinous tenure of a controversial American owner, Jerry Sherman, who left debts of £300,000.

It is thanks, in large part, to the efforts of Hando and a group of like-minded fans that Newport has a League team today. They set up a phoenix club called Newport AFC (renamed Newport County AFC in 1999) with Hando serving as vice-president. The road back was long: the new team had to start again in the Hellenic League, playing their first season in the Gloucestershire town of Moreton-in-Marsh. After two seasons back at Somerton Park, a second, two-year spell in exile at Gloucester City began in 1992 after the Football Association of Wales responded to their refusal to join the League of Wales by refusing to sanction their participation in the English game – an argument County won in the High Court.

"We didn't expect the barriers to be put in our way, like having to go into exile twice," says Hando. "It has taken a long time but the pace has accelerated recently, with the appointment of Justin Edinburgh and move to Rodney Parade."

Although Dean Holdsworth had led County into the Conference in 2010, they sat bottom when Edinburgh, the former Tottenham Hotspur full-back, replaced Anthony Hudson in October 2011. Nineteen months later, they were celebrating a Wembley play-off triumph over Wrexham – a success which, for Edinburgh, topped his FA Cup and League Cup final wins with Tottenham. "There is no doubt that was the pinnacle of my footballing career," he says, adding: "Tuesday went a long way to rivalling it."

Edinburgh had managed four non-League teams previously – Billericay Town, Fisher Athletic, Grays Athletic and Rushden & Diamonds – yet always had a "burning desire" to climb higher. "When I started at Billericay, that was my main aim. It took me a bit longer than I expected," he says. The 43-year-old has the benefit of a wealthy chairman in Les Scadding, winner of £45.5m on the EuroMillions lottery, who took over in August last year, just as Newport were beginning a 10-year tenancy at Newport Rugby Club's Rodney Parade stadium. That agreement allowed the club to focus on squad building, with Scadding's wealth enabling Edinburgh to sign AFC Wimbledon striker Christian Jolley, who scored 15 goals last term.

That said, Edinburgh dismisses their "moneybags" tag. "I've probably brought in 25-30 players in 20 months and three of them I've purchased," he says. "I managed to keep 15 of last year's squad so continuity is the key."

Edinburgh has forged a formidable spirit despite his willingness to gamble on players with a reputation – captain David Pipe and midfielder Adam Chapman have both served prison terms while striker Chris Zebroski left two previous clubs for disciplinary reasons.

"A lot of them have had a second opportunity," adds the manager of a club whose own second chance has finally arrived.

News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
People walk through Autumn leaves in St James's Park yesterday
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits