Newport County: The Exiles return from the wilderness

Dreams sometimes come true. Newport County and their chairman Les Scadding are living proof of that.

Four years after the former tanker driver scooped £45m on the EuroMillions lottery, and over two decades after the old club were liquidated with debts of £330,000, Newport County AFC will this weekend return to the Football League.

In terms of a 'triumph over adversity' story, this one takes some beating.

Driven out of business and out of Wales just seven years after they reached the quarter-finals of the European Cup Winners Cup, a new club was formed with the daunting task of returning to the level of their former glories.

Newport County timeline

  • 1988: Relegated from the Football League
  • 1989 (Feb): Club goes out of business with debts of £330,000
  • 1989 (June): New club formed by 400 fans with David Hando as chairman
  • 1990: Win the Hellenic League
  • 1995: Promoted to Southern League Premier
  • 2004: Entered into Conference South after re-organisation of non-League football
  • 2010: Win Conference South
  • 2012: Reach FA Trophy final, beaten 2-0 by York City
  • 2013: Beat Wrexham 2-0 in Play-off final to win promotion to the Football League

Initially they were forced to play their home games at Moreton-in-Marsh in Gloucestershire, an exile that would not end until a successful court battle with the Football Association of Wales earned them a place to call their own back in Newport in the 1994-95 season.

"I was thinking, 'this is not nice'," said Tony Gilbert, who retired in April and ended a 38-year association with the club in which he filled the roles of kit man, groundsman and physio among others.

"I said to Dave Williams [caretaker manager at the time of the liquidation] 'I can't sit here and watch these people coming in, taking notes, writing things down and putting labels on things, because if someone doesn't come in with the money, we've had it'.

"A few days later we were wound up. I've still got a cheque for £4.50 that bounced. I took it in twice I was so desperate.

"I then had a phone call from [former manager] John Relish, who said: 'David Hando [now club president] is trying to organise a get-together to get the club going again'. I said: 'Count me in.'

"But I thought it'd only go for a couple of years."

Gilbert it seems, like many others, doubted the resolve of those determined not to let their club die.

Twenty-five years and multiple promotions later, their commitment has been rewarded and the club have achieved what looked impossible back in the Hellenic League days.

May's dramatic victory over Wrexham in the Conference play-off final was the last chapter in an incredible season for Welsh football, one in which the country's four leading clubs shared two promotions and two cup final victories.

Newport ready to write new chapter

But the big challenge is still to come.

"I stated when I first came to the club that I wanted to be a [Football] League manager. I've done it with Newport County and we now want to drive on," manager Justin Edinburgh said.

But he is not one to rest on his laurels, adding: "We want to be competitive. We want to make sure that, as we did last year, we give a good account of ourselves.

"Short term, we want to get points on the board and learn about the league. If we can be in and around that top half around Christmas then we can re-assess it then. First and foremost we have to make sure we're still in this league."

New players have arrived. Harry Worley, Adam Chapman and Chris Zebroski all have league experience while goalkeeper Jamie Stephens used to be on Liverpool's books. The core of the squad has also been kept intact, most notably striker Aaron O'Connor, last season's top scorer, who was courted by several League One clubs this summer.

Scadding, a Newport fan, funded the signing of striker Christian Jolley, who scored the goal at Wembley to get them promoted, out of his own pocket.

But he plays down the part his bulging bank balance has played in the club's success since he arrived in April 2012.

"I'm not a sugar daddy," he said.

"I'm not an open cheque book. But as I've always said, if we're in a position to do something, and we need another player and Justin comes to talk to me we usually find a way round it."

Living within their means - as they have had to in climbing the non-League pyramid - is definitely the message from Scadding, but he will not let that curb his ambition.

He said: "I think we could do a lot more than people are expecting of us. To be first hand with experience of the players and what you feel from the players, how close they are together, there's a real belief there.

"I'm going to put my head on the block and say I think we can make the play-offs."

Well, you'd hardly expect him not to feel lucky would you?