Neil Fissler re­ports all the lat­est hot gossip from the trans­fer mar­ket

The Football League Paper - - NEWS -

AQUAR­TER of a cen­tury af­ter they last played League football, New­port County are back in the top 92 with a man­ager whose name can now be writ­ten along­side the likes of John Aldridge, Tommy Ty­nan, Len Ashurst and Colin Ad­di­son in the an­nals of the south Wales club.

Not that Justin Ed­in­burgh needs any in­tro­duc­tion to the Football League. Af­ter all, he spent ten years in the Premier­ship with Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur as a feisty full-back.

It has taken him the same pe­riod of time, how­ever, to find his way back through the game’s grass-roots, serv­ing a man­age­rial ap­pren­tice­ship to get to a level where next sea­son he will take his team to his other for­mer play­ing clubs, Southend United and Portsmouth, in League Two.

Last Sun­day’s Blue Square Bet Pre­mier play-off fi­nal win over Welsh ri­vals Wrex­ham at Wem­b­ley sealed the 43-yearold’s jour­ney from Bil­ler­icay Town, in the Ry­man Pre­mier Di­vi­sion, through Fisher Ath­letic, Grays and Rush­den & Di­a­monds to the fourth tier of English football.

Over a pint in his lo­cal Chelms­ford pub, Ed­in­burgh says: “It’s prob­a­bly taken me longer than I’d en­vis­aged but I’ll be go­ing back to two of my old clubs on a level play­ing field at last.

“I’ve had to put up with plenty of tri­als and tribu­la­tions along the way, from clubs im­plod­ing fi­nan­cially to trag­i­cally los­ing play­ers like Dale Roberts, who took his own life at Rush­den & Di­a­monds.

“I went through ev­ery emo­tion pos­si­ble there, see­ing how it af­fected his team-mates’ ev­ery­day lives. Noth­ing can pre­pare you for that. I had to be a coun­sel­lor and have coun­selling my­self, but I know I can deal with most things now as a man­ager.”

Ed­in­burgh was out of work through no fault of his own – nei­ther sacked nor hav­ing re­signed from the de­funct Nene Park club – when New­port came call­ing in early Oc­to­ber 2011.

They were sec­ond-from­bot­tom 13 games into a sea­son in which they had fi­nan­cially backed rookie man­ager An­thony Hud­son to bring League sta­tus back to the Ex­iles.

Ed­in­burgh steered them to safety and a trip to Wem­b­ley in the FA Tro­phy fi­nal be­fore re­build­ing the squad.


Only for­mer Wales in­ter­na­tional David Pipe, ex-Bar­net and AFC Wim­ble­don defender Is­mail Yakubu and lo­cal young­ster An­drew Hughes re­main from those he in­her­ited, while ex­pe­ri­enced lo­cal boys Tony James and By­ron An­thony ar­rived to bol­ster a back­line or­gan­ised by exChelsea and Mill­wall keeper Lenny Pidge­ley.

An­other re­cruit, Euromillions lot­tery win­ner Les Scadding as chair­man, en­abled Ed­in­burgh’s bud­get to be in­creased as a po­ten­tially lu­cra­tive sea­son – in which they fell out of the top four at the end of only one match­day – went on. But they were by no means big spenders.

The bud­get paled into in­signif­i­cance along­side that en­joyed by re­cent pro­mo­tion win­ners Craw­ley Town and Fleet­wood, and even the likes of Mans­field Town, For­est Green Rovers and Lu­ton in the cur­rent Con­fer­ence set-up.

The £25,000 spent on AFC Wim­ble­don for­ward Chris­tian Jol­ley in Jan­uary was more than paid back by his 16th goal in 25 starts at Wem­b­ley last Sun­day, land­ing New­port around £700,000 in guar­an­teed cen­tral fund­ing as a Football League club.

“To fin­ish 19th one sea­son and then get pro­mo­tion the next is an amaz­ing achieve­ment by the play­ers,” says Ed­in­burgh.

“We’ve got a lot of play­ers with League ex­pe­ri­ence but at a good age, and dif­fer­ent peo­ple have driven us on at dif­fer­ent times. Aaron O’Con­nor scored 17 by Novem­ber. Max Porter was great in mid­field be­fore he got a sea­son-end­ing in­jury.

“The back three of Yaks, Jamo and By­ron have been un­be­liev­able to­wards the end, with the wing-backs – Pipey and Andy San­dell – ei­ther side of them.

“Danny Crow has had his low­est scor­ing haul since he left Peter­bor­ough, but when he’s played we’ve only lost twice.Then Chris­tian has come in and been a rev­e­la­tion.

“It’s been a col­lec­tive ef­fort from a re­ally tight group that I be­lieve can only get bet­ter.We have got a lot out of con­tract, but I’m pretty con­fi­dent we’ll se­cure all of them, then look to add five play­ers who are mov­ing up rather than on their way down to add that bit of hunger.”

It is not only Ed­in­burgh that has had a hunger to reach the League again. New­port went bust part­way through the 198889 Con­fer­ence sea­son, af­ter be­ing rel­e­gated from Di­vi­sion Four the pre­vi­ous cam­paign.


They were re­formed, ini­tially as New­port AFC, fol­low­ing a meet­ing of 400 fans but were forced to play in Glouces­ter­shire be­cause the Welsh FA re­fused to al­low them to com­pete in the English Pyra­mid from Wales.

They won the Hel­lenic League and have slowly pro­gressed as New­port County AFC, re­gain­ing League sta­tus in their first sea­son since mov­ing to ground­share with New­port Gwent Dragons rugby club at Rod­ney Pa­rade, where 6,500 watched the play­off semi-fi­nal win over Grimsby.

“Like Wim­ble­don be­fore them, and Ch­ester and Dar­ling­ton now, they lost their ex­is­tence but de­cided to re­form and it’s amaz­ing what can be done,” says Ed­in­burgh.

“It makes me un­be­liev­ably proud to achieve what we have, be­cause from go­ing into Biller- icay ten years, I now un­der­stand what goes on. So many peo­ple give up their free time to vol­un­teer and put their own money in.

“Mike Everett, the sec­re­tary, has been there from day one and he took money out of his own ac­count to pay play­ers’ wages. To see some­one like that crying on Sun­day makes you un­der­stand.

“Af­ter the semi-fi­nal sec­ond leg, we went into New­port with the play­ers, the staff, the chair­man and some of the di­rec­tors.

“We went into the lo­cal pubs near Rod­ney Pa­rade. It isn’t some­where I’d take my wife on a Satur­day night, but my friends and fam­ily came with me and our feet were stick­ing to the car­pet at times.

“But to see the joy on the fans’ faces…and what it would mean again if we did ac­com­plish what we did at Wem­b­ley…it in­cen­tivises you.”

And al­though he has achieved his aim of be­ing a Football League man­ager, Ed­in­burgh in­tends to keep on ris­ing.

“I want to go to the next level per­son­ally, and it’s not un­usual for teams to be suc­cess­ful in the next level up,” he adds. “How many teams have we seen do back to back pro­mo­tions?

“It opens up.There are seven teams that go for pro­mo­tion, rather than five in the Con­fer­ence.”

GLOVE AF­FAIR: New­port’s Wem­b­ley hero Chris­tian Jol­ley

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