COUNTY TEST HAS MADE ME A PROPER MAN
I’VE written before in this column that when the call came asking me to consider the job at Newport, I was hesitant. Bottom of the League, one win in 13 games, out of the EFL Trophy and EFL Cup and a closed transfer window! I knew things were not going to be easy. I chose to join because I love football and hate not being involved, because the people on the board were genuinely nice guys, because it was a compliment to be wanted and because I knew that taking the challenge would re-affirm I have character and guts. Cracking it would also promote my leadership and managerial ability. The challenge is tougher than I had imagined because the issues are club issues and not just football issues. For a start, we share a rugby pitch. It is different to, say, Wycombe who shared their football pitch with Wasps. We have a rugby pitch, with rugby drainage. We get access only on match days and we lose games to the weather easily. The players can get despondent about their ‘home’. On the face of it we have a great training facility at the International Sports Village. In reality, access is limited and pitch arrangements are poor. We have a very limited full- time staff. Currently, a director plays a part time role as interim secretary and we then have a two-man team on finance and commercial running EVERYTHING else, with help from volunteers. It makes an organised existence very awkward. So, you can see that there are lots of excuses to cling to at Newport. The key to our five wins, three draws and five losses in 13 games, a significant improvement, has been to focus on the strengths in our squad and create a way of playing and working that the best of our squad believe in. And also to focus on what we have got, not on what we haven’t got. I have learned enormously. For instance, I have realised we need to build significantly different game philosophies at home and away because of pitch conditions. Our intense philosophy, that has served us well in playing devastating football in recent away wins, has not always helped us at home and we have begun to develop selection and approach accordingly. My starting 11 last weekend finally had Marlon Jackson and Joss Labadie in it. With those two joining experienced players like Joe Day, Darren Jones, Scot Bennett, Jenn Myrie Williams and Ben Tozer in our team, we have hundreds of FL starts to call on now. Very positive. Supplementing that with the youth of Josh Sheehan, Jazzi Barnum Bobb, Tom Owen-Evans and Josh O’Hanlon creates a team with a brilliant blend of youth and experience. We have Sean Rigg to come back in, too, which will stiffen us, while the experienced Abdu Meite has shown his international class in performance but, more importantly, in attitude. Those two are among our back-up, which we will no doubt strengthen in January. I’ve allowed four players to move on to create some room to bolster our strength. The fans are getting behind us, and the spirit of common purpose around the club is both intense and exciting. Newport County is enormously challenging, but it makes a proper man of you. And the feeling of achievement from every win is even stronger because of what it takes to deliver it.
PURE GOLD: Rhys Healey celebrates scoring for Newport BLOCKER: Kyle Cameron helps frustrate Carlisle