AFTER turning off and tuning out for a few weeks as my attention went exclusively to Brazil and the World Cup it’s time for us to return to the grind of domestic football.
What’s that? You don’t find it a grind? You’re excited, thrilled even, that ‘proper’ football is back and the County will be competing again at Rodney Parade in under a fortnight, you say?
Good. It’s not just me then.
I’ve expressed the belief before that the internet in general is a forum that is more comfortable dealing with righteous indignation and furious anger than praise, excitement or general happiness and that’s certainly been the case recently with online County stories.
The reaction to the friendlies being moved from Rodney Parade was over the top in my view, but in anyone’s view, some of the abuse of chief executive Dave Boddy was ridiculous and reminiscent of the old days of attacks on Chris Blight.
Boddy is constantly found guilty by supporters of crimes by assumption, “I presume Mr Boddy is to blame for this,” is about as overused a statement as “Keep Calm and Insert Slogan here” is. The move to Spytty Park for the Jena game and tonight’s clash with Coventry, wasn’t down to Mr Boddy.
However, I don’t believe for a second that the few represent the majority and I am confident, even adamant, that most Exiles fans are excited to be returning to action in just 11 days. Indeed, even those who can’t help but moan about everything, are probably looking forward to the football returning (and not just because it gives them more to moan about).
We love it, we are hooked, the domestic season enthrals us and Newport County AFC will begin a second season back in the elite of the top 92 as a club beginning to create an identity for themselves.
Newport County AFC, the club with the shared rugby stadium, the pitch can be rubbish but the atmosphere is really intimidating for away players.
Newport County AFC, the club with the young manager who has already been there for (relatively) ages, who has enjoyed success and seems to want to create a real legacy at the club.
Newport County AFC, the club who are trying to focus on youth and who just appointed one of their most popular players to work at the apex of their academy.
Newport County AFC, the club who play the transfer market so well that they sell a major asset for at least a five figure fee every January, from Craig Reid to Danny Rose to Paul Bignot to Lee Evans and then Conor Washington.
Newport County AFC, the club where every single first team player is required to live locally, to embrace South Wales and to understand the history of this unique football club.
Newport County AFC, the club where the fans refused to roll over and let it die and who scraped and battled for 25-years to reach the Promised Land of the Football League again.
Newport County AFC, the club whose fans will raise thousands of pounds for the club or the charity, because often times they have hearts bigger than their wallets.
There is a lot to be excited about at the County and under Justin Edinburgh, I do have belief that there is likely to be progress, even if it isn’t as rapid as some might hope.
He is a manager who is still a work in progress himself – he made mistakes last season, on his handling of Mike Flynn and David Pipe, in having automatic contract extension clauses – and he’s held his hands up to that.
I’m not certain he yet qualifies as County’s greatest ever manager, still surely Len Ashurst for the European exploits alone, but Edinburgh has the determination and staying power to eclipse even Ashurst.
He is attempting to build brick-by-brick, with County working hard behind the scenes on projects that will help to safeguard their future, the move to Llanwern High School the first step on the road to having a much bigger presence in the city.
However, while I’m excited for what is to come, I am totally unsure, more so than ever before, on how I expect County to perform in League Two and the cups this term.
One would assume drawing Reading away will make it tough for the Exiles to extend their run in the Capital One Cup, but Edinburgh really covets an FA Cup run, for financial reasons, in terms of creating memories and giving his players vital experience in big games and that competition will be taken very seriously at Rodney Parade.
In terms of their aims for League Two, it’s incredibly tough to predict how the Exiles will perform; because of seven strikers on their books, only Chris Zebroski doesn’t have a question mark by his name.
I believe County will thrive or fail depending on the performances of their forwards, because in terms of personnel with their goalkeeper, defenders and midfielders, the Exiles have good strength and depth.
I don’t see County going up automatically, nor do I think they’ll contest a relegation dog fight, but that’s about as close as I can get to predicting their campaign.
I honestly feel anything between 4th and about 18th is possible and hope only for a more consistent campaign than last year, because another year of League Two consolidation would be no bad thing.
I apologise for such indecisiveness, but I am at least sure of one thing. I can’t wait for the new season to get underway.