THRILLED defender Ian Hillier is close to rejoining Newport County after a dramatic U-turn from both club and player.
The former Luton and Tottenham defender and ex-County captain took the Exiles to a Conference and Conference South appeal board panel last month after the club terminated his contract after he suffered a broken leg working as a tree surgeon.
Hillier won the appeal, but the Exiles decided to take the matter further and all parties met at FAW headquarters in Cardiff Bay on Monday.
However, in a hugely surprising decision, County asked for a private conversation with Hillier and his PFA representative Martin Buchan, formerly Manchester United’s record signing, just 20 minutes before their appeal was due to be heard.
Hillier was offered a deal to remain with the club and the player has revealed to the Argus he will accept the terms offered.
County chairman Chris Blight caused a storm with certain supporters last month by insisting Hillier owed the club an apology for getting injured.
Similarly, the club captain insisted he would not play for the Exiles again under the present regime.
However, in news that will delight the Spytty Park faithful, both parties have had dramatic changes of heart.
Exiles solicitor John Allison confirmed: “We can’t say too much at the moment as the matter is in Ian’s hands, though we are hopeful he will agree to the offer we have made him, which we believe to be in the best interests of both parties.
“We would hope to make a full statement later in the week after we have heard back from Ian.
“If he agrees to the deal, we can look forward to seeing Ian back in the County shirt.”
The Argus understands that County’s cautious stance on celebrating the good news is unnecessary, as Hillier is keen to accept the deal.
“I must say I am totally shocked, this is great news for me and what I wanted all along,” Hillier said.
“I love the club and I have always wanted to stay.
“When I said I wouldn’t play under the current board, it was out of hurt and disappointment and because I didn’t think I was wanted.
“But on Monday they came to me 20 minutes before the appeal and we talked and the offer was made.
“Hopefully everything will be sorted this week.”
Hillier admits the news comes at the perfect time with Christmas around the corner.
“It’s been a tough time for myself and my family, worrying about money, but this news means I can now focus fully on getting fit.
“My rehabilitation is going fantastically well.
“I will be ready to do some light jogging next week and hopefully can rejoin full training sooner rather than later.
“I believe I can get back playing again this season, definitely.
“The gaffer (County boss Dean Holdsworth) has been fantastic with me and he has said he will arrange for me to spend a week at Lilleshall working on my fitness when the time is right.”
The Argus understands that County will formally confirm the agreement with Hillier at the end of the week.
Several supporters expressed their disgust at the treatment of Hillier and vowed to stay away from Spytty Park.
Saturday’s FAW Trophy attendance of just over 600 will have come as a huge disappointment to the Exiles hierarchy.
However, they have now moved to make things right and Hillier’s imminent return has been extremely well received by the playing staff.