MICHAEL PEARLMAN SAYS: South-west is best for celebrating Edinburgh
SOUTH-west is definitely best for Newport County AFC, proud owners of back-to-back Football League victories.
Not bad for a squad with more injuries than a particularly fraught episode of Casualty, that type that would see Charlie Fairhead looking even more angst ridden than usual.
The Exiles are continuing to look every bit a competitive League Two side, bordering on play-off contenders, heading towards Justin Edinburgh’s magical mark of 15 games, the time he feels it fair to assess their progress.
It’s tough to argue with that, you’re only ever a couple of wins or defeats from hyperbole or crisis in English football, but it’s far easier to assess Edinburgh’s input.
Friday marks the two-year anniversary of Edinburgh’s appointment as Newport’s sixth manager in just nine years and it’s far from just stability that he has brought to the Exiles.
Edinburgh’s achievements since his appointment are scarcely credible, with two trips to Wembley, promotion to the Football League following near relegation the previous season just the tip of the iceberg.
The County have come on leaps and bounds off the field, even upgrading said field immeasurably with the Rodney Parade move Edinburgh coveted so vociferously paying rich dividends, the match day experience for Exiles fans now far richer than it ever was at Spytty Park.
Edinburgh’s enjoyed two wonderful years and the job he’s done is surely best illustrated by the phenomenal dividends reaped by his player trading.
Two years ago, in his first contest, a 3-0 reverse at home to Southport, his side lined up: Thompson, Rodgers, Baker, Warren, Hatswell, Miller, Rose, Doherty, McAllister, Jarvis, Buchanan.
Of his entire match day 16 (he could name 18 now, but never can) only Andrew Hughes is still at the club. At the risk of being unkind, only Gary Warren, Danny Rose and sub Sam Foley are missed, with Wayne Hatswell remaining as a coach.
It’s startling progress and off the field the club have followed suit, now with more sponsorship and endorsement agreements than Posh and Becks.
The 800-hardy souls who adorned Spytty on a regular basis have been replaced by 3000+ who can find their way to Rodney Parade and a series of moves have been made to give the club a more professional feel.
Indeed, at the risk of stoking the dying embers of a previous fire, it would appear relations have even improved in what had been a damaging fracture at the club, with the Smile Council’s involvement with the youth set-up catching my eye.
Irrespective of how well things are going, it can never be productive to have previously influential fund-raising arms feeling alienated. Hopefully we’ve finally all moved on from the ‘consortium’ and subsequent ill-feeling and this is just the start of a beautiful friendship.
Indeed, had it not been for an hour of madness from the unfortunate – and very talented – Tom Naylor, Newport would be looking at three successive League Two triumphs.
As it is, back-to-back wins have been achieved, a feat not seen since the days where Maradona got a bit handy and Ron Atkinson was the man at the helm of perennial underachievers Manchester United, way back in 1986.
Even with their ridiculous injury list, Newport look strong in terms of their goal options and strength in depth at centre half, two absolutely vital areas at the lower end of the Football League.
By all accounts the Exiles were poor in the second half on Saturday after the Gulls’ goal, but there is a resiliency and strength of character in the current squad that is increasingly evident.
No side will get an easy game at Rodney Parade and in Conor Washington – as previously tipped in this column – County might have unearthed the next big League Two star, Conor Washington. If anyone sees any reason why Washington can’t be the next Jamie Vardy, drop me a Tweet and let me know. From my perspective, the natural finisher who now seems to have added to his all-round game looks destined for a very bright future indeed.
Whether the same can be said for the Exiles of course remains to be seen, but as Edinburgh celebrates an anniversary, the signs look extremely encouraging.
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