MICHAEL PEARLMAN SAYS: Why the apathy over County moving back home to Newport?
8:06am Tuesday 24th June 2014 in Sport
I HAVE to admit I was surprised last week at the total apathy towards Newport County AFC announcing their intention to ditch Cardiff as their permanent training base.
The Exiles will be back in Newport for the new season at Llanwern High School and manager Justin Edinburgh has been successful is fulfilling a long-term aim of bringing Newport home.
He told us at the end of last season that he considered it "a joke and a total nonsense," that the Exiles were forced to train in the capital at the Cardiff University Sports Fields at Llanrumney and the agreement with Llanwern is the culmination of years of discussions, this having been a long-time pet project of former director of football at Newport, Tim Harris.
Darcy Blake, the former Wales international, explained last season that he considered County's relatively poor training facilities as their biggest drawback, the university playing fields exactly fit for purpose.
As a cub reporter on Cardiff University newspaper Gair Rhydd, Llanrumney was a suitable venue to watch Cardiff University firsts against Bath University seconds (my records indicate a 1-1 draw). It is not, however, good enough for a Football League club.
Llanwern, on the other hand, has absolutely superb facilities following a £29 million rebuild and Blake won't be the only player attracted by proper facilities (for the record, I still don't think it impossible he wears Amber again next season).
They have three grass pitches and more pertinently things that they can't get close to at the old training facility in Cardiff, like an all-weather 3G pitch. No more weather related, aborted sessions.
It should also be abundantly obvious that it's good in a PR, commercial and brand sense for County to be visible in the city. They are continuing to improve their standing within their own community and having called for them to do so for years, it's very heartening.
So better facilities, a better location, it all sounds pretty good, doesn't it?
Except it's even better for County fans, because a facility many of you care a great deal for has been saved.
Now back in Newport, County will make a base at their former clubhouse from when they played at Spytty Park, Bar Amber.
The former supporters' bar is being renovated as we speak and having seemed destined for almost certain closure after County moved to Rodney Parade, this is also terrific news for supporters.
The club have stated the renovated facility will contain “A rehab centre, manager and staff offices, a match analysis suite and media facilities."
The club have also stated the renovations have been paid by sponsors.
“The renovation, aided by generous donations from sponsors, will be finished in time for the players to report back for pre-season training on June 30.”
So more good news then?
However, there is a further aspect to this that I feel is worthy of mention.
It's the level of glee the school seemingly have for forming a partnership with Newport County AFC.
Let's go back in time shall we?
You can pick your own period in history and I know many of you go a lot further back than me, but I'll pop just back to various points in the past decade.
Under the stewardship of managers like John Cornforth, Peter Beadle and even Dean Holdsworth, the Exiles were trying to perform like a serious outfit on the field, even though on a day-to-day basis, they were more like a travelling circus.
They had no permanent training base and the preparations for an entire week could be scuppered by factors as vitally important as:
b) not enough rain
c) An u12s athletic meeting
d) A Gwent County League, Division Three, match
Those were the days eh? When sponsors other than passionate County fans like Matt Southall treated the Exiles like they were toxic. When County would turn up at various places to train, only to find that due to a miscommunication, they'd been locked out?
There was absolutely no interest from local institutions in being associated with Newport County.
Those days are long gone.
Llanwern High School head teacher Peter Jenkins said about the link with Justin Edinburgh's men: “With the academy, scholarship and futsal programmes already being run at the school we are delighted to be able to confirm we are the official training and education partner with Newport County.”
Andy Knight, director of business at the school, added: “We are excited to be hosting Newport County and welcome them to Llanwern High School.
“We see the partnership being one that will benefit both Newport County and our pupils.
“Whilst Newport County will benefit from facilities amongst the best in Wales, it will be an opportunity for Newport County to support our students and to, hopefully, encourage a future generation of players.”
I would argue that the comments from Knight, in particular, suggest Llanwern High see the link with County as adding to the attraction of the school and that's wonderful, surely, for a County fan to hear?
So I see the move to Llanwern as an incredibly positive one, with several factors making it a desirable destination for Newport County AFC.
So why weren't you more excited?
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