TODAY marks an extremely special anniversary for Newport County, one that it would be easy to overlook or forget about in light of the Exiles’ fantastic form on the field.
The Newport County Supporters Trust, an organisation set-up in a time of crisis, is now flourishing 12 months down the line (to the day, Happy Birthday) having played a huge role in re-establishing Newport County AFC as a club heading towards the Football League, rather than oblivion.
It’s easy to forget what an almighty mess County found themselves in just 12 months ago. They were going down the road that has seen many clubs fall down the football pyramid at best, and at worst, have the unthinkable happen to them, where match days become a memory and the floodlights are turned off for the very last time.
A talented squad had been replaced; a good manager sacked and off the field key personnel were losing heart at the direction the club was taking. Unfortun-ately, a small group of directors were making every single decision, pouring their own money into the club and seeing very little evidence of progress in return.
Supporters were disheartened by poor performances on the field, a succession of negative headlines off it (Ian Hillier’s sacking, FAW hearing and re-hiring possibly the low point) and turned their backs on a club that was struggling to attract 800 supporters for a home game. They felt disconnected.
Something needed to be done to arrest the slump and I truly believe it is no exaggeration to say that the revival of the Supporters Trust has been the catalyst for all the positive improvements we’ve seen in the past 12 months.
The initial roll of the Supporters Trust was a rescue mission, with around 40 members boosting the club coffers at a key time, enabling the likes of Wayne Turk, Aaron Cook and Sam Foley to arrive, moves that ensured County’s Blue Square South survival.
In the words of Supporters Trust chairman Nigel Dutson, the group were initially helping to “put out fires,” because the board “needed help.”
However, this was to be no temporary boost, the Exiles are now working with the Supporters Trust on a daily basis as the group has continued to grow at an astonishing rate.
A year on from the re-launch, there are now over 400 fully paid up members of the Trust, each contributing at least £10, allowing the group to account for £25,000 this year alone towards paying player wages.
The group now works in tandem with other Newport County supporters groups and finally has a voice in how the club is run.
The Trust is represented at board meetings, has recruited supporters to be trained as match day stewards, organises fund-raising days for the club and has helped to develop the commercial arm of the club.
There are numerous volunteers who work at the club now representing the Trust, many are recognisable faces and, or, voices at Spytty Park and they all deserve thanks and credit for those efforts.
The success of the Trust has been pivotal in inspiring Acorn supremo Matt Southall to re-organise County off the field, the passion of the Trust and its desire to see the club thriving leading to Southall appointing Tim Harris.
Now acting as a link between the board, the Trust, Dean Holdsworth and the players, Harris was finally convinced to return to Newport (at the third time of asking) having finally seen the evidence needed that off the field, County were heading in the right direction.
What is now in place at the club, off the field, is a cohesive team, various directors helped by volunteers who care passionately about their club. Phase one, rescuing County from bad boardroom decisions and a lack of direction has been achieved, but Dutson and Co aren’t resting on their laurels.
“We see Exeter City as the benchmark,” Dutson explains.
“They have gone from the non-league back into the Football League and they have a Supporters Trust with almost 3,000 members, that is what we would like to see here.
“The Supporters Trust has given fans a voice in all different aspects of the club and the more members we have, the more finances we can contribute and hopefully we can help realise club president David Hando’s dream of helping us back into the Football League.
To get involved with the Supporters Trust, you can visit www.ncafctrust.org While things are going swimmingly off the field for the table topping Exiles, it’s increasingly hard not to be concerned about rivals Cardiff City.
They are hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons at the moment with a date in court set for February in regard to £15 million owed to the taxman.
With the debt to Langston already hanging over their heads, supporters of Welsh football will be hoping that the Malaysian money supposedly on the way to help out will prove to be the answer.
We don’t want an uncertain future for another Welsh team, it’s hard enough seeing what is happening to Merthyr.
However, is it not about time people started questioning the wisdom of the man this column has for a long time referred to as football’s worst chairman, Mr Peter Ridsdale.
Ask Leeds United fans how highly they rate him!
The guy in the past 12 months has talked more to the media than manager Dave Jones, something that should instantly be a cause for concern, because despite his rent-a-gob quotes galore, he has now seemingly decided he doesn’t like the press anymore.
In the past week alone football’s worst chairman has stopped speaking to a newspaper for having the temerity to report the High Court story (which is 100% true) and has told a supporters group that key man Joe Ledley is “playing like he is somewhere else.” The player himself says he’s injured.
Wonderful man management skills there, Pete.
The bottom line is unbelievably simple. I do not believe Peter Ridsdale should be running Cardiff City after what happened at Leeds.
His track record (managing to record the biggest pre-tax loss in the history of British football) suggests he is not suitable for running a football club.
While Cardiff face uncertainty off the field, they’ve splashed out millions on the likes of Michael Chopra, as they chase the Premier League dream.
Cardiff City supporters, turning up in ever increasing numbers, don’t deserve to have to deal with all these off field rumours and issues.