DESPITE the best efforts of the TV companies to convince you otherwise, having played football at the top level is not the only way an individual can accurately predict results and offer opinions on the beautiful game.
If it was then it would be the betting companies, not the TV stations, clamouring for the ‘insight’ of the likes of Paul Merson and Dion Dublin.
It’s often said by dismissive and incredibly patronising pundits – Robbie Savage is the perfect example of this on Radio Five Live’s 606 – that a fan thinks with emotions and clouded judgement and should leave the analysis to the ex-pro.
If I had a Wales cap for every time I’ve heard Robbie ask a caller “how many international caps have you got then?” I’d have far more than he does.
This, of course, is nonsense. Because while John from Rotherham who thinks there is a UK-wide conspiracy against Rotherham designed to keep them out of the Premier League is bonkers and many of his ilk on radio phone-ins are, the average football fan might be loyal, but that doesn’t make them lacking in perception.
Newport County are our team in this part of the world and, as often discussed before, have a passionate fanbase of around 1200 supporters who will turn out to watch them come rain and shine.
And I would imagine those supporters found themselves at the start of the season pretty much in the position I was in and my fellow reporter Andrew Penman – an expectation of improvement on last year, but not necessarily by much.
As a passionate Spurs fan who watched the malaise at the end of last term I, like most of my fellow White Hart Lane dwellers, expected a worse season this time around and the slow start is to be expected. That’s more than 20 years as a fan speaking and the wisdom that comes with it.
But County’s rip-roaring start of life at Rodney Parade has been a shock, certainly to me and to most people I know with even a fleeting interest in the club. Sometimes even us regulars don’t see these things coming.
The Exiles might have just lost for the first time this season but they remain top of the Conference with 15 points from a possible 18, beyond most wild dreams after finishing 19th last season.
Another prediction I used to be very comfortable making was estimating the crowds for a County home game. I took a fair few 50p pieces off former Exiles photographer Colin Jeremiah at Spytty Park thanks to an ability to look at the shed and within 50 or so predict the exact gate.
I have attempted to do so again this term and each and every time I’ve been wrong.
I optimistically tipped 3,600 for Hereford and was blown away to be almost 1000 wrong with the Exiles attracting a record league attendance since their reformation.
Rodney Parade is still new and exciting to me too but it will be fan power that defines County’s season this time around.
I’ve been doing this long enough to spot a false dawn. If County lose a couple more games they’ll slip to around sixth in the table, crowds will drop off a little and the momentum will subside.
Except it doesn’t need to be like that. For the first time since I’ve covered Newport, the talk of ‘belonging’ in the Football League sounds appropriate, ambitious and realistic rather than fanciful and dare I suggest, arrogant.
The Conference is ridiculously stacked with teams who feel the same way – Luton, Mansfield, Stockport, Grimsby, Lincoln to name a few – but currently the Exiles have an equal playing field.
A good team, certainly competitive in this division, a great ground that wouldn’t look out of place in League One and tremendous support. Not a loyal minority and fans that might come if the team get good and a team that can never quite live up to expectations.
Over 2000 fans turned out for the first home game and that number has only increased. My biggest wish for the campaign is that even when a blip does occur, crowds remain about 2000. If that happens the squad can be strengthened in January and the promotion push can be legitimised.
For the first time, it needs to be everyone together, all for one in Newport with the aim of getting the County back in the Football League. The past month has given us a glimpse of the potential and now nothing can detract from the shared dream.
If you’re part of the ‘new’ group at Rodney Parade, back to watch the County for the first time in years or having come for the first time this term, your task is simple: keep coming. Keep supporting the team in your city.
The players will do their bit and County’s directors and army of volunteers are getting things right in a big way, the move to Rodney Parade working beautifully.
The ‘all together’ attitude must be extended to all levels as well.
I don’t think anyone will dispute the attraction of having a lottery winner on board at the County but it shouldn’t be at the expense of potential investment .
It’s no secret Matt Southall and other local businessmen want to invest in the club and I sincerely hope the attitude of the present directors is along the lines of ‘the more the merrier.’ I’ve heard a degree of sniping between people associated with the two factions and that can’t be helpful.
And there was much criticism especially over ticket arrangements for the recent top of the table clash against old rivals Hereford United.
That must be avoided at all costs, my advice simply that the two groups keep the lines of communication firmly open for the good of everyone.
There is a legitimate football revolution happening in Newport. We didn’t necessarily expect it, but for the first time in living memory we’re ready for it, to see it through and kick-on in what could be a remarkable season.
Fans, players, directors, potential new investors, volunteers, they are all going to play a part. The potential rewards will make it worthwhile.
There is gold at the end of that rainbow.