FORMER Newport County goal hero Craig Hughes believes the Exiles are firmly on the right track to fulfil their ambition of a return to the Football League following their move to Rodney Parade, writes Michael Pearlman.
Hughes, now with County’s opponents today Carmarthen Town, is one of the biggest success stories since the formation of Newport County AFC.
Signed with the club staring down the barrel of Conference South relegation after a stint in prison, Hughes became a pivotal figure at Spytty Park, bagging 55 goals in 102 appearances, including the winning goal in the 2008 FAW Premier Cup final.
Known affectionately as ‘Guppy,’ Hughes’ allegiance as a Cardiff City fan is well known though he’s also remained a keen follower of the County.
And following the move to Rodney Parade, Hughes is confident the good times are coming for Exiles supporters.
“One of my best mates is Hywel Stoddart who has just signed for the Newport Gwent Dragons and through him I know what a top facility it is,” he said.
“The pitch and the stadium are first rate and it’s a great move for the club, it shows they mean business.
“I am also very friendly with David Pipe and I know the intentions of the club are to push hard for promotion, I believe they can do that.”
Hughes endured a miserable campaign with Neath last season due to their well documented financial problems. At one point he went ten weeks without being paid and admits it made him realise how crucial a role County played in him turning his life around.
“The worry of not being paid when you’ve got a family is horrible,” he said.
“I’m a family man with a decent job now outside of football and none of that would’ve been possible without Newport County. Not getting a pay cheque makes you appreciate that sort of thing.”
Hughes has a slight calf strain and is desperate to play this afternoon. “Even if it is only for 45 minutes, it’ll be great to go up against the boys and see some old faces in the crowd,” he said.
Carmarthen will also boast former Exiles Ian Hiller, Nick Harrhy and Julian Alsop. They also have County connections off the pitch with ex-County benafactor Kevin Morris their general manager and ex-County and Wales player Mark Aizelwood as their first team coach.