FOUR years after being deemed surplus to requirements by Justin Edinburgh, it’s a tribute to the hard work and dedication of David Pipe that he’s still a vital part of the Newport County AFC team.

There weren’t too many dissenting voices when the former Wales international was shown the door in 2014 and there were plenty who questioned the wisdom of Graham Westley when he brought Pipe back to the club just over 12 months ago.

Westley has not been shy of talking up the signings he made in January 2017 and, of all the ingredients he added, arguably only Mark O’Brien and Mickey Demetriou have made a bigger impact.

And the fact that Pipe has just been rewarded with a new one-year contract at the age of 34 shows how important he has been in the Exiles’ revival under Michael Flynn.

The former Coventry City, Notts County and Bristol Rovers man’s experience and leadership were crucial in steadying a sinking ship last season.

His inspirational playing style made him a driving force as the team overcame the odds to beat the drop.

And, let’s not forget, it was his excellent cross that led to O’Brien’s dramatic late winner to complete the Great Escape.

The manager admitted last week that he never expected Pipe to play so many games this season but he’s seen off the challenge of 22-year-old Jazzi Barnum-Bobb and 20-year-old Tyler Reid to firmly establish himself as County’s first-choice right-back or right wing-back.

Pipe is not immune to mistakes and at times this season he has struggled to contain nippy left-wingers.

But he’s in exceptional shape for someone at the veteran stage of his career and there’s no doubt that he’s done more than enough to earn his new deal.

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Flynn will know, however, that his good friend cannot go on forever and it’s safe to say that the boss is already on the lookout for a long-term successor.

That could even turn out to be Reid who obviously has potential, despite a disappointing debut at Colchester United.

Flynn revealed last week that Pipe has been working with Reid to get him into shape and it’s probably too soon to write off the Swansea City youngster just yet.

Pipe is looking to make the transition from player to personal trainer or fitness coach over the next few years but he still has plenty to contribute on the pitch.

And County will need all his inspirational qualities if they are to force their way back into contention for the League Two play-offs this season.

The Exiles have a big battle ahead to claim a top-seven finish but Pipe has certainly not given up the fight.

He’s convinced that with eight of the final 12 matches to be played at home there is every chance of another dramatic end to the season at Rodney Parade.

“I don’t think it’s been spoke about much to be honest with you apart from within Newport, but we had to play a lot of tough away games at the start of the season,” he told iFollow Exiles after Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Port Vale.

“Five in a row [in all competitions] and not many people have said too much about it.

“Fair play to us, we were able to do that at the start of the season and hopefully now that we’re still in the mix, we can put a home run together and climb back up the table where we belong.

“I fancy us beating anyone at home and that’s not being disrespectful to who comes here, we are a tough team to beat. If we do things right, then we will get the points.

“Without going into last year too much – because we are a different outfit and a stronger outfit – we closed a serious points gap. So why not do it this year, at the other end, and have that late push?”

Pipe has faced bigger battles in his personal life, of course, and he's already repaid the debt he owed to County for giving him a second chance when he was released from prison in 2011 after serving 15 months for wounding with intent.

“Newport gave me a chance to turn things around and thank God they did," he told the Sun before taking on Tottenham Hotspur last month.

“Prison was a massive lesson in my life but I know for a fact that I’ve come out of it a better person.

“To come back from where I was, it’s been a massive turnaround and a huge personal achievement.

“The last words of the judge who sent me down were, ‘You’ll never play professional football again’.

“You can feel sorry for yourself or you can agree with him, but I wanted to prove him wrong and I have done."

Who's to say Pipe and County can't prove the doubters wrong again this season?