NEWPORT County AFC remain in the automatic promotion places in League Two after Saturday’s excellent win at Tranmere Rovers and one of the most interesting themes to come out of last week’s supporters’ meeting was the level of ambition within the club.

James Mathie from Supporters Direct gave a thought-provoking presentation focusing on what it takes to progress up the Football League and the challenges for fan-owned clubs like County.

One example of a small club upsetting the odds to make it to League One is Accrington Stanley, who cruised to the League Two title last season.

But their owner and benefactor Andy Holt has been pretty vocal about the dilemmas that success can bring.

He took to Twitter last month and described what he called “the trap” that clubs can fall into when they are promoted and the dangers of chasing more success without a safety net if things go wrong.

Holt revealed that Stanley’s playing budget is £1.1m, whereas the average playing budget in League One is about £3.6m.

Accrington have started well in League One and are currently ninth in the table but they would need an extra £2.5m to be competing on a level playing field in the third tier.

And, while the average club in League Two lost £500,000 in 2015-2016, League One clubs lost an average of just under £1.5m that year.

It’s a whole different ball game and it would give a club like County a lot to think about if they were to reach that level over the next few years.

As Mathie, who was instrumental in the Supporters’ Trust takeover of the Exiles in 2015 in his role with Supporters Direct, concluded: “A community-owned club is only as big as the community willing to support it.

“Have we reached the potential of the County community?

“Do people value the club in the city? Do they recognise the asset the club is to the city?”

It’s well documented that the Trust’s current contribution of around £32,000 a year is not enough to sustain the club in League Two, let alone any higher up the pyramid.

The new Trust membership scheme, which will be officially launched on November 1, is a step in the right direction and will hopefully provide a significant increase in revenue.

The club is also doing what it can to add as many income streams as possible with the new club shop in the city centre and by running a new Bar Amber at the Ivy Bush.

And the Trust members will get to vote on a potential move to a hybrid ownership model next summer, which could see the club benefit from outside investment while the fans retain a stake.

To maintain their influence, however, the fans have to back the new Trust membership scheme.

“It’s clear that at the moment our contributions are so low that in reality our part in any hybrid model would be as a minority shareholder,” explained director and Trust chairman Shaun Johnson.

“A key part of what we’re trying to do in trying to get a higher income stream – up to the £100,000 level – is to give us a bit more of a stake in any partnership and gives a bit of resilience and confidence to anyone wanting to become part of our hybrid model going forward as well.

“I think at the moment we’re at a relatively low level and the burden would be so much on the other parties that it would be difficult to have a similar level of influence with anyone who came in to a hybrid model.”

A bigger financial contribution from fans could also make the difference in terms of allowing manager Michael Flynn to add to his squad in January if a promotion push looks possible.

“The biggest challenge is around ambition at the moment,” added Johnson. “If Mike is knocking on our door and if we’re still in a similar position to where we are at the moment [in January] can assist him and put some more money into the playing budget?

“Accrington did it last year and we want to be in a position where we can perhaps support the manager a bit more in January and keep pushing the club forward.

“But if we wanted to sign any extra players in January and make sure we’re within the spending guidelines then we need to be able to demonstrate an increase in our income streams."

So, leaving aside the great work being done by the players and coaching staff, the future of the club and its immediate ambitions are effectively in the hands of the County fans. How far do they want the Exiles to go?