NEWPORT County AFC defender Mickey Demetriou believes the club’s new-found notoriety as FA Cup giant-killers was forged by the spirit of the Great Escape from relegation back in 2017.

Demetriou helped County beat the odds to beat the drop after he joined the club as a free agent and he’s been a rock at the back as the Exiles have gone on to reach the FA Cup fourth-round for the second successive year.

Last season Michael Flynn’s men beat Leeds United and took Tottenham Hotspur to a Wembley replay.

This year they have already shocked former Premier League champions Leicester City and tomorrow they take on Championship promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.

“What we went through a few years back just to stay up and keep our livings makes all this seem easy in comparison,” Demetriou told the Daily Telegraph.

“People might say that our win over Leicester in the third round was a miracle. But that was just one game. Surviving when you’re 12 points adrift at the bottom of the entire league is a proper miracle.”

Demetriou was a free agent and struggling to find a club due to injury problems when he got the call from County two years ago.

“I had no wage coming in. I had a bit of money saved and had good family support, but I was 25, married and it was tough,” he recalled.

“There were times when I wondered if that was it for me as a footballer, but in the January Graham Westley gave me a chance here.

“The trouble was the knee was still a concern, as was the foot and I’d hardly played. But there was no choice. When I joined, I was told – as were many of the lads – that if we got relegated, we wouldn’t be paid in the summer. Simple as that.

“Well, the results continued not to go our way, we got further and further from safety and we all realised that the state of the club’s finances meant that if we didn’t do something this place was going out of business. That’s when Mike came in.”

When Flynn replaced Westley, the Exiles were 11 points from safety with 12 games to play but they somehow survived on the final day.

“We won seven out of 12 games, five out of the last seven, and it was amazing,” Demetriou said.

“But we still knew we had to produce last season. We were told that a good cup run was needed just to help pay the wages and, in a way, getting to the fourth round by beating Leeds and then drawing with Spurs to get the replay at Wembley was more important than if we’d been promoted. It gave the club some security.”

South Wales Argus:

Demetriou believes County will call on the spirit of the Great Escape again at Middlesbrough this weekend.

Joe Day, Mark O'Brien, David Pipe, Dan Butler, Scot Bennett and Joss Labadie are fellow survivors from the final day win over Notts County in May 2017 and could all be involved today.

“The underdog role seems to suit us,” said Demetriou. “There is still a core of us who went through that Great Escape and who look at each other and think nothing is beyond us.”

And, yet again, there is more riding on it for Demetriou than just the result.

“My contract is up in the summer and I suppose I am playing for my living again,” he added.

“I have Aimee [his wife] and little Theo [their 17-month-old son] at home and there is pressure, yes. But I’ve learnt that I thrive on it and wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s what this club is all about, it’s what football is all about.”

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