DAVID Pipe is dreaming of a return to the scene of his greatest triumph with Newport County AFC as he targets a fairy tale ending to his career at Wembley next month.

The 35-year-old defender announced yesterday that he will retire at the end of the season and he wants to go out on a real high by helping County win promotion via the League Two play-off final.

Pipe captained the Exiles as they beat Wrexham in the 2013 Conference play-off final and another Wembley win on May 25 would be the perfect way for the former Wales international to hang up his boots.

“The 2013 play-off final is up there with representing your country,” said the Caerphilly-born veteran. “It doesn’t get better than that.

“Lots of lads have had great careers but never played at Wembley, let alone winning there and lifting a trophy there.

“If you don’t appreciate that as a player then you don’t deserve to be there.

“I’ve said it to my roommate Buts [Dan Butler] that the dream for me would be to get to the play-offs and win promotion again.

“Imagine winning the play-offs at Wembley in your last game. If you were to write something perfect, that’s what I would write.

“Unfortunately, I haven’t got the pen to write that. I can have an influence on it and I’ll do my best, but it’ll probably be up to the boys a bit more than it’s up to me.”

South Wales Argus:

Pipe has made 25 appearances this season but has not started since February 2 and he would love to have a big say on the pitch as Michael Flynn’s men chase a top-seven spot in their final three games.

“The gaffer knows I’m desperate to play,” he said. “As soon as someone’s injured, I jump up. Even if it’s a forward, I think I can go up front. I played up front and scored a few goals in training the other day.

“I’m sure he trusts me to put me on in any position if he needs me to do a job and, you never know, I might have a bigger influence than I think.”

Pipe has made 205 appearances in two spells at the club since first moving to Newport in 2011, shortly after his release from prison for wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

He helped Justin Edinburgh’s side reach the 2012 FA Trophy final and avoid relegation from the Conference in his first season before leading the side back to the Football League after a 25-year absence the following year.

He departed for Forest Green Rovers in 2014 but returned in January 2017 for a remarkable second chapter at Rodney Parade.

Pipe played a major part in the Great Escape from relegation and has helped Flynn’s men to huge success in the FA Cup over the last two seasons.

South Wales Argus:

“It’s been surreal,” he admitted. “I’ve been fortunate to be involved in every main thing that’s happened to Newport County in the past eight years. I like to think I’ve made a big stamp on the club.

“They gave me the opportunity when I came out of prison and I like to think I’ve repaid that.

“It’ll be tough to walk away, but I’ve been in some tough situations in and out of football.

“It will be emotional, but in a positive way rather than a disappointing way.”

The fitness fanatic believes he could continue to play League Two, but he’s decided to fully commit to life after football.

Over the past 12 months, Pipe has been setting up his own business – a gym at the Newport Indoor Football Centre.

He is also looking to develop a mentoring programme to help school pupils who are struggling within the education system.

“It’s not a physical thing, it’s more a mental thing,” he explained.

“I’ve been in football for 20 years. I came out of it in difficult circumstances and came back into it thanks to this football club, but I feel like I’ve been in it for 30 years rather than 20.

“I’ll be making a clean cut from football at the end of this season.

“I genuinely feel I could play at this level, fitness-wise, for another two or three years – especially when I’ve been rested as much as I have since Christmas.

“But it probably boils down to being in it for so long. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved but I like to have a bigger impact on things.

“I’ve set up a gym to train kids over the last year or so and I’m one of those people that if I can’t put everything into something, I struggle a bit.

“I need to dedicate my passion into that now and take it into the next step of my life, realistically.

“As much as I’ll miss football, you can’t be half a professional footballer and half training kids.

“I need to make that step and that’s what I’ll be doing at the end of the season.”

South Wales Argus:

Pipe has had a dual role as player and fitness coach during this campaign but remaining at the club next season is not an option for him.

“If I’m the fitness coach here next year, I’m here every hour that I would be as a professional footballer,” he said.

“I’d have to go to every game and to training every day so it wouldn’t be viable.

“A clean break will be tough, but I think I can handle it in the best way possible and there will be a lot of kids who will benefit from it.

“I can reach out to people who need a bit of help and it will be just as rewarding, just in a different way.”

South Wales Argus:

Pipe started his career at Coventry City before moving on to Notts County and Bristol Rovers. He’s also played for Cheltenham Town and Eastleigh in a 17-year senior professional career.

He won 12 caps for Wales at under-21 level between 2002 and 2005 and made one appearance for the senior national team in a friendly against the USA in 2003.

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