THERE was no fairytale ending to David Pipe’s playing career at Wembley on Saturday, but he couldn’t be prouder of the Newport County AFC players who came so close to promotion.

Substitute Pipe watched from the touchline as Connor Jennings pounced in the penultimate minute of extra-time to give Tranmere Rovers a 1-0 League Two play-off final victory.

A one-cap Wales international and skipper of County when they beat Wrexham to become members of the Football League in 2013, Pipe announced in April that this season would be his last.

The 35-year-old will now concentrate on his fitness business and spend more time with family, though he’s not ruling out the possibility of a return to football in the future.

“Not many people can come to Wembley and say, ‘do you know what, that’s my last game’,” he said. “That’s an achievement in itself.

“I’ve been here five times in the last seven years after coming out (of prison after being given a 38-month sentence in June 2010 for GBH) and being told I’d never play football again.

“I’m immensely proud that the boys got me here for my final match. Even though I’m bitterly disappointed, I’m more disappointed for the boys and the staff rather than myself.”

He added: “My story’s a bit more left field than anyone else’s and even though we didn’t get the fairy tale ending, I’ll be pursuing these boys’ careers as well as the manager and the staff, even though I’m stepping away from football for my own reasons.

“I’m very proud of my career, both before I was inside and even more so afterwards.

“I’ve played 750 games with three or four years out due to what I did, I was 20 years a professional, I represented country and lifted a trophy for the team I love at Wembley.

“If you’d sat me down at 15 and asked me to write a wish list, I think all of them would be on it.

“Unfortunately, it’s not a fairy tale ending, but a very proud one.”

And Pipe had a clear message for the County board concerning boss Michael Flynn.

He said: “He’s the main man with regards to running the ship.

“The club made a massive mistake when they were promoted to the Football League thinking they could change people left, right and centre, pushing people out like myself who have got that love for the club, and obviously the manager is in that bracket.

“If I was the club, I’d do all I could to keep him.”

Commenting on how making it through to the play-off final would have affected Flynn’s decision making regarding his quad, he said: “At the end of the season, when it becomes extended with the play-offs, decisions don’t get made that probably would have been made two weeks ago.

“The manager has to make his decisions regarding players in and out, and the budget’s different to what it would be if we were in League One, so all those 50-50 questions are now being answered and will be up to the people at the club, the manager and playing staff to go and turn this around.

“I’d love to be there the day they do go up because they’re a very good group, and if they can keep that group then next season people have got to be a little bit careful because they’ll be out with a point to prove.”