REGAN Poole is convinced that Newport County AFC can recover from their Wembley heartbreak and win automatic promotion next season.

The County academy graduate played a huge part in the club’s run to the League Two play-off final after returning on loan from Manchester United in January.

Poole helped the Exiles keep 13 clean sheets in 26 appearances but his dream of winning promotion to League One was ended by Tranmere Rovers’ 119th-minute winner in last month’s final.

The 20-year-old defender is still hurting from that defeat as he prepares to represent Wales under-21s in two friendly matches in Albania on Sunday and Tuesday.

“I said when I first came back that I wanted to get the club promoted and we were so close to doing that,” said Poole.

“I feel like we deserved to win the game and it was heart-breaking that they scored so late.

“We had a few chances and we should have had a penalty and that’s why it hurts so much – we all feel we should have won the game.

“We were two minutes away [from full-time] and I think we would have beaten them on pens. I was going to take one as well.”

South Wales Argus:

Poole confirmed this week that he will be leaving United this summer.

He’s unlikely to be returning to Rodney Parade, but he believes that Michael Flynn’s men can mount another promotion challenge next season.

“I loved every minute of my time back at County,” he said.

“I try to do everything I can for the club and I always gave 100 per cent in every game.

“We went on an amazing run to get into the play-offs and it’s just a shame that we couldn’t get over the line.

“We were 12 unbeaten and if we could have made it 13, we would have been in League One.

“I’m gutted that we couldn’t finish the job because that would have been an unbelievable achievement and I would have been so proud to get the club promoted.

“We were all gutted, but hopefully Wembley doesn’t take too much out of them and they come back stronger and go again,” he added.

“Obviously Buts [Dan Butler] has moved on now but I think the club can bounce back.

“OB [Mark O’Brien] signed a new deal and Shees [Josh Sheehan] as well, and Podge [Padraig Amond] and Jamma [Jamille Matt] are still there too so there’s a good core group there.

“Hopefully a few more will sign new deals and they can go for automatic promotion next season.”

South Wales Argus:

Poole, who celebrates his 21st birthday later this month, admits that he doesn’t know where he’ll be playing next season and he’s aware that representing his country is another chance to put himself in the shop window.

“I love playing for Wales,” he said. “I like working with the manager and the coaching staff.

“I’ve been in this set-up since I was 17 and it’s always an honour to wear that shirt.

“For all of us the aim is to get into the first team and hopefully one day I get there.

“And you never know who’s watching when you play for Wales so I’ll be giving everything, as I always do.”

Poole also sent his best wishes to former Exiles boss Justin Edinburgh, who is in hospital after being taken ill earlier this week.

Edinburgh made Poole the youngest ever County player when he handed him his debut aged 16 in 2014 and he also took him on loan to Northampton Town in 2017.

“I worked with Justin at Newport and at Northampton as well and I hope it’s a speedy recovery,” he said.

“Hopefully his family stay strong for him and he’s out of there as soon as possible.

“Everyone is praying for him and hopefully he pulls through.”

Read more: Regan Poole on the end of his Manchester United dream