NEWPORT County AFC return to Moreton-in-Marsh for a pre-season friendly tonight as they celebrate the 30th anniversary of the club’s rebirth and say thank you to the small Cotswold town, without whom they might not have had a future.

After the demise of the old Newport County in February 1989, 15 directors and 400 diehard supporters got together to reform the club as Newport AFC that summer.

Disputes with Newport Council and the Football Association of Wales forced the club to play their home games over the border in England and a new nickname was born as the Ironsides became the Exiles.

Honorary president David Hando was chairman of the new club and he believes the dream of returning League football to Newport may have been dead in the water if it wasn’t for the unlikely groundshare with Moreton Town at their London Road home.

“I wanted the 30-year anniversary to be commemorated because if we hadn’t got the OK from Moreton, we’d reached the end of the road,” he explained.

“George Thorneycroft was the first director to see through [Jerry] Sherman and resign and he told me to leave it a year or two [before starting again].

“But I was adamant that we had to strike while the iron was hot. The old club was gone and there was enthusiasm for the idea of a new club and we had to go ahead.

“But if we hadn’t got Moreton to agree to let us play there and we couldn’t find anywhere in Gloucestershire [I don’t know what we would have done].

South Wales Argus:

“Mark Williams started ringing Gloucestershire clubs, starting with Abingdon [in Oxfordshire], and I started at the other end with Yate and we moved towards the centre. Moreton was the last one.

“They were a bit puzzled as to why we’d want to travel 85 miles for our home games, which turned out to be further away than most of our home games, but they were happy to have us.

“I spoke to Bill Eldridge, who was the secretary, and he consulted the committee and came back to me in half an hour to say yes.

“They didn’t have a reserve side, whereas the others did so there was no hope of a groundshare elsewhere,” he added.

“Ray Taylor and I went to see the ground and I remember saying to Ray ‘Well, it’s not exactly Wembley but it’s a step towards it’.”

The Exiles returned to Somerton Park after one season in Moreton but Hando says the club owes the town a great debt.

Tonight’s friendly (kick-off 7pm) will see a County XI take on Moreton Rangers, a new club formed after Moreton Town went out of business in the mid-1990s.

“When I spoke to Moreton about a friendly, they were absolutely delighted and it’s going to be a big occasion for them,” said Hando, who is currently writing a book on the club's reformation.

“And the supporters I’ve spoken to are looking forward to going back.

“We’re everlastingly grateful to Moreton. Even though it’s not the same club or even the same people, it’s part of the folk history of the club and we’re delighted to go back.”