NEWPORT County super fan Andy Bartlett has put his feeling about this Sunday's FA Cup tie at Rodney Parade against Manchester United into a letter to County manager Graham Coughlan...

Dear Gaffer,

This Sunday, the 10,000 privileged fans who managed to get their hands on a golden ticket will get to experience one of those epic David vs Goliath occasions that only the FA Cup can serve up when the superstars of Manchester United – arguably the most famous football club in the world – come to town.

We know from Saturday’s game against Wrexham that Rodney Parade will be a hostile cauldron. No place for the fainthearted. The Amber Army will see to that. But you need to look much deeper for the real source of the strength which makes Newport County so hard to beat on occasions like this – right into the very soul of our football club.

Ever since we went so spectacularly bust at the end of the 1980’s, this club has overcome adversity at every turn. In 1989, when David Hando & co had the vision to resurrect the club from the ashes we had no money, no owner, no players, no ground, no league to play in. Nothing. Just an insatiable desire to put our football club back on the map.

The battle to get back into the Football League from the very bottom of the English pyramid lasted 25 years. It defined and shaped us as a football club. It started in exile in Moreton-in-Marsh, culminated with a knock out blow on Wrexham in the 2013 play off final at Wembley and even saw us fight for our very existence in a court room battle against the Football Association of Wales, FIFA and UEFA for the right to play in Newport. The fight has been incredibly hard but we are all the stronger for it. A battle hardened club for a battle hardened town.

The spirit we needed for that journey – The Spirit of ’89 - has sustained us ever since. It was a critical factor in us completing “The Great Escape” to stay in the League in the dying seconds of the 2016/17 season. And the current squad – your

Class of ’24 – have displayed it all season; defying the pundits’ predictions of certain relegation as the lowest budget club in the league and despite a summer exodus of players, injuries galore and off-field turmoil. We are not in the business of surrendering what we fought so hard to secure.

It's a spirit that has fuelled an army of legendary Black and Amber Warriors: Flynn, O’Brien, Pipe, Bennett, ,Labadie, Demetriou, Amond. And it is the Spirit of ’89 that has brought us regular tastes of FA Cup Giant Killing glory – in glorious victories over Leicester City, Leeds United and Middlesbrough; in toe-to-toe battles with Tottenham Hotspur and Brighton and in honourable defeat by Manchester City.

The Spirit of ‘89 is in our blood. In our DNA. In every bone, muscle and sinew of our football club. We see you and your players live and breathe it every week. And it is that spirit which will allow us to go head to head with the superstars of Manchester United even though we can only dream of their skills, riches, success and silverware.

So when you lead your gladiators out into the Rodney Parade arena on Sunday, remember that we are not there to watch Manchester United. We are there to watch Newport County. To watch you and the Class of ’24 go out there and write your own chapter in the history of our incredible football club.

See you on Sunday. It’s going to be one hell of an occasion under the lights and in front of the tv cameras and a raucous crowd. Who knows what might happen. But one thing is certain: We’re Newport County. We’ll fight to the end.

Amber Arnie
Up The County