NEWPORT County AFC manager Graham Coughlan has started his recruitment drive to add the quality for a promotion bid after a League Two run-in that left his squad “shot to pieces”.

The Exiles finished 18th in the table after Bradford City became the eighth successive side to beat them.

County had a memorable season that saw them give Manchester United a scare in a lucrative FA Cup run, take Premier League Brentford to penalties in the Carabao Cup and in mid-March they were just two points off the play-offs.

However, they finished with a losing streak that matched the miserable eight-game run suffered under Graham Westley in the Great Escape season of 2016/17.

“Some of them are shells of what they were 10 or 15 games ago. They are totally different players and characters,” Coughlan said about his injury-hit and weary squad.

“They are shot to pieces and we have lost too many big players, so we need to find out why.”

The manager is set to hold face-to-face talks with his players before a released and retained list is put out this week.

South Wales Argus: INFLUENTIAL: Top scorer Will Evans applauds the County fans after the season finale at BradfordINFLUENTIAL: Top scorer Will Evans applauds the County fans after the season finale at Bradford (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“I started building as soon as our play-off hopes evaporated. We have a lot of work ahead of us and can’t accept what we have had over the last eight games,” said Coughlan.

“I get that most of the season we have been very good and were competitive outside the injury windows that we had that really killed us.

“We have to learn from that and put together a bigger, better and stronger squad because there is no point in doing this job if our ambition is not play-offs and promotion.

“I need to get that mentality into people. I’ve asked a lot of the lads and some of them just couldn’t maintain it. We ran out of legs and injuries hurt us.

“We haven’t been good enough over the last eight games to get over the line and we need to improve, bring better players in and have a little bit more durability because we can’t have another season where the majority of our squad are in the physio room.”

County were tipped by many to endure a relegation scrap in 2023/24 after a summer of key departures and financial problems.

After coming through a testing autumn, they stayed well away from trouble but the finish tainted their campaign.

“Football is about the here and now. At the moment I don’t feel positive,” said Coughlan.

“I get that my remit was to stay in the division and have a cup run, and we have probably over-achieved, but I can’t get away from the last eight games. They have really hurt me.


“The season is bittersweet because the last eight games were unforgivable with some of the things we have been doing.

“I have a lot of work to do over the summer, and I need to get to work as quickly as I can to get things sorted.

“Hopefully we can cut down on the mistakes and goals against, bring in some quality and manage games better. We weren’t far off but at the moment it feels like we are a million miles away.

“There will need to be change and fresh faces; we need to improve our quality and certainly can’t concede 80 goals next season.

“Hopefully we can finish higher and have a more productive season. We managed to stay up and have a cup run, so that was mission accomplished, but I am greedy and want more. I will be striving for more next season.”