WHEN Huw Jenkins got the green light for his takeover of Newport County AFC, there was always the feeling that he would want his own man at the helm.

Nonetheless, it was still a surprise when the announcement came that Graham Coughlan would not be at the helm when the Exiles return for pre-season training at the start of July.

It was a parting ‘by mutual consent’ that feels very one way.

Jenkins officially took over at County in January and was quick to give his backing to the boss, but he had little option but to do that.

The Exiles were excellent when they had a near fully-fit squad at the start of the year and Coughlan’s relationship with the Amber Army was strong.

That remains the case – he just got the club – and the Dubliner heads for the exit with his head held high after being the figurehead at the club through some testing times.

Coughlan and trusted assistant Joe Dunne arrived in October 2022 and safely got County away from the prospect of a relegation scrap.

DUO: Graham Coughlan and Joe DunneDUO: Graham Coughlan and Joe Dunne (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

With a mantra of ‘crawl, walk, run’, the duo got the Exiles back to basics.

The hope of moving from a power walk to a jog last season was scuppered by a chaotic summer of high-profile departures – Mickey Demetriou, Cameron Norman, Aaron Lewis, Priestley Farquharson – and financial fears.

The Exiles, with their meagre budget, were tipped by many for the drop yet were never in trouble despite two massive injury crises.

Down to the bare bones, they finished shambolically with eight straight defeats but it was still a successful season despite an 18th-placed finish thanks to the lucrative FA Cup run that saw them give a scare to eventual winners Manchester United.

Coughlan was a drained figure as he completed his post-match duties at a cold Valley Parade after the final-day hammering by Bradford City.

The former Bristol Rovers and Mansfield boss needed to recharge his batteries before going again on the brutal League Two treadmill.

Alas, Coughlan will not spend his July watching the squad sweat, and the signs had been there.

For much of his time in Wales, the former central defender called all the shots at Rodney Parade on and off the field.

He was the one making the decisions but now it is Jenkins.

DECISIONS: Newport County owner Huw JenkinsDECISIONS: Newport County owner Huw Jenkins (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

The former Swansea chairman will be the one doing the recruiting and retaining – hence the disappointing, and frankly bizarre, departure of stalwart and ever-dependable Scot Bennett – while he will oversee all football matters rather than just leaving those in tracksuits to get on with things.

That would have created some tension down the line; managers are the ones with their heads on the blocks and want to be in control.

You get the feeling that things could have unravelled pretty sharply had County made an iffy start, with fingers being pointed when it came to blame.

Coughlan worked closely with recruitment chief Chris Finn but in the coming season would have been charged with working with players picked by the chairman.

There was some signs of what was to come when the Exiles were set to face Forest Green Rovers behind closed doors to give some minutes to fringe players and youngsters but Jenkins wanted to parachute in some trialists.

As it happened, the fixture was cancelled due to torrential rain.

There was also some frustration that the green light wasn’t given to making more signings in the January transfer window to give the Exiles a better chance of pushing for the play-offs.

Recruits turned out to be transformational for Doncaster, who went from a relegation battle to losing in the semis on penalties, but County ran out of steam after only adding a half-fit Luke Jephcott.

Then there is the issue of style, something that Jenkins addressed when speaking to the Supporters Trust members ahead of the big vote last September.

There was ‘The Swansea Way’ and he made it clear that County need to develop their own playing identity.

In the statement about Coughlan’s exit, Jenkins tellingly said: “Moving forward I must take the club and the team in a different direction”.

‘And the team’ is an important part of that sentence.

COACH: County could look for a similar boss to James RowberryCOACH: County could look for a similar boss to James Rowberry (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


County are on the hunt for a head coach rather than a manager.

Strangely, the man that Coughlan replaced would have been a good fit – Rowberry is an excellent coach and made a strong start to life at Rodney Parade.

He was brought in to work under a director of football (Darren Kelly) but lost his way when assistant Wayne Hatswell left for a reunion with Michael Flynn in Walsall.

Rowberry could have done with the experience of Jenkins at the helm looking after certain off-field issues.

Stranger things have happened, but it’s unlikely that the former Cardiff City first team coach currently working at the Football Association of Wales, who had been linked with a return to the Bluebirds, will be back in Newport.

Rowberry pipped Cameron Toshack to the job and perhaps the former Swansea City coach will join forces with Jenkins.

Toshack most recently worked as an assistant to Jesse March with Leeds in the Premier League.

One thing seems certain, County won’t be getting in an ‘old school’ manager who rules the roost.

EXIT: Graham Coughlan's time at Newport County is overEXIT: Graham Coughlan's time at Newport County is over (Image: Huw Evans Agency)


Getting rid of Coughlan remains something of a gamble – it will be another extremely tough League Two and County will still have one of, if not the, smallest budgets.

Jenkins clearly backs himself.

“I would like to think that the experience I’ve gained working across various roles within football puts me in a good position to take the lead not only in setting up and running the club’s football recruitment, but also overseeing other aspects of the club’s operations off the field,” he wrote in an update to fans earlier this month.

The new manager will take over a new-look team that, at present, is seriously lacking leaders and experience (and numbers!).

Coughlan was a safe pair of hands, a shrewd operator who knows his way around the Football League, but County could be set for a step into the unknown.

Crawley showed the way when winning promotion at Wembley last season but the fourth tier is unforgiving if a club gets things wrong.

Jenkins got most things right in Swansea - Briany Flynn, Kenny Jackett, Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup, Garry Monk - and hopefully he can pick another top boss.