NEWPORT County AFC have pulled of a major summer move after bringing Matt Baker back for a third spell with the club on a permanent basis.

The 21-year-old defender, who can also play in midfield, played for the Exiles twice on loan from Stoke and will return to Rodney Parade on a two-year contract.

The Wales Under-21s international, who was given a first senior call-up this summer, was offered a fresh contract by the Potters.

However, he will instead play for the Exiles in League Two after a compensation package was agreed by the clubs.

Baker joins James Clarke, Kyle Jameson, new signing Ciaran Brennan and youngsters Josh Seberry and Nelson Sanca as a central defensive option.

BACK: Matt Baker, pictured driving out of defence, has returned to Newport County (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“I’m really happy to be back here at the club, this time on a permanent basis”, said Baker. 

“To be back playing here in front of these fans is amazing and I can’t wait to get started. Being here on a permanent basis now gives me a chance to build on last season. 

“The last two seasons I’ve been here I’ve gained a lot of experience, and It’s certainly gave me the opportunity to kick on.”

Baker came through the ranks at Gillingham in his native Kent before moving to Stoke in the summer of 2021.

The defender, who qualifies for Wales through his mother from Narberth, joined County on deadline day in 2023 for a first taste of senior football and made 18 appearances in the run-in.

He then returned last August and, after recovering from a hamstring injury suffered in the Potteries, made 39 appearances.

“I think playing first team football here at Newport has helped my development” said Baker. “As a young player it’s what you need to improve your game. 

“I want to play at the highest level, and to do that you need find a permanent home and a club where you can play regularly. 

“Being here with Huw [Jenkins, owner] and what he plans to do with the club really suits me. The style that he wants to implement here at the club going forward excites me. 

“Last season, there were a lot of highs and a lot of lows, but there’s a lot of things we can build on and learn from last season. 

“Hopefully, we can try and use that experience to get promoted.” 

After two spells learning his trade under former centre-back Graham Coughlan, Baker will return to play under a new boss as chairman Jenkins hunts a new head coach.

The defender/midfielder becomes County’s seventh signing of the summer after last week’s announcements of the arrivals of goalkeeper Jacob Carney, right-back Joe Thomas, centre-back Brennan, left-back Anthony Glennon, midfielder Kai Whitmore and attacker Oliver Greaves.