Newport County are a Welsh football team based in the city of Newport. They currently play in the English Conference South.
They were founded in 1912 and joined the Football League's new Third Division in 1920.
Newport were Welsh Cup winners in 1980 and subsequently reached the quarter finals of the European Cup Winners' Cup, but were relegated from the Football League in 1988. They failed to see out their first Conference season and went out of business in February 1989, but were reformed three months later.
Rise through the league
Newport County, originally nicknamed The Ironsides, started out in the Southern League in 1912. The club were first elected to the Football League in 1920. Newport moved into their former home, Somerton Park, in 1932. After almost twenty years in Division 3 South, the club finally clinched promotion to Division 2 as champions in 1939.
Second Division Disaster
Unfortunately, this coincided with the outbreak of World War II, and only three games were played that season. 'County' managed a respectable 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur and a 3-1 win over Southampton, finishing joint 9th out of 22 in the abandoned season.
On the resumption of association football after the war, the club didn't fare so well, including a Football League record 13-0 defeat at Newcastle United. Legendary Sunderland player Len Shackleton, who at the time played for Newcastle remarked "they were lucky to get nil". Despite victories over the likes of Coventry City, Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham, the club needed four wins out of the last four games to have any hope of safety. Despite a revenge victory over Newcastle United, defeats to Birmingham City, Luton Town and Manchester City sealed their fate. County finished rock bottom of Division 2 and were relegated. However, during this lean period Newport did reach the 5th round of the F.A. Cup in 1949, the furthest they have gone in the competition.
Life in the basement division
After eleven further seasons in Division 3 South, the club narrowly avoided another effective relegation with the creation of League Division 4. The bottom twelve teams from Division 3 North & South were placed in the new division, with the remainder forming a new Division 3. County avoided this fate by a mere four points. However in 1962, with only seven wins all season, the club were to play in Division 4 — their home for the next 18 years. In the 1972-3 season Newport missed out on promotion only on goal average.
Promotion, cup glory and European run
The 1980s heralded both the brightest and darkest moments in the club's history. Len Ashurst was Manager from 1978-1982, the club's most successful period. In 1980, promotion was finally achieved from the Football League 'basement', the club only being 5 points from being crowned champions. The team included a young John Aldridge who later became one of the most prolific goal scorers in English football history. This was also the year that County won the Welsh Cup, entitling them to play in the European Cup Winners' Cup the following season. The cup run turned out to be quite eventful — the first round against Crusaders of Northern Ireland was won 4-0 on aggregate (4-0 at home and 0-0 away). The second round against Haugar F.C. of Norway was even more convincing, after a 0-0 draw away, the home leg was won 6-0, taking the club into the quarter finals against Carl Zeiss Jena F.C. of East Germany. The quarter final away leg was drawn 2-2, with Tommy Tynan scoring in the 90th minute, but the club lost the home leg 0-1 in front of 18,000 fans. Carl Zeiss Jena went on to be the eventual runners up.
In the 1982-83 season, Newport County finished fourth in Division 3, just four points behind Huddersfield Town who were promoted to Division 2, along with arch-rivals Cardiff City. County had actually gone top of the table on Easter Monday 1983 after a win over Cardiff City in front of 16,052 fans at Somerton Park, but a return of only four points form the last seven games handed the promotion to the 'old enemy'.
Newport appeared in the Welsh Cup final again in 1987, this time losing 1-0 to Merthyr.
Freefall and bankruptcy
The decade ended in a rather less glamorous way. Back-to-back relegations from Division 3 in 1987 and Division 4 in 1988 meant that Newport County had lost their prized Football League status after 68 consecutive seasons.
Newport failed to finish their first season in the Conference and finally went out of business on 27 February 1989. However, in June 1989 a new team was founded and elected to the Hellenic League (some four divisions below the Football League). Since then, the club's main aim has been to regain the Football League status held by the original club.
The new club
Exiles succeed in Gloucestershire
The new club adopted the nickname The Exiles, as a result of the need to play their inaugural season in the north Gloucestershire town of Moreton-in-Marsh at which venue they won the Hellenic 'League and Cup double', winning promotion to the Southern League.
Return home to Newport
After two seasons back home in Newport at Somerton Park, football politics consigned them to a further two seasons of exile at Gloucester and the club was forced to resort to legal action to protect themselves from being forced out of the English football pyramid. That litigation proved successful, a landmark High Court verdict enabling them to have a permanent home in Newport at the then newly-built Newport Stadium. The club’s first season back in Newport, in 1994-95, saw them promoted to the Southern League Premier Division by winning the Midland Division Championship. That was achieved by a 14-point margin, on the way to that championship, the club set a then Southern League record by winning 14 successive league matches.
Subsequent re-organisation of the upper divisions of non-league football saw County take their place in the inaugural season of Conference South, one of the two feeder divisions into the Conference. The club are now only two promotions away from regaining their place in the Football League (and are the only Conference South club to have played at that level).
The club's away following is among the largest outside the Football League and supporters have generally been the source of inspiration. The club is rare in non-league football as many of its fans live far from Newport.
Newport County established Hartridge Football Academy in partnership with Newport City Council and the club has a youth development programme as good as any outside the Football League with around 50 students. The club operates youth teams in two league competitions and in the 2001-02 season County's youngsters won the English Schools' Football Association under-19 Trophy. In the 2004-05 season they won the FAW Youth Cup. A number of the Academy graduates have progressed to the senior squad.
In the 2001-02 season, Newport reached the first round proper of the FA Cup, drawing Second Division side Blackpool. Holding them to a 2-2 draw away, the home game was drawn 1-1 at the end of normal time, forcing extra time. Ultimately the game was lost 4-1 after extra time, but the club had still held Second Division opposition to two time-limit draws. If the FA Cup had been played with the away goals rule, rather than extra time, County would have gone through to the second round.
In the 2002-03 season, Newport reached the final of the FAW Premier Cup beating Swansea City and Cardiff City along the way before crashing 6-1 in the final against Wrexham.
In the 2006-07 season, Newport again reached the first round proper of the FA Cup but lost 3-1 to fellow Welsh side Swansea City in a spirited effort in which they outplayed Swansea throughout the second half. In the same season, Newport reached the final of the FAW Premier Cup for the second time since the competition's creation, beating Wrexham along the way but losing 1-0 to TNS in the final. 2006-07 also saw an improvement in league form by Newport with the team consistently in the top half of the league and challenging for a playoff place (top 5), having one of the best home records in the league. In the end, Newport finished just one position below the playoffs after losing 2-1 to Cambridge City on the final day of the season.
- Football League Third Division South champions 1939
- Southern League Midland Division champions 1995; runners up 1999
- Hellenic League champions 1990
- Welsh Cup winners 1980; runners up 1963, 1987
- FAW Premier Cup runners up 2003, 2007
- Southern League Merit Cup joint holders 1995, 1999
- Hellenic League Cup winners 1990
- Monmouthshire/Gwent Senior Cup winners 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1928, 1932, 1936, 1954, 1958, 1959, 1965, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005
- Gloucestershire Senior Challenge Cup winners 1994
- Herefordshire Senior Cup winners 2000
- Record Attendance: (pre-1989): 24,268 vs. Cardiff City, 16 October 1937 (Football League Third Division South); (post-1989): 4,616 vs. Swansea City, 11 November 2006 (FA Cup 1st round)
- Record League victory: 10-0 vs. Merthyr Town, 10 April 1930
- Record FA Cup victory: 7-0 vs. Woking, 24 November 1928
- Record League Cup victory: 6-0 (8-1 aggregate) vs. Exeter City, 14 September 1982
- Record European Cup Winners' Cup victory: 6-0 vs. Haugar (Norway), 4 November 1980
- Record League defeat: 0-13 vs. Newcastle United, 5 October 1946
- Record FA Cup defeat: 1-8 vs. Brighton & Hove Albion, 19 September 1955
- Record League Cup defeat: 0-5 vs. Swansea City, 15 August 1978
- FA Cup progress: Fifth round (last 16) defeat by Portsmouth, 12 February 1949
- Year Formed: 1912 (reformed 1989)
- Previous Names: 1912 Newport County A.F.C; 1989 Newport A.F.C; 1999 Newport County A.F.C
- Previous Grounds: Somerton Park, until 1991