Until we qualify for Europe, the only border we cross for a game of football is the Welsh one – and for teams like Newport County

Until we qualify for Europe, the only border we cross for a game of football is the Welsh one – and for teams like Newport County. It feels so unspectacular too. There’s no 5am pints at Stansted Wetherspoons, no continental cafe culture and a strong chance of rain on top of it all. Half the time, you don’t even notice the border’s there. Three quarters of Chester‘s Deva Stadium is on their side. But you wouldn’t know it.

If you’re travelling to south Wales, the Severn Bridge is the pretty big, steel-built giveway. And, once you’re across, that’s Wales. Just as soon as you’ve taken that in, you arrive in Newport. So, how did this little international fixture end up on our desk – and why is it so important you realise Wales and the Isle of Wight are two very different places?

Who are Newport County?

First and foremost, the Exiles are not Newport (IOW). At no point have we ever needed to catch a ferry for this one. To be fair, we might have done so in the days before that Bridge. Nor are they Newport Pagnell Town. But you’d need to be even more confused to think so. No, this lot are – whether they like it or not – Wales’ third-best club team. For a while, you could say it was Wrexham. Not so much now, however.

By our own rules here at BoroGuide, we shouldn’t be going back further than 1989 for this tale. Yes – the Exiles first formed in 1912; becoming a Football League team in 1920 (and again in 1932 after failing to get re-elected in 1931). And when we were just starting out in senior football in 1980-1, they were storming through to the quarter finals of the European Cup Winners’ Cup. Now that’s something we could only dream of… for now. Then again, it did help that winning the Welsh Cup took you into Europe back then.

It still does now, to be fair. But the ‘big’ Welsh sides don’t take part any more.

Why do we know Newport County?

In 1987, the old County were relegated from the old Division Three. A year later and they were propping up the entire Football League. We know how that feels, lads. It took them out of the League and into the Conference. But their campaign would not see the end. In February 1989, the club were wound up with debts of £330,000. It wasn’t ’til the summer that a new club formed in its place: Newport AFC.

After climbing up through the Hellenic and Southern Leagues, the Exiles (re-)added their lost County suffix in 1999. And their road ‘back’ to the Football League continued. First, it started with a place in the new Conference South for the 2004-5 campaign. In 2010, they won the title and came up to the Blue Square Premier (just as we were leaving). And just three years later, the playoffs brought them into League Two. Restoration complete?

Oh, right – what about us. Well, their debut season in the League saw us relegated from League One. The two aren’t connected, of course. But that’s how we eventually came to meet for the first time.

What is our record against Newport County?

Do you know, it surprises us how good our record against the Exiles is – because we had thought it wasn’t great. It’s perhaps down to the fact that it opened with a dismal defeat at their place in December 2014. But we then went on a run of seven without defeat against them; winning five and drawing a couple, including a 3-3 belter on the opening day of the 2017-8 season. There’s been no shortage of drama, to be fair.

The odd number of games between us is, obvs, down to the aborted 2019-20 season. It gave us more than enough time to pay a visit to south Wales and the return at our place was actually the first of our remaining games to fall to Covid-19. Under the leadership of Mark Sampson, Boro’ were denied a rare win by Jamille Matt‘s 92nd minute equaliser. It would’ve been a decent point given our record that season. But to be so close to a win…

Newport County: Boro’s Record

Our head-to-head: P 11 — W 6 — D 3 — L 2 — F 18– A 13 — Pts 21 — WR 55%
Our last tango: Newport County 1-1 Stevenage, 14 December 2019

What happened to Newport County?

Well, what do you want our answer to be? At the time of writing this, we’re still (thankfully) in the same division. And we’re due to pick up where we left off during the 2020-1 season. But with how things are going with that infernal lurgy, we’ll believe it when we see it*.

*probably on iFollow


• WANT TO KNOW MORE? – Newport County club profile

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Pete H is the head of the BoroGuide team; helping to keep the show on the road for the best part of two decades – all because of his love of Boro'. He was relatively late to the scene; first rocking up at Broadhall Way during the 1995-6 season. But that's mainly because he was too young to pledge allegiance before then. There have been more than enough highs (Easter Monday '96) and lows (Kettering '02) since then, however, to keep him occupied. Yes, and the 2010 title win...