With the recent conclusion of (most of) the Third Round Proper of the FA Cup, we had a few worthy nominees for Small Club of the Week, and we covered one of them last week with Barnet F.C. This week, in advance of their Fourth Round Proper matches on Saturday, we’re going to cover the other two clubs that garnered notice for their upsets in the third round.
Newport County A.F.C.
Nickame(s): The Exiles
Founded: 1912 (founded); 1989 (reformed)
Location: Newport, South Wales
Team Colors: Yellow and Black
Ground: Rodney Parade
Current League: League Two (Tier 4)
Reason For Notice
Newport County was one of five League Two clubs to participate in the Third Round Proper of the FA Cup, and one of the two winners from that league (Oldham Athletic was the other) to win. Both clubs defeated clubs from the Premier League, with Newport County hosting and beating Leicester County 2-1.
Newport County is one of five Welsh clubs that participate in the English Football League. Though the club traces its lineage back to Newport AFC founded in 1912, the current iteration of the club has been in existence since only 1989. The original club started in the Southern League (Tier 8), and spent most of their initial existence in the lower rungs of the English football pyramid. Their best performance was a championship in the old Football League Third Division in the 1938-39 season, but for the most part, they were just a typical lower-tier football club.
In 1980, the club achieved promotion to the Football League Third Division, and their highest finish in that league came in the form of a 4th place finish after the 1982-83 season. However, despite continued success in league play and Cup competitions, Newport County failed to find financial success, leading to its relegation back to the Fourth Division for the 1987-88 season. After a last place finish in that lone season, they left the Football League for the first time in 60 seasons. Financial issues led to the bankruptcy of the club midseason, and they were removed from the Conference Premier (now National League) mid-season, with records expunged for the partial season.
A few months later, at the conclusion of the season, the club was reformed by a gorup of supporters as Newport AFC, though they could not play their home matches in Wales due to the unpaid debts of the previous club. After some legal wrangling a few seasons later, the new club saved their spot in the English football league system – as well as a place in Newport – and were reborn as Newport County AFC officially in 1999.
The club worked their way up through the Football Conference, winning the league now known as the National League South in 2010 to reach the National League Premier division, where further strong play led to their promotion to League Two after winning the promotion playoff after the 2012-13 season.
Though the club hasn’t lit the league on fire since promotion – they had consecutive seasons where they finished 22nd (one spot out of relegation) – they have averaged a 15th place finish over the past four seasons, fulfilling their goal of returning Football League action to Newport. After an 11th place finish last season, they are currently in 13th, though they have played two fewer matches than most of the league and have spent most of the season in playoff position.
In Round Four Proper of the FA Cup, they will be facing off against Championship club Middlebrough on 26 January at Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough. Should they again find success against a higher tier club, they would advance to the Fifth Round for only the second time in club history, and will find out their opponent in the draw on 28 January.
In their next League Two match, they will head to Stoke-on-Trent for a match against Port Vale on 29 January, followed by a trip to Grimsby Town on 2 February. They can likely expect to be playing twice a week in league play for the next month or so, especially if they are able to continue advancing through the FA Cup.
Until next time…