These programme notes were written by Director Mike Herrick, for the Newport County AFC edition of This Is Our Town.
What a difference a few months makes. With just 12 games to go to the end of last season the Exiles were adrift at the bottom of the table in a seemingly impossible position, 11 points from safety.
Their great escape was not confirmed until almost the final minute of the final game when Mark O'Brien, one of our old boys, scored the goal that amazingly lifted them out of the bottom two.
Now, just ten games into this season they sit rather comfortably level on points with us in a play-off position. Their recent form matches ours exactly with ten points from the last five games. It all adds up to an intriguing encounter which is likely to give some of our squad who have been waiting patiently in the wings a chance to shine.
Recently, the directors met at The Brache training ground for a full board meeting. These are held on a monthly basis and always start with a full financial review of the business where every aspect of the club's income and expenditure is examined via detailed reports presented by finance director Simon Gibb.
Recently I was browsing through the minutes of a board meeting from
several years ago and it's amazing to see just how the business has grown in complexity during this period.
It reminded me just how much of a struggle it was then, and how careful we had to be to keep our heads above water during those early years in the Conference, with their very limited central funding.
Though we were never short of ideas and innovative schemes for increasing our revenue, most of these required capital to be invested to kick-start and fulfil the projects – capital which was always hard to find. Moving towards the financial stability that was, and must remain, one of our principal objectives was a very slow process.
It certainly helped that the board was, and still is, full of committed, long-term supporters. This is in stark contrast to a number of clubs who are now controlled by absentee owners who know little about the history and tradition of the clubs they run. Unfortunately, it seems to be an increasing trend.
Indeed, we saw an example of this at our most recent game at Morecambe. I must add, though, that the local staff – often volunteers – who entertained us there were very hospitable and warm-hearted, but it was a shame to see the uncertain future that this business model gives rise to.
Moving on, I'd like to remind you all of two events in the near future. Firstly, we have an agreement with Luton Ladies to play one of their League matches each season at Kenilworth Road.
This year's game is next Wednesday (4th October) against Denham United. Admission is free with a 7.30pm kick off.
Ladies football is currently enjoying a higher profile and, like all teams, I know that all support would be welcomed.
Secondly, you will see advertised elsewhere in the programme the club's Christmas dinner at Venue 360 on Thursday 7th December.
Compered by John Motson, the main speaker is Bruce Rioch – one of our favourite sons. A local boy – brought up at Stopsley High School – he made his first team debut in 1964 when the club was very much in the doldrums.
He was, however, an integral part of the team that went on to achieve promotion by becoming Champions of the old Fourth Division (now League 2) in 1968. This was without doubt my favourite season of all time (so far), as it was the first time I had witnessed the highs that promotion could bring. This is the season that is being so expertly chronicled and serialised in these pages by Roger Wash.
The first ten years of my journey with Luton Town had seen a steady decline from Division One (now the Premier League) to Division Four.
Missing only two games (over Christmas!), Bruce contributed 27 goals in a team which played exhilarating football from start to finish. He is fondly remembered by all who were privileged to watch him play.
It promises to be a nostalgic evening but be aware that tickets are going fast for this event.
Also, many of you will be aware that next Saturday is national NonLeague Day – a national initiative to encourage people to visit their local Non-League football clubs.
With the Hatters away at Accrington Stanley, if you're not planning on travelling to the north-west, why not visit one of our neighbours to take in a game?
Our friends at Hitchin Town, for example, are holding a 'Pay What You Want' policy for their Evo-Stik South Premier Division game against Stratford Town – just as they did when they stepped in to host us at the 11th hour in pre-season when our friendly at St Albans City was called off in tragic circumstances – and a percentage of the gate is being donated to a homeless shelter in the town.
Other local options to take in a game include Dunstable Town, who host Farnborough at Creasey Park in the same division, and Kempston Rovers, who are home to Hythe Town in the FA Trophy preliminary round.
Make sure you get down to Ely Way first though to support Inigo Idiakez's Hatters youth team in their 11am kick-off against Northampton Town!
Talking of Non-League and youth, it was wonderful to see Harry Cornick make his first league start for the club, and 19-year-old Aaron Jarvis – our recent recruit from Basingstoke Town – get on as a late substitute for his professional debut at Morecambe (pictured above). Well done to both young men, who we hope will have a bright future at Kenilworth Road.
And so to the main event today. Though our three-game winning run came to an end at Morecambe, the unbeaten run was extended to four matches and we can be assured that the squad will aim to start another winning sequence today.
As always, your exceptional support will be an enormous benefit to help us achieve this.
Come On You Hatters!