The 1980s heralded both the brightest and darkest moments in Newport County's history. Len Ashurst was manager from 1978 to 1982, the club's most successful period in its history and under the chairmanship of Richard Ford. In the 1978–79 FA Cup County beat West Ham United 2–1 in round three before losing 1–0 to Colchester United in a fourth round replay. In 1980, promotion was finally achieved from the Football League Fourth Division, the club being only five points from being crowned champions although never being in contention to win the league and never being top. County sealed promotion in the last match of the season with a 4–2 win at high-flying Walsall. Walsall finished second in the league and were also promoted.
The team included a young John Aldridge who later became one of the most prolific goal-scorers in English football history, most famous for helping Liverpool win the First Division title in 1988 and FA Cup in 1989, as well as helping Oxford United win two successive promotions and the Football League Cup.
Also in the promotion-winning team was Tommy Tynan, one of the leading lower-league strikers of his era, who scored the all-important goal that sealed County's promotion. Dave Gwyther completed the trio of prolific goalscorers whilst captain Keith Oakes provided strength in cental defence. Youth team products Steve Lowndes and Nigel Vaughan went on to attain international caps for Wales. This was also the year that County won the Welsh Cup, entitling them to play in the 1980–81 season European Cup Winners' Cup.
The 1980–81 European Cup Winners' Cup 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 SK Haugar 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. Aldridge was injured for both matches against Carl Zeiss Jena, though he was a non-playing substitute in the 2nd leg. The quarter-final away leg was drawn 2–2 with Tommy Tynan scoring both goals, including his equaliser in the 90th minute. However, despite dominating the home leg, Newport lost 1–0 in front of 18,000 fans at Somerton Park, denying them a high-profile semi-final with S.L. Benfica. Carl Zeiss Jena went on to be the eventual cup runners-up, losing the final to Dinamo Tbilisi of the Soviet Union.
In the 1982–83 season Colin Addison, in his second spell as manager, led Newport County to their highest post-war league finish – 4th in the Third Division, just four points behind third-placed Huddersfield Town. Huddersfield were promoted to the Second Division, along with champions Portsmouth and local rivals Cardiff City. County had actually gone top of the table in early April after a 1–0 win over Cardiff in front of 16,052 fans at Somerton Park, but a return of only four points from the last seven games meant County missed out on promotion. County faced First-Division team Everton in the third round of the 1982–83 FA Cup. After a 1–1 draw at Newport, Everton won the replay 2–1.
In 1986 County reached the FA Cup third round under manager Bobby Smith, losing 2–0 to Sunderland. Newport appeared in the Welsh Cup final again in 1987 under manager John Lewis, this time losing 1–0 to Merthyr Tydfil after a replay.
Freefall and bankruptcy
Despite reaching the Welsh Cup final, County were relegated from the Third Division in 1987 and in 1988 finished bottom of the Fourth Division with a mere 25 points, meaning that their 60-season stay in the Football League was over. They failed to finish their first season in the Conference and finally went out of business on 27 February 1989 with debts of £330,000. They were then expelled from the Conference for failing to fulfil their fixtures.
Reformation and exile
In June 1989 the club was reformed by 400 supporters including David Hando as chairman; later club president. Former manager John Relish was re-appointed team manager and they were elected to the Hellenic League (then four divisions below the Football League). The club's main aim was to regain the Football League status lost in 1988. The club took on the name "Newport A.F.C." and adopted the nickname The Exiles, as a result of having to play home matches for the 1989–90 season at the London Road ground in the north Gloucestershire town of Moreton-in-Marsh, 80 miles (130 km) north-east of Newport. Newport Council considered the new company to be a continuation of the old, and refused it permission to use Somerton Park on the grounds of unpaid rent.
Fast Forward 20 years and we are here...
Well 'that is that then' the final words of Mr Flynn
Newport County's manager has walked after budgets were unable to be agreed with the supporters trust. A lot of panic erupted in the room with the start of pre season tomorrow and the board wanting to have the new man in charge ready for the gruelling season of League 2. Discussions continued late into the night and after a few bottles of red.
It was decided the man that will steer this ship until a more established name could be hired.
Several missed calls and an answer phone message later I was on my way to the training ground. The board of directors all suited and booted as we sit down and talk about the future of the club. negotiations were swift as if im honest i didn't have a clue what i was doing...
I make my way to the club shop decided i was going to be getting involved as much as possible so first thing first lets get a tracksuit!!
I arrived at the training ground hoping the staff would of got thing in motion. How wrong was i there was no staff just ME. I quickly interrupted the teams game of heads and volleys and got them doing circuits around the pitch until i could figure out what i was going to do for the day. YOUTUBE was a saviour!!
After the session i phoned a two friends who are fitness and nutrition trainers and asked if they fancied working with me one day a week until i could get some professionals in or what i would say people that have a clue.
I went home that evening head in the hands as i didn't know what i was going to do. I sat in the chair drained thinking how am i going to get this team ready August. I spent the rest of the evening watching old videos
of legends of the managerial world wondering how i would implement my style but more importantly what tactics..
This wasn't the start I had wanted, driving down towards the training ground i bumped into an old friend who i needed more than ever right now...