Behind the scenes at Newport County ahead of their FA Cup clash with Premier League champions Manchester City

Newport County's Rodney Parade. The Field of FA Cup Dreams. Image Callum Ellis.

By Jamil Salih

LEAGUE Two Newport County play host to the Premier League champions, Manchester City, on Saturday in the FA Cup fifth round.

Eighty-one places separate the two sides in the English football ladder but the gulf between The Exiles and The Citizens does not end there.

County’s volunteer chief reporter is Sports Journalism student and South Wales Argus contributor Ryan Robinson. He writes all of the match reports for Newport County’s games.

“Working behind the scenes since the Middlesbrough FA Cup victory has been hectic,” he said.

“The club is run very well as it only has six full-time staff and therefore also relies on an army of volunteers who provide their services out of love for the club.”

Tomorrow, due to the sheer amount of press descending upon Rodney Parade, Robinson will also put his PR skills to use as he ensures that things run smoothly in what is going to be a packed-out press box.

Ryan Robinson, Chief Reporter at Newport County, speaks with striker Jamille Matt. Image courtesy of Newport County AFC

“We’ve had around 100 media requests [for the Man City game], and to fit them all into a press box of 17 is not possible.

“As such, some requests had to be rejected but a lot of the big guns in sports journalism will be covering the game such as Oliver Holt, chief sports writer from The Mail on Sunday and Jim Holden, from The Sunday Express.”

For a club who were mere minutes away from dropping out of the Football League almost two years ago, no-one could have envisioned what was in store for the Amber Army in the impending future.

“I’ve been really spoilt working at County over the last two and a bit years. I’ve covered the great escape, Leeds in the Carabao and FA Cup, Tottenham Hotspur at home and at Wembley where I had my first press day at the age of just 20, which is something I’ll never forget.

“I didn’t think these experiences could be topped but this season we’ve now beaten Leicester City and Middlesbrough and we’re now welcoming Manchester City to Newport. If there was ever a period to work for the club, it’s now and I’ve been afforded amazing access throughout my time here”.

Both sides come into the clash in contrasting form; Newport slumped to a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of MK Dons on Tuesday night whilst the champions breezed past Chelsea with a scoreline of 6-0 on Sunday.

 “The one thing that worries me is the fact that City went out of the FA Cup to Wigan last year; Pep Guardiola is a fantastic coach and he will not want losses to Wigan Athletic and potentially Newport County on his CV and the FA Cup is the only trophy he has not yet won in England, which I think will play a part also,” added Robinson.

“To see Man City take on County is what dreams are made of. I think this may be a stretch too far in terms of progressing but it’s a free hit for us. We may go out, but we’ll go out with dignity and if City do come away with the victory, they’ll probably end up winning the whole thing, along with all of the other trophies on offer in England.”

For County, this game signifies a lot more than just an FA Cup tie against the hottest property in English football. It has brought Newport together as a city.

“Mike Flynn has said a lot, that he wants to attract a generation of fans that we lost in the 25 years when we were in the wilderness when the club went bust in 1989,” said Robinson.

“It took 25 years to get back into the Football League, and there was a lost generation of fans during that period. We hope that our success in the FA Cup so far draws in more supporters as it is ultimately great for the club and the city.”

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City make the trip to Rodney Parade to take on Newport County live on BT Sport at 5:30pm on Saturday.