A “re-branding” ten miles down the road from us.

Tuesday’s Board meeting came and went with no announcement as to whether last week’s furore about the “re-branding” proposals had led to a watering down in terms of a new training centre, increased capacity for the stadium and the size of the budget available to Malky Mackay for team building. It seems we’ll have to wait a few days more until Datuk Chan Tien Ghee (TG) has reported back to Vincent Tan and the other Malaysian investors before there’ll be further developments in the saga that has rocked the club to it’s foundations.

Maybe that’s a bit of an over exaggeration, but there are many who will be re-assessing their relationship with the club, There’ll also be some who will be regretting things things they said and did in the past week and, in those sort of terms, I’ve not known a period like this since “Black Friday” back in 2005

As the arguments have raged on the messageboards, in the pubs and in media outlets, there have been occasions when those on both sides have used the examples of clubs who have “re-branded” in the past to support their viewpoint, but, as far as I’m aware, no one has mentioned what happened ten miles down the road from us in Newport back in the days when words like “re-branding” didn’t seem to exist.

When former City manager Jimmy Scoular took over at Newport County in that long, hot summer of 1976, he did a couple of things. Firstly, he completely revamped the County squad by bringing in a host of players who had worked under him at Cardiff. The County squad which started the 1976/77 season featured Gary Bell, Steve Derrett, Tony Villars, Brian Clark, John Parsons, Peter Morgan and had Ronnie Bird as it’s kit man – they would also be joined by Don Murray a couple of months into the campaign.

The other thing Mr Scoular did was change the team’s kit – I don’t mean a slight alteration to the sleeves, collars or cuffs here, it was just about as drastic a change as could be imagined. As far as I was aware at the time, Newport County had always played in amber (or orange) and black – the town’s rugby side were known as the “Black and Ambers” as well. However, Mr Scoular decided what was needed was a change to sky blue and white striped shirts and sky blue shorts! This link shows that I was mistaken to believe that County had always played in amber or orange, but it had been nearly forty years since neither colour featured in their kit.

I’m sure that the new kit was not welcomed by the club’s fanbase, but, I don’t seem to recall angry supporters demanding that Scottish Saltires be burnt or there being panic on the streets of Rogerstone, Spytty, Maindee, Usk side. As to the reasons for the switch to sky blue and white, well it seems there were no multinatonal conglomerates who wanted their company colours to be worn by a Fourth Division club, it was that, just like the only reason we’ve been given so far for our planned change to red shirts and the change the deeply superstitious Don Revie made at Leeds in the early sixties from blue and yellow to all white, Jimmy Scoular wanted a change of luck at Newport.

I'm sure there are other pictures of Newport County's 1976/77 kit about on the Internet somewhere, but I couldn't find them, so here's one of a County fan wearing the Argentina style shirt with a couple of dogs who will be celebrating their 40th birthdays soon.

There’s been talk of red being a “lucky” colour in the Far East to justify our proposed change of shirt colour and Leeds’ switch to white was inspired by the fantastic Real Madrid side of that time, but it seems that Mr Scoular’s attitude was more along the lines of anything but the colours Newport had worn throughout most of a history that has seen them established as one of the Football League’s perennial strugglers – given County’s permanently parlous finances, it might be that the kit, which I suppose most resembled Argentina’s, was part of a job lot going cheap!

Whatever the reason, the change of kit didn’t do Jimmy Scoular’s team any good – a woeful goals for record (they only scored thirteen times in their first twenty six league matches) soon had them clunking along in the lower levels of the league’s bottom division. Jimmy Scoular didn’t last too long – he had resigned after a defeat at Darlington in mid January which had left the side one place off the bottom. With his successor, Colin Addison, making a poor start, County were at the foot of the table five weeks later following a 4-0 thrashing at Aldershot and looking certainties to finish as one of the bottom four teams who would have to apply for re-election to the Football League in the summer.

From this point though, County’s fortunes began to slowly improve simply because they had finally began to start scoring on a consistent basis. More matches were won than lost, but they still looked to have only a very slight chance of avoiding re-election as they went into their last five matches, The fact that four of them were at home offered some hope though, and three wins on the trot saw County go into two matches against re-election certainties Workington to finish their campaign with their fate in their own hands. A 1-0 win at Workington’s Borough Park meant that, for the first time, County found themselves as favourites to escape re-election ahead of the return fixture at Somerton Park and the nerves showed in a game of a very poor quality. However, a solitary goal by striker Eddie Woods in the first half ensured that the side who had played all season in that bizarre kit had avoided having to go cap in hand to the other league clubs hoping to get enough votes to survive another season – Workington weren’t so lucky, the Cumbrian club, which was regarded as something of a footballing outpost, had played their last match in the Football League as they were voted out and replaced by Wigan Athletic.

So was Newport’s “re-branding” a success? Well, despite their great finish to the season, I’d say Newport’s change of kit could hardly be deemed a success and they were back in orange and black for the following season, but the 8,313 that crammed into Somerton Park to watch Workington’s final Football League game thirty five years ago today was their biggest for a league match in the 70’s up to that point. So, maybe, if anything can be learned from Newport’s experience in a season which ended with the Queen’s Silver Jubilee being celebrated and the Sex Pistols singing (I use that word loosely!) about her “fascist regime”, it’s that, even when a club ignores it’s heritage, people still turn up to watch them if they are winning matches.

17 May 1977

Newport County 1 Workington 0

County Macey; Derrett, Walker, Murray, Bell; Preece, Emanuel,Relish, Byrne; Woods, Clark

Workington Laisby; Leng, Johnston, Scholes, Wallace; Harris, Honour, Kisby, Wiiliamson; Ashworth, McDonald

HT 1-0

Att. 8,313


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