How Newport County and the FA Cup helped Liverpool target Ben White thrive
Albion are set to begin their FA Cup endeavours against League Two side Newport County in the second weekend of January.
Whilst perhaps not the most eye-catching matchup of the round, the tie will be no easy task for Brighton; Newport have produced a history of upsets in this competition.
The Welsh side first established their giant-killing status in 2018, after beating Leeds United 3-1 at Elland Road in a third-round tie.
Despite going behind in the ninth minute, Newport produced a late comeback against the Championship outfit, earning the right to play Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur in the next round.
Newport almost secured a famous upset against the North London club, until Harry Kane saved Spurs’ embarrassment with a late tap-in at Rodney Parade.
Unfortunately for Mike Flynn’s side, their journey was put to an end in the fourth-round replay at Wembley – Tottenham’s temporary home that season – but this campaign was only the beginning of their giant-killing powers.
In 2019, Newport regrouped and recharged, ready to take on England’s oldest cup competition once again. After beating Wrexham in Round two, the Exiles earned another special tie against former Premier League champions Leicester City, and edged past them thanks to a late penalty-kick.
A subsequent victory against Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough in the fourth round booked Newport another showstopping fixture: the chance to face up to Manchester City.
Despite their valiant efforts, the Amber Army fell to the sword of the defending Premier League champions, but still managed to register a consolation goal in the 4-1 defeat.
Ironically, Manchester City went on to knock Brighton out in the semi-finals, which was the furthest the Seagulls had progressed in the competition since their FA Cup winning campaign of 1983.
Two years on, Mike Flynn is still at the helm in South Wales and Newport sit at the summit of League Two, 30 points on their way to securing automatic promotion.
Therefore, Potter must be wary not to rest too many key players ahead of Brighton’s third-round trip, even if Brighton’s boss is tempted to save his entire first eleven for the midweek clash against Manchester City just a few days later.
Although the defender is now firmly rooted in Albion’s first team, Potter may feel obliged to select Ben White in his line-up against Newport if he feels the youngster can manage the extra game-time; White previously played on loan for the Welsh club in the 2017/18 season, and featured against both Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur during their remarkable cup run.
It should make for a happy homecoming, as White won the South Wales Player of the Year Award during his loan spell at Rodney Parade and was described as “the best loan signing the club has ever made” by Flynn.
Newport’s FA Cup antics in recent years have been a perpetual reminder of the magic of the competition – if Brighton wish to advance to the fourth round, they’d better have their wits about them.