Former County winger Leighton James recalls his memories from our 1986 FA Cup tie against Sunderland…

It has been thirty years since the Exiles last progressed to the third-round of the FA Cup.

Part of the team that represented the Exiles in the third-round was winger Leighton James. Leighton spent at year with Newport County during the 1985-86 season and was a member of the team that travelled to face Sunderland.

“I remember the game quite well,” recalls the former winger.

“I had been at Sunderland for a few years previously and knew the Club quite well. I still knew a lot of the players that played against us that day.” 

Looking back on the match, Leighton remembers that conditions played a big part in the outcome of the game, with questions of whether or not the game would go ahead.

“The game was in the old Roker Park and obviously it was an exciting experience for me to go back as a former player” 

“It was a very icy pitch that day and before the game I think the match was in doubt.”

“We travelled up on the Friday evening and on the Saturday morning there was some questions to whether the game would go ahead or not. I think the referee looked at it and thought that we had made a big effort to travel up the night before and we wanted to get the game on obviously.”

“The game went ahead and although we lost the game, we certainly didn’t let ourselves down in any shape or form.”

“Sunderland managed to score two goals on the day and they were better than us obviously, but we came away from the game with our heads held high.”

“For us Newport players, it felt like a big achievement getting to the third-round of the FA Cup.”

Speaking about his teammates during his his spell at County, Leighton believes that the quality in that team during the 85-86 season was far above their Third Division status.

“We had some decent players. Mark Kendall in goal was outstanding and he is sadly no longer with us, but he was a top goalkeeper at that level,” he added. 

“We had two good full-backs in brothers Linden and Peter Jones, Terry Boyle at the back, Roy Carter, John Lewis, Steve Berry. We were a decent side.”

“I enjoyed my season with Newport and after Booby Smith left in the February, I assisted John Relish and we managed to keep the team up.”

“I have a very good relationship with John Relish, both working and personal and I think that went a long way in helping the Club beat the drop that season.”

Leighton now works as a pundit for BBC Radio Wales and has been invited to Saturday’s game as a guest of the Directors.

“It’s always nice to be invited back,” said the former Welsh international.

“As a former Burnley player as well, I don’t have any great affiliation for Blackburn Rovers, so all my heart, my thoughts and my gut feeling will be for a Newport County victory on Saturday.”

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