Sunday, May 5, 2013. A date that will live long in the memory for Newport County AFC as the Club returned to the Football League after a 25-year absence.
Led by the late great Justin Edinburgh, in his first full season in charge, the Exiles saw off Welsh rivals Wrexham 2-0 at Wembley thanks to goals from Christian Jolley and Aaron O’Connor to clinch promotion from the National League – then called the Conference Premier.
The Club are still going strong in SkyBet League Two having created many magical memories along the way, but what happened to the heroes from seven years ago?
Our focus this time moves onto David Pipe.
The former Wales U21 captain made over 200 appearances for County and is a legendary figure at the Club having been part of some of the most memorable moments in the club’s recent history.
Wales-born Pipe moved to Newport County in September 2011, after spells at Coventry City, Notts County and Bristol Rovers, as well as a loan move to Cheltenham Town.
After making his debut in a narrow 1-0 defeat to Braintree Town on September 17, Pipe became a mainstay in the team, despite Justin Edinburgh replacing Anthony Hudson as manager, making 34 appearances in the Conference Premier as the Exiles finished 19th, six points above the relegation zone.
His performances did not go unnoticed as he was named South Wales Argus Player of the Year and his season finished at Wembley, although it was a disappointing end as County were beaten 2-0 by York City in the FA Trophy final.
The former Wales international signed new terms with County that summer and was then named club captain following the departure of Gary Warren.
In their first season at Rodney Parade, Pipe led by example and was a reliable member of the team as he led the Club into the play-offs, making 41 league appearances. Once again, his efforts were rewarded, this time with a place in the Conference Premier team of the season, alongside Christian Jolley.
For the second season running, he finished the season at Wembley, this time with a place in the Football League at stake. It was a positive ending this time around as he lifted the play-off final trophy after County beat Welsh rivals Wrexham to seal promotion.
Pipe extended his stay to a third year in South Wales and helped County get off to the perfect start on their return to the Football League with an assist in a 4-1 victory over Accrington Stanley on the opening day of the season.
His physicality and determination made him a difficult man for attackers to get past but he also showed his value in the final third with a match-winning assist for current manager Michael Flynn in a 1-0 victory over Wycombe Wanderers.
The arrival of Ryan Jackson gave Pipe competition for a place in the team but the defender still made 29 appearances across all competitions between right back, centre back and defensive midfield.
However, he struggled for game time in the second half of the season and it was announced in February 2014, that he would be leaving the Club that summer.
On the expiration of his contract, Pipe moved to Forest Green Rovers where he was given the armband. A regular at The New Lawn, Pipe featured heavily throughout the campaign as Forest Green Rovers made it into the play-offs but missed out on the Wembley showpiece after losing to Bristol Rovers in the semi-finals.
Pipe was joined by former Exile Aaron O’Connor at Forest Green Rovers the following season and the pair played a vital role as the Club won their opening nine fixtures of the season. His first goal came in September, firing in an equaliser in a 2-2 draw with eventual champions Cheltenham Town.
Once again, Pipe demonstrated his versatility as he operated at full back, winger and central midfielder to guide Forest Green Rovers to another play-off finish. He played 22 minutes as they won the semi-final first leg against Dover Athletic before a 1-1 draw in the return leg booked their place in the final.
It was a game that Pipe had experienced before but he couldn’t prevent a 3-1 defeat to Grimsby Town. That proved to be his final game for the Club as he was released the next day.
The defender then joined up with fellow National League outfit Eastleigh but spent most of his time on the bench, making just nine appearances before a return to Rodney Parade in January 2017.
During his time away from the Club, he was inducted into the Newport County AFC Hall of Fame and he proved why he was loved by the fans on his return.
Pipe missed just two games – defeats to Mansfield Town and Leyton Orient – as County produced a remarkable comeback to avoid relegation and complete the Great Escape. After leading the Club to promotion to the Football League, he provided the assist to Mark O’Brien that kept them up.
He re-joined County on a permanent basis for the second time upon his release from Eastleigh.
Again, his versatility saw him ever-present under Flynn either in a three-man defence or at wing back. He made 43 appearances in 2017/18 – 35 of which came in League Two – as County finished comfortably in mid-table.
He was also a key part of the squad that impressed in the FA Cup, beating Championship side Leeds United and taking the Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur to a replay at Wembley before bowing out.
He signed a new deal to extend his stay but found minutes harder to come as Tyler Forbes, Regan Poole and Robbie Willmott challenged him for a place in the team but he still made an impact in another memorable season.
County once again took the FA Cup by storm beating Wrexham, Leicester City and Middlesbrough before welcoming Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City to Rodney Parade in a fifth-round clash, which they went on to lose 4-1 – with two late goals adding gloss to the scoreline for the visitors.
He featured 19 times in the league as County in the 2018-19 season before annoucning retirement away at Macclesfield on Easter Monday, A true County legend.