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WHERE ARE THEY NOW? | Ismail Yakubu

29 May 2020

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?

Ismail Yakubu is the next player we will focus on.

After coming through the academy at Barnet, Yakubu played almost 300 games for the Bees before moving to AFC Wimbledon in 2010, where he helped the Dons gain promotion to the Football League by scoring a spot-kick in the penalty shoot-out win over Luton Town in the Conference Premier play-off final.

However, his heroics didn’t earn him a new deal and Anthony Hudson brought him to South Wales in 2011.

The centre back had a mixed start to life at Newport County AFC as he was sent on loan to Cambridge United after a good start to the season.

Justin Edinburgh’s appointment saw Yakubu given a chance on his return in November and he worked his way into the side to help the Club bag their first win since August with a 4-0 win over Hayes & Yeading United, where Yakubu struck twice.

He followed that up with the winner against Lincoln City but was in and out of the side as the Exiles finished 19th, six points above the relegation zone. He almost finished his first season with silverware but hit the post as County narrowly missed out on the FA Trophy to York City in the final at Wembley.

Having made over 30 appearances, Yakubu activated a clause in his contract that earned him another year at the club, and it was a memorable on too.

The defender was a mainstay in the team as County made it into the play-offs but he also showed his threat in the opposition box with five goals as well as the winner in the first leg of the play-off semi-final against Grimsby Town.

He kept his place at the heart of the defence as County earned promotion back to the Football League without conceding a goal in the play-offs.

Yakubu agreed a new deal at County and kept his place in the defence as Edinburgh’s men more than matched their opponents on their return to the Football League, finishing comfortably in mid-table.

Injuries limited him to 25 League Two appearances, and 30 in total, but his performances when fit were enough to convince Edinburgh to extend his stay for a fourth year.

Once again, Yakubu began the season as first choice but spent time on the sidelines as Edinburgh tried to find the winning formula.

He returned to the starting XI in late September and rediscovered his best form to keep his place. A regular at the back, Yakubu amassed a further 35 appearances in the amber shirt before another injury ended his season prematurely.

A 2-0 defeat to Southend United proved to be his final outing for County as he was released ahead of the 2015/16 season with Terry Butcher at the helm.

The incoming Butcher said to the media:

"It's always a really, really tough day when you say goodbye to good club servants but their place in Newport County AFC history is well cemented now, that will stay and never ever change.

"Every player can leave here with their head held high."

Yakubu joined National League outfit Woking upon his release but suffered an anterior cruciate ligament rupture after just six games and didn’t feature again for the rest of the season.

However, he remained at Woking for the 2016/17 season and was even named captain. Injuries still hampered him but he managed to make a telling contribution as the Cards saw off relegation by three points.

After his release from Woking, Yakubu joined up with National League South side Hemel Hempstead Town and played his part as they made it to the play-offs before a 3-2 penalty shoot-out defeat to Braintree United ended their promotion dream.

The following Febraury saw him join Kingstonian of the Isthmian League Premier Division on a short-term deal and he helped them avoid the drop.

His displays convinced Hayes & Yeading United to bring in the experienced defender at the beginning of this season and he quickly established himself in the team, picking up the armband in the process.

He was an ever-present in the team but injury saw him lose his place and he then returned to South Wales, on loan, at Merthyr Town, joining up with former Exiles Kyle Patten and Kerry Morgan.

After initially joining on a short-term loan, Yakubu impressed and agreed to stay on loan until the end of the season. His last game for the club came in a goalless draw against Beaconsfield Town before the football season was put on hold.


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