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The Newport winger who could have been a Blue...

Had things turned out differently, Newport County winger Keanu Marsh-Brown could have been lining up for City in Saturday’s FA Cup fifth round tie instead of playing against the Blues.

The promising then-teenager had come to the attention of City’s scouts and in the January 2011 transfer window, contact was made with the Cottagers regarding Marsh-Brown’s availability.

But with Fulham an established top 10 Premier League club at the time with a reputation of bringing through players from their academy, Marsh-Brown instead committed to the West London club.

READ: Where can I watch Newport v City?

“Yeah it’s true,” said Marsh-Brown, now 26. “I found out one morning that City and Spurs had made enquiries while I was at Fulham and they came in around January, but instead I ended up signing a new three-year deal with Fulham.

 

First club... Keanu during his Fulham days

 

“I was 18 at then time and it seemed the right decision but seeing how things have gone at City ever since, obviously if I had the chance again, I would have definitely moved north.”

Marsh-Brown eventually did make the move to the north-west in 2012, but it was Oldham Athletic – then managed by former City favourite Paul Dickov.

“I got on well with Paul,” he recalled. “I think he moved on to Doncaster Rovers later on, but he was a good manager, especially with the younger lads.

“He would join in the training sessions and he still had some quality.”

Marsh-Brown later joined Yeovil Town and then Barnet before enjoying a productive spell with Forest Green Rovers, helping the Gloucestershire side into league football during his three years at the club.

“I got to two finals at Wembley with Forest Green and they are obviously occasions that you will never forget,” he said.

 

Keanu celebrates a Wembley play-off win with Forest Green

 

It also led to a friendship with Forest Green celebrity supporter and best-selling book author Jilly Cooper.

“Yeah I got to know Jilly at Forest Green,” said Marsh-Brown.

“She sponsored me at Forest Green and she still does at Newport which is really nice. She’s a lovely lady and me and my fiancee sometimes go around for dinner.”

 

Best-selling author and Keanu sponsor Jilly Cooper

 

Now, Marsh-Brown is hoping to pit his wits against the full-backs of the Premier League champions in Saturday’s eagerly-awaited FA Cup fifth round tie.

Newport County have already seen off Leicester City and Middlesbrough in this season’s epic cup run and last season against Spurs, only a late Harry Kane goal rescued a 1-1 draw and a replay at Wembley Stadium.

So, what the secret?

“I think it’s because when we get a home draw, Rodney Parade is not an easy place for bigger teams to come to,” says Marsh-Brown.

“We have a great fanbase and the boys always turn up on the day for these types of games – as we try to in every game we play – but there’s something about the FA Cup that brings out the best in us.

“If I’m honest, think that teams come to our stadium and because it’s not what they’re used to, it’s a total turn-off.

“When Middlesbrough came to play us, the weather was awful, the pitch wasn’t the best and we knew how to deal with those conditions better than they did.

“We won that game 2-0 and earned a tie against City.

 

Robbie Wilmott celebrates scoring against Middlesbrough

 

“As for our pitch, there haven’t been any rugby games on there lately and we played on it on Tuesday and lost 1-0 to MK Dons – we should have won by three or four goals in all honesty – but the pitch will be same for both teams.

“For someone like me who likes to get the ball down on the floor, it can be tricky as well and when the weather is really bad, it can ruin the surface completely.

“But we know City only have one way of playing – City will adapt, but I’ve no doubt they will just play their game as they always do and if things aren’t coming off, they will persist until maybe they do.

“Everyone is raring to go, and we’ll be ready for the game. We’ll stay calm and relaxed and everyone knows their job and we all need to turn up on matchday and give it our best.

“We’ve spoken about how big this game is and could be for our club if we could win – it would be remembered for years to come and there is nobody thinking we can’t – anything is possible on the day.

 

Oh, Rodney, Rodney...

 

“We know City showed Burton Albion total respect with the teams they played in the Carabao Cup, so we know it will be a strong team Pep puts out which is the way we want it.

“Of course, there’s no replays from the fifth round on so it has to be settled on the day. It goes without saying we’d have enjoyed it if we could have got a replay at the Etihad – though I’m not so sure we’d have enjoyed being penned in for 90 minutes and not seeing the ball for 89 of those minutes!”

Keanu admits this is a game the Newport County fans can’t wait to play in but says City’s 6-0 win over Chelsea was a reminder of the sizeable task ahead of his team on Saturday.

“We all watched the game away from the training ground and the next day we came in and it was like, ‘We don’t need any of that!’” he smiled.

“Whatever happens, this type of game is what makes the FA Cup the competition it is.”

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