PRE-SEASON friendlies are not usually much of a spectacle for fans and I have sympathy with anyone giving them a wide berth, but tomorrow’s home clash with Chelsea under-23s is a worthy exception.

If you only attend one friendly this summer, make it this one and do all you can to show your support for Fraser Franks and his family.

A maximum of 900 tickets are available on a first-come-first-serve basis from 6pm on the night, with only the main stand open for the special match at Spytty Park (kick-off 7pm).

At £10 for adults and £5 for under-16s, it’s not cheap for a friendly. But 50 per cent of the proceeds will go to Franks, who was forced to retire earlier this year due to a heart problem.

The former Exiles captain, who started out in the youth ranks at Chelsea, has been coming to terms with his playing career being cruelly ended at the age of 28 over the past few months.

And he’s also been dealing with life as a new father, which he describes as the “perfect distraction” after what has been a tough time for him and his family.

Tomorrow’s friendly, as well as the £14,500 raised from a special third shirt for the new campaign, will help Franks cope with the transition to life as a former professional footballer.

County are also continuing to pay the centre-back until the end of the two-year contract he signed when he arrived at Rodney Parade last summer.

And, speaking to the EFL Podcast last week, Franks once again made it clear how grateful he is to the club and the County fans for all their support.

“They couldn’t have done anything more for me,” he said.

“They’ve honoured the rest of my contract, which they didn’t have to do.

“For a club in League Two, where you need to save every penny you can, that’s huge.

“For them to do that was massive for me and my family.

“Then there’s the friendly against Chelsea and the third shirt, which the fans have really got behind.

“I almost feel like I don’t deserve all of this – I’ve only been here for a season – but the fans have really taken to me and I can’t thank them enough.”

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Franks admits that there are still times when the sudden ending of his career is difficult to accept, but he’s determined to stay positive.

“I still don’t know if it’s properly sunk in,” he said. “It’s been such a whirlwind year since I signed for Newport.

“It is tough sometimes. At the play-off final I thought ‘that should be me out there’ and seeing the boys going off on a pre-season tour to Spain…

“But I’ve got so much to be grateful for and I’m healthy and happy.

“It was always my dream to be a professional football. When I was asked in school what I wanted to be that was always my answer.

“To achieve that is massive for me and something I can look back on with pride.

“I’m 28 now and it this had happened at 16 it may have been a different story, but I had 12 years as a player and hopefully I can still have a career in football.”

To that end, Franks has completed the UEFA B Licence coaching course and he will be heading to university in the autumn to study for a master’s degree in sporting directorship part-funded by the PFA.

It’s a smart move from a young man determined to look to the future with a positive attitude and I’m sure every County fan will wish him every success in his future endeavours both inside and outside the sport.

Tomorrow night is an opportunity to demonstrate to Franks once again how much he means to everyone connected with the club and a chance for him to show his gratitude for the support he’s received.

“Joining Newport was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” he said.

“Michael Flynn was great for me and I’ve got a great relationship with the chairman, which I’ve never had at any other club, and the fans and the community as well.

“If you’re out in town you bump into Newport fans left, right and centre; it’s a massive community and one I’ve grown to love.”

Franks may never pull on an amber shirt again, but he’ll always be a part of the County community.

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