Mike Flynn has confirmed he is looking for his squad to make sacrifices over Christmas in order to keep Newport County AFC around the League 2 play-off positions.
The Exiles face the prospect of having four games in just nine games over the seasonal period, a time scale where the side failed to pick up a single point last season.
It is Flynn’s first experience of the Christmas period as a manager and he is looking to the words of one of his former managers to help him and the squad through this time.
“You can look at it two ways and it is kind of difficult,” he commented.
“All of your family and friends are doing things but that’s the dedication and sacrifices that football players have to make.
“For me personally, I really enjoyed the Christmas period.
“I always thought it was boring – going back years, everything was closed, I know more things are open these days, but you could only really go out on your bike as a kid.
“But once you’re a footballer, you’re not up late, you want to see your kids have a nice day and you can’t eat too much turkey or dessert.
“You just want to get ready and get the games out of the way. As Paul Jewell used to say at Wigan, you can have your Christmas in June.”
Flynn also confirmed that the squad will be allowed to have Christmas Day off to allow them to spend time with their families.
“They won’t be in on Christmas Day,” he affirmed.
“I keep saying it but I’m not going to make apologies, I have a good group and I trust them.
“We need to let them have some down time with their families. It’s a busy period – I’ve been in on Christmas Day and lost, I’ve been off on Christmas Day and lost.
“But I’ve also been in on Christmas Day and won, as-well as off on Christmas Day and won. It’s just about making sure we apply ourselves correctly the following day.”
And Flynn has made sure that all of the steps have been implemented to allow the players to have that day off.
“We have a wellness programme,” he added.
“We do their RPs as-well, so we can see their weight before and after training. It tells you how much they need to hydrate in order to recover as quick as possible.
“It’s all monitored. It’s something I wanted to bring in and it has helped with our fitness.
“We don’t just go around and run like idiots and hope for the best, we plan our weeks thoroughly and it’s the reason we have those staff at the club because they are good at it.”
Before that day off, the squad have the difficult task of facing Lincoln City in the final home game of 2017 on Saturday.
The Imps are looking for back-to-back promotions having won the National League last season.
And while they currently occupy a spot in the League 2 play-off positions this campaign, Flynn is still adamant that he is yet to be concerned with positions in the table.
“It’s a tough game,” he stated.
“They are on a good run of form and are a strong team. It’s going to be a battle and I’m sure it’s one that we’ll be up for.
“I don’t take any notice with the tables and I think I’ve been pretty consistent in saying that I won’t be taking any notice of the table until at least the end of January.”
He continued: “They have a lot of good players.
“Danny Cowley has recruited well, and it has got them into a good position in the Football League. They have had a successful period and the club is still on a high after promotion and the FA Cup run last year.
“And they are doing well in League 2 this season. They are a strong unit and they make it difficult for teams. It’s going to be a tough game.
“If we’re not fully focused against Lincoln, then we’ll probably end up getting beaten. I’ll make sure they are focused and hopefully we can get the three points.”
The Imps bring with them two of the in-form strikers in the division.
Matt Rhead has recently signed a new contract with the club and has scored in the last two games, while his strike-partner Matt Green has four goals in four games.
And Flynn certainly had a plan when it came to stopping the strike-force.
He admitted: “I’ve got a stepladder for one of the centre-halves to mark Matt Rhead.
“In all seriousness, they have played against bigger players all season. They dealt with Uche at Cambridge well in the FA Cup, handled the boy at Swindon well too.
“As long as the concentration is there, I’m sure they will handle Rhead as-well.”
Some injury news for the game sees Flynn still waiting on Mark O’Brien and David Pipe, who were both forced to withdraw from the Cambridge game last weekend.
But Flynn is optimistic of a return for his defensive duo.
“Just the two from last week at the moment,” he confirmed.
“We have been keeping a careful eye on Mark O’Brien and David Pipe this week and hopefully they will be alright for selection on Saturday.
“I’m confident they will be available but it’s another 48 hours and as long as none of them have another reaction or a setback then I think they will be okay.
“Other than that, it’s just Marlon and Calaum who are out.”
Flynn is also looking for his squad to provide the ideal Christmas present for County supporters with a win against the Imps.
It will be the last time the side play at Rodney Parade this year and Flynn wants to end with the right result.
He affirmed: “They (the fans) have been superb all season, especially this time of year when finances are tight. They have come out to Cambridge and believe me, I drove down to meet the coach and it was a hell of a journey. I didn’t even want to drive it!
“So fair play to them because they were magnificent. I’m glad we managed to get the win for them. It’s tough for them but they have been amazing.”
The side will only have three days to recover from the Lincoln game in preparation for the trip to Wycombe Wanderers on Boxing Day.
But Flynn is not daunted by that trip to Buckinghamshire, citing the previous trip there in 2013 as reason for optimism.
“The beauty is that we’ve done it before,” he said.
“And I think I scored the winner that day as-well the last time we played there on Boxing Day. And we were off on Christmas Day that year.
“It all depends on the day, thankfully we won, and everything was good.”
The games come off the back of the dramatic 94th minute winner at Cambridge United last weekend.
And Flynn reiterated his stance that he was happy to secure all three points on the day, even if the performance from the Exiles wasn’t up to the usual standard.
He continued: “You can look at it and say when we went down to Exeter that we played really well. But we lost 1-0.
“I’d rather be the lucky ones and play bad and get the win.
“If you play 46 good games but lose the majority of them, you could go to Solihull Moors away instead of the Wycombe’s and Accrington’s of the league.
“You really have to weigh it up. Was I happy with the performance? No. Was I happy with the result? Yes, I was ecstatic because of the way they kept going.
“I said on Saturday that I would have taken a point after they scored because I thought they played really well. But we will come up against that this season and it shows the character that the boys have to win the game.”
Looking at the wider picture of the four games as a whole, Flynn has admitted he has set himself a point total that he expects the Exiles to achieve.
“We always have small targets,” he affirmed.
“We’ll have a look and say that it would be nice to get so many points. But we don’t look past the next game, we take it game by game and prepare for every opposition.
“We treat them with the upmost respect, but we don’t fear anyone. If you look at the four games with twelve points available, would we like ten? Yes. Would we love 12? I’d bite your hand off for twelve.
“We do have those types of conversation, but the players don’t get involved in that, that’s more to do with the staff.”
And Flynn also commented on how crucial this time of year can be for seeing where the side could end up in the table.
He commented: “It’s huge. It’s a busy period and the reason why it is so important is that you have a lot of games in such a short space of time.
“With squads like ourselves, we’ve got to make sure that they are rested, wrapped up in cotton wool and wheeled out for the next game.
“There won’t be much training going on but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do things off the pitch. We can do video analysis and things like that but it’s a short space of time with a lot of points up for grabs.
“Hopefully we can get as many as we can.”