Mike Flynn says he will welcome Dino Maamria back to Rodney Parade with open-arms when the Stevenage manager brings his squad down to South Wales on Saturday.
The 46-year old is currently embarking on just his first managerial position in the Football League at the Hertfordshire club, with an emphatic victory over struggling Barnet last time out his first victory since his appointment on 20th March 2018.
Maamria was also assistant manager at Rodney Parade last year under Graham Westley’s reign, and was a key part of the decision to bring Flynn back to the club in a coaching capacity.
And Flynn ensured he placed on record his thanks to the pair for allowing him the opportunity of returning back to Newport County AFC.
He affirmed: “Listen, I’ve always said that I owe Graham and Dino a big thank-you for bringing me back to the football club and showing their confidence in me.
“It will be good to see Dino. He worked tirelessly for this football club and he was very good. We got on very well.
“Some of the players might be interested to see him and score a few points over him but for me, he’ll be welcomed with open arms.
“When I see somebody put in the amount of work that he did for Newport County AFC, a club I love, that’s good enough for me.
“He definitely deserves [an ovation from the fans.] I know it wasn’t a great time results-wise when he was here but for somebody that put in the amount of work that he did and cared about the club like he did, then yes definitely.”
The match will be the first time that the Exiles have played in League 2 for eight days, following Monday’s game away at Chesterfield being postponed due to there being snowfall around the stadium before kick-off.
And Flynn wanted to thank the fans that travelled all the way up to Derbyshire for their continued support before the game was called off.
“It was frustrating, but it is what it is,” he admitted.
“We were disappointed with the timing of when it was called off, especially when I spoke to the referee in the morning and from the look of the pitch then it was never going to be on in all honesty.
“Like I’ve said earlier, I felt sorry for the fans because the club will get compensated for it, but the fans will lose their money on their fuel etc.
“It definitely needs to be taken into account for future planning.”
Following the postponement, the rearranged fixture has since been declared as taking place on Tuesday 1st May.
That means the Exiles face the prospect of a midweek visit to Derbyshire, before embarking on the longest trip in League 2 from a County perspective, where the side will end the season just four days later with the long trip to Carlisle United.
And Flynn is hoping that the Exiles will still have something to play for ahead of those two daunting away fixtures to end the season.
“It will be an interesting end to the season,” he continued.
“Trip to Chesterfield on a Tuesday night and then Carlisle on the Saturday. Let’s just hope we have things to play for and we can go there with the bit between our teeth.
“Everything is still left to play for. Players are playing for contracts, we are still playing for as many points as we can get.
“If we win our game in hand then we would actually close the gap [on the play-off positions] over the [Easter] weekend. Listen, until its mathematically impossible to get in the play-offs then that will continue to be my aim.
“I think you saw against Coventry City last Friday, Luton Town and Notts County that [the players are still giving it everything.] We had a blip against Crewe where the effort was there, but the quality wasn’t, it’s as simple as that really.
“If it wasn’t for an individual error against Coventry, then we would have had three points. We played very well, and we should have scored more.”
The gap on the play-off positions in the League 2 table did increase to 11 points on Easter Monday, although County do have that game in hand following the postponement.
And Flynn believes a finish in the top-seven positions come May 5th would be the perfect way to end a staggering season for the Exiles.
He said: “The boys have been fantastic and have given me everything this season. We’ve got to a position now where we feel disappointed at not having a few more points.
“Look at it compared to the last few years – we’re in mid-table, haven’t actually been out of the play-offs very often, great Emirates FA Cup run and there’s some money in the bank.
“I would have taken that [at the start of the season] but that’s not to say that I’m happy now because I always want to do better.”
Some early team-news ahead of Saturday’s match at Rodney Parade sees Flynn with a couple of injury concerns to contend with ahead of the encounter with Stevenage.
“There’s a few struggling,” he confirmed.
“Shawn McCoulsky is out because he has had chest pains. He’ll be getting checked out by the hospital and the doctor. They have spoken to Bristol City and I would never risk a player’s health.
“It’s pericarditis [inflammation of the pericardium.] I still don’t know what it means mind, but we’ve got a very good doctor and physio who will be speaking to Bristol City about it and just making sure that the lad is okay.
“I don’t know on Paul Hayes at the moment, we’ll have to see today on that one, and Robbie Willmott is touch and go.
“It’s unbelievable considering that we’ve hardly trained and we didn’t have a game on Monday. It’s all happened at once.”
One piece of positive injury news for the Exiles is the fact that Joss Labadie will start his first set of rehabilitation in the coming days following his operation on the anterior-cruciate-ligament problem last week.
And Flynn is expecting his captain to return back into proceedings much stronger upon his return.
“He’s in today Labz,” he affirmed.
“He’s moving better than I’ve seen for a while to be honest. He’s come in to start his rehab now, he’ll see the doctor tomorrow just to double check everything, and then it’s the road to recovery.
“This is where all his hard work will come into play. He’s walking which is always a good sign so soon after the operation and let’s just hope that he doesn’t have anything breakdown and he can rehabilitate in the best way that he can.
“Like I’ve said, it’s still anywhere between six and twelve months. I’d be going more towards eight months but that’s me personally.
“I’m not going to put any pressure on him. If it takes seven months then great, but if it takes nine months then whatever it takes to get him 100% fit is the most important thing.”