Mike Flynn says his sole objective for the League Two curtain-raiser against Mansfield Town is to secure the three-points that would give the squad a platform to build on during the upcoming season.
County face the Stags on the opening day of the season for the third time in the club’s history, with both sides securing away victories against each other in recent years.
The Exiles made the perfect start to the 2012/13 promotion season when winning a seven-goal thriller at the One Call Stadium on 11th August 2012.
Ismail Yakubu, Tony James, Aaron O’Connor and Jefferson Louis all scored on that occasion from a County perspective, with Jake Speight’s double and ex-Exile Matt Green’s chipped attempt ultimately proving in vain for the home side.
Mansfield made up for that defeat when making the trip to Rodney Parade on 6th August 2016, however, taking all three points from another high scoring contest.
They had the lead on all three occasions during the contest, Green and Danny Rose’s goals being cancelled out by debutants Jack Compton and Joss Labadie, before Kevan Hurst scored in stoppage time with an unstoppable curling strike.
Encounters like those two against the Stags usually come with a hatful of goals and Flynn is targeting being on the right side of the scoreline come 5pm on Saturday.
“I’m very excited,” he affirmed.
“I’m looking to show what we have worked on and what a great group of players we have at this football club.
“I think they [Mansfield Town] have to be [one of the favoured teams.] They are always up-there, faltered off a bit towards the end of last season but they strengthened a lot ready for this season.
“I’m looking forward to it – I’m telling you now it won’t be as bad as last season, so we’ve got nothing to lose, we’ll go there with confidence and hopefully we’ll surprise a few this season.
“On the grand scale of things, there weren’t too many low points last season but that was definitely one going there, and we have to look towards putting that right.”
Stags manager David Flitcroft will lead his side out for the new season knowing they have been heavily favoured by many as a promotion contender.
In fact, County play three of the teams tipped to be playing League One football next season within the first four league matches, facing an away trip to Exeter City and a home clash against Notts County.
But Flynn is refusing to let anything like that affect his players ahead of the upcoming season, preferring to concentrate on how County do themselves rather than worrying about their opposition.
He added: “To be honest, I’m only concentrating on ourselves. I need to concentrate on what my players can do and what we can do as a football club.
“Hopefully, I’ve put together the best squad that I could and that’ll stand us in good stead for the season ahead.
“I’ve got a job to do and that is to put a football team together. I need to get them as fit as I possibly can to go out and get ready for a long season. It’s at-least 50 games in this division so I need to get them prepared.”
The beginning of a season will always come with the expected question of what the management and the players are looking to get out of the season.
But Flynn wouldn’t be drawn on his targets too much ahead of the 2018/19 campaign, insisting an attitude of taking things game by game will be the best approach for the Exiles moving forward.
He continued: “My aims are always the old cliché and that is to take it game by game.
“But I will say that I do want a positive start. It can give the group so much confidence, it can give the supporters confidence and it allows you to not get too carried away.
“The main thing for me is to have a good August and we’ll go from there.”
Flynn went on to say: “I’m a realistic person and I will never get carried away. But all I’m concentrating on is a positive start and we’ll take it game by game.
“It’s a long, tough season and what our aims are will be kept to ourselves. We won’t be disrespecting any opponents by me saying that I think we will finish here, there, or anything like that.
“We know what our aims are and unfortunately for everyone else, it will stay between the squad.”
The new season will be Flynn’s second full campaign in charge of Newport County AFC.
Since taking over initially on a caretaker basis on 9th March 2017, he has saved the club from relegation in the infamous ‘Great Escape,’ alongside the club’s best Emirates FA Cup run since 1979 and a steady 11th placed finish last time out.
Asked to reflect on what he had learnt in those 18 months, Flynn said: “I’ve learnt that the good start last season helped us kick-on. It’s not just the negatives you learn from, there are a lot of positives to learn from as-well.
“Getting a good start really does put a good mood, good feel-good factor into everything that we do. And last season we were up against it because the first five games were away from home. We’re ready to go now.”
Flynn continued: “I’m always learning. I’m always talking to good people and getting advice from them.
“I’m still overlooking what I learnt on my coaching badges with the Welsh football trust, I speak to Osian Roberts quite regular, Lennie Lawrence has been brilliant.
“But it’s more about that day in, day out stuff – getting used to things that we maybe could have done better than we did last season i.e. a little bit of planning before training because everything needs to be flowing.
“It’s a good group that I’m working with now and it’s about keeping them together. There’s still a lot to learn – the day I say that I’m not learning anymore is the day that you might as-well hang me out to dry.”
In terms of team-news for the League Two curtain-raiser, the Exiles may be missing one or two players.
But Flynn preferred to keep the identity of those players under wraps, saying: “Look, there’s one or two problems that we’re looking at to see if they can overcome them by Saturday.
“It is what it is. I’d say that we’ve had a very successful pre-season on the injury front so it’s to be expected.
“It could be a lot worse that’s for sure.”
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