Mike Flynn again laid down the challenge to his players of setting up an Emirates FA Cup tie with a Premier League team as Newport County AFC prepare for the Second Round of the competition tonight.
The Exiles are potentially just 90 minutes away from a trip to the likes of Old Trafford, Anfield and the various other stadiums that host Premier League teams – but that can only become a possibility if they get past Wrexham AFC.
The contest at the Racecourse is live on BT Sport 1 – the third time in 10 months County have been shown on the TV channel – and Flynn knows more than most how crucial the tie against a Welsh rival is.
He affirmed: “It’s huge [to get through] but I’m under no illusions as to how tough the game is going to be against Wrexham.
“If we turn up like we did in the first-half at Cheltenham then we’ll lose, but if we turn up like we did in the first-half against Northampton then we’ll win the game.
“That’s not me being arrogant or passive, I just know what we can do and if the right players turn up then we’ll win the game. If they don’t, I’ll say Wrexham will win the game.
“It’s North v South. Even when I was at Barry Town, you always wanted to get one over on the Northern teams – Rhyl, Bangor etc.
“You want to prove that the South is best. But when it matters, we’re all Welsh and if the worst thing happens and Wrexham go through, I’ll be hoping they get a good draw.
“There will be no sour grapes so to speak – knowing the type of man Sam is, I know he’ll be thinking the same as well.
“It’s a tough one – you want all the Welsh teams to do well expect for Saturday night when I hope Wrexham have a stinker.”
The Emirates FA Cup usually holds a special place in the hearts of players, fans and managers alike – with it being the most historic club competition and the final usually attracts millions of viewers worldwide.
Talking about his personal feelings towards the competition, Flynn stated: “I’ve always enjoyed the FA Cup, especially last season.
“I never really had an interesting FA Cup as a player, it was always drawing someone in your own league, so it was always difficult. It brings loads of memories – good, bad, normal – the FA Cup can give you such an experience and we proved that last season.
The tie at the Racecourse will bring back many memories of the last time the two clubs faced each other – that coming in the 2013 Conference Play-Off final at Wembley.
“It’ll bring back some nice memories as well,” Flynn continued.
“I had a good conversation with Justin Edinburgh yesterday and had a look at a few videos which the BBC put on which I thought were good.
“Let’s hope we’ve got that same feeling at 10pm on Saturday night.
“It was huge [winning the play-off final.] Wrexham are arguably a bigger club than Newport and they still haven’t got back into the Football League five years later.
“That’s how big it was – it was huge. If you look at it, it would have almost been 30 years Newport hadn’t been in the league [if the tables had been turned.]
“That win has meant everything. It meant as much as staying in the league did [in 2017.] It was huge, it was everything and you only had to see the streets of Newport and the crowd to see what it meant.
“I was a little bit soppy that day and shared a few tears with Tim Harris.”
Re-living his own personal experience of the match, Flynn joked: “I did all the dogs work for 80 minutes, got taken off, and then we scored the two goals.
“I did my part! I tired down the Wrexham midfield, Pipey and a couple of the other boys kept them out and we let Christian Jolley and Aaron O’Connor have all the glory.”
Comparing that 2013 Wrexham AFC side to the modern-day team, Flynn added: “I’ve got to be honest, the Wrexham team we faced that day was a good team. I’m not saying this current Wrexham team isn’t a good team but that was a good team.
“Looking at it, I feel it was stronger before, but this team have got something about them. They are resolute, picking up results and they don’t concede many goals.
“They are also playing really good football so it’s a big compliment to them.They can hurt you out wide, they’re solid and keep a good shape. But Justin Edinburgh told me one or two things that we might be able to capitalise on.”
In the opposing dugout tonight will be former Swansea City defender Sam Ricketts – someone Flynn knows extremely well.
He continued: “Sam is a great lad and he’s started the mind games already. We get on well, had a few texts since the draw has been made.
“I hope he hates me come 10pm tonight because that’ll mean we’ve won.”
County will be looking to reach the Third Round of the competition for the third time in just four years.
The run last season to the Fourth Round – where they lost in a replay to Premier League giants Tottenham hotspur – did hamper their league standings.
But Flynn thinks his current squad can manage success on two fronts – and they are still in the CheckaTrade Trophy as well.
“I hope so,” he affirmed.
“Lennie Lawrence will tell you that unless you’re one of the big boys, a cup run usually means a dip in form in the league. I enjoy getting on Lennie’s nerves and trying to prove him wrong and teach him new tricks.
“I’m hoping we can break the mould here, have a good cup run and an even better league run.
He added: “I just think we ran out of steam last season.
“Yes, I think the FA Cup run affected maybe one or two games, but it wasn’t the reason we fell off – it was because we ran out of steam. It can happen when you have a small squad but it did stabilise the club [in terms of finances.]
“I’m sure if you think about it on the grand scheme of things, it was the best thing that happened."
CAN'T MAKE THE MATCH?
🎙️ iFollow Exiles| Tim Thraves will be providing live match commentary from The Racecourse. Please note, due to limited facilities at Wrexham AFC, this will be done via telephone.
📺 BT Sports | Joss Labadie will be joining the presenters at pitch-side as the match is televised on BT Sports.
📱 Live Updates | Follow along with live match updates on Twitter at @NCAFCLive