Mike Flynn says he wants his Newport County AFC players to go and secure the best result in the club’s history by beating Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley in their Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round replay.
The Exiles have had notable victories in the competition since the original club was founded in 1912, including but not limited to the 2-1 victory over West Ham United in 1979, a 3-2 success over Sheffield Wednesday in 1964 and even the victory over Leeds United earlier this year.
But Flynn feels that with the finances now available to the so-called bigger clubs in the English league pyramid, a win tomorrow would top the lot.
“If we pulled it off, it would be the biggest result in the Club’s history,” he affirmed.
“I know we’ve had bigger games as in further on in tournaments like the Jena game in the quarter-finals of the Cup Winners Cup.
“Bigger high-profile games as-well, but with all the finances, the way modern day football is now, this would be the biggest result in the club’s history.”
The Exiles fought valiantly to secure what was a credible 1-1 draw against Spurs at Rodney Parade just ten days ago.
An old cliché denotes that smaller teams only have one opportunity to beat the Premiership sides in the competition, but Flynn is certainly not buying into that ideology ahead of tomorrow’s fixture.
He stated: “There’s another opportunity because we are going to walk out onto that pitch with the score at 0-0.
“Against eleven Spurs players who let’s be honest, only a few could come in and strengthen that team from the one who played us in the first game.
“Do I think they will play a full-strength team? No, because I thought they were fantastic on Sunday and put in a lot of effort.
“And they’ve got a massive game on Saturday morning against Arsenal and then again next week against Juventus so I’m hoping it’ll not be as strong as it could be.
“Let’s be straight about it, they still should have enough to turn us over. But you never know, like I said last time, I have a lot of confidence in my players and I will go there optimistic.”
County’s chances on the night will also be boosted by the fact that the two sides did meet just over a week ago.
Spurs have also played the same amount of games as the Exiles in the intermittent period, securing four points from tough games at home to Manchester United and away to Liverpool.
But Flynn won’t be doing anything specifically different this time around in order to try and secure a famous victory.
“We have to prepare as we did last time,” he added.
“We’ve got to look after ourselves and just concentrate on ourselves.
“If we go there worrying what Spurs can do then we’ll end up getting overawed and losing concentration on the task ahead.”
A victory would put County into the Fifth Round for the first time since the 1948/49 season, when they suffered a 3-2 defeat at Fratton Park against Portsmouth.
And Flynn feels playing on such a big stage in-front of the BT cameras may just provide his players with the extra incentive required to beat their Premiership opposition.
He confirmed: “We’ll be doing a bit of work today on the tactics of the game and what we want out of it.
“It’s an opportunity for the players to go and prove themselves on the big stage.
“Listen, if I was playing I would be so excited to test myself against the Wanyama’s, Alli’s, Kane’s of this world who are global football stars let’s not dress it up.
“I would be out there looking forward to it and I hope that the players selected are as-well.”
A lot has been made of how wide the pitch at Wembley will be, with the current parameters standing at 105m x 68m. That doesn’t overpower the pitch too much from the one at Rodney Parade, with that standing at 102m x 65m.
And interestingly, Spurs had the smallest pitch in the Premier League by size when at White Hart Lane last season.
Therefore, Flynn is not fazed by the added pressure of having a wider surface to play on.
He commented: “It’s probably one of the bigger football pitches but it’s not that much bigger to be honest with you.
“But I think it’s the whole stadium. It’s the crowd, the atmosphere, it’s zapping.
“For people who aren’t used to playing there, it’s either going to make you raise your levels or make you feel the burden on your shoulders.
“So I’m hoping they all raise their levels and don’t feel that burden because it would then be another interesting game.”
The game will also be the first domestic match at Wembley to host the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.
It was used in a friendly between England and Germany late last year, but it will be the first time that Spurs have used it for a competitive fixture.
County will be just the second team in League 2 to trial the new system, following its implementation for the Swansea City vs Notts County game.
And Flynn feels it could be a useful tool for football in the future.
He added: “Ask me after the game because if it costs us then I will be fuming about it.
“It can only make the game more perfect if you want an answer.
“The amount of money that is at stake, careers even, you only have to look at Stuart McCall at Bradford and Thomas Christiansen at Leeds, the managerial shelf life is shocking.
“If the VAR helps keep someone in a job then brilliant because we need all the help we can get as managers.”
Spurs fielded an extremely strong line-up for the original game at Rodney Parade.
Jan Vertonghen, Victor Wanyama and Harry Kane all started, while Heung-Min Son and Dele Alli both came off the bench.
And Flynn feels that only goes to show how seriously Tottenham are taking the competition this season.
He said: “They fancied it [at Rodney Parade.] Believe me, they worked their socks off.
“I would have loved to have seen their GPS scores after the game because let’s be honest, for the last 30 minutes they penned us in and went for the win.
“They fancied it, we just raised our levels and we were a good team that day. Let’s not dress it up, our boys were fantastic that day.”
Kane’s equaliser eight minutes from time prevented County from one of the biggest Emirates FA Cup shocks in the history of the 147-year competition, after Padraig Amond gave County the lead with another bullet header.
And Flynn believes the score did portray a true reflection of the game.
He continued: “If you asked me over the course of the game did they deserve a draw? Yes, but would it have been nice to win?
“It would have been the best felling ever but we’re going to Wembley and I see that as a positive.
“This is the beauty of football, you don’t actually know what is going to happen.
“You can’t write anybody off in this game. Anybody can cause an upset, I know we’ve already done it once this season, but lightning can strike twice.”
The game afforded Flynn with the opportunity to meet Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino for the first time, although he did have to study him for his UEFA Pro License qualifications.
The Argentinian was very complimentary of how the Exiles and Flynn performed during his post-match press conference in South Wales, and Flynn feels that only goes to show the class of the Tottenham manager.
“I’ve said it before but he is a class operator,” he affirmed.
“They’ve got one of the best managers in the world, who I’ve got so much respect for, even more now after meeting him.
“I think by the team he put out at Rodney Parade, he showed how much he gets the FA Cup.
“He must fancy his chances of winning it – let’s be honest, a couple of the big teams are out of it now like Arsenal and Liverpool.
“They’ve got as good a chance as anybody and especially after the second-half against Liverpool and the game against Man Utd.
“They have outplayed two of their rivals and I think that only goes to show how good we were that day.”
The game will represent the third time that County have visited the ‘home of football.’
The first match came on Saturday 12th May 2012 in the FA Trophy Final defeat to York City, while the Exiles were successful on their second visit to Wembley after securing promotion to the Football League with a victory over Wrexham on Saturday 5th May 2013.
And Flynn feels the visit this time around is a reward for last season’s ‘Great Escape’ and some other difficult times for the club in the past.
He added: “For the fans, three trips to Wembley in five years – but they’ve been through a lot worse let’s be honest.
“I think they say that football always rewards you or kicks you when you do or don’t deserve it, and I think these fans deserve it for everything they have battled with these past years.
“This is a nice thank you to them.”
Since securing the draw with Spurs in the original game at Rodney Parade, the Exiles have failed to pick up a point in League 2, suffering back-to-back league defeats for the first time under Mike Flynn’s guidance.
But Flynn believes the players have still kept to the same level of performance that has seen them on the fringes of the play-offs all season, even if the results haven’t been as positive of late.
“They have been fantastic,” he affirmed.
“The effort has been there, it has just been that we have given away some sloppy goals.
“I thought we were the better team Saturday before we conceded and then it did go to pieces if I’m honest.
“I’m not going to dress it up or sugar-coat it, I was disappointed after they scored the first goal Saturday.
“We’ve got a chance to go out and show the world now that we can play at a consistent level and that we can match Spurs over two legs so to speak.”
That slight dip in form has evidently brought with it the question of whether Flynn would prefer to secure promotion or beat Tottenham Hotspur in the Emirates FA Cup.
And Flynn was certainly honest when dictating his answer as to which he would prefer.
He admitted: “It’s a difficult one that because it depends on what is worth more to the football club.
“Whatever is worth the most in terms of finances for the long-term is what I’d choose.
“On a selfish level, I would probably take promotion.
“It would be an unbelievable achievement going from the last kick of the game last season and nearly being relegated to then getting promoted the following season.
“It’s not very often that happens and it’s not very often Newport County AFC get the chance to beat Spurs at Wembley.
“It’s a difficult one I have to be honest, but my honest answer would be what is financially better for the football club over the long term.”
Flynn didn’t make too many changes for those two league games at Lincoln and Colchester respectively, preferring to still attempt to mastermind a potential finish in the League 2 play-offs.
And he admitted that the performances from those games will help select his team at Wembley.
“The last two games will get factored in,” he commented.
“But obviously there has been an injury since that as-well, which we’ll miss him.
“That gives somebody else the chance to stake their claim and have a chance at playing at Wembley.
“Ben White would have played, but unfortunately he’s out and I’m absolutely gutted for the boy.”
He continued: “There’s a couple who didn’t play as well as they could have on Saturday.
“Not great timing, Ben White is out, but these players have been fantastic over the season.
“They have got us a draw with Spurs, 11th in the league and I don’t think we’ve come out of the top half all season.
“All the boys work their socks off for this football club. The ones who aren’t involved need to work harder and up their game. The boys who have the shirt now have been doing well all season.
“Will I make changes? Possibly, but it won’t be wholesale that’s for sure.”
Ben White is the only player definitely ruled out for the trip to Wembley.
The Brighton loanee will be absent with the same thigh strain that kept him out of the Colchester game on Saturday, although it is not expected to be a long-term injury.
And Flynn says he is devastated that White will miss arguably the biggest game of the season to date.
He stated: “It would have been his chance to test himself on the big stage in the big stadium. The best stadium in the country arguably, so I’m absolutely devastated for him.
“His loyalty and his performances this season have shown that he deserved to step out at Wembley and make himself and his family proud.
“He had a scan and it wasn’t too bad. He would have probably wanted to go out there on one leg tomorrow, funnily enough he wanted to play on Saturday too.
“It was a good job that we said no and erred on the side of caution because the scan said it was a slight thigh strain.
“It’s nothing bad, possibly not back for the weekend, but I’m hoping that he will be back for one of the games next week.
“Things happen for a reason so I’m sure that if he keeps on improving himself and doing the right things, then I think he’ll play there for England.
“He doesn’t need to panic too much.”
David Pipe was only fit enough to make the bench at the Weston Homes Community Stadium following a hamstring problem.
But Flynn feels his right-back will be available for selection at Wembley to provide the Exiles with a much-needed boost ahead of the game.
“Pipey is fine,” he confirmed.
“He’s fit and raring to go. He was 80% on Saturday so that’s why we put him on the bench.
“And again, I think we missed him Saturday. It will be good to have him back in some capacity and we’ll see what that is tomorrow."