Mike Flynn has confirmed he is confident that his Newport County AFC side can provide one of the shocks of the Emirates FA Cup Third Round ties when his side take on Championship outfit Leeds United on Sunday.
Leeds travel down to South Wales for their first ever visit to Rodney Parade, just the third competitive meeting between the two sides, and Flynn believes his team have every chance of springing an Emirates FA Cup shock on the visitors.
“We’re quietly confident,” he affirmed.
“Leeds are a quality side, they have excellent players throughout the team and we expect it to be a tough afternoon.
“But I’ve said it many of times, I really do have a great group of players here.
“Nothing fazes them. If they can keep the same level of intensity and concentration as they did in the first-half against Exeter on Monday, then it will take a good team to beat them.
“I can’t speak highly enough of them because nothing has fazed them. They put the Leeds game to the back of their minds until now and rightly so because we have had some important fixtures that we had to deal with first.”
It has been nearly 40 years since the Exiles last reached the Fourth Round of the Emirates FA Cup, eventually losing to Colchester United 1-0 in a replay.
And Flynn feels reaching that stage again this time around will only go to boost his chances of fulfilling his ambition of providing the club with new training facilities.
“It’s a huge game,” he stated.
“It’s only the second time in 32 years that we have made the third round of the FA Cup. And the last time we were in the fourth round was 1978/79.
“I’ve said it all along that I want to build a club here and not just a team and it will go a big way to helping provide a training ground for the football club.
“I think that’s what it’s about – leaving legacies and doing what you can off the field.”
And Flynn is also hoping that the atmosphere and conditions around Rodney Parade on matchday will only go to aid his side’s chances of a place in that Fourth Round draw.
He added: “They will be out of their comfort zone at Rodney Parade make no bones about it.
“It’s an earlier kick-off, they have had to stay overnight, and they are coming to a stadium which let’s be honest is not as good as they are used to.
“That’s not taking anything away from them because they are a professional outfit and they will come here with the right intentions to do the right job.
“But it will be different for them. I’d be surprised if the wind wasn’t swirling, maybe a bit of rain and the conditions will be difficult.
“I’m just hoping we don’t make any mistakes and we hit that killer blow on them when we get the chance.”
Heading to South Wales will be a club who are rich in history.
Leeds United are a former winner of the competition, beating Arsenal 1-0 in 1972, whilst also reaching the European Cup final in 1975 and winning several league titles.
And Flynn says it is an honour to welcome the club to Rodney Parade.
“Leeds are a huge club in English football,” he said.
“Maybe not so much for the youngsters these days but definitely my era and people older than me, Leeds United is a massive football club.
“We are very lucky and privileged to have them at Rodney Parade and I’m really looking forward to it on Sunday.
“Maybe it’s a little bit of fate that we have drawn them at home in two separate cups and now we finally get to play them at Rodney Parade.”
The two sides meet for the second time this season having played each other in the Carabao Cup Second Round.
And while Leeds eventually won that game 5-1 after County had scored first, Flynn says he can take a lot of positives from that game into Sunday’s meeting.
He commented: “For anybody who went up there and saw the game at Leeds, they will tell you that we created a lot of chances and should have scored more goals.
“I spoke afterwards to their manager, first-team coach, director of football and they were all very complimentary about the way that we played.
“They knew they were in for a tough challenge, but we missed too many chances and gave away too many sloppy goals that evening.
“They are a quality side, they have excellent players throughout and we expect it to be a tough afternoon.”
That encounter at Elland Road on 22nd August did create a special bond between the two clubs.
The match had to moved to Yorkshire due to the playing surface at Rodney Parade not being ready in time to host the game.
But despite that, Leeds owner Andrea Radrizanni and his team ensured that County received all their funds from the game, which they would have otherwise lost due to having to change the venue of the game.
And Flynn wanted to again put on record his gratitude to the club for their generosity and support.
He continued: “They were excellent to us at the start of the season and I really can’t speak highly enough of them.
“The way they handled things, the gesture they gave to the club, believe me that does not go unnoticed by myself or the players.
“It’s a massive compliment to what type of club Leeds United are and I can’t thank them enough. It did help with some finances during that month and I’m just hoping they don’t take it too badly if we do manage to knock them out.”
But Flynn also commented that having the luxury of playing against the Whites earlier in the season now means he has a better idea of how to approach the tactics of the game.
“We need to get in amongst them and make it uncomfortable for them,” he confirmed.
“I’ve watched the game they recently played against Birmingham City and that’s exactly what Birmingham did.
“Let’s give it a go and see what happens.”
The game brings about an end to a busy week for the Exiles in terms of dealings in the transfer window, as Mike Flynn has already bolstered his squad with several new additions.
And Flynn feels it will have to be a fine juggling act as to whether he starts any of the incoming players from the off against the Championship outfit.
He admitted: “I don’t want to sound arrogant or ruthless here but if I feel that one of them will strengthen us then I will start them.
“There’s no sentiment in football unfortunately. I’ve had it done to me, so I know exactly how it is.
“But saying that, the boys have put themselves in a good position to stake a claim for a shirt. We’ll have a look today and tomorrow and then make a decision on the team.
“I’ll just do what I always do and that is what I think is best for this football club.”
The game could offer a first-glimpse for County supporters of October addition Paul Hayes.
The striker has now had his registration completed and Flynn has confirmed that the 34-year old is ready to return to competitive action.
He affirmed: “Paul is all done and dusted so he can play. He’s an experienced player and he’s fitted in really well with the lads.
“I’m looking forward to getting him back out on the pitch, he’s keen, he’s hard-working and the appetite is there.
“We will have to use him in the right way to start with. But he’s going to be a big asset to us before the end of the season.”
In other team-news, vice-captain Mark O’Brien will return to the first-team fold having served his three-match suspension after his red-card against Lincoln City on 23rd December.
And Flynn was also able to provide an update on the rest of his squad this morning.
Flynn added: “Aaron Collins is cup-tied so he’s out unfortunately.
“I’ve just seen Sean Rigg quickly this morning and he’ll be back training today, so we’ll have to see on that.
“But other than that, I think it’s just Marlon who is out. Calaum is back in training as-well which is positive news.”
On Sunday, County will be looking to add their names to a list that includes Sutton United and Histon as lower-league opposition who have knocked Leeds United out of the Emirates FA Cup.
Speaking more broadly on the biggest ever upsets in the history of the 147-year competition, Flynn admitted he would love nothing more than to add Newport County AFC to the list of great cup scalps.
He said: “As a Liverpool fan, watching Wimbledon beat Liverpool in the final in 1988 wasn’t very good as an upset.
“But I always remember the run that Chesterfield went on because it was excellent that they managed to do that (reach the semi-finals.)
“But there are loads. There are loads of upsets, loads of twists and turns along the way and why can’t we be one of them?”
The competition itself brought about relative success for Flynn as a player.
And Flynn says he wants to keep the tradition of the competition going by taking County as far he can this year.
“I’ve always loved the FA Cup,” he affirmed.
“Growing up the best day was on the Saturday watching the FA Cup final with your family and as you got older your friends.
“It’s a massive event for English football and it’s arguably the best cup competition in the world.
“It’s full of history and it gives clubs like ours a massive chance to earn their selves a new training ground, visit places that they wouldn’t normally visit i.e. Old Trafford and Anfield, so it’s what dreams are made of.
“As Chris Coleman said in the summer, don’t ever be afraid to dream.”