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PRESS | Mike Flynn optimistic of an Emirates FA Cup upset against Tottenham Hotspur

26 January 2018

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PRESS | Mike Flynn optimistic of an Emirates FA Cup upset against Tottenham Hotspur

26 January 2018

Mike Flynn has admitted that he is feeling more and more “confident” that his Newport County AFC side could provide one of the shocks of the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round when they host Premiership outfit Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.

The Exiles have beaten a side from League 2 (Cambridge United), League 1 (Walsall) and The Championship (Leeds United) all at Rodney Parade this season and now have their eyes firmly set on knocking out a team from the top-flight.

And Flynn feels his squad have nothing to fear about facing the eight-time winners of the competition.

“It’s a free hit,” he affirmed.

“I go into every game I ever played, whether it be as a manager or a player, with a lot of confidence.

“And if any player thinks that we can’t win on Saturday then they will probably be sat next to me on the bench or up in the stand because we have to believe that we can cause an upset.

“Otherwise we may as-well take the money from the tickets and give Tottenham the tie.”

County have continued to defy the odds since survival at the back end of last season, notching up notable victories in the league this campaign at places like Coventry City and Swindon Town.

But Flynn believes his side have to go to yet another gear to have any chance of a cup upset this weekend.

“We’ve got to be at our best,” he admitted.  

“We have to limit our mistakes and let’s be honest, we have to hope that they have an off day.

“There’s no dressing it up, Tottenham are littered with full international players and have a top-class manager.

“I’m hoping that the gods are with us on the weekend because that’s what the FA Cup is all about.”

It is yet unclear as to what team Tottenham Hotspur will choose to field, but Flynn remained adamant that even what some people may consider to be a weakened side will still provide the firmest test of the season for the Exiles.

He commented: “I think they’ll take it seriously whoever is involved because they will all be international footballers.

“Whether they all play, I don’t know, because they have got a very tough set of important fixtures coming up after this weekend.

“I’m sure Mauricio will pick a team that he thinks will win the game and hopefully, he picks the wrong one.”

The man tasked with selecting that Spurs side is manager Mauricio Pochettino.

This game will be the first time that the Argentinian and Flynn have ever crossed paths, either in a playing capacity or as a manager, and Flynn is looking forward to welcoming him to South Wales.

He added: “I’ll show him the respect that I show every other manager which is full respect.  

“I look forward to meeting him but that’s that at the minute, on Saturday we’re rivals, but I’m looking forward to speaking to him afterwards.”

Should Pochettino pick Harry Kane, the Exiles will be coming up against one of the best strikers in world football.

But Flynn was certainly not keeping his cards close to his chest when questioned as to whether he had a specific plan to stop an attacker that already has 99 Premier League goals at just 24-years of age.

“No,” he affirmed.  

“I’ve got to back my players. Let’s be honest, Champions League clubs and Premier League clubs have probably had a special plan to stop him and haven’t.

“So I need my players to concentrate on their game. Yes, he’s one of the best strikers in the world but even he has an off day as-well.

“There won’t be any special plan but the players will know all about him, most of them watch Match of the Day anyway.”

Asked on what his message to the players at 5:25pm will be, Flynn confirmed that he wants nothing more than the players to not become fazed by the occasion and just go out and express themselves in-front of the BT Sport cameras.

“To go and enjoy it,” he stated.  

“They need to go and enjoy themselves, express themselves and start brightly.

“They need to get up against them and they could write their own history if they go and get themselves into the hat for the next round.”

Following the announcement that temporary seating will be made available to both clubs, the capacity of Rodney Parade will be just under 10,000 come kick-off.

And Flynn wants the atmosphere to be as hostile as possible in order to help his side spring that upset.

He said: “I’m hoping that the atmosphere and the surroundings help us as-well.

“You have to factor all this in. It is the beauty of the FA Cup.

“I’m so glad we got drawn at home, I fancy our chances a lot more at home than I would at Wembley and I’ll be honest with you and say that I’m getting more confident as the week goes on.”

Another positive for Flynn has been the attitude of his players ahead of arguably the biggest game in the club’s modern history.

And Flynn feels that has exuded confidence around the squad. 

“I’m getting more confident as the week goes on,” he added.  

“Just seeing how the boys are taking everything in, they seem exactly the same and the occasion is not getting to them.

“And Rodney Parade will be a leveller. It’s a lot better but it’s still not Wembley.

“The dugout won’t be as comfortable as Wembley or White Hart Lane. It’s going to be a little bit out of their comfort zone and hopefully, one or two of them don’t handle it as well.

“I’m definitely more confident that we can get a win at home than we could have away. You have to take the away factor into it as-well and they maybe won’t play as strong a side as they would have at home.

“Everything is being factored in and it’s just giving us that little bit more of a percentage of winning the game.”

Flynn is also hoping that the condition of the pitch at Rodney Parade will also provide another leveller between the sides who are currently separated by 71 places in the English league system.

He continued: “I have got to say that the pitch is a million times better than it was last season.

“It’s a brand new DESSO pitch and the staff at Rodney Parade are doing a great job to maintain it.

“It is unfortunate that there are three teams on it because it would be a lot better than what it is, but it’s not a problem.

“It’s a little bit more lively than it was because there’s not as much grass on it now.

“But it’s not a bad pitch, it’s just not up to Wembley standard and I’m hoping that it does catch them off a bit.”

Some early team-news for the game at Rodney Parade sees Flynn able to provide an update on both captain Joss Labadie and Matty Dolan.

The midfield duo both missed the games with Crawley Town and Morecambe last week with hamstring problems, although Flynn is optimistic of a possible return for the pair.    

“It’s a big game so I think they will all be training today,” he continued.

“In all fairness, both Matty and Joss wanted to risk it for Tuesday night.

“But we have to look at the bigger picture, it’s not just about Saturday.

“We’ve got a tough run of games in the league coming up as-well and I don’t want to be missing those two for a number of weeks.

“We want our strongest squad available because we’re probably going to need them on Saturday.”

Ben White also missed out on the starting side against Morecambe on Tuesday, just the second league encounter he has failed to start in throughout the entirety of the campaign.

But Flynn believes having the game off has meant that White will be ready this weekend after recovering from his own hamstring problem.

“He’ll be fine,” he added.  

“He will train again today so it was just a precaution on Tuesday.

“He’s a young lad, played a lot of games and he’s never been in this situation before.

“And his hamstring was tight, so I didn’t want to make any silly calls on Tuesday, and it wasn’t a bad replacement to bring Mark O’Brien in either.”

But Flynn did confirm that he would be without a few first-team players this weekend.

He admitted: “Tom Owen-Evans had a dead leg that turned into a thigh strain. And Sean Rigg is still struggling with his hip flexor.

“Marlon is back joining in with training, but he is not quite close enough.”

The Exiles have had numerous notable moments in the Emirates FA Cup since the formation of the original club in 1912.

That includes but is not limited to the 2-1 victory over West Ham United in 1979, a 3-2 success over Sheffield Wednesday in 1964 and the victory over Leeds United this year.

Looking away from the Emirates FA Cup, the 1981 European Cup Winners Cup run to quarter-finals is a standout moment, as are the two trips to Wembley for the FA Trophy final and the Conference play-off final.

But Flynn feels a victory against Tottenham would eclipse all of those prior accomplishments due to how much it could do for the football club going forward.

“It will for me 100%,” he affirmed.  

“I can’t remember the Jena game because I was only one at the time.

“So yeah, for me it will be because it is a lot more important now with all the money in the game.

“You can still have that fairy-tale story and it’s something I’m really looking forward to.

“I was a lot more nervous on Friday and Tuesday than I will be building up to this.”

Before that win over Leeds earlier this month, the squad had to cope with a fire at the training base in Spytty.

And Flynn wanted to put on record his thanks to the other facilities around the city for helping the club out in the intermittent period.

He said: “We’ve been using Dragon Park, we’ve been using the Velodrome and it’s good that we’ve got great facilities on our doorstep.

“The training pitch wasn’t affected, it was just the base where we eat, get changed and socialise basically.

“It’s a bit of a downer really but as we’re Newport, we just get on with it and make the best of a bad situation.”

Flynn also wants to use the game as an opportunity to reclaim a generation of fans that he feels have been lost over recent years.

“It means everything,” he confirmed.

“I think I’ve said before that we could get a generation of fans back now. I think we lost them when we went out of business and now it’s really captured the imagination of the football club.

“It goes to show that we are doing things right on the pitch and that it’s rubbing off away from the pitch.

“But again, that’s the beauty of the FA Cup and it’s why it probably is the best competition in the world still at this level.

“It gives players, managers, fans, football clubs, dreams.

“It allows them to think ahead or maybe do something that they would never have been able to do unless a big investor came in.

“So of course, it can provide that platform and I’m sure it’ll be doing the same for Yeovil with their game on Friday against Man Utd and I’m just hoping that we get a result.”

This cup run has clearly provided Flynn and the football club with a much-needed cash injection.

But Flynn wants all talks on how that money could be spent to be put to one side until after the game has commenced.

“We need to get this game and Tuesday’s game out of the way first,” he affirmed.  

“We need to let things die down and then we’ll sit together, maybe a board meeting, and I’ll put my thoughts across as to what we could do.

“We’re lucky that we’ve got a lot of facilities on our doorstep here. We’ve got the track, the gyms, the swimming pools and Dragon Park with the ice baths.

“We’ve got everything we need on our doorstep, but I would like a better base and another training pitch if I’m totally honest.

“We don’t have to go and spend £5 million on a new training ground because we’ve got everything here.

“But there are a few things that I would want that I think would improve the football club.”

And finally, Flynn also wanted the game to be viewed as a reward for every individual who has given their time and effort in the past to push the club forward.

He stated: “I’ve said it before that this game is a reward to the players for all the hard work that they have given me.

“It’s a reward for the football club for everything they have put up with and gone through.

“It’s a reward for the fans for chipping in and buying the club.

“As we’ve said, everybody that has put in their time and effort into Newport County AFC over the years so it’s a big thank you from me to them for that.”

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