Mike Flynn has confirmed that he wants his Newport County AFC side to achieve a League 2 play-off position by the end of the season so they can dedicate it to captain Joss Labadie.
The midfielder missed last week’s draw with high-flying Luton Town due to an injury sustained in training, with that now being confirmed as an anterior cruciate ligament problem.
That means the County captain has now been ruled out for the remainder of the season, with an exact timeframe for his return as yet unclear, although Flynn has no doubt that Labadie will return back into the first-team fold as a much stronger player.
He confirmed: “Yeah he’s booked in [for surgery] and then it’s normal ACL reconstruction and rehabilitation.
“Look, we’ve got the time frame which is anything between six and twelve months, but I’d probably be looking at more like eight months.
“I don’t want to rush it and have him breaking down again. We have to make sure everything is done and fine before he makes a full recovery.”
He added: “I’ve got no worries about Joss Labadie at all. He’s a great professional, works hard and now he has to work even harder. The only frustrating thing is that he won’t be kicking a football – he’ll be training once the operation settles down and doing all the physical work.
“I think he’ll come back stronger.”
To start a positive run until the end of the season, the Exiles will have to find their way past a resurgent Crewe Alexandra team who have given themselves some breathing space above the relegation zone in recent matches.
The Railwaymen have lost just two of their previous six matches in League 2, meaning they are nine points ahead of Chesterfield in the final relegation place, although the Spireites do have two matches in hand on the Cheshire outfit.
And Flynn is expecting the away side to cause problems at Rodney Parade tomorrow.
He affirmed: “They had a good win in the week and I think they could have actually beaten us earlier in the season when they had ten men for an hour.
“I still think we should have put them out of sight before they had a load of chances at the end, but they are a dangerous team on their day.
“They’ve done well lately, picked up 10 points out of the last 18, so that tells you that they have a lot of fighting spirit.
“They have had a few injuries as-well, one or two may come back for them on the weekend, so if anybody thinks that we can turn up and win the game then they will be sat next to me I’ll be honest.
“We have to be up for it, got to start on the front foot and take our chances. If we do that, I’m hoping that we’ll get the three points.”
Crewe have currently amassed 40 points so far in the League 2 table, leaving them in 19th position ahead of their trip to South Wales.
County stayed up last season by collecting 48 points, while 35 points would have been enough in the 2015/16 campaign after Dagenham & Redbridge and York City both finished on 34.
And while Flynn acknowledged that Crewe would still head to Rodney Parade with a fighting for their lives mindset, he did confirm that he felt the side had enough to remain in the division for next season.
He said: “I don’t want to be disrespectful to other clubs, but I think 40 might be enough this season.
“Some of them have just eight games left, I know Chesterfield have ten games left with two in hand, but they have to win them. We know how hard it is, I’m not saying they can’t win them because they have a lot of good players there, but it will be tough.
“Barnet will have the Martin Allen factor - I know he’ll do well down there because he has done it previously. That’s obviously why he has got the call again, but I think Crewe will be okay.
“They’ve definitely got enough in them to win another two football matches this season. That would take them to 46 and then I think they would definitely be safe.
“I just hope they don’t start that on Saturday.”
The game with the Railwaymen starts a run of six home matches from the final nine fixtures left before the end of the season.
Tickets for the game remain at just £5 for all ages anywhere in the ground excluding hospitality and the 100 club, with Flynn hoping that offer entices a bumper crowd back into Rodney Parade.
Crowd attendances have peaked 4,000 on three occasions already this season – those coming in the ‘Homecoming’ game against Chesterfield and in the Emirates FA Cup ties with Championship outfit Leeds United and Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.
And Flynn is hoping that another similar atmosphere will be created at the game tomorrow.
He stated: “You only have to see the atmosphere in the big games which we’ve had at Rodney Parade to see that the support is fantastic.
“They make one hell of a noise and they support the team. Five pound a ticket, I’m hoping that means we will get a big crowd.
“It’s a great gesture by the club and I think the fans deserve that reward. It’s a win-win all round if we get the three points.”
The Exiles have an extremely good record at Rodney Parade since Flynn took charge, losing just three of the 22 league matches at the stadium, while remaining unbeaten against higher league opposition in Spurs and Leeds alongside Walsall.
And Flynn believes teams are now looking at an away tie against Newport County AFC as an enormously difficult afternoon.
“I think some teams are already starting to think that,” he affirmed.
“I spoke to Nathan Jones on the weekend and he knew that it was going to be a tough place to come. And we’re talking about Luton who have been top all season.
“Teams don’t enjoy coming here – unless obviously you’re a Barnet or Colchester. And even they were late goals as-well.
“It’s a big improvement and I think the fans play a massive part in that.”
In further club news, midfielder Emmanuel Osadebe has returned to Cambridge United following a short loan-spell with the club.
Osadebe made three appearances for the Exiles during that stint, all from the bench, playing against Morecambe, Forest Green Rovers and Colchester United.
And Flynn confirmed that decision was taken to allow the 21-year old the opportunity to work his way back into the plans of his parent club ahead of next season.
“I just thought it was best,” he continued.
“He wasn’t going to play, and I think instead of keeping him here away from his home and where he is settled, I just thought it was best for the player and us that he returned to Cambridge.
“I think you have seen that the players we have got here have stepped up again. Josh Sheehan is back in, so it was going to be difficult for him [Emmanuel] to break in. He’s gone back now, and he’s got to make an impact ready for next season.
“It’s good luck to him.”
Twinned with the absence of Labadie, Osadebe’s departure does seemingly leave a void in the Exiles midfield. But Flynn was quick to reject that assertion, saying he was happy with the numbers available to him ahead of the League 2 run-in.
“We’ve still got Benno [Scot Bennett] who can go in there,” he explained.
“Robbie Willmott can go in there, Ben Tozer can play there. We’ve got Matty Dolan, Josh Sheehan and in the worst-case scenario we could put Dan Butler in there.
“Dan is very comfortable in there as-well so we’ve got a lot of options.”