Mike Flynn has admitted that he wants nothing more to celebrate his first year as manager of Newport County AFC than a victory at Huish Park on Saturday when the Exiles face Yeovil Town.
Today marks exactly a year since Flynn officially took what was at the time temporary charge of the Exiles, in which time he has masterminded ‘The Great Escape’ in addition to securing County’s best ever run in the Emirates FA Cup since 1979. All that alongside another day out at Wembley for the Exiles.
And Flynn was quick to commend the work from everybody involved with Newport County AFC as the main reason for the meteoric change in fortunes for the Exiles.
“It’s been an unbelievable year,” he affirmed.
“The progress we’ve made both on and off the pitch as a football club – the players, staff, the board, it really has been phenomenal.
“It’s been a massive achievement and something I’m very proud of.”
Asked to analyse his own individual progress over the past 12 months more specifically, Flynn went on to add that he has thoroughly enjoyed his transition from player to manager.
“You learn something new about every game now,” he commented.
“I’m 60 games or so into it now, so it’s been a great experience for me so far. I’ve got Lennie Lawrence and Wayne Hatswell around me, who are quality operators at any level, never mind this level.
“It’s been interesting the way we’ve had to deal with the big media excitement, the board meetings, everyday dealing with the fans.
“Every aspect has been new because I’ve never experienced it before as a manager. There have been a lot of good things happening this year and I’m hoping that next year is even more successful.”
You couldn’t have possibly written the script any better for Flynn over the past year, although he was quick to say that he wants to eclipse those achievements by adding even more impressive triumphs to his ever-growing list over the next 12 months.
“I want to bring even more stability,” he stated.
“I want to build a club and like I’ve said, I want to keep on improving both on and off the pitch.
“We need time and we need support for that to happen. That’s from the fans, the staff, the players and the board as-well.
“Thankfully I’m getting that at the moment and hopefully we’ll keep going in the right direction.”
In order to celebrate a year in charge of the Exiles in the appropriate manner, Flynn will now have to mastermind a victory at Yeovil Town on Saturday.
The Glovers have been on a pretty decent run of form of late, picking up 10 points from the last 18 available, although missed out on a game at Wembley on Tuesday night when suffering defeat to League 1 Shrewsbury Town in the CheckaTrade Trophy semi-final.
And Flynn feels a victory in Somerset could provide the perfect catalyst for the Exiles to put a good run of wins together, with three successive matches being played at Rodney Parade after the Yeovil Town clash.
“We have to start winning games straight away,” he added.
“There are some very tough fixtures coming up but there is a big swing at home.
“It’s somewhere we have got to make our fortress because excluding the CheckaTrade Trophy, we’ve only lost their three times out of 25 matches.
“We’ve played Leeds, Tottenham Hotspur, Walsall all in that and it’s been a fantastic achievement.
“It squashes the rumours that Rodney Parade has not been a fortress because it definitely has, especially for a club this size.”
A victory at Huish Park would be the first success for the Exiles in ten matches from all competitions, although four of those matches have been draws, including the last three.
And Flynn feels that County are not too far away from turning those draws into wins, believing that if the Exiles were to cut out some of the errors that have slipped in over recent matches then the play-off positions wouldn’t seem so far away.
He said: “You can’t say in any game that there has been no effort put in or anything because they have been working their socks off.
“If you look at the goals that we conceded after the Tottenham home game right up until Tuesday night, then they haven’t been good enough.
“I don’t think anybody has torn us to shreds, maybe Mansfield once, but nobody has really torn us apart and scored a goal that they thoroughly deserved.
“It’s all been somebody switching off, somebody diving in, or somebody not picking up a man.
“It has been individual errors and we just have to cut them out.”
For the Exiles to make a late charge into the top-seven positions in the League 2 table, it appears that there is little room for error in the remaining eleven matches.
And while Flynn admitted that his side couldn’t afford to drop many more points from now until the end of the season, he firmly believes County can still make their season last past May 5th, as long as they embody the same fighting determination as shown towards the end of last season.
“You have to take it game by game,” he confirmed.
“We could lose the remaining 11 games and be nowhere near the play-offs. If we go and win 11 then we probably will be.
“It has to be taken game by game and we have to make sure that we have a chance going into the last couple of weeks of the season.
“Like I said last year, I wanted to get to the final day of the season with a chance of staying up, we managed to do that and that was down to taking it game by game.
“This will be no different, we’ve had a blip – should have beat Port Vale and we should have beat Forest Green but we didn’t.
“It’s a little bit frustrating because we could have been only four points off the play-offs. It’s small margins and like I said, I’m not getting carried away either way.”
And Flynn confirmed that he will be taking motivation from Italian giants Juventus in the hope of reaching the play-offs.
He continued: “There was a massive caption I saw where Buffon and Chiellini were grabbing each other because he made a block.
“The passion they showed to keep that ball out of the net, if it’s good enough for Juventus at the top, top level – Buffon who has won everything, and showing that emotion at the age he is, the boys need to watch that.
“They will be watching that, they’ll see a clip of it, because I think that shows what it takes to be a winner. There’s a lot of footballers but not many winners.”
Some early team-news for the encounter with the Glovers at the weekend sees captain Joss Labadie make his return from a two-match suspension.
The postponement with Accrington Stanley last week saw his ban for accruing ten yellow cards finish on Tuesday night instead, with Flynn acknowledging how important his captain is to the team dynamic as a whole.
“He’s big for us,” he affirmed.
“He’s a big miss when he’s not in the team and he’s a big plus when he is in the team.
“He’s our captain and he’s been very good all season. So yeah, I’m looking forward to welcoming him back.”
Frank Nouble was another County player to miss the 3-3 draw with Forest Green Rovers in midweek.
It was the first time this season that Nouble hadn’t been involved in a league game in some capacity, after sustaining a groin injury in training.
And Flynn believes his striker is ready to return back into contention for the game in Somerset.
“He’s available,” he confirmed.
“His groin was a bit stiff the other night against Forest Green.
“But Frank being Frank, only listens to half of what I say anyway, so ended up coming to the game when I told him to stay at home and be with his partner.
“He’s a one off, a great character around the place, and the boys really enjoy him being here.”
That leaves just Scot Bennett as the only definite absentee from a County perspective, with the defender continuing his recovery from a hamstring injury sustained last month at Mansfield Town.
But Flynn admitted that he may be missing another part of his defensive line on the weekend.
He continued: “David Pipe is off today with stomach cramps, so he’s been added to the list.
“I’m not sure for Saturday at the moment but a stomach illness 48 hours before a game can never be a good sign.”
Flynn was forced into making all three of his changes in midweek through injury – with Paul Hayes, Mark O’Brien and Robbie Willmott all withdrawn at Rodney Parade.
And Flynn was quick to commend Hayes in particular for flagging up a potential problem when it first became noticeable, instead of playing on with an injury and possibly causing even more damage.
“I think Paul will be fine,” he stated.
“He’s experienced, possibly could have stayed out there, but that was when he was most at risk – when the fatigue levels are really high because that’s when most injuries occur.
“He was sensible, knows his own body, and probably prevented himself an injury if I’m honest.
“Again, that’s the signs of a good professional. It would have been easy for Paul to try and stay out there and be the hero, but he did the right thing by not ruling himself out for a six-week period.”
He continued: “I’ve always said that he is going to be crucial for us during the run-in of the season.
“He will be, it’s as simple as that really, he’s a quality striker and that’s why I wanted to bring him to the football club.”
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