Mike Flynn says Dan Butler’s impending 100th appearance for Newport County AFC across all competitions is a just reward for another stellar campaign from the left-back this season.
The 23-year old will achieve that century of appearances for the Exiles should he feature in any capacity during the final game of the season at Carlisle United on Saturday, an achievement that would befit the season that Butler has had.
The left-back won four awards at the recent end of season awards presentation – securing the accolades of Disabled Supporters Association NCAFC Player of the Year, PFA Community Player of the Year, the David Williams Community Player of the Year Award alongside the main honour of the night - the Patron's Cup for Newport County AFC Player of the Year.
Since his arrival on 28th June 2016 under previous manager Warren Feeney, Newport County AFC have only actually played 109 competitive matches – meaning Butler has featured in 91% of games since joining the club.
That leaves him second for highest amount of appearances amongst the current Exiles squad, with goalkeeper Joe Day currently leading that statistic having made 190 previous appearances across his loan spell and subsequent signature.
And Flynn feels that Butler achieving a century of games for the club goes to show how crucial he has been for the Exiles over the previous two campaigns.
“Well first of all, I think Dan deserves it,” he affirmed.
“He’s had a few tough times whilst with the football club where a lot of other players would have folded and given up. He’s shown that strength of character and he’s improved endlessly this season.
“If you asked me at the start of the season whether Dan and Pipey would play that amount of games then I probably would have said no, maybe Dan more than David because of his age.
“They have both been very solid for us this season, Dan has been excellent and it’s a credit to him.
“I’m pleased that if selected and if available, then Dan will manage to get a century of games for Newport County AFC.”
Butler heads to Carlisle’s Brunton Park on Saturday intent on achieving that feat, while the home side will also have something to play for during the contest.
Manager Keith Curle recently announced his intentions to leave the club at the end of the campaign to pursue other avenues within football, following four good years with the Cumbrian outfit.
Curle has currently managed 206 games in the hot seat at Brunton Park and holds a win percentage of 38.3% since his appointment.
That sees the Cumbrians securing victories on 79 previous occasions, while they have been held to draws on a further 61 occasions alongside suffering 66 defeats.
But Flynn doesn’t just feel that Carlisle United will be fighting to give their manager an appropriate send-off, as they will also be playing individually to end the campaign on a high.
He continued: “They will want to win for their selves because as I’ve said previously, they are professional footballers.
“They will want to finish on a high, they will want to have 69 points at the end of the season, they will want to give their manager a good send-off, but first and foremost they will want to win that football match for themselves.
“It doesn’t matter that there’s not too much on the game because they are professional, and they will want to win the game.”
The game against the Exiles will be Curle’s 207th and final match in charge of the Cumbrians, although looking at his whole career, he is one of the most experienced managers currently in the division having taken charge of 415 matches – winning 155 of them.
And Flynn wanted to place on record his admiration for the work that the 54-year old has done in Cumbria, alongside wishing him all the best for his next managerial appointment.
He stated: “I only really know Keith through football, but I think he has done a tremendous job up there. He’s always conducted himself well and you know, he got them in the play-offs last season.
“He’s been there for a long time which is a good feat in its own mind these days. I just wish him luck for the rest of his career.”
If the Exiles were to spoil the send-off party for Curle at Brunton Park, it would mean that County would have amassed their best points tally across a season since returning to the Football League after a 25-year absence in 2013.
County currently sit on 63 points ahead of the final game of the season, with a win the only result good enough to eclipse the 65 points put together during the 2014/15 campaign, whilst finishing in 9th position in the League 2 table.
Asked on how much it would mean to him to be the manager to set that best points tally, Flynn believes it would be the perfect end to a strong campaign from his side.
He added: “It’s massively important for myself personally. There are three points on the game and we’ll give it our best efforts to hopefully finish in the top half.
“There will be a few fans going up – they will probably have the weekend there I’m sure – because it’s too far to go on the day.
“I want to end the season on a positive and I’m going there to finish with all three points.”
Ahead of that match in Cumbria, it appears that the Exiles – and Flynn in particular - have several selection headaches to contend with.
Flynn continued: “It’s not looking great to be honest with you. There’s a sickness bug going around which you can add [to the injury concerns.]
“It’s fine – we’ll make do with what we have got. It would have been ideal in this situation to give Jay Foulston a game but he’s away with Wales.
“Momodou Touray will be involved, but him and Jay – I don’t really class them as youth players anymore anyway.
“It is what it is and the definite [absentees] are Joss Labadie, Paul Hayes, Scot Bennett and I think that’s that at the minute.
“Paul Hayes has got a sickness bug, he might be okay, but it will be a miracle if that happens. Ben Tozer also had a sickness bug on Tuesday, which was frustrating really because we definitely missed him in the game, especially in the second-half.
“Touch and go with a few others as-well then, so we’ll go from there.”
The game at Brunton Park will also afford the Exiles with an opportunity to get back to winning ways after the 1-0 defeat to bottom of the table Chesterfield on Tuesday night.
The Spireites won that game through Kristian Dennis’s 21st goal of the campaign, when the striker headed home a pinpoint delivery from midfielder Louis Dodds on 71 minutes.
County weren’t that far away from finding the net themselves during that contest, although found Bournemouth loanee Aaron Chapman in inspired form for the home side.
And Flynn thought his team deserved more from that contest at the Proact Stadium.
He said: “Listen, first-half we were brilliant. I thought we probably should have scored three or four goals. But then in the second-half, a couple of the players were tired, and my substitutions didn’t work out.
“It was a frustrating second-half if I’m honest because Chesterfield were there were for the taking.”
The game with Carlisle United on Saturday will also conclude Flynn’s first full season in charge of the Exiles.
Asked to explain what he can take from this campaign, Flynn believes that the platform has now been set for the side to continue to improve upon their exploits every season.
He affirmed: “It’s been a massive improvement from last season and the season before.
“You see the comments from people like John Coleman [Accrington manager] and Martin Allen [Barnet manager] who are professional people and know what it’s about, so it’s nice that they appreciate the job you have done.
“You ask if I’m happy if we finish top half alongside the cup run? It’s a big improvement obviously, but I would be happier if we were in the play-offs.
“There’s always that improvement and I get the frustration at times. Believe me, it’s frustrating that we can go and play like we did against Stevenage or Barnet and then flip it on its head and do what we did against Swindon and Accrington.
“It’s frustrating because the tactics didn’t change, the style of play wasn’t altered because they weren’t told to do anything differently, it was all the same.
“Intensity, win the second balls, switch the play. Get Josh Sheehan on the ball, get Robbie Willmott on the ball - it was the same things. Take your chances, stop your crosses - sometimes we do it and sometimes we don’t.
“But listen, the players have been magnificent, and they have done it 90% of the time this season.”
He continued: “I just want to improve on this season next year.
“It’s going to be tough because I think we have over achieved at times this year. But it’s something that I’m looking forward to because I’ve learnt a lot already.
“I’ve made mistakes, I’ve done better than I thought I would in certain situations as-well – we’re all learning.
“We’ve got the good nucleus of a team here so let’s see what the new season brings.”
Asked what he has been able to take away from his first full managerial campaign personally, Flynn also believes that he has learnt about all aspects of the job and wants to keep improving himself year by year.
“From a personal point of view, I’ve learnt lots,” he stated.
“From the way we do things on a daily basis to the recruitment that you bring in. I’ve learnt when you need to rest certain players and when to freshen up the squad.
“There’s lots that I’ve learnt because I’ve got another 50 games under my belt this season as a manger - alongside Wayne Hatswell and Lennie Lawrence who have been brilliant.
“It’s been enjoyable and I’m learning lots.”
The season finale at Brunton Park will certainly be less stressful for Flynn in comparison to 12 months ago.
County headed into that game with Notts County knowing a win would be enough to secure survival on the final day, with it all going to plan for Flynn and the side until Hartlepool took the lead in their match with Doncaster Rovers just seven minutes before the final whistle.
That truly tested the resolve of not just the players but the manager himself, with Flynn making the tactical masterstroke to allow Mark O’Brien to become a more forward-thinking player and score the decisive goal.
Reflecting on that day which will be a year ago on Sunday, Flynn commented: “The build-up was the most nervous part really… except for the last seven minutes of course.
“I just wanted to get out there and play, hopefully secure the win and secure safety. It was nerve-wracking because I had the weight of the football club on my shoulders.
“So yeah, it was worrying, I will be honest. I was confident, I was always confident ever since I took the job, but confidence is one thing and reality is another.
“It was always going to be difficult but thankfully we managed to do it.”