It’s not every day that you get invited to watch and meet the Welsh national team, but Mike Flynn says the experience has only gone to reaffirm his belief that his Newport County AFC side have the same togetherness and belief as Gareth Bale and co.
Like County, Wales have spent the past few days preparing for a massive fixture, where a victory over Denmark at the Cardiff City Stadium tonight would see them top Nations League Group B4 and be promoted to the top tier of the competition.
“I was very privileged to be allowed to stay there after all the media got kicked out,” stated Flynn.
“It was really good, especially on the eve of such a big game. Ryan Giggs was brilliant, got a great relationship with Osian Roberts, Tony Strudwick as well.
“They were all brilliant and all the players coming over was great to see. When Gareth Bale, one of the best players in the world, comes along you can see how they go about things and it was good.
“The most refreshing thing was the atmosphere around the camp because it honestly reminded me of what we have here with the togetherness the boys have got. You can see why they are doing so well.”
The Exiles have slightly longer to prepare than the national team, as they continue workign towards hosting high-flying Colchester United tomorrow at Rodney Parade.
The U’s are one of the form sides in the division, picking up 12 points from the last 15 available including victory over league leaders Lincoln City, and Flynn says he is wary of the threat from the Essex outfit.
He continued: “It is a big game because Colchester are a team just above us in the league and one we want to overtake on Saturday.
“If we win tomorrow, it’s a big, big statement. But it’s going to be a tough game, they are very good going forward and they’ve got some very good players.
“And players I know as well – Ryan Jackson, Frank Nouble, Aaron Collins, I know them well so it’s going to be tough.
“But I’ve got every bit of faith in the lads to go and get the three points.”
Alongside Barnet, Colchester United were the only other team in League Two last season to get a maximum of six points against the Exiles.
The U’s won 2-1 at Rodney Parade on 17th October 2017, before the Exiles warmed up for their Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round replay with Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley with a 2-0 defeat in Essex on 3rd February 2018.
Flynn affirmed: “They’ll be up for it, they beat us at Rodney Parade last season so it’s going to be tough. I won’t dress it up any other way, it’s a tough game and a game that I’m looking forward to if I’m honest.
“They’ve got a few good players that we need to watch out for – Courtney Senior, Sammie Szmodics, Harry Pell is suspended so that’s good news and Luke Norris is out.
“They’ve got good players – I’ve mentioned Ryan Jackson already, so they have got a lot of good players – but so have we.
“We’ve had a good week’s training, obviously good result on Tuesday night as well, which allowed some of the boys to get fitness in them. It was a pleasing performance [against Plymouth.]”
As Flynn hinted to, there are three former Exiles players in the travelling Colchester squad – namely Frank Nouble, Aaron Collins and Ryan Jackson.
On Nouble, who got 10 goals for County last season, Flynn added: “Frank was smashing here, he was good with the boys, never gave me any trouble and we still keep in touch now.
“I would have kept Frank. He would have been a useful asset to us this season and that’s proved [by the fact] he’s gone and improved Colchester as well.
“He’s a good lad, got a young family and I think Colchester was a lot closer to where he’s from originally. You can see why he went back there and after the two times we play them, I wish him the best of luck.”
In terms of team-news from a County perspective ahead of the game at Rodney Parade, Flynn was able to allay fears over the severity of the hamstring injury sustained by Scot Bennett in midweek.
He confirmed: “Scot is having a scan today. On Wednesday morning, it was a lot better than we anticipated i.e. the way he was walking, the pain he was having was a lot less than when he did it.
“It’s one of those things, he did all the fitness tests, he trained and had no problems, joined in the 11v11 shape session.
“He was fit and ready to go. The physio cleared him, Scot cleared himself as well, so it is a tough one to take because he’s been very good for us this season.”
In supplementary news, it appears that Flynn and County aren’t too far away from having a fully-fit squad to choose from.
He continued: “I’ve always said this game was too soon for them [Crofts and Labadie.] Crofty will be training fully next week, not sure what day, and Joss has already started to join in.
“Cameron Pring is fit so he’ll be back – no reactions during training on Wednesday so that was good news. Tyler Forbes is still out. He’s got a little bit of inflammation on his pubic bone so it’s a bit of a sore one.”
After successfully navigating a potentially tricky tie at seventh-tier Met Police FC last weekend, the Exiles were drawn to be on the road again in the Emirates FA Cup Second Round – although this time it was to Welsh rivals Wrexham AFC.
It will be the first meeting between the sides since County triumphed 2-0 in the Conference play-off final in May 2013 at Wembley, and Flynn, who was involved that day, is looking forward to a trip to the Racecourse.
He stated: “It’s big for the club, the amount of money we get just from the game itself being on TV is massive. It’s a lot of money for both clubs so it’s good.
“8pm on a Saturday – it doesn’t really matter to me [or my players.] The only thing is that it’ll be a little bit tougher for the Newport fans to get up there because the last train goes before the end of the game.
“But don’t ever underestimate the Newport fans – I know they’ll find a way of getting there. I’m sure there will be a big support and it’ll be a great atmosphere.”
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