Mike Flynn says Newport County AFC can cause the biggest upset in Emirates FA Cup history when hosting current Premier League champions Manchester City this evening – but warned his players that anyone who doesn’t agree with that statement won’t be playing.
The Exiles have already managed to knock out higher division opposition in Leicester City and Middlesbrough from the competition this season but facing the Citizens will be an altogether different prospect.
Pep Guardiola’s side are the highest ranked side in the competition – County are the lowest – and they head to South Wales with a squad that took more than £500 million to compose.
It’s going to take a monumental effort to get County into the Quarter Finals of the competition for the first time in their history – but Flynn believes there’s no point turning up if you don’t believe this result is achievable.
He affirmed: “Of course there can be a shock. I wouldn’t be sat here if I thought otherwise.
“Who said we would draw against Tottenham? Who said we would beat Leicester City, Leeds United? These players have a knack of rising to the occasion and they are a fantastic group.
“This is our cup final and we won’t just be sitting back, I can tell you that. I’d rather get thumped doing it properly than losing 1-0 with no ambition. I want to give the supporters something to cheer and the players have got to believe that we can cause the biggest upset in the history of the FA Cup.
“It’s the highest-ranked team against the lowest but I’ve got full belief in my players. We’ve come up against some very good teams in the past and done very well and I believe we can do it again.”
County certainly won’t be fearful of the occasion after contesting and coming through some tricky ties in the competition since Flynn took over.
In fact, the Exiles have only suffered defeat once in the Emirates FA Cup since Flynn became manager and there’s no shame in saying that was at Wembley against eventual semi-finalists Tottenham Hotspur last season.
They’ve got through difficult ties against lower ranked sides Met Police FC and Wrexham AFC – and the list of same level or higher victories seems endless but it’s Walsall, Cambridge United, Leeds United, Leicester City and Middlesbrough.
Flynn continued: “We’ve been blessed over the last two years, but these games don’t come around too often so we’ve got to savour it and make memories that will last forever.
“The players have been fantastic, they’ve been calm and we’re looking forward to the challenge.
“I’ve got full belief in my players. We’ve come up against some very, very good teams in the past and done very well.
“We know it’s going to be tough – nobody is expecting it not to be.”
Standing in the opposite dugout this evening will be Pep Guardiola – arguably the best manager currently in the game.
He’s won an unbelievable 25 major trophies in just over a decade as a professional manager and that adds to the 16 honours picked up as a player.
But the Emirates FA Cup is the only domestic trophy he’s competed in and not won – he won the equivalents in Spain and Germany – alongside the Carabao Cup and their equivalents.
Like when Mauricio Pochettino and Claude Puel came to Rodney Parade, Flynn is looking forward to picking his brains after the game to try and improve.
He said: “It’s going to be tough. They’ll come with a strong team because Pep Guardiola is a serial winner – he wants to win everything – and he’s also very respectful.
“He’s bordering on a genius. The way he goes to different countries and changes their way of thinking and makes them believe in his philosophy is not easy.
“Everybody says he’s only been at the top clubs and could he do it in League Two? I have no doubt that he could.
“And let’s not forget, he went to Bayern Munich when they had just won absolutely everything. He changed the whole philosophy of what they were working to so they could go in sync with what he believed in.
“We’re talking about seasoned professional players in the Bayern team like Philipp Lahm who bought into that and they produced some of the best football that Bayern Munich have played.
“He’s the best manager in the world right now and he will not change his philosophy – they will play football on our pitch and it’s going to be tough game, whatever team they pick.
“For me it will be a special occasion if I can have a one-on-one with Pep, but it’s about the players.
“I’ve got an outstanding group. They have a knack of rising to the occasion and they’ve made me a very proud man.
“This means everything to me,” he added. “It’s huge. I’m an ambitious young manager and I want to test myself against the best managers.
“To do it with Newport County AFC – I can’t explain what it feels like or what it means.
“It’s hard to put it into words, but it’s a massive occasion for me and for the whole football club.”
In terms of team-news, Flynn was able to provide an update ahead of the game.
“Andrew Crofts is out and that’s it at the moment,” he confirmed.
“Joss Labadie is fine, Mark O’Brien is fine. Harry McKirdy is available, he can come in to the team.
“Harry is definitely registered – he might be involved and he might not be. It all depends whether I feel he’s ready or not.
“He gives us another option. Harry is a big Chelsea fan and I think he went to the game on Sunday. He’s definitely got a score to settle.”