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Newport v Walsall preview: Plenty to cheer for fans at Michael Flynn’s homecoming

Tomorrow, at Rodney Parade, could be one of those all-too-rare occasions when all four sides of the ground rise in appreciation of a manager.

SPORT COPYRIGHT SHROPSHIRE STAR STEVE LEATH 12/07/2022..Leamington FC V Walsall FC W: Michael Flynn.
SPORT COPYRIGHT SHROPSHIRE STAR STEVE LEATH 12/07/2022..Leamington FC V Walsall FC W: Michael Flynn.

Saddlers boss Michael Flynn will be assured of a warm welcome from the travelling Walsall fans after their stunning start to the season last week.

But he will also surely get a hero’s reception from the supporters of Newport County after his sterling service to the south Wales club.

Flynn enjoyed three spells as a players for the Exiles, not least as a member of the squad which earned a return to the Football League under the late Justin Edinburgh almost a decade ago.

And when the 41-year-old took over the managerial reins, he proved equally as successful.

Flynn famously took the hot-seat as caretaker manager at Rodney Parade in 2017 with the club 11 points adrift at the bottom of League Two and looking nailed on for a return to non-league football.

Instead he masterminded their ‘great escape’, finally staving off relegation on the final day of the season.

An FA Cup run which saw them beat Leeds, then in the Championship, and taking Tottenham to a replay at Spurs’ temporary home at Wembley followed.

Another Cup run the following season saw the Exiles beat Leicester City and Middlesbrough before losing to Premier League champions Manchester City.

Add in a trip to the League Two play-off final (only losing in a penalty shootout against Mansfield) and one can understand why he retains such a reputation in his home town.

Many believe Saddlers pulled off quite the coup when they entinced Flynn to take over last year and it already looks something of a masterstroke.

Last weekend’s thrashing of Hartlepool laid down a marker not only to Saddlers’ players in terms of setting their standards, but also to the rest of the division that Walsall look a side to be taken seriously under Flynn.

That’s something the boss is aware off and will be challenging his players to reach that level again tomorrow.

“It was a good start to the season and a very, very good performance by the team,” Flynn said of the victory last weekend that put them at the top of the nascent League Two table.

“The professionalism, the talking, the demanding nature from the players to do things right was more pleasing for me because that’s when you can switch off and maybe not keep a clean sheet and that would have been a downer because we completely dominated the game.

“Yes, we are going to lose games, yes, we are going to be outplayed, yes there are going to be teams who come up and make it difficult for us, but you will still see those fundamental philosophies of how I want us to play and the boys have taken it on board to a tee to be honest.”

And Saddlers fans will hope it is only they who will be cheering Flynn come the final whistle.

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