Newport County: FA Cup tie with Leeds latest milestone on recovery road

By Michael PearlmanBBC Wales Sport
Mike Flynn
Newport County manager Mike Flynn played for Wigan, Gillingham and Bradford City, among others
FA Cup third round: Newport County v Leeds United
Venue: Rodney Parade Date: Sunday, 7 January, 2018 Kick-off: 12:00 GMT
Coverage: Live coverage on BBC One Wales, listen on BBC Radio 5 live and BBC Radio Wales; text commentary and report on the BBC Sport website

A few months in football can feel like years and no club better embodies that than Newport County.

Turn the clock back to April and the Exiles seemed doomed to League Two relegation, with sliding out of the Football League meaning the club "would have probably gone," according to their saviour, boss Michael Flynn.

After rescuing themselves in extraordinary circumstances, the Exiles are now thriving and dreaming of an FA Cup upset against Leeds United.

The transformation is almost complete and with the riches in the FA Cup potentially transformative for a club like the Exiles, Sunday's game has huge ramifications.

The Great Escape: This is Newport County's story

'The club 'would probably have gone'

The eye-catching headline line from Flynn's pre-match press briefing was the suggestion that the club might have gone out of business (for a second time) had they not avoided League Two relegation.

County have already made in excess of £100,000 in prize money and TV revenue from this cup run and Flynn says it makes all the difference for a club owned by supporters.

"The cup run has helped us," Flynn explained.

"The chairman - Gavin Foxall - did a tremendous job in trying to talk the authorities around to get us on BBC Wales. It's an example of what we're trying to do here at the club in building relationships.

"Let's not beat around the bush, I think the club would have probably gone if we had dropped out of the Football League.

"Players deserve a massive amount of credit for that, they're the ones who turned their form around.

"It was a joy to watch them improve and take the club forward, that's why I rewarded many of them with new contracts and, with bringing in some better players, we've improved which is shown by the league position (the Exiles are 11th, four points from a play-off berth).

"We want to build a legacy. It's the second time in 32 years we've got to the third round and we have not been in the fourth round since 1979, so I want to say we're back after almost 40 years on Sunday. It will be a different environment for Leeds and hopefully we can turn them over."

Shopping for 'sardines instead of rice and beans'

With the January transfer window now open, Flynn is hopeful that success against Leeds could help him to further strengthen his playing squad.

However, the ultimate aim is for the FA Cup run to leave an even bigger mark.

"The potential of a cup run is huge. We want to build a club and not just a team and this will go a big way towards helping to provide a training ground," Flynn explained.

"I think that's what it is all about, leaving legacies, doing what you can off the field as well."

After Swansea boss Carlos Carvalhal said he might have to sign "sardines" rather than "lobsters" Flynn explained the difference between life in the top flight and the lower reaches of the Football League.

"I was thinking about sardines, because I am on rice and beans at the moment! Sardines would be a nice change," he said.

"The money from the cup will hopefully be used on a training ground, but I would like a little back-hander to help me improve the squad. I am not sure we can stretch to lobsters though.

"Unless we get another couple of them [big draws] I don't think it'll be enough for a new stadium, but it would certainly be a good start on a new training ground, our own training ground which we own.

"It'll definitely be a step in the right direction of bringing everybody under one roof with the community, the academy and the first team all on the same site.

"It's almost like winning the lottery if you ever get to play at Old Trafford, Anfield, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City - it's huge."

County already grateful to Leeds

Newport and Leeds meet for the second time this season after County's 5-1 defeat in the Carabao Cup.

The Exiles had to switch that tie as they were re-laying their Rodney Parade pitch, but Leeds still gave the Exiles the full 45% gate income they would have been entitled to for staging the tie.

However, that is not stopping Flynn from planning Leeds' downfall.

"It is a huge club in English football, maybe not so much if you're a youngster, but definitely for my era, Leeds are a massive football club," Flynn said.

"We are lucky and privileged to have them at Rodney Parade and we are looking forward to them coming here. We've drawn them in two successive cups and now finally get them at Rodney Parade.

"Leeds were excellent with us, I can't speak highly enough of them and the way they handled things. That gesture doesn't go unnoticed and it's a massive compliment to what a club they are. We can't thank them enough because it did help us with finances.

"In the grand scheme of things I'm sure I've seen the money from the League Cup game in certain ways. I'm sure it's filtered through because the board have been very helpful and supportive in what I've wanted to do.

"It helped give the club a bit more comfort which has helped us make these signings, as well as the money from the cup fun so far. It was a massive gesture and I hope they don't take it too badly if we knock them out!"

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