NOW WE CAN GO FLAT OUT!
Pitch perfect, says Exiles boss
MICHAEL Flynn says Newport’s flying start to the season is all down to operating on a level playing field – quite literally!
Since moving to Rodney Parade in 2012, the Exiles have suffered embarrassing abandonments and numerous postponed games due to their sodden, divot-ridden pitch.
With potential signings scared off and passing football impossible, Newport have regularly struggled. Last season, relegation was averted only on the final day.
But this summer the Welsh Rugby Union bought Rodney Parade and laid a new £750,000 grass-hybrid pitch.
Pre-weekend, Newport, who share the stadium with the Dragons RFC, were sixth in League Two and Flynn says it is no coincidence.
“It’s been a massive factor,” says the 36-year-old, who played more than 100 times for his home town club before becoming manager in March.
“The old pitch was an embarrassment. To the club. To the EFL. To the whole region, if we’re being honest.
“Nobody wanted to sign for us. Anybody with aspirations of being a good player and improving himself doesn’t want to play on a cowfield, does he?
“And think of it from a fan’s perspective. They don’t want to pay for a season ticket and watch awful football all year.
“Now, thanks to the WRU, we’ve probably got the best pitch in the division. It’s unbelievable to play on.
“Being able to get that done in the summer was a big help to us in terms of recruitment. We could show people the stadium, the new surface at the training ground, the GPS we’ve installed.
“On the pitch, we can concentrate on playing the kind of football people want to see. After all, if we just lump it, we may as well have kept the old pitch.
“So far, it’s working. Since I took over, we’ve lost one game out of 12 at home. And gates are already up, which is good for the coffers and good for the players.”
Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over Cheltenham was Newport’s third win in five games and took them to 12 for the season. Last year, it was November 12 before that tally was reached.
Summer signing Frank Nouble, a free transfer from Southend, is on fire, with five goals in four matches putting him joint-second in the scoring charts behind Exeter’s Reuben Reid.
“The squad has improved,” adds Flynn. “I’ve never been one to say ‘Right, one bad game and you’re out of the team’.
“But, in the past, maybe one or two players didn’t have enough competition to keep them on their toes. Now they’re looking over their shoulder thinking ‘If I don’t perform, there’s a lot of quality on that bench’. It’s healthy competition.”
Flynn keep his targets close to his chest, but optimism at Rodney Parade is palpable. Can the Exiles maintain a challenge for the top seven?.
“We’ve had a really good start,” adds Flynn. “But, if anyone thinks it’s going to be easy, they’re deluded. We’ve still got a small squad. We’ve still got one of the lowest budgets in the league. It’s still going to be a tough, tough challenge.
“I’m not getting carried away. I just want us to keep playing the way we can and, come January, we’ll have an idea of how good we really are.”
ON FIRE: Frank Nouble is hitting the net regularly GREEN FOR GO: Newport County boss Michael Flynn, left, says the improved Rodney Parade surface is helping to attract signings