Pitch per­fect, says Ex­iles boss

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

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.”

PIC­TURE: PSI/Alan Franklin

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

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