Padraig Amond believes Newport County manager Michael Flynn is destined for big things regardless of the outcome of today’s Wembley shoot-out.
Amond will carry the goal-scoring duties as his club’s leading marksman when County face Tranmere Rovers in the League Two play-off final.
For Amond and most of his teammates, promotion to League One would represent a new high-water mark in their playing careers, but the 31-year-old Irishman reckons his young boss will climb far higher.
Flynn has only been managing for two seasons, but in that time he has saved the club from what appeared inevitable relegation, taken them on successive giant-killing FA Cup runs, and now put them one step from promotion.
“He’s going to go a lot higher as a manager – that’s for sure,” says Amond.
“There’s no reason why he can’t go all the way to the top level. What’s really noticeable about him is that he’s a proper team-builder.
“He’s a very good man-manager and when he recruits people, he doesn’t just do it on their ability, but how they will fit in as characters. He brings in people who he knows will have the guts and the drive to do their job, but also people who will fit in.”
Flynn’s star is rising so sharply that he has already been linked at other clubs, higher up football’s food chain, including the current vacancy at Swansea City.
He is an avid student of other leading managers and his quest to learn from those whose paths he crosses already means he’s been able to pick the brains of Thierry Henry, Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino.
“He seem to be able to pick up lots of knowledge from some pretty impressive names,” adds Amond. “Mind you, he’s never slow on letting the boys know about it when he gets a text back from one of them!”
There are likely to be plenty of messages of congratulation from the great and the good of management of Flynn ends up successful at Wembley this afternoon.
His chances could well depend on the form of Amond, a striker who has already scored 23 times this season, including a beauty against Manchester City in the FA Cup.
That tie put Newport on a global stage, even though they lost 4-1, but Amond says today’s match is far more important than taking on this season’s historic Treble winners.
“The match against Man City was like the games against Leicester and Spurs last season – great occasions for the club and the fans, but just fun for the players, really.
“The league is our day job – our bread and butter. To get promotion at the end of a tough season would mean so much and we’re all really ambitious to grasp that opportunity.”
Amond has history on his side. He was part of a successful play-off team when he was with Grimsby and helped then earn promotion from the National League in the Wembley final of 2016.
“The Grimsby fans still talk about that team,” said the striker. “It was a similar squad and this is probably only the second time in my career where I have been involved in a squad that close-knit.
“They had a connection with the supporters as well, which I think we have. You want to make yourself club legends, everyone does.
“Everyone wants to be remembered and there’s no better way of being remembered than getting promoted into League One.
“It would be a fantastic achievement for the players and for the club. We’re focused on leaving everything on the pitch and hopefully it’s good enough on the day.”
A victory for County will see them competing in the third-tier of English football for the first time since the 1986/87 season.
They would also become only the second team in Football League history to be promoted without scoring more goals than they conceded during the regular league season (GD – 0) after Huddersfield Town in 2016-17, who were promoted from the Championship with a minus two goal difference.
Yet, somehow, County have made it through to this stage and the secret, says Amond, is their ability to stick together and scrap for every goal and point going.
“There’s no one that doesn’t get on in the squad. And that’s massive for us.
“If you come into your workplace and you enjoy working there then it’s going to be a lot better.
“Everyone is pulling in the same direction and everyone wants to be here. Everyone has bought into what the gaffer and the staff, Wayne Hatswell, have built together.
“That’s evident with what everyone sees on the pitch. No matter what happens, everyone leaves everything on the pitch.
“We fight until the very end and you can see what it means to the lads.”