Embed from Getty Images

After The “Flynnasty” It’s Time For Newport County To Create Some Stirring New Memories To Warm Rodney Parade


By Daniel Parker

Seasoned Newport County fans are no strangers to tumult: much of the club’s 111-year history has been defined by it.

By contrast, the last few years have been a relative sea of tranquillity, with County looking a comfortable resident in the Football League – something which the late David Hando and other dedicated supporters could only have dreamt of following the demise of the old Ironsides, and the reborn club’s painful years in exile and the non-league doldrums.

There have been some extraordinary highs over the last few years, too: those magical FA Cup runs under Michael Flynn, and feel-good promotion pushes which fell cruelly short at the final hurdle.

In many ways, the upcoming 2023-24 season marks the true beginning of the post-Flynn era.

Whilst the beloved son of Pillgwenlly had departed in 2021, his legacy – the Flynnasty, if you will – still loomed large over his ultimately doomed successor James Rowberry.

That was true for the greatly increased sense of expectation on the terraces, and the presence of familiar faces synonymous with those extraordinary FA Cup nights against Tottenham, Manchester City and Leicester City under the ethereal glow of the Rodney Parade floodlights.

After taking over the reins from Rowberry last October, Graham Coughlan did a decent job in steering a County side on the slide to a respectable mid-table finish (15th).

Embed from Getty Images

Budgetary constraints and a growing sense of uncertainty around the club’s off-the-field governance meant that Coughlan’s sole assignment was to steady the ship he inherited.

As a consequence, the Dublin native was unable to put his own stamp on the club or shape his own playing squad.

Conversely, that is exactly what he has had to do over the last few months. Not since the strange summer of 2015 (when short-lived managerial appointment Terry Butcher tore apart the remnants of Justin Edinburgh’s side) has a County squad been in a such a state of flux.

Veteran utility man Scot Bennett is now the only outfield survivor of the Flynn era; with defensive lynchpin Mickey Demetriou, Priestley Farquharson, Matty Dolan, Robbie Wilmott, Lewis Collins, Joe Day and Aaron Lewis all heading for the exit door over the last month alone.

Centre-back Cameron Norman – one of County’s best performers last season – has also departed, as have influential loanees Nathan Moriah-Welsh, Calum Kavanagh, Charlie McNeill and Matt Baker.

In their place, the Irishman has invested in a clutch of experienced heads at this level; securing the signatures of compatriots Ryan Delaney and Shane McCloughlin to shore up the defence and midfield respectively, as well as bringing in the distinctly Welsh-sounding former England age-grade international Bryn Morris from Grimsby, Kyle Jameson from Tranmere, and Yorkshire-born goalkeeper Jonny Maxted, who will provide competition for County (and Antigua and Barbuda’s) number one Nick Townsend.

Liverpool academy left-back Adam Lewis is also back in Newport on loan, where he will compete with Newcastle youngster Matty Bondswell for a starting berth.

Up-and-coming Bristol City striker Seb Palmer-Houlden joins the Rodney Parade loanees, whilst there are also high hopes for permanent singings Josh Seberry (a 19-year old centre-half signed from League of Ireland outfit Shelbourne) and attacking midfielder Nathan Wood, who returns to his home city after a successful stint at Penybont FC in the Cymru Premier.

Wood is one of several Welsh youngsters who can expect to play a prominent role in the upcoming campaign.

Another Gwent native, Sebastopol’s James Waite, showed glimpses of real quality in midfield last season and should enjoy even more game time this term.

The same is true for Powys-born winger Will Evans, who looked instantly at home in the EFL after making the move from Bala Town.

2023-24 could also be a breakthrough year for fellow Mid-Walian Kiban Rai, who this summer became the first player of Nepalese heritage to secure a professional contract in the EFL.
The County academy product – who has already stated his ambition to play for Wales – is one to watch.

It’s also an important season for Blaenavon product Harrison Bright, who is back in Gwent after a successful loan spell at Pontypridd last term, as well as for midfielder Sam Bowen.

Bowen endured a challenging first year at Newport, which was overshadowed by his father – County, Swansea and Cardiff legend Jason – being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.

The 22-year-old has spoken publicly about his desire to wipe the slate clean this year and force his way back into the reckoning.

In a recent interview with the South Wales Argus, Bowen said: “All the County fans know my dad and I want to be remembered at this club as well, so hopefully this season I can do it.”
Everyone connected with the club will be cheering him on.

If Coughlan can get the best out of County’s talented youngsters – and push for more from seasoned professionals like midfielder Aaron Wildig, defender James Clarke and last season’s top scorer, Omar Bogle – the South Walians may spring some surprises this term.

That’s not to say it won’t be a challenging campaign, though.

An unhelpful dosage of pessimism has permeated the Newport County fanbase over many years, and it’s often been unjustified.

Some current concerns are legitimate, though, not helped by the shroud of mystery which has lingered over the club’s boardroom operation since Gavin Foxall’s resignation due to ill health in March.

County have worked with one of the lowest playing budgets in League Two for some time, but the financial outlook going into the new campaign is especially worrying: the club’s most recent audited accounts filed with Companies House revealed a losses of £1.2 million, and supporters have recently dipped into their own pockets to establish a Players’ Fund to aid recruitment.

There are also lingering doubts about whether the Supporters’ Trust ownership model, which the club has operated since 2015, has a long-term future.

Whilst it would be a great shame for County to lose this string to their bow – a positive antithesis to other clubs in the EFL who are bankrolled by mega-rich individuals – a solution will need to be found as swiftly as possible.

In the meantime, the board have made welcome commitments to greater financial transparency going forward, and the club’s status as tenants at Rodney Parade has been secured for at least another year, which was absolutely essential.

It’s now imperative that the club – and whoever will be at the helm in the boardroom by 2024 – builds on the already positive relationship with the Dragons to secure a far longer-term lease, particularly as it will soon be an EFL requirement.

For, while other factors may count against the men in amber this term, their home ground at its intimidating, pulsating, best is still an asset few other sides in the division can match.

If Coughlan’s charges show the fighting spirit that will be required of them this term, the crowd will surely rise to the occasion when it is needed most – and make Rodney Parade the fortress we all know it can be.

Newport County will undoubtedly be underdogs this year – devoid of the star names and deep pockets of the division’s limelight-hogging outfits.
But any County fan will tell you, in the immortal words of KC and the Sunshine Band, that that’s the way they like it.

Read more about “Michael (Mike) Flynn Newport”

Michael Flynn . . . My Job Was To Stop Newport Sacking Him After Five Minutes, Says Lennie Lawrence


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *