Newport County manager Michael Flynn. Pic: Getty Images.

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

As the song says, we all need somebody to lean on. Newport County manager Michael Flynn had Lennie Lawrence whose wisdom could prove the foundation for play-off success at Wembley on Monday against Morecambe. Rob Cole spoke to him.

Lennie Lawrence used to sit just behind Michael Flynn in the Newport County dug out and offer pearls of wisdom as and when required.

But on Bank Holiday Monday, he will be sitting in the posh seats at Wembley with the club’s directors, casting an affectionate eye over the work of a manager he has grown to admire.

With more than 1,000 games in management under his belt at eight different clubs, Lawrence was one of the first men Flynn turned to when he was appointed as caretaker boss at Rodney Parade back in 2017.

The Exiles were 11 points adrift at the time with 12 games to play in League Two. The trap door beckoned, yet Flynn and his assistant Wayne Hatswell somehow managed to galvanise the players to perform what has gone down in Welsh sporting history as ‘The Great Escape’.

Lawrence was there as well, providing a shoulder to both lean and cry on as Flynn cut his teeth in crisis management, not merely football management.

“Four years ago when he asked me to join him, the club was in a nearly impossible position. But Michael assured me he had a plan,” said Lawrence.

“He asked me to offer advice to him on a part time basis. I told him our relationship would only work if he listened and, to be fair to him, he did that and then made up his mind on what to do.

“He conjured up the Great Escape in his first season, but he would never have been able to do that if he hadn’t been at the club in the first place. He knew the players and was able to get on with the job straight away.

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“Anyone else would have taken a couple of weeks to bed in, but Michael started with two big away wins. Nobody else could have done that, or kept Newport up, and he and Wayne have just grown from there.

“When he first called me he said he wanted to develop as a manager and he has certainly done that. He is on his third contract at the club and is now one of the longest serving managers in the division.

“The trick for me was to help him through that first bit and make sure he didn’t get sacked after five minutes. The most important thing in this game is survival given the quick turnover of managers these days.

“He’s had a really good start in management and now he’s ready for the next level. Hopefully, that can be with Newport in League 1 next season.

“He needs a promotion on his cv and Monday would be perfect timing. But even if Newport don’t go up I think he is good enough to move up to a Championship club when the time is right.”

Monday will see a return to the League Two play-off final for a second time in three seasons and Lawrence’s role on the big day will be as a spectator rather than mentor. He can’t wait to see how the biggest game in Flynn’s managerial career pans out.

“The thing with Michael is that he is an intelligent boy, he’s passed all his coaching badges and he has a huge work ethic. He’s dedicated, determined and Newport to his core – he’s Mr Newport,” added Lawrence.

“Sometimes, being the home town boy can be a hindrance to a manager, but not to Michael. He has embraced the challenge and the club, his players and the city have all embraced his philosophy – he’ll be made the Mayor of Newport if they win on Monday!

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“He’s also recruited well and he’s used the loan system superbly. Just look at the leg-up he gave to Ben White who this week got picked in the provisional England squad for the Euros.

“The fact the season got curtailed last year probably helped him. Newport were mid-table and he needed a break to re-charge his batteries. When he came back he decided to change the playing style, which was a really brave move.

“Before that Newport were always fairly direct in their approach, but to his credit he tried a different tack and took his team to the top of the league.”

Looking back on the extra-time defeat to Tranmere at Wembley two years ago Lawrence just believes the footballing odds were simply stacked against Newport. This time they will go into the game against Morecambe with every chance of winning.

“Two years ago we knew it was going to be tight against Tranmere, who had a top striker who had scored a hatful of goals. We had a sending off in extra time and things went against us,” said Lawrence.

“I actually think the starting XI in 2019 was maybe slightly stronger than the current team, but there is no doubt the strength in depth Michael now has is much better.


“The change in style of the side will certainly help the team on Monday at Wembley and give them a great chance of going one better than two years ago.

“The fact there are six players who played then who are still in the side, along with all the other experienced players, is bound to give Newport an edge over a young Morecambe team who have never got to this stage before.

“That said, Derek Adams has done a great job with Morecambe this season.”


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