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Newport Boss Graham Coughlan Warns Erik Ten Hag There Will Be Bullets Flying At Rodney Parade

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By Graham Thomas

Newport County manager Graham Coughlan has warned Erik ten Hag there may be a bullet with the Manchester United manager’s name on it at Rodney Parade on Sunday evening.

There are many more forgiving and welcoming venues in the FA Cup than the proud Welsh club who have made their League Two ground a giant-killing field in recent seasons, with victories over Leicester City, Leeds United and Middlesbrough as well as a draw against Tottenham.

Coughlan, an Irishman who admits to being a lifelong United supporter, can add to ten Hag’s problems by producing an even bigger upset in the four round tie and is clearly relishing the opportunity to embarrass the Dutchman.

Asked about the level of scrutiny ten Hag is currently under and what may be fall him if United lose, Coughlan said: “It’s part of the job. He knows what he signed up for. We all do.

“I am probably relieved that the scrutiny is not on me, it’s on somebody else.

“One thing is for sure – what goes around, comes around in football. When you put yourself in the firing line, there are going to be bullets flying and coming your way.

You’ve got to know how to handle that.”

Coughlan, 49, has guided Newport to 14th place in League Two after a difficult start to the season when financial problems left him with a threadbare squad.

But the former Bristol Rovers and Mansfield manager has used his experience to steady the ship and believes the demands and expectations are not restricted to the top end of the Premier League of high profile figures like ten Hag.

“I’ve been in his shoes. I’ve been there and got the T-shirt.

“But he’ll come through it. He’ll be experienced enough to come through it. He has good people around him and that will be the key.”

Like United, Newport are entering a new era with a change in the make-up of the club’s ownership.

But the disparity in the league positions – there are 74 places between the clubs – does not begin to reflect the financial gulf.

Billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe has brought a 25 per cent stake in United which is believed to have cost £1.26billion, whilst Newport this week passed into the hands of former Swansea City chairman Huw Jenkins, who bought a controlling interest for a more modest £500,000.

Coughlan is full of praise for Jenkins and says the pair have immediately struck up a solid working relationship although he was reluctant to offer tips to ten Hag on how to deal with Ratcliffe.

“I wouldn’t get into advising Erik Ten Hag and Manchester United,” he added.

“But I just hope they come out of the other end of the process as well as we have come out.

“You do go through tough times and difficult periods. But they will be fine. They are a big football club and they know what they’re doing.

Hopefully, they will get to grips with it by getting a bit of leadership into the football club.”

Coughlan began following United as a schoolboy in Dublin and remembers the days when he was mocked in classrooms in the days before Sir Alex Ferguson transformed the club.

“I can remember when you didn’t admit to being a United fan, but then everything changed when Sir Alex came in and things can change quickly again.

“I was there in 1999 when they won the Treble and it gave me one of the greatest nights of my life.

“I suppose it would be one of United’s worst nights if they lose on Sunday, but every football club goes through bad moments.”

County have embarked on a seven-game unbeaten run and are on a high after beating Welsh rivals Wrexham last weekend.

The Exiles have also been FA Cup giant-killers in recent times, beating both Leicester, Leeds and Middlesbrough at Rodney Parade while holding Tottenham to a fourth-round draw before losing a Wembley replay.

“Surprisingly everybody fit, there’s been a few miraculous recoveries.

“They probably studied the Wrexham game and what would have come through would have the atmosphere and the noise of our fans.

“Irrespective this season whether we’ve been winning, losing or drawing, our fans have got right behind us and at times dragged us over the line.

“That’s unique and a strength of this football club and community.

“You can hear everything (on the touchline), sometimes you don’t want to, because they’re that close. They’re on top of you and it’s a unique atmosphere.

“It is hostile, it is noisy, and when they start beating that drum it’s an atmosphere to savour.”

United have not played since a 2-2 home draw with Tottenham on January 14, and Coughlan joked Ten Hag’s squad had probably been sunning themselves in the Caribbean while his players had been “slogging it out” in the British winter.

“They’ll be well rested and sun tanned,” laughed Coughlan.

“They would have been in the Caribbean while we’ve been slogging it out in the wind and rain.

“It’s the Premier League, that’s privileges when you get to that level.

“But I don’t think that will make a difference. They’ll be fresh with the little break they’ve had, and we’re going up against an elite football club and a top group of Premier League and international players.

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