His mates thought he was a bit mad but there was a good reason why Padraig Amond booked his stag do for a year before his wedding.
The Newport squad were told by manager Michael Flynn at the end of last season to prepare for what could be a long but successful campaign.
‘Anyone with plans for immediately after the league season finished were told to put them back,’ says Amond. That included the Newport striker himself, who will marry long-term girlfriend Caoimhe in June.
Padraig Amond had a very early stag do in anticipation of Newport reaching the play-offs
‘The gaffer spoke to us about how he believed we’d be successful this year and everyone bought into it,’ he adds. ‘It meant doing my stag last year and people were laughing, saying “how can you do it so early?” But it proved it was the right thing to do because we now have an unbelievable chance to be promoted this year.’
THE MARATHON MEN
WHO HAS PLAYED THE MOST NUMBER OF GAMES IN ENGLAND’S TOP FOUR TIERS THIS SEASON?
Manchester City: 61
As a group, Newport haven’t let that belief – which comes from the manager – die.
They may be going into their 62nd game of the season in the League Two play-off final against Tranmere at Wembley on Saturday – level with Chelsea and Portsmouth as the most in English football – but Flynn has kept his players match fit and hungry with every minute played.
Clever planning such as moving the team’s day off from Wednesday to Thursday has allowed players who may not have started a previous match to have three consecutive days of match preparation.
Newport boss Michael Flynn has introduced innovative ideas and plans to prepare his players
The training drills have also been designed to improve the players and not just to prepare them for a fixture.
The run to the FA Cup fifth round demonstrated Newport’s expansive and technical 3-5-2 style which got them past Leicester before they lost 4-1 against Manchester City at Rodney Parade.
Amond scored with a delicate chip over Ederson’s head in that game to get the score to 2-1 until Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez got City’s third and fourth.
‘It was unbelievable,’ says Flynn. ‘Two-one after 89 minutes against the side that had just broken the points record in the Premier League. We remember that as a major point in our season; it gave us even more belief.’
Newport were 2-1 down against Manchester City until Phil Foden’s late intervention
For Amond, the performance against City and the club’s 12-game unbeaten run to here is proof of the club’s progress over the last two years but also Flynn’s work as a coach.
‘Eight of the lads who played in the Mansfield play-off games were part of the Great Escape [when Newport survived relegation to the National League on the last day of the 2016-17 season] and have been with the club the whole way through with the manager,’ says Amond.
‘It shows that with the right support staff around players and good management you can get so much more out of someone who may have been written off – it’s the sign of a gaffer who could manage at the highest level.’
Amond has flourished under Flynn’s management, scoring 35 goals across two seasons
Amond admits himself that some perhaps questioned Flynn’s decision to sign him. Despite being a key part of the Grimsby side that won the National League play-off final at Wembley in 2016, he was also in Hartlepool team that was relegated instead of Newport in 2017.
At Newport, he has flourished, scoring 35 goals over two seasons and is the club’s top scorer this term with 22.
It is again testament to the recruitment team at Newport, which is led by Flynn and Lennie Lawrence, the former Grimsby and Cardiff manager, that a club with a small budget has remained competitive.
Yes, the FA Cup run of this season and last – which ended in a fourth round replay at Tottenham – has enabled the club to clear debts and turn a profit, but plenty of care has been taken along the way.
‘It’s the first time in a long time that the club has been able to plan for the long-term future,’ says Flynn. ‘It also goes to show that you don’t need all that finances and have to pay players over the odds.
‘We’re very careful in the way we do things because new players have to fit into the way we work and the environment of the football.
‘We don’t get everything right, obviously, but we give ourselves the chance to get the right group of players. You have to be able to look at the mirror and say that we’ve done things for the right reasons.’
Flynn is happy that he has started planning for the long-term at the league Two club
Flynn’s achievements, much like those of Lincoln’s Danny Cowley, haven’t gone unnoticed by clubs in the Premier League and Championship. He is Newport-born and will be devastated if his side lose on Saturday but he understands his objectives will eventually outgrow his boyhood club.
‘I’m ambitious and I want to manage as high as I can and I want to manage in the Premier League,’ says the 38-year-old. ‘If I didn’t have that ambition then I’d probably be in the wrong game.’
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