Could Bristol Rovers prize Michael Flynn from Newport County?

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 16 November 2020, 10:46

Since Michael Flynn ventured into management with Newport County in March 2017 there have been an eye-popping 173 managerial changes across the Football League, including 10 so far this season.

Only a fraction of those departures have been due to managers switching clubs, but while it’s not particularly common, both Richie Wellens (Swindon to Salford) and John Sheridan (Wigan to Swindon) have done just that this campaign: Could we now see another occur in the upcoming weeks?

Over the weekend League One side Bristol Rovers sacked Ben Garner, meaning The Gas are looking for their third boss in the space of a year.

Tommy Widdrington was placed in caretaker charge and swiftly installed as the bookies’ favourite for the permanent post, however over the last 24 hours Flynn’s odds have been cut from 25/1 to 12/1 to 2/1 in the next Bristol Rovers manager market.

Over the past three years and eight months Flynn - who was named the League Two Manager of the Month for October - has gradually engineered his way into the list of the EFL’s Top-10 longest-serving managers, alongside the likes of stalwarts Gareth Ainsworth, John Coleman and Paul Warne.

When Flynn replaced Graham Westley back in March 2017, Newport seemed dead and buried; 11 points adrift of safety at the foot of League Two with 12 games remaining. With the odds stacked against him, the rookie boss conjured up a miraculous change in fortunes to lead the Welsh side to safety, which saw him snap up the permanent job.

"Nothing makes me prouder than to take charge of my hometown club," he said at the time.

A top-half of the table finish followed in his first full season (11th), then The Exiles reached the play-offs in 2017/18, where they were heartbreakingly beaten in the final with one minute of extra-time remaining. Last term, they finished 14th after the season was curtailed due to the coronavirus.

However, it’s the cup competitions where Flynn has thrived, which in turn have earned both himself and the club widespread plaudits, and brought in valuable revenue.

In 2018, Newport took Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs to an FA Cup fourth round replay, having previously knocked out Leeds. The following season they dumped out top-flight Leicester and Middlesbrough as they reached the fifth round for the first time in 70 years.

Last season they reached the semi-finals of the EFL Trophy, and earlier this term they progressed through to the EFL Cup fourth round for the first time after booting out Watford, before holding Newcastle to a draw in normal time (they lost on penalties).

Flynn’s achievements have not gone unnoticed by his peers. Jurgen Klopp invited him to join a coaching session at Liverpool, while he’s previously received praise of Pep Guardiola, and has Pochettino’s phone number.

Flynn has of course been tempted by a move before. Last season he held talks with League One Lincoln City but in the end stayed put. "There was an approach over the weekend, the club gave me permission to speak to them, I spoke to them and I made the decision that I've got a job to do here and that was that," he told BBC Sport.

Flynn, whose current contract runs through to June 2022, will undoubtedly have aspirations of managing in League One - why wouldn’t he? - so, from Bristol Rovers’ perspective an approach makes sense. He’s a brilliant young manager.

"It depends whether they’re going to give the manager time and backing," Flynn said on Quest's EFL highlights show when asked about whether the Bristol Rovers job is an opportunity for the right manager.

"They’ll have aspirations to get into the Championship and with the size of the club that’s what they should be aiming for.

"He (Garner’s successor) is going to need backing and he’s going to need time."

Yet, similar to Gareth Ainsworth at Wycombe last season, Flynn has a special bond at Newport and a deep connection with the fans at Rodney Parade. "What I would rather have is the best finish in the club's history," he said last month.

Bristol Rovers may offer him a quick route into the League One managerial arena, a bigger salary and more money for players, however the timing just doesn’t work given high-flying Newport’s superb start, with whispers of a return to the third-tier for the first time since 1987 growing louder by the week. It would just mean more at Newport.

Newport’s new possession-based style of play has worked wonders so far this season with the club currently top of the table with a game in hand. "We've always tried to play football as much as we are now, but we've really developed our style and it's going really well at the moment,” Flynn said after he scooped League Two’s Manager of the Month award for October.

Meanwhile, im last week’s episode of The Sack Race Weekly, EFL expert Empty Seats picked Flynn as his League Two Manager of the Season so far:

“They [Newport] are reinvigorated, playing amazing stuff, top of the league with 25 points from 11 games. They’ve hardly dropped any points and they keep scoring last minute winners. We love Michael Flynn on this show!"

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