Reaching a play-off final is an achievement for any manager, with the occasion at Wembley bound to resonate as a career highlight.
For Michael Flynn at Newport County, it means something else. Something more.
His side Newport County are one game away from reaching League One for the first time, and the first time they’ve been back in the third top of the football league in over three decades.
For the man born in the city it would mark the crowning achievement of not just Flynn’s emerging managerial career but the pinnacle of his long association with the football club.
Flynn started playing for Newport part-time while he was in employment as a postman in the late 90s when they were residing in the Southern Football League Premier Division. His career alternated with spells at fellow south Wales outfit Barry Town, until 2002 when he earned a move to Wigan Athletic.
A real journeyman, Flynn played at six more clubs before returning to Newport in the first of two final spells. In his second of these, just two months after re-signing as a player in January 2017, he was appointed caretaker manager of the League Two side to take over from Graham Westley.
At the time, the club were in the relegation quagmire, 11 points from safety at the beginning of March with the drop back into non-league looking increasingly inevitable.
But Flynn orchestrated opening back-to-back wins over Crewe Alexandra and Morecambe, baptising his tenure in style following a final run of one win in 18 in Westley’s last stand at the helm.
Further three-pointers for Flynn were forthcoming in the final stretch of the season, against Crawley, Exeter, and Yeovil. A remarkable final day victory over Notts County sealed the comeback in the most dramatic of relegation escapes, a late winner from Mark O’Brien sending the sold-out Rodney Parade into raptures with Hartlepool taking their place for the descent.
Flynn, of course, had earned his stripes and was duly given the role on a permanent basis, taking Newport to a respectable 11th for the 2017/18 season. In early 2018, he earned the respect of Mauricio Pochettino as the Argentinian’s Spurs side were held to a replay in the FA Cup by Flynn and the Newport County boys in the fourth round of the competition.
This campaign, Newport scraped into the last play-off place, by virtue of a fantastic last stretch when they went undefeated in the final 11 games of the season, setting up a meeting with fourth place Mansfield Town. Two draws at both Rodney Parade and Field Mill meant that the tie had to be taken to penalties, with the five Newport spot-kick takers not missing from the spot.
The 38-year-old Flynn will fittingly now mark his 20th anniversary of his association with Newport by taking the city of his birth to Wembley.
Whether it be a positive outcome or the result going in favour of their opponents Tranmere Rovers, for a man who has witnessed and featured for them in the seventh tier of the football league system to put them in the revered position they find themselves in, Flynn should be applauded.