‘We are a very average mid-table League Two side’ – Our Newport County fan assesses the season ahead

The second of our club-specific previews sees Newport County fan Damon Brimble in the hot seat.

What is your name, Twitter or site address and how long have you been a fan of your club?

Damon Brimble (@brimble_damon1), supported Newport County for six years.

Sum up last season for us from your perspective.

The 2019/20 season was in my view dreadful, we were 15th in the league but finished 14th on PPG, I’m quite glad the season was curtailed with ten games left to play because the way we were playing I dread to think what might have happened, especially considering we had six away games left and our away form is so bad that we could lose to a team of five-year-olds if the match was played away from Rodney Parade.

The football last season was also terrible, as I have stated previously our football last season was the worst that has ever been played in the English game, it was long ball football that even Tony Pulis wouldn’t have wanted to watch, it was a shambles, despite finishing 14th last season was one of the worst in my time following the club, it’s a season I want to forget and probably one that a lot of County fans will want to erase from their memories.

What has your transfer business been like this summer?

Our transfer business this season has been okay but like most clubs in our financial position rather frustrating, the fans (myself included) had a bit of a meltdown in June when standout player Scot Bennett was released as a cost-cutting measure, doomsayers on the message board were saying we are five minutes from liquidation which of course is complete nonsense.

So far we have signed three players, two of whom are strikers, Ryan Taylor has joined from Plymouth and Saikou Janneh has joined on loan from Bristol City, it’s encouraging that we have signed strikers as that is one field where we absolutely needed to focus, we only scored 32 goals in 36 league games last season and in some games, on the rare occasion that we actually had a shot it was like our attackers were wearing wellies.

We have also signed a centre back from St Albans called David Longe-King, the jury is out on that one, Michael Flynn’s record of signing non-league players is shocking, I cannot think of any player who he has signed from the non-league system who has actually stayed at the club for the full season without being loaned out. We needed a new centre back after the sad retirement of club legend Mark O’Brien, just whether Longe-King is the guy remains to be seen, as I said the jury is out.

We still have a few days before we start the season in the EFL Cup against Swansea and we still need midfield reinforcements, our midfield has been weak for too long and unless that is addressed this summer then we cannot claim this to be a successful transfer window, it’s encouraging that Flynn seems to have learnt that signing nine centre backs isn’t the way forward, hopefully now he will sort out the midfield and we can try and kick on.

How has pre-season been for you?

From what I’ve seen not a complete disaster, with such a short turnaround from the start of August when the players returned to now we should just be happy that the players seem fit, it is going to be difficult for all the teams in League One and Two who weren’t involved in the playoffs as they haven’t been in the football environment since March so as long as we get into the game against Swansea on September 5 and more importantly Scunthorpe a week later without looking like a team who only started training three days before then we should be okay, all teams who haven’t played since March will be in the same boat, I’m happy that we seem to have avoided anything major going wrong so far like injuries.

It’s also been hard to tell how we look as a team with games being played behind closed doors, all we can rely on is the observations of Michael Flynn and players, our most recent match against Hereford was streamed live and after watching the highlights I thought we looked better than we did in the final few weeks of last season, from what I saw we actually tried to play football, but I know there’s a long way to go and the team being ready after six months off has to be the most important thing for our club.

Which players are looking like they’ll stand out this season?

As always it’ll be Scot Bennett, fans were overcome with relief and joy when we resigned him in August, he’s our best player, he’s our most dependable player and despite us not looking great he always stands out as the one player who you can’t criticise, Bennett is vital to this team and next season could have looked a lot more intimidating had we not got him back on a one year deal, County fans are an argumentative bunch, we could break the EFL record and win a game 14-0 and they’d be arguing about a missed penalty or that they didn’t like the shape, but one thing we all agree on is that Scot Bennett is a massive player for this club, he’s the player who stands out in every game and he’s the player who will likely stand out again next season.

Have you tried our Leading Scorer Quiz yet? Just identify these players who all scored ten or more L1 or L2 goals last season

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Can you identify this player who finished last season on 10 or more goals in either League One, or League Two?

Any players likely to explode onto the scene from nowhere for you?

With everything I have I’m hoping that player is going to be Lewis Collins, one of few bright spots in a dark and dreary season was Collins, at 19 years of age this season is his big chance, he looked a really promising player when given brief cameo appearances last season and made a big impact in the game against Crewe Alexandra when we won 1-0 but we were absolutely dreadful before his introduction, Collins injected something different into the games when he was brought on, he was lively, he was a nuisance and he can play, he’s the type of player League Two defenders hate, if entrusted with a starting position in the team I believe he will look at ease and be a very good player in our side.

The only concern I have with Lewis Collins is his manager, Michael Flynn does not seem to trust our academy products which is shocking because he started his coaching career as our academy manager, since he became manager the pathway has closed which is dangerous for a fan-owned club, just down the road we can all see the success Exeter have had bringing through their young players and selling them on, we don’t do it though, instead, we have a manager who makes puerile excuses in the press to not play the academy kids and even if they are given a brief five minutes and change the game, like Collins did a giant Crewe and Stevenage last season then Flynn offers no praise or encouragement in public, it is something that has really wound me and a lot of County fans up, I really hope Flynn changes his ways this season and gives Collins a chance because he could be the player to come of age next season.

Which matches are you most looking forward to this season?

That one is simple, I’m most looking forward to the first home game when we are allowed in, if we were in England that would be Mansfield on October 3 but being in Wales it’s a waiting game to see if Mark Drakeford will let fans in by that date, I’m hoping he does because this club will struggle if we are playing behind closed doors through the autumn and into the winter. This pre-season has been strange for me and I would assume everybody, most fans always look forward to game one, but I can’t get myself excited for Swansea or Scunthorpe because fans aren’t allowed in, it’d feel so much different in a non Covid world. For now though I’m hoping Mansfield is the first game we can attend and as such after seven months away from Rodney Parade that’s the game I’m looking forward to, when Mr Drakeford lets us down and extends the stadium closure then I don’t know what game I will be looking forward to, but for now it’s Mansfield on October 3 and I just hope we are allowed in on that date.

What can teams expect from you this season?

Teams can expect a difficult game, while we have been given a few tankings under Michael Flynn we are usually hard to beat, defensively last season we were decent and hard to break down and I can’t see the changing much next season, if we can attack with more purpose then teams can really expect a difficult afternoon or evening, our squad isn’t actually that bad, the manager just doesn’t play to its strength, if we ditch the long ball which teams will set up for and brand us as even if we go back to playing the original attractive style of Flynnball.

In an ideal world teams can expect a tough game and if they win know they’ve been in a battle, I would also hope that teams don’t expect us to be any good next season because we are always better when flying under the radar.

Where do you think you’ll finish?

In my annual predictions, I placed us 15th, while the side isn’t as bad as some people make out I don’t think it’s at a level to compete for the top seven but we are also not a team that is going to be mired down the bottom, we are a very average mid-table League Two side. From what I’ve read on the supporter’s forum where the view seems to be we will finish 24th with zero points I would think fans will probably be content with a 15th place finish.

What the manager said recently is true, the most important thing is making sure we still have a club in May of 2021, if we go down its lights out.

If you want to take the hot seat for your club, drop us an email with answers to the questions to thereaefl1@gmail.com

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