Thursday 21 March 2019

'In years to come, I'll be unbearable' admits Amond after City strike

St Padraig’s Day: Padraig Amond takes on Nicolas Otamendi during Manchester City’s victory in Newportand. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire
St Padraig’s Day: Padraig Amond takes on Nicolas Otamendi during Manchester City’s victory in Newportand. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Jim White

Three hours after the final whistle had blown on Newport County's FA Cup run, as technicians were deconstructing the television gantries, as Manchester City had headed back north to further their preparations for world football domination, the owner of a convenience store around the corner from Rodney Parade was confused.

"Why did they lose?" he said of his local side. "Everybody who came in here all week told me Newport were going to win. But they lose. How?"

The truth is, whatever the wave of optimism flooding across the town had promised, they lost because City, unlike some other recent visitors to South Wales, took them - and the competition - seriously.

Pep Guardiola fielded a team who may well have cost more to construct than the town of Newport's entire housing stock.

Studied

He sought the advice of his assistant Mikel Arteta, who had studied for his coaching licence alongside Newport's Michael Flynn, on the opposition's likely tactics.

Knowing the scale of City's resources and Guardiola's attention to detail, he probably had his team training on a pitch at the Etihad complex that was specially prepared to resemble Rodney Parade's mud bath.

And for Newport, heart, soul and determination were simply not enough to overcome the sheer weight of professionalism. But how they tried.

On the biggest afternoon in the club's history they did not falter. They held City's cosmopolitan swanks for a lot longer than Chelsea had managed, maintaining parity until the 51st minute.

They retained sufficient determination, as City eased into a two-goal lead, to muster a late comeback, when Padraig Amond scored a goal he reckoned was among the most significant of his career.

"When I scored I wanted to take off," the Carlow man said. "For a moment I thought I could beat anyone. It was the best feeling to score against a team like that. I'm disappointed now, but in years to come I'll be unbearable."

Sadly, the hint of revival lasted no more than a minute before City scored again. Though for all the visitors' financial superiority, it was a talent that cost them nothing that finally smashed all Newport hope.

Phil Foden was magnificent all game, his pace, intelligence and movement way beyond anything Newport could match. He scored two goals too, his killer second in added time a gem.

"It's always special to put this City shirt on and it's even better when you score," said the young England midfielder, who has been a supporter of the club all his life.

"I'm proud. The opponents are great at what they do and they did it well but our quality shone through and we got the job done."

For Foden and the rest of the City squad, attention now turns to more sizeable tasks: the Champions League tie with Schalke on Wednesday.

For Flynn, forthcoming challenges are rather different. Now, after a week in which he was at the epicentre of attention, and a week which ended with Amond swapping shirts with David Silva ("he'll probably use mine to wash his car"), Flynn is required to lift his side for a League Two encounter with Notts County.

"It is back down to earth," admitted the coach of tomorrow's fixture.

"But what a journey. It's nice that we've gone on the ride, a lot better than not going on one and struggling year after year.

"It's the second year we've had great FA Cup experience. Me, as a manager, I want more times like that against the Guardiolas and the Pochettinos. I want more of it."

It adds up, he said, to unbuyable experience.

"I've learnt a lot. I've gone through the academy, done that, I've had relegation battles, flirting with play-offs, Cup runs: it's only a promotion I need for the whole lot."

But, despite the fact his players had expended so much physical and emotional energy in their Cup run and despite having none of Guardiola's depth of playing resources, Flynn - still registered as a player - said he was not tempted to pick himself for the Notts County game.

"No, no," he said. "I get knackered enough just watching." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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