The WhatsApp group featuring Newport County’s Michael Flynn and Mikel Arteta – not to mention Thierry Henry and Freddie Ljungberg – was a little busier than usual last Sunday evening.
Manchester City had just taken Chelsea apart in the Premier League with Arteta, who is assistant coach to Pep Guardiola at Etihad Stadium, watching contentedly from the home dugout.
Premier League champions City’s next assignment is at Rodney Parade, where they will do battle with Flynn’s Newport team for a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Flynn and Arteta got to know each other when they studied together for a Pro Licence – the highest coaching qualification in football – under the guidance of the Football Association of Wales (FAW) at Dragon Park in Newport.
Also on their course were a range of footballing figures, from former Arsenal stars Henry and Ljungberg to Liverpool assistant coach Pep Lijnders and Welsh Premier managers like Andy Morrison of Connah’s Quay Nomads and Bala Town’s Colin Caton.
‘Everybody is respected in the same way’
Though they graduated last year, the group remain in contact now – and a few of the members were keen to point out to Flynn just how well City had performed in their 6-0 victory last weekend.
“There were a few things after the Chelsea game – I think they were trying to do a bit of scaremongering,” a smiling Flynn tells BBC Sport Wales.
“We still have the WhatsApp group from the coaching course and we all bounce ideas off each other and share in each others’ success.
“It’s brilliant because there are people from all levels, whether it’s bottom or top, and people out of work or in work.
“Everybody is respected in the same way and that’s what our course was about – we can all learn from anybody.”
The Pro Licence course is run by FAW technical director Osian Roberts, who is also assistant to Wales manager Ryan Giggs.
“Mikel and Flynny did lots of work together as part of their course,” Roberts explains.
“I know Mikel, as was the case with all the candidates, has a lot of respect for the work Flynny has done at Newport.
“There is a lot of banter on the WhatsApp group, but they all look out for each other.
“If one of them has a good result, the others will congratulate him. If someone is going through a tough time, the others will show support and try to push him on.”
If Flynn will be pleased to see Arteta, he will be honoured to come face to face with City boss Guardiola, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager.
“Manchester City have probably the got the best manager in the world right now,” he adds.
“I think it means a little bit more that he is coming down to Rodney Parade.
“He has been to the Etihad many times and to beautiful stadiums all round the world – but he has never been to Newport.
“For him to come to Rodney Parade, and to share the touchline with him, is something I’ll be very proud of.”
Flynn may not have faced Guardiola before but he knows all about the Spaniard, who has won league titles in three countries as well as the Champions League twice when in charge of Barcelona.
“One of the tasks on the course was to go away and study a specific coach,” Roberts explains.
“The coach assigned to Flynny, as it happens, was Pep Guardiola.
“They study all aspects of a coach – tactically, technically, touchline behaviour, what they are like with the media.
“Hopefully that might help Flynny on Saturday evening, although Pep won’t be the one on the pitch of course.”
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