Firefighter Flynn now looking up as Rovers’ new boss

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SHARING a cuppa and enjoying the banter with his Doncaster Rovers players at their Cantley Park training ground on Thursday morning, Brian Flynn looked the proverbial man at ease.

Come the afternoon, his sense of well-being improved even further when he was handed the much-coveted Rovers post on a full-time basis, initially for the rest of the season – but no doubt with private reassurances that if he does well, the job is his for the long haul.

In this case, doing well consists not just of positional improvement in the table or avoiding relegation, the briefs for most managers when they step into a job, but something more tangible.

Not just promotion either, with the League One title – as cherished by chairman John Ryan – the target which applies pressure to Flynn’s shoulders this morning.

For Flynn, it is very much a case of bring it on. And with good reason.

Given that the 57-year-old’s experiences in Football League management in his native Wales with Wrexham and Swansea City were accompanied with the hardest of hats and a firefighting brief that would have seriously tested Red Adair, you can fully understand his mindset.

Flynn’s CV includes a promotion with Wrexham in 1992-93 from the old fourth division and taking the Robins to the FA Cup quarter-finals in 1997, alongside a famous cup slaying of Arsenal in January 1992.

But if medals were handed out to him by Robins and Swans fans, he would receive them for saving them from relegation in 1989-90 and 2002-03 respectively when both clubs resembled the equivalent of basket cases off the pitch.

In the latter case, only a 4-2 victory for the Swans over Hull City on the final day of the season at the old Vetch Field prevented the armageddon scenario of Conference football – and while fans of the Premier League club may have tasted some massive moments in the past few years, none was more important than that victory over the Tigers back in May 2003.

After twice ensuring a club held its nerve amid considerable adversity, Flynn is entitled to believe he deserves his chance at the top end of the table with Rovers. Who would not, in his shoes?

Casting aside notions of pressure, Flynn, who left Wrexham after a memorable 12-year stint in September 2001 and joined the Swans a year later, said: “It is an absolutely huge difference to what I have been used to before.

“I went to Wrexham as a player-manager at 31 when they were 10 points adrift in the old fourth division and when I went to Swansea, they were five points adrift and I was firefighting for months. That is all I did.

“It was not a case of building a team, Swansea paid me to keep them in the league and that is what we did.

“So there is no pressure here, none whatsoever.

“That is pressure when you are down at the bottom, possibly going out of the Football League and even out of existence.

“I remember at the time I was there at both clubs saying that Swansea and Wrexham could ‘do a Newport’.

“They went out of the Football League and are still not back in and that was nearly 30 years ago. Newport were regarded as a Football League team and people did not want it to happen to Welsh football again.”

Continuity was cited as a major reason for Flynn, well known to the players after arriving as chief scout back in August, being handed the Rovers job above the likes of Peter Taylor, with the Rovers board’s mantra very much being, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’

With 19 games to go and in second place in the table, revolution is not required at the Keepmoat, although that is not to say Flynn will not change one or two things here and there following on the work of his predecessor Dean Saunders.

Flynn said: “I will do it my way.

“At the moment, it is not broken, but there will be subtle changes. The players might not realise what they are, but they will do eventually.

“But I have been pleasantly surprised in many ways by what I have seen.

“Dean (Saunders), Brian (Carey) and Mal (Purchase) have left a particularly well-drilled, organised squad – not just the team.

“The fitness levels are fantastic and the organisation within the team is very good. There are a lot of good characters in there as well; it’s a good mixture.”

In terms of what Rovers fans can expect in terms of management style, Flynn is unequivocal.

Openness with the players within a happy camp where everyone’s right to an opinion is respected, hard but enjoyable work, and attention to detail.

He said: “I have been out of the firing line now in terms of league clubs for years.

“I have obviously been involved with the (Wales) international set-up and involved with matches and tournaments. But I have enjoyed the past few weeks.

“In terms of my style, I am a coach and a man-manager. I like players to talk to me; it’s a strength for players to ask a question, although some people do not see it that way.

“I don’t fight with them, not with my physical presence.”

leon.wobschall@ypn.co.uk