Thierry Henry, Mikel Arteta and Michael Flynn: The most random WhatsApp group ever?

FA Cup night

On Saturday night, Michael Flynn’s brave Newport County team saw their FA Cup run come to an end at the hands of Manchester City, losing 4-1 to the Premier League champions at Rodney Parade.

On reflection, the scoreline may well have been slightly cruel against the League Two side, who conceded twice in the final minutes of the match as City put the game to bed once and for all after Padraig Amond gave the hosts a glimmer of hope.

Few were expecting an upset, with Newport priced at 35/1 to get the win against one of the top sides in Europe, who now go onto face Schalke on Wednesday night in the Round of 16 of the Champions League.

Next up for Newport is a slightly less glamorous trip away to League Two strugglers Notts County at Meadow Lane, with the Welsh team looking to get their promotion hopes back on track.

What many people wouldn’t have known is that Saturday’s FA Cup tie brought together an unlikely reunion between a member in each of the team’s dugouts. Newport manager Michael Flynn and Manchester City coach Mikel Arteta both studied for their Pro Licence coaching badge alongside each other, becoming part of a WhatsApp group in doing so alongside some of their fellow students.

They include Arsenal legends Thierry Henry and Freddie Ljungberg, as well as Liverpool’s assistant manager Pep Lijnders and Welsh Premier League coaches Andy Morrison and Colin Caton of Connah's Quay Nomads and Bala Town respectively.

Henry Arteta

Unlikely friendships

It is perhaps the most random collection of members in a WhatsApp group of all-time, featuring a number of unlikely associates, but such is the world of football that the members of the group still keep in regular contact.

When Man City thrashed Chelsea 6-0 ahead of their impending clash against Newport, the WhatsApp group was pretty lively with comments aimed in Flynn’s direction ahead of what could stand in their way.

In the end, Flynn’s team put up a decent fight - better than what can be said of Chelsea - on the muddy surface at Rodney Parade and gave an insight into what it is like being in such a group.

"There were a few things after the Chelsea game - I think they were trying to do a bit of scaremongering," Flynn told 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 other's 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."

Flynn looks up to Guardiola, sharing an exchange with the Spaniard before the game in which he addressed him as a ‘genius’. It was he, not City’s star-studded squad, that Flynn was most excited about hosting at Rodney Parade.

"Manchester City have probably the got the best manager in the world right now," he added.

"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-Arteta bromance?

It turns out there were plenty of links between Flynn and City over the weekend, as Wales assistant manager Owain Roberts explained.

"Mikel and Flynny did lots of work together as part of their course. 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."

Few people would ever expect Flynn to be associated with the likes of Henry, Arteta and Ljungberg, but the magic of the FA Cup helped reunite one of the more unlikely friendships in English football.

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