'It could have been horrendous' - County boss feared harder slog to League Two safety
NEWPORT County AFC manager Graham Coughlan has admitted he didn’t expect to be on the brink of League Two safety with 10 games to go.
The Exiles head to Tranmere Rovers tomorrow (kick-off 3pm) looking to take another step towards securing their place in the Football League.
County have a healthy 11-point lead over the bottom two with Rochdale, Crawley and Hartlepool, plus potentially Harrogate and Colchester, looking likely to scrap it out to avoid the drop.
Coughlan took the reins in mid-October when it looked a real possibility that the Exiles would endure a nervy finale.
Sporting director Darren Kelly was in charge for the clash at Crawley on October 15 after the sacking of James Rowberry when a 2-1 loss left them in 20th, just two points off the relegation zone.
County had just 12 points from 15 games but now are in a position of strength, albeit with the job still to be completed.
“It could have been a horrendous season. We have managed to avert that and win some games, scores some goals and keep ourselves well clear of any adversity,” said Coughlan, who has picked up 28 points from 21 games.
“Since I have come through the door the lads have been really positive, the club has been positive and the fanbase has been tremendous to me.
“We all would have loved a much stronger season and I regret not having the first 15 games, I came in after Crawley and Rochdale and those losses didn’t bode well.”
“I never thought realistically that we would get to 40 points with 10 games to go,” he continued. “I thought it would be a harder slog to get there.
“Credit to the lads that they have got us there so quickly and now we want to build and get as many points as we can before the end of the season.”
Coughlan and his trusted assistant Joe Dunne have been tasked with steering clear of trouble at the bottom of the table while also negotiating a transfer window, training pitch problems, testing travel logistics and dealing with change of club staff.
“League Two is really tough to manage in for 101 different reasons,” said the former Plymouth and Sheffield Wednesday central defender.
“There are so many different issues and you seem to problem solve rather than manage and deal with all sorts of issues that are not football-related.”
However, the former Bristol Rovers and Mansfield boss, who was coaching Sheffield United Under-23s before heading for County, is excited by the job.
“I’ve got a lot to work with and I can’t wait to really get going because I’ve just been firefighting since I’ve come through the door. Fingers crossed I can have a clear run in the summer,” he said.
“It’s a great place to work, the lads are brilliant and it’s probably one of my favourite places I’ve been at as a coach, manager or player. It’s right up my street.”