Stand up if you have heard of Michael Flynn. Sit down if you are a Newport County supporter. Thought so. Now name a player who has scored a Champions League goal against FC Porto. You might suggest Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney and Robert Lewandowski to begin with, but I bet you would not name Michael Flynn if you kept guessing until August.
Local boy Flynn’s relationship with the reformed Newport club did not get off to the most auspicious of starts, being dismissed from the club’s academy for a breach of club rules. Newport changed their minds and reinstated the teenage midfielder, but after two years playing for the Exiles in the Southern League he was on his way to professional side Barry Town, which is where that memorable goal against Porto was scored. It came in the second qualifying round of the Champions League in August 2001 when a crowd of almost 2,500 assembled at Jenner Park to see Barry beat their illustrious opponents 3-1. Flynn scored in the 38th minute to put his side 2-1 ahead, and had also seen a goal disallowed a few minutes earlier. Unfortunately for Barry, they had lost the first leg 8-0 in Oporto the previous week in front of 55,000, but the 3-1 win did have a significant impact on European football: despite fielding a weakened team for that second leg, the powers that be were not amused by Porto’s defeat and sacked head coach Octávio Machado a few months later. His replacement was a young coach from União de Leiria called Jose Mourinho.
After two brief spells at Newport and helping Barry to two League of Wales titles, Flynn was picked up by Wigan Athletic in the summer of 2002 and made 23 appearances – many from the bench – as Wigan strolled to the Second Division championship in 2002-03. To have three championship wins by the age of 22 was no mean achievement, but Flynn was to feature less regularly in the First Division, making just 8 league appearances in 2003-04. He started the 2004-05 season on loan at neighbours Blackpool, but returned to Wigan after a month to make a series of appearances from the substitute’s bench as Wigan headed for a historic promotion to the top flight for the first time in their history.
Before that promotion could be secured, Flynn joined fellow Championship side Gillingham on a free transfer in the January transfer window. Stan Ternent’s side found themselves at the wrong end of the table though, sitting third from bottom, and faced a struggle against relegation. Needing a win at relegated Nottingham Forest on the final day, Gillingham could only draw 1-1 and went down on goal difference. Flynn became a fixture in the side as Gillingham secured two bottom-half finishes in League One, and was appointed captain for the 2006-07 season. After making a total of 105 appearances for the Gills, he rejected a contract offer in the summer of 2007 and rejoined Championship side Blackpool.
His stay at Bloomfield Road ended after one mediocre season, and Flynn’s former manager Stan Ternent took him to new club Huddersfield in July 2008. Ternent had a big budget to get his team out of League One and he invested heavily in 11 new players. Flynn started the season as a regular but lost his place in November when Ternent was sacked with Huddersfield in sixteenth place. He joined League Two Darlington on loan in December 2008 to recover from a hamstring injury before eventually reclaiming his place in the Huddersfield side under new manager Lee Clark. Clark then chose to bring his own players in, and Flynn departed for neighbours Bradford City in League Two.