Newport County were just one game from reaching the heights of League One last season – a league they’ve not been part of since the old Division Three in 1986. That’s quite some achievement considering the club were facing straight down the barrel of relegation only three seasons ago and were clear favourites with Betway to be relegated.
Part of the turn around has been down to former player Michael Flynn who took charge of the club in March 2017, steering them clear of relegation and to gradual improvements of 11th and then seventh last season. His side also progressed to the fifth round of the FA Cup for the first time since 1949 where they were rewarded with a bumper home-tie against Premier League champions Manchester City. The bookmakers Betway quickly made Newport the clear underdogs, but they gave the eventual Premier League Champions a tougher game than most expected.
Flynn has wasted no time this summer after moving quick in the transfer market – signing no more than six players. One of which is Corey Whitely, a name not many will recognise but that’ll soon change.
Whitely has been quietly making his way up the non-league scene, improving with each club. He started out in the youth academy at Enfield Town and would end up back there after a spell at Waltham Forest. His 27 goals over the course of three seasons earned him taglines such as the ‘most dangerous player in the league’ and subsequently a move to Dagenham & Redbridge two divisions higher. Further narratives would no doubt reach the headlines as he continued to display his impressive talent, being named by the Daily Star as a potential ‘next Jamie Vardy.’
A goal return of a goal in under three games mainly from a wide position meant Whitely was coveted for a move into the Football League but it would be big-spenders Ebbsfleet United who secured the sought-after winger in February 2018. His silky skills and lightning pace continued to light up the National League last season, finally earning him that elusive move into the football league at the age of 27.
Whitely is gifted in the sense that he’s very versatile as he can operate anywhere along the front three or even behind the striker – giving manager Flynn a potential headache come the start of the season, especially with the likes of Keanu Marsh-Brown and Robbie Willmott already solid options out wide. Though, the Guyana international lacked consistent game-time throughout the 2018/19 campaign due to an injury picked up early in the season.
Only striker Padraig Among has a better goal-return than the flamboyant winger which only goes to show how well Whitely has done in his career so far. You can put the level of opposition against him, but I’m of the belief that there is no longer much of a difference between the upper echelons of non-league football and those in League Two – in fact no team has gone straight back down since promotion was allowed between the two divisions back in 1987.
It may be too late for Whitely to hit the dazzling heights that arguably non-league’s best export, Jamie Vardy, has created but for Newport at least the winger can be a star in their quest for promotion. Don’t forget to see what odds Betway are offering for Newport to go up!