SPORTING director Darren Kelly has hailed new manager James Rowberry as the perfect fit for Newport County AFC, and not just in terms of spearheading a challenge in League Two.

The Exiles have started a new era after choosing the replacement for legendary boss Michael Flynn.

Rowberry signed his contract on Tuesday night and got straight to work on Wednesday morning putting those that didn’t face Carlisle United in League Two and the club’s next generation through their paces on the training paddock.

The new boss is focused on starting his reign strongly against Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Ground on Saturday afternoon.

However, taking the plunge as a manager after learning his trade as a coach means he must start thinking further down the line.

His relationship with Kelly will be key after the Irishman became the club’s first sporting director this summer, a role designed to strengthen the pathway from academy to first team.

The departure of Flynn, who was never shy in giving youth a chance, left County hunting a new boss for the first time since 2017 with Kelly trusted with leading the process.

“I left no stone unturned,” said the former Oldham and Scarborough manager. “The due diligence I did on every candidate was to make sure it was the right appointment, someone who can take the club forward, someone who can make it work from the bottom up.

“Through the interview process James was the absolute perfect fit with his background in the academy.

“We have some fantastic players coming through so want someone who can play a part in that and bring them through, giving opportunities and bringing them into the environment.

“He was the standout candidate with his passion for the club and without a doubt he was the best candidate to take the club forward.”

South Wales Argus: TALENT: Lewys Twamley had a sensational season with the County academy in 2020/21TALENT: Lewys Twamley had a sensational season with the County academy in 2020/21

County have bloated squad of senior players with the next generation – Lewis Collins, Aneurin Livermore, Joe Woodiwiss, Lewys Twamley, Ryan Hillier, Sonny Lewis, Jack Karadogan, Harrison Bright – keeping them on their toes.

“The work that the academy guys are doing is tremendous and then you look at the development team, it’s exciting because there is a clear pathway for players to come through and play games against quality under-23 opposition or reserve teams like Cardiff or Swansea,” said Kelly.

“There is a lot of great work already being done but we have to support and encourage them so that we can bring players through, which is massively important to the club.

“Look at the cup games with Michael giving opportunities to the likes of Aneurin, there are a lot of young internationals looking for that opportunity.

“They will be looking at James and what he has done with his history in youth development, thinking that he can help make them better. They will be excited and looking to impress.

“We want to give young players the opportunity to play in the first team, especially those from the local area.

“There has been great work done by Michael and Wayne in the past and what we have to do is be progressive, forward-thinking and push on.

“We are very much on the same page and know what we have to do to achieve that; there will be a lot of hard work but we have the work ethic, drive, ambition, passion and enthusiasm. We will throw absolutely everything at it.”

Flynn’s reign was long by Football League standards and Kelly vows that Rowberry will be given time – “it’s a project, it’s not going to happen overnight” – but there are also important tasks in the short term.

County signed 15 players in the summer and have a squad of senior players that is arguably too big.

That will leave Rowberry having to ‘wheel and deal’ in January if he wants to change things up, with Kelly assisting in recruitment.

South Wales Argus: County sporting director Darren KellyCounty sporting director Darren Kelly

“It’s up to James to assess them. There is a new manager in place and all the players will want to impress,” said the sporting director.

“He will give them time to do that and then we will see how we go in January, plus in the bigger picture there are young lads coming through as well.

“It’s a matter of working with James closely and seeing what he wants to do because, and it’s something I’ve been preparing for a long time, we have a player database.

“When it comes to recruitment, if James feels we need one or two in, or one or two out, I will support that.

“What I effectively do is the groundwork but the decision will always be his. If he thinks there are players he can bring in to help the team push on and get promotion then brilliant.”