WINTER is coming and in the game of throw-ins that we call football the kings and queens of 2017 are already being crowned.

Newport County AFC did not feature in The Best FIFA Football Awards, which were dished out last month, and none of the Exiles heroes have made the Ballon d’Or shortlist.

But, after a remarkable revival in 2017, it would only be right if County were recognised at the Wales Sport Awards.

This year’s ceremony, jointly staged by BBC Wales and Sport Wales, comes to the Celtic Manor Resort for the first time and the judges will not have to look far for worthy nominees.

Much as I’d love the talismanic David Pipe to take the main BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year award, if only to see that physique constrained by a dinner jacket, that seems somewhat unrealistic.

But County and manager Michael Flynn should surely be amongst the contenders for the team of the year and coach of the year prizes respectively.

Admittedly, a team that finished 90th out of the 92 top clubs in England last season and who currently sit eighth in the fourth tier would not normally be obvious award-winners.

But that would be to ignore the extraordinary story of the Exiles survival at the end of last season and their super start to the new campaign.

Regular readers will be well aware of the facts of the Great Escape but they bear repeating for those who haven’t been wrapped up in events at Rodney Parade over the past 12 months.

County were, to all intents and purposes, dead and buried when Flynn replaced Graham Westley in March.

The Exiles had just been blown away at home by fellow strugglers Leyton Orient, losing 4-0, and were hurtling towards relegation from the English Football League.

The defeat left County 11 points adrift of safety with just 12 games left to play and a return to non-league football looked all but inevitable.

But, in the words of World Cup winner Thierry Henry, Flynn made the impossible possible.

Six wins in 10 games lifted the Exiles out of the bottom two after more than 200 days in the drop zone.

Defeat in the penultimate match at Carlisle United, however, meant the spectre of relegation was still hanging over the team going into the season finale at home to Notts County.

Flynn’s men knew they had to win to be absolutely certain of survival and, with relegation rivals Hartlepool United beating title-chasing Doncaster Rovers, County were heading for the drop with just seven minutes of the season remaining.

The hopes and dreams of 7,000 fans inside Rodney Parade rested on 11 men.

South Wales Argus:

And the unlikely figure of defender Mark O’Brien (above) was the man who stepped up to the plate in the 89th minute to preserve the club’s Football League status and become an instant Exiles hero.

And, as if that wasn’t impressive enough, County have gone from relegation certainties to genuine promotion contenders this season.

They are just two points outside the play-off places with more than a third of the campaign done and dusted.

And on Saturday they comfortably dispatched League One Walsall in front of the S4C cameras to cruise through to the second round of the FA Cup with Wales boss Chris Coleman watching on from the stands.

The Wales football team were the obvious choice as team of the year in 2016 and this year’s award is likely to go to Pro12 champions Scarlets or the Cardiff Devils.

But County should definitely be on the shortlist alongside the likes of Championship promotion challengers Cardiff City and record-breaking Welsh Premier League kings TNS.

Flynn is still only eight months into his managerial career but he too deserves recognition from his peers in Welsh sport for the fantastic job he has done with assistant Wayne Hatswell and mentor Lennie Lawrence.

Scarlets chief Wayne Pivac, Bluebirds boss Neil Warnock and British & Irish Lions supremo Warren Gatland will all no doubt be in contention and Flynn fully deserves to be in that company.

Last year’s awards, held at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, proved successful for Gwent.

Monmouth rowing guru Robin Williams took the coach of the year title, with Daniel Johnsey of Newport Seals Disability Swimming Club named young coach of the year.

The community coach of the year award went to Paul Crapper of Abergavenny Road Club and the unsung hero of 2016 was Cwmbran netball and football coach Vicki Randall.

And the Carwyn James junior sportswoman of the year award went to taekwondo star Lauren Williams.

She must be a strong contender to retain the title after another super year and Newport boxing trainer Mark James is also up for community coach of the year.

Hopefully they won’t be the only local heroes in the spotlight come the big night on Monday, December 4.