Newport County boss Justin Edinburgh deserves a chance to manage in the Football League, according to the man who has just lifted the Championship title, Malky Mackay.
The Cardiff City manager is good friends with Edinburgh who leads the Exiles into the Conference play-off semi-final second leg Sunday at Rodney Parade (4.30pm) holding a 1-0 advantage over Grimsby.
County are looking to get back into the Football League for the first time since 1988, having gone bankrupt.
Since then they have fought their way back up from the bottom of the English football pyramid.
If they can get past the Mariners they face a potential all-Welsh final with Wrexham, who are at Kidderminster today holding a 2-1 first-leg.
Mackay has attended coaching courses with Edinburgh and his assistant at Cardiff, David Kerslake, is even closer to the County boss.
And while Mackay insists Newport are in with a great chance of promotion, he believes either way the Exiles might actually be lucky to hang on to Edinburgh.
“I don’t see any reason why Justin should not be working at League level,” he said.
“It’s difficult sometimes because League clubs don’t often look at the Conference for managers and the only way in is to be promoted.
“But I don’t think there’s any reason it should be like that.
“Justin’s a really experienced Conference manager and I actually think Newport will be lucky to keep a hold of him.
“It’s a big game for them and great for South Wales that they are doing well, and I wish Justin and his side all the very best.
“He’s really turned Newport around. He’s gone in there and shown the effect a manager can have on a club. That is the sign of a very good manager.
“It’s not been one of those ones where they improved for the first few weeks and then went backwards again.
“Newport have been steadily improving from the moment Justin walked in the door.
“I think there’s every chance Newport will get up. But it is such a tough division.
“No division is easy, but when I look at the relentless nature of that division it takes my breath away really. Wrexham have done really well too and with everything that is happening it can only be good for Welsh sport. I’m delighted about that.”
County were thankful for a late goal from stalwart centre-back Ismail Yakubu at Grimsby on Wednesday.
The Exiles are boosted with the return of top scorer Aaron O’Connor who missed the first leg with a thigh strain.
Today’s clash is heading for a 7,000 sell-out but Edinburgh himself is keen to remind all concerned that there is still work to be done if a trip to the Wembley final is to be secured.
“We are focused that the job is half done and we need to complete the job,” said Edinburgh.
“Make no mistake, we will have to go toe to toe with Grimsby, they are a good side.
“We all know what is at stake here and also know that if we are not on our game then the tie could turn on its head in minutes.
“So there will be no complacency whatsoever from our part, we are totally focused on what will be a tough encounter.
“Grimsby have been good away from home and they don’t concede many goals.
“So it will be another hard battle where we will try and make sure we don’t concede.
“But by the same token we must put the ball away at the other end when we do have the opportunity.”