The pre-season is a crucial time for any football team, and for Notts County, it was no different. With a line-up of challenging games against teams like Stoke City and Nottingham Forest, manager Luke Williams had his work cut out for him. But with each game, he gained valuable insights into his squad and their capabilities.
One of the key takeaways from the pre-season was how well new recruits Dan Crowley and David McGoldrick fit into Williams' system. The squad showed their adaptability by playing in different positions, and McGoldrick's advanced role proved to be a real threat on goal. Williams also experimented with different formations, switching between a 3-4-2-1 and a 4-2-3-1/5-2-2-1 hybrid to see how the squad would adapt. These tactical changes proved effective, particularly against Nottingham Forest, where the strengthened defence reduced mistakes and allowed Notts to build from the back.
After the game against Nuneaton Borough, Williams praised the performance of his young players: "When you are a young guy, and you come in, and you’re on the same pitch with a guy who was a top goalscorer last season, there is pressure and some nerves there, but they handled that brilliantly." He also noted that he didn't want to "completely rip up everything that we did last season" but that there would be "some changes during pre-season for us to look at different options."
The results and performance may not have been the most important thing, but the assessment of each game allowed Williams to better understand his squad. Each game presented its own challenges, from handling a dominant Stoke City to embedding youngsters into the squad. But with each test, Notts adapted well and showed some good performances. Standout moments included the establishing link between John Bostock, Matt Palmer, David McGoldrick, Macaulay Langstaff, and Cedwyn Scott working well with Jodi Jones.
After the game against Stoke City, Williams commented on the team's defensive performance: "I'm looking for the mental strength and concentration and the defensive duties to be on display." He also noted that it was a "brilliant test" for Notts.
The pre-season games also helped build team chemistry and cohesion. The focus on training and match preparations, as well as post-game drills, assisted with team bonding. Williams played a crucial role in overseeing tactical decisions and supporting players who may have struggled, including youngsters like Madou Cisse and Luther Munakandafa who impressed with their performances.
After the game against Nottingham Forest, Williams said: "I thought they equipped themselves really well, the guys, looked like the same team in a very different formation." He also noted that some players were still "getting up to speed with the work and conditioning required for the team's style of play."
The pre-season games helped prepare the team for the upcoming season by showing them where they were at and how they could cope with different situations. The focus remained on playing swift, flowing attacking football. And with an established squad where the core of players has been around each other for a decent amount of time, things look promising for Notts County going into the season.
There are high hopes for the club to challenge for promotion, with the benefits of having depth throughout the squad and new recruits fitting in instantly. The loan signing of Ollie Tipton has strengthened the defence, and with the midfield playing a more crucial role in supporting them, things should naturally improve over time. If Notts can maintain an undefeated run within the first five games and reach between 11–13 points, it would be a decent start to the League Two season.
The pre-season has given Notts County manager Luke Williams a good amount of insight into his squad and their capabilities. With each game presenting its own challenges and opportunities for growth, things look promising for Notts County going into the season.