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Matty Jackson
Matty Jackson

Utilising Notts County's unused, retained talent

After the departure of 12 first team players, with 17 still under contract, we start to look at who should be given more time on our first ever ‘Vanarama tour’.

Players underused, and retained this season include: Kion Etete, Pierce Bird, Tom Crawford, Krisitan Dennis, Will Patching, Sam Osborne, Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain, Remayne Campbell, Alex Howes and Andy Kellet. You could even include Ross Fitzsimons and Matt Tootle.

Firstly, Kion Etete’s future is a hot topic now. The striker is at an early point in his career (only 17 years old). He has only made six first team appearances, four in the league. To be heavily involved in a team fighting for (football league) safety is often not good for younger players as they need to be nurtured into first-team professional football. Therefore, I believe it was beneficial not to include him in the first team too much.
In terms of next season, he may be a useful player due to his height and lighting speed. On the other hand, the national league is considered even more physical than league two so his talents may not be suited to our next campaign.

Despite this Tottenham have had keen interest in the youngster and rumours have been going around about an impressive transfer fee- not too dissimilar to Dele Alli’s when he transferred from Milton Keynes.

Pierce Bird is another young player (20 years old) who has been around first-team antics since the start of the season. This towering defender was used more regularly when Duffy and Brisley made more frequent calamitous mistakes. Having made 7 appearances, to Brisley’s 24 (I know!), he quickly gained my trust as he seemed so calm at center-back, despite a pressurised situation. I can see him being used more in next seasons’ squad, possibly being a starting eleven player (if he keeps his cool head).

Midfielder Tom Crawford (19 years old) was bought from Chester just under a year ago and wasn’t included much in this season’s campaign, having only 6 apps (although scoring one goal). Hence, he was loaned out to non-league AFC Flyde in January. There he made 24 apps (only being on the bench once) and scored two goals. He heavily featured in Flyde’s second half of 2018/19 season and even played in the playoff league final at Wembley against Salford FC. I would like to see him in next season’s campaign but beside a more experienced midfielder. This is in fact if we keep a hold of him as AFC Flyde may want to buy him and our owners, whoever they may be, may sell-out.

Striker Kristian Dennis is a tricky one. Having scored 21 goals for Chesterfield FC in 2017-18 things looked bright when we bought him from them for £150,000 last summer. For reasons that would be interesting to delve into, although not now, he performed extremely poorly this season. He was loaned to Grimsby in January, where he was barely used there. Despite this, I feel we should use him next season, but this is mainly because of his six-figure price tag and as his contract runs out in 2021. If his confidence is grown this summer I could see him being used well in partnership with a target man (Did somebody say Shola?). However, I really doubt he’d fit in a Kane Hemmings partnership.

Midfielder Will Patching (20 years old) made 9 apps this season and is promising. However, I feel we have a lot of “he could be good if he was with a Jim O’Brien”. I do think this competition for midfielder spots is good for competitivity for team places but don’t want a repeat of this seasons squad size.

It seems to me that we have had many mediocre midfielders this season and they’ve been bought in a bit like if you tried to gaffer tape the Titanic. Midfielder Andy Kellet could have been well-used but due to the number of managers this season was set aside early on and only added to the massive wage bill.

Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain (3 apps), Sam Osborne (3 apps), Remaye Campbell (2 apps) and Alex Howes (1 app) are again players who could be used but due to there lack of first team football, I am skeptical of their ability and physicality.

In conclusion, there is talent in the unused retained players however, we are lacking certain player types and abundant in others.

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Pierce Bird will be a key player if he's given a chance next season, we need to sign an experienced centre back to assist him and it's a shame Mike Edwards isn't younger (as I believe that's the type of player who'd help).

Will Patching and Tom Crawford must be given a chance, Crawford especially since he's stood out at the National League level.

There's no point having passengers, these are the signings Notts must avoid so it will be interesting to see who Neal Ardley will choose to give his backing.

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i think between osborne and crawford, notts just needs to find the right experience to help bring their development out. its all about confidence for me.

pierce bird thrived coming in when being given a chance.

it did not help that he did not have a player who settled in the role alongside him but there are a wide number of underused players that should be given a chance. i dont rate oxlade-chamberlain though. he seems to be all pace and no skill.

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Thanks for the article, a good read!

Dennis is a dead cert to leave in my opinion. He'll be on an absolute packet, Ardley doesn't rate him and there are always clubs willing to take a punt on strikers like him. He'll make a living off his 21 goals for Chesterfield for many years to come.

I do fancy one or two of the "overlooked" players to blossom next season. Crawford has been mentioned a few times, a player who is clearly well thought-of in the National League but barely had a chance with us. But why was he shipped out on loan in January? Because the manager felt he needed more experience, or because he wants rid of him?

I agree about Bird, he's got bags of potential. As he's still a youngster we shouldn't be planning with him in the first 11, but he absolutely could force his way into the picture. We persevered with Hollis for years because he came through the youth team, yet Bird can be ten times the footballer Hollis will ever be. Also very assured with the ball at his feet.

One of the unknowns for us fans is how things look behind the scenes. There has been talk of cliques forming in the dressing room and players even refusing to train together. If that's true, the biggest task will be to form a united squad. If we have one or two bad apples preventing us from forming any kind of team spirit they need to go, however talented they are.

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Andy Kellett should never have been pushed out of the side, when he came back into the squad he looked good in midfield and often changed the games.

Pierce Bird and Tom Crawford are also two players I want to see given a chance.

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Pierce Bird does seem promising and after taking his chances last season, I feel Notts should be trying establish him as a regular within the first team.

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Fantastic read thsts exactly what we need to do youth is the key but I have it from a good sauce that Neal isn’t interested in youth so I think he need to go and a get a manager who will do what the article says simply cause youth is the way forward @Matty Jackson great read and fantastic article I look forward to more articles from your self 

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Great piece, it raises the debate about the playing squad and if Neal Ardley can get the most out of younger players. I would be disappointed if some of the underused players didn't get a chance. Sam Osborne deserves a chance to feature, he won't develop without that opportunity.

Get behind him I say!

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