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Simon Clark
Simon Clark

What Should Our Squad Look Like Next Season? A Breakdown of Key Players and Recommendation?

After a multi-record-breaking (record-shattering?!) season which will hopefully end with a promotion, what would I want our squad to look like next season?

With so many great performances and stability running through the club, it's no surprise that I'd want to keep the core of the current squad, but there may be one or two of my suggestions which divide opinion.

The easy ones – Macaulay Langstaff, Cedwyn Scott and Sam Austin. Three summer signings who made the move up after being named in the National League North team of the season have shown exactly why they were so highly rated. Plenty has been written about Langstaff and with a record of a goal every 89 minutes (and no penalties), he is greatly in demand.

Scott is actually 3rd in the National League charts on minutes per goal (and second if we remove penalties) despite not really having a good run in the starting 11. With only one more year on his contract, there could easily be teams looking at him this summer.

Austin is another one who hasn’t had a regular starting place but has an energy that lifts the team and is number one in the League for goal involvements per match.

Sam Slocombe has adapted to Luke Williams’ style with more comfort than many of us would have expected and has been a calming presence at the back – and what an assist at Chesterfield!

Adam Chicksen has had the season of his life by hitting double figures in goals while excelling at his defensive role as well. What an engine this man has! He never stops running and has great positional sense.

Toby Adebayo-Rowling had a difficult start, with the new coach telling him he was short of what was required. He knuckled down and worked hard, earning a place in the side and looking capable of moving up a level or two before injury cut his season short.

Aaron Nemane needed a fit and firing Toby, in my opinion. Unless you are freakishly fit (like Chicksen), you need a rest to keep up that level of performance, and Williams has improved Nemane’s game immeasurably this season. Yes, defensively he is weak, but he never stops battling and has been a revelation going forward. I just wish Chicksen and Nemane’s crossing was better, but I guess if it was, they wouldn’t be in the National League!

Connell Rawlinson has turned from a ‘head it kicks it’ type of defender to one who is comfortable bringing the ball out of defence and running with it – who would have thought?!

Matt Palmer and John Bostock struggled to play together initially, and it seemed as if we’d struggle to fit two excellent players into the same line-up. Palmer has undeniable quality. Current player of the year, he has got even better and could comfortably play 2 divisions higher. One of my favourite things about him is that he always plays with his head up and is constantly looking around. I genuinely think you could stop a game at any point, and he could tell you where the rest of the players are.

Bostock didn't become a fan's favourite immediately, although I must admit I liked him from the start even though you could see he needed a bit of time to get up to speed having not played for almost half a season before joining us. His quality is now shining through and he is controlling games. An early tip – I think he will be the player of the season 2023-24.

Frank Vincent has come back from a loan spell with a great attitude and forced his way back into the picture. Another player with great energy, I'd like to see him stay and kick on his career with us. He also seems to have adapted to a wing-back role really well.

Junior Morias will be a star! OK, I'm maybe getting a bit excited after his short cameo off the bench against Woking, but I think he has everything to help soften the blow of losing Langstaff in the summer, as it is almost certain.

You may be wondering why I haven't mentioned Ruben Rodrigues yet. One of my friends earlier this season described his performances as a 'bag of manure' (something like that, anyway...). Well, my friend, if you spread enough manure, you will get beautiful roses and that is what Ruben gives us. Yes, sometimes he makes the wrong decision and tries to run through a defender or shoots when a teammate wants the ball, but what a player.

A slow start on the goalscoring front, but he's added another aspect to his game this season, and he will be a sad loss should he leave. Spread that fertiliser on the Meadow Lane pitch as long as you like, Ruben...

Ruben clapping-min.jpg

Surprising to some for a defence which has conceded so few goals this season, but I think our defence is a real weak point which has been covered up by having so much possession and so much domination of most games this season.

I really hope the radar is looking at central defenders as I would be far happier if our current ones are no more than squad players next season. Kyle Cameron has great ability and is super going forward, but his unforced errors have been responsible for more than 10% of the goals we’ve conceded this season. Unforced errors. How often does he get himself in trouble then throw himself to the floor to get a free kick? Too many times for me. Aden Baldwin, while having had some excellent games, always seems to have at least one glaring error per game in his locker, where he will pass the ball to an opposing forward.

Geraldo Bajrami never seems to have an average game. He is either excellent or has a shocker. And you can’t afford too many shockers, although he seems to have great character having come back from a spell out of the side to come back in and turn in some excellent performances.

Let’s hope Richard Brindley has recovered from his injury and gets back to his form. His pace will be needed as we are short of that in the middle.

Tiernan Brooks got a chance when Slocombe was injured and did brilliantly. He will surely be challenging for the first choice next season. Although comments recently from Sam and Luke have made me wonder whether he has a few attitude problems? I hope I’m reading too much into that.

Jim O’Brien is like a dog chasing a ball in the park; he never stops. Constantly urging on his teammates, he provides great energy, and I’d love to see him stay at the club in a coaching capacity and be a handy squad member. Although, as a coach at Sheffield United, he may have his future mapped out away from us.

Ed Francis and Kairo Mitchell seem destined for the revolving door with long loan spells away from us. Although, I think Kairo can feel a little unlucky to be behind the top 2 strikers in the division based on minutes per goal from open play. Especially as we often only play one striker. He seems to be delivering for Eastleigh with both goals and assists and I wish him well.

Francis has been a perfect example of the progress we have made this season. A perfectly adequate player, how can he get a game when we have Palmer and Bostock?

The summer, as always, will be interesting and exciting. I fully expect us to make signings I have never heard of and will be singing their praises to anyone who will listen by the end of September!

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Notts has a lot of attacking options. One addition I would like to see is the arrival of Jodi Jones on a permanent basis. If Ruben Rodrigues leaves, Jones or Sam Austin could fill that void. Both would be decent replacements, but I hope he stays. Ruben has a chance to cement something at Notts, which might not work out for him if he leaves. Wishful thinking is that he stays. The defense needs further work. I would like to see another strong center back arrive and someone to continue to get the best out of Adam Chicksen. Signing Joel Taylor seemed a masterstroke by Notts as he helped get the most out of Chicksen. If the new left back is versatile, it would leave game minutes elsewhere when Chicksen is irreplaceable. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Frank Vincent, but he needs to work harder to increase his game time.

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Every season it seems like we might lose Ruben. It appears that his time here is almost certainly coming to an end. However, there is a chance that he may renew his contract based on his enjoyment of football, being settled and possibly a slightly better new contract.

The signings this season have been smart and added extra quality. However, when the club loaned in Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, I felt that we actually needed a defender to come in due to all the injuries. Perhaps the coaching staff and Luke Williams thought Aden Baldwin and Richard Brindley would return sooner than later. Nevertheless, I would have preferred the gamble on a defender.

This season has been excellent and our recruitment leaves me less worried about players leaving. I believe we can identify replacements and find a way to keep moving forward. My biggest concern comes from the playoffs, which leads me to agree that the defence needs improving next season. I would like depth and quality all over. I know it's a luxury at this level and money may be tight, but I do think it brings in results.

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I couldn't agree more with the assessment of the current squad. The players mentioned have all played a crucial role in the team's success this season, and it would be great to see them continue to improve and develop under Luke Williams' management. However, I have to agree that the defence is a weak point in the team, and it's something that needs to be addressed if we are to be competitive in the league above or again within the National League. While Kyle Cameron and Aden Baldwin have both had their moments, they've also made too many mistakes at times that have led to conceding goals. Notts County needs to look at bringing in a central defender who is reliable, consistent and can form a strong partnership with Connell Rawlinson at the back.

One suggestion could be to bring in a defender with experience from a higher level who can help to guide and mentor the current crop of defenders. This could also help to raise the standard of defending across the entire team. With the attacking talent we have, we're always going to score goals, but we need to make sure that we're not conceding as many at the other end. If Notts County can strengthen the defence and maintain the attacking prowess that we've shown this season, then there's no reason why we can't be successful in the league above.

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It would be great to see new deals being offered to the majority of players. Jim O’Brien has a lot to offer and could be a valuable backup/rotational player, sharing his experience with younger players such as Frank Vincent, who has shown potential but has been inconsistent at times. Sam Slocombe could remain for another one or two seasons, but after that the focus should shift towards developing younger players like Tiernan Brooks.

A pacey striker or someone who can hold up the ball like Kyle Wootton used to do is needed. A defender who can also play on the left would be ideal. The midfield is in good shape and if Jodi Jones signs permanently there will be little need for additional players. It’s a positive development that Notts is no longer relying heavily on the loan market as it has in the past. Losing a player like Ryan Yates can cause problems, as can signing an entirely new team every season.

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i think it makes the managers role easier when the squad structure is there, its just a terms of balancing the rest of the wage budget to bring in players that add strength to the team. i think if we can renew the majority of the out of contract players, bring in jodi jones and improve the defence we will we will be a much stronger. hopefully we will win the playoffs, which would add more money to the coffers.

i think each of the signings this season has been a boost to the squad. notts are blessed in midfield and unfortunately that does mean there is little space for ed francis. he has not been the same player since michael doyle left but i think he will pick up again if he was to move on and play more.

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Superb feature, one which has clearly sparked a healthy response from the fans. It's like me stepping into a goldmine. So many excellent comments off the back of your well thought out and very enjoyable read @Simon Clark. Thanks for contributing it to the Pride of Nottingham.

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