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Joe Jones
Joe Jones

Joe Jones: Notts County well equipped in midfield even if Jorge Grant and Ryan Yates leave

So here we are in 2018. January, to be precise. A month where everyone's skint after a month of splurging on presents, food and general excesses, and a month where everyone promises themselves that they're going to carry through some resolutions, only to fail two weeks in at the first sign of winter malaise.

In the world of football, however, it's pedal to the metal as not only are there plenty of fixtures to get through, but the transfer window reopens, cue players changing clubs and journalists working overtime to churn out all the latest rumours, about 90% of which are complete bovine doo-doo.

Over at Meadow Lane, however, there is legitimate cause for concern over the status of two players, namely Ryan Yates and Jorge Grant.

As you all know, they're currently on loan at Notts County from Nottingham Forest, and as far as everyone was concerned, the Reds had agreed to let the duo remain over the Trent for the duration of the season.

But with Forest sacking Mark Warburton, it presents a possible dilemma as a new manager may decide to recall the two players either to give a go in the team - after all, they're hardly setting the division alight, and eight points above the bottom three in the form they're in is hardly reassuring - or potentially sell on.

In a fan forum late last year, Hardy said: "Both players are on loan until the end of the season and, while recall clauses are in place, we are confident they will stay with us for the season."

Indeed, the rumour mill has begun turning, with League One side Scunthorpe United believed to be interested in Yates and Championship Norwich City reportedly keeping tabs on Grant, cue nervousness from the Notts faithful.

However, even in the worst case scenario where both Grant and Yates are taken off of County's hands this January, there is still solace in the return of two midfielders - one a re-signing, the other having been out for so long that he will feel like a new signing.

I am, of course, talking about Liam Noble and Michael O'Connor.

Now, obviously Noble and Occy are not like-for-like replacements for Grant and Yates - each player has different styles and characteristics, so let's take a look at how each of them play, as individuals and in the team.

Grant is a skilful flair player who likes to take on people, while Yates is a classic box-to-box midfielder who is far better at going forward, and also distributes the ball well.

Yates benefits from having experience by his side, it takes the pressure off his play and usually results in more confidence on his part.

Both are vastly different going forward, Grant likes to force play, whereas Yates builds carefully and allows for the ball to be passed around.

O'Connor is a natural leader, we have missed him in midfield despite the good start and although we are blessed in an offensive mindset, his experience will be a blessing.

In games where we struggle to create chances, he will be that player needed to think outside of the box.

Defensively he assists also, a massive part of his game which is underappreciated in my opinion.

Noble is very similar to O'Connor, yet he's more self-minded - selfish almost - and will end up seeing the headlines before they are written, plus he's great at drifting into space.

I feel because Noble is more an attacking minded midfielder who likes to run at players and show his directness, I think it cancels out a potential pairing with O'Connor.

If Grant and Yates leave, Noble and Rob Milsom should be paired in midfield, they are more a balance between the lines - both can get forward but Milsom can do the defensive duties.

Milsom has a good understanding when it comes to defensive positioning and I feel he links up well when trying to come out of our own half.

O'Connor, meanwhile, can be utilised from the bench, or started as an attacking midfielder should Grant and Yates not be around at the Lane any more.

Whatever January brings, Notts are very well equipped in midfield and it should remain one of the strongest areas in the squad, with or without Grant and Yates.

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Losing Grant and Yates would blow a massive hole in our midfield. I hope the club are making contingency plans for this.

Noble will certainly be an asset, but you're being too optimistic about O'Connor. According to KN he "has a chance" of playing before the end of the season. That won't help us much if the two loanees leave in January. You've also got to bear in mind that he'll have been out for a year and a half - it takes a LONG time to get back into the swing after so long out. He may never be the same player again.

As KN doesn't rate Thompson, we'll need replacements if they go. Hawkridge and Alessandro could go on the wings, but we'll need backup. A choice between Noble, Milsom and Hewitt for CM sounds OK, but Noble may well end up getting suspended, Milsom is injury-prone and Hewitt can't fill in at the back if he's needed in midfield.

Of course, it'd be best if they don't leave at all. What better way is there to put yourself in the shop window than to star in a promotion-winning campaign in (in Yates' case) your first season of senior football? And who wants to play for Scunny anyway?

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