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Matty Jackson

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  1. (Nearly) 30 years of hurt 4 days, 6 weeks and 29 years ago was the last time Notts County were in the playoffs. Back then the Division 2 playoff promotion spot was won under Neil Warnock. That was the 1990/91 season, over nine years before I was born. Since then only one (arguably anti-climactic) playoff attempt- in the 2017/18 season- was made. It is probably an understatement to say: “The club's results in recent years have not lived up to the high expectations” (Reedtz brothers, 2019). Oddly it even feels turbulent times are behind us and that we are in somewhat calmer waters (ironic for the current global pandemic situation). With stable owners, an effective manager and a talented squad it may be time for us to end the (nearly) thirty years of hurt. Starting eleven Choosing of the starting XI is a job I am very glad is not on my shoulders. Upon checking the National League table, it can be seen we have some rather respectable statistics. ‘Goals against’ (GA) is the 2nd best in the league (to Solihull Moors- 37 goals) and ‘Goals for’ is the joint 2nd best in the league. Unfortunately, we are joint with fellow playoff contenders Yeovil and Harrogate, so this will be the best test of our defensive abilities. Following the arrival of Kyle Wootton and Cal Roberts, the performances of Dennis, Enzio and Thomas have all been brought up a level. With Enzio’s magnificent sniper shots and Wootton’s noticeable physical presence surely, they are to start on the 25th at 5pm. I have always liked ‘a big man, little man’ style of forward play and would love to see Wootton paired with Dennis. With all this said I haven’t even discussed Roberts, who showed his ability with a goal in the Boston friendly. When seeing the GA statistic (38 goals) as 2nd best I was quite shocked. Defensive quality has never been a strong attribute in my recent memory of Notts sides. Encouragingly, with solid presences of Turner, Rawlinson and Lacey I do believe they will do a service, backed up by the likes of Brindley and McCrory. Obviously, we need our skipper Doyle in the centre of the field and with ball players O’Brien and Booty at hand, leaving a strong bench ready to jump on and refresh the legs. Opposition As I write this article, I am listening the to Yeovil v Barnet playoff quarter final. The winner of which is to visit Meadow Lane and contest against us for a place in the National League playoff final. With COVID-19 disrupting the season the Points Per Game (PPG) method used to decide playoff and relegation spots this season have had much criticism (as George Faulconbridge highlighted to me when he explained about the relegation of Ebbsfleet on a difference of 0.094 PPG between them and Maidenhead United). Whilst some teams do properly kick-on with their season just after Christmas I feel this doesn’t reflect the talent of Barnet’s squad. Optimistically, my prediction is we will win against Yeovil (despite some surprising scores in our most recent friendlies) and go to Wembley with Harrogate Town FC (who I am sure will win against Boreham Wood at 2:30pm 25th July). However, the playoffs always seem to throw all certainty out the window. Share your thoughts about this article on Pride of Nottingham by signing up to the website, visiting the forum and joining in the chat with hundreds of fellow Notts County fans. Fancy showcasing your brand or business on Pride of Nottingham? Click here to find out more about sponsorship and advertising opportunities with us.
  2. Every team, sport-related or not, needs a captain to lead and guide teammates, to help achieve the best possible outcome at the task in hand. A good captain is experienced, talented and level-headed (amongst other attributes). Before the 2019/20 season began most of us looked to Michael Doyle (aged 37) to lead his fellow teammates through this campaign. Since he is a mature player with experience and talent, he was the perfect candidate for the role. However, following his red card incident in the first game against Eastleigh, this questions his suitability to the captaincy role. I looked over the highlights of the Eastleigh game and it is clear Doyle jabs Reda Johnson in the side of the face when Notts were defending a corner. I didn’t attend the game so possibly a challenge from Johnson on Doyle earlier on in the game irked him (so he reacted later on) but regardless he should have kept his cool and rightly deserves his ban. Now two games into the season (as when written) it is vital to find a solid leader to keep players calm, organised and perform to the best of their potential. We have seen how dressing rooms can become split and toxic. To excel in the National League, we will need an organised, supportive group of players, with a captain to keep this in check. Personally, I think we should consider other candidates for the captaincy role following Doyle’s bizarre, hot-headed decision making. Ruling out all players below the age of 25 (and those who aren’t first team players) we have O’Brien, Rose, Turner, Rowlinson, Slocombe, and Tyson. Obviously, since O’Brien and Rose have been around the club longer than any of the others and as they are (arguably) the best players they are great for the role. In my opinion, O’Brien would be the best choice because he is more experienced, most of the play goes through him and has a very high work ethic). On the other hand, when Doyle returns if O’Brien is captain could it upset the dressing room and its dynamics? In addition, could it lead to a power conflict and so another dressing room split? The best outcome, however, would be Doyle comes back into the team and picks up where he left off and not to have any repeats of this incident (which is what I assume we all want). Share your thoughts about this opinion piece on Pride of Nottingham by signing up to the website, visiting the forum and joining in the chat with hundreds of fellow Notts County fans. Fancy showcasing your brand or business on Pride of Nottingham? Click here to find out more about sponsorship and advertising opportunities with us.
  3. 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. Share your thoughts about this feature article on Pride of Nottingham by signing up to the website, visiting the forum and joining in the chat with hundreds of fellow Notts County fans. Fancy showcasing your brand or business on Pride of Nottingham? Click here to find out more about sponsorship and advertising opportunities with us.

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