Following a strong campaign that was curtailed due to Covid-19, Notts County will have to confirm their retained list by the 31st May, which is now just over a week away. After a good recruitment policy from manager Neal Ardley both last summer and across the season, here is a look at five players that in my opinion Notts need to keep hold of for next season if they are to be successful, regardless of what league they end up in.
The central defender has been incredibly impressive since arriving as a free agent at the beginning of November. His ability to read the game coupled with his combative nature have proved him a vital asset to the Magpies. The side have looked altogether more solid at the back since his arrival, and his partnership with Connell Rawlinson gave Notts a more solid foundation allowing them to express themselves more in attack. Lacey can also pick a pass which makes building from the back a little quicker and less risky. He is, however, out of contract this summer so Ardley will need to put as appealing an offer together as possible to keep him at the club. Without him, Notts look a little lightweight and unsteady at the back it has to be said.
Journeyman striker Thomas arrived on a free transfer at the start of the season following a year at Grimsby Town. He has arguably enjoyed one of the most prolific periods of his career with ten goals in 32 appearances. It isn’t just his goal threat that has caught the eye though. His link up play is superb, when he drops deep to receive the ball he is so strong and can retain possession before finding a team mate with a dangerous, positive pass. It is very rare, at this level, to find a striker who can do all this and find the back of the net with such regularity. His goal against AFC Fylde at the end of September showcased all of the qualities he possesses. He controlled a pacey pass from Rawlinson with ease, turned his man, sprinted past and held off the attentions of another two defenders before firing the ball high into the roof of the net, giving the opposition goalkeeper no chance. A player with this sort of natural ability will help get Notts the goals they need to push on in the next campaign.
A fan favourite, and rightly so, with a player like O’Brien in the team you know exactly what to expect as he is a ridiculously consistent performer. Tenacious, tough tackling and no nonsense the central midfielder is an immense competitor who never shies away from a one to one. As well as a huge physical presence, O’Brien is a creative player too. He can see a pass that few others on the pitch are able to and he can unleash one heck of a strike from distance when needed. Without his experience and guile in midfield, Notts lack substance and creativity and miss someone to drive the side quickly up the pitch, as witnessed when he was sidelined through injury earlier in the season. Notts need players like him, who give everything for the shirt, as it inspires the fans and motivates those around him.
The Dutchman promised a step up in his performances from last season and he duly delivered in this campaign. Eight league goals in a shortened season compared with five during the whole of last season was a crucial improvement, as were the consistency of his performances. There were less occasions where he went missing for large chunks of the game and he certainly looked more motivated and determined this season. He is arguably the most creative attacking player at Notts’ disposal and without him they would be a lot less threatening in front of goal. His pace can be devastating and gives Notts another dimension to their play, particularly on the counter attack. The good news for County is that Enzio has one year left on his contract. The bad news is that his stunning displays this season may well have put him on the radar of teams in higher divisions. If this is the case they may try to tempt him away from Meadow Lane and with such little time remaining on his contract chances are he will be available at a cut price.
The goalkeeping position has been somewhat problematic for Notts in recent years but certainly not this season. New number one Sam Slocombe has been terrific. He has superb command of his penalty area, his positioning is first class and he is a great shot stopper. Added to all of that his distribution is also generally good and he is comfortable with the ball at his feet. His dependable nature also noticeably puts the back four at ease as they trust him to do his job more than competently. This solidity at the back is one of the key reasons Notts have been able to challenge for a play off place this season. Changing first choice goalkeepers for next season would be nonsensical and could cause uncertainty in the defence. Slocombe has proved this season that he is a fine number one and giving him time to build upon that for further seasons really is a no-brainer.
Agree or disagree? Comment on who you think Notts should keep (or let go) below.
*Article provided by Tom Surgay (Notts County Correspondent).
*Main image @EnzioBoldewijn one of those County need to keep should they continue to challenge for honours.