There’s no doubt about it, Notts County Football Club have the best attacking set of players in the National League. Which is why for me (in a Jamie Carragher style tone), the last ‘Manager’ in charge of the Magpies, Neal Ardley, too often fell short, in not getting the best from those who were his most prized assets when attempting to allow them to release their shackles in the final third.
I credit Ardley for many things, but he preferred a solid core and a no thrills approach to good old fashioned English non-league football, he would go ‘us’ against ‘them’ and prepare for each opponent differently. Sometimes selecting a stronger more workmanlike midfield to compensate a ‘luxury’ footballer like Enzio or Ruben and replace with steel, grit, determination, a Jim O’Brien or a Jake Reeves for example, with all those things that ‘we’ English love, when it comes to ‘trusting’ footballers to ‘do a job’ in the most combative area of the park. After all, Saturday 3pm is when battle commences… That’s the oldskool way of coaching of course.
In the opening fortnight of Ian Burchnall’s reign, things already seem a little different at Meadow Lane. Although perhaps not to his own liking, defensive naivety has already crept in, after all he’s a ‘coaches coach’… He wants to play out from the back and think ‘attack’ not necessarily defend… Perhaps one reason why his centre half already has two goals under his stewardship? Certainly, a reason why Notts have already conceded six goals in Burchnall’s first four games in charge.
But the beauty of it… Notts have also scored more.
It’s unbelievable to think, that a team with the best budget in the league, one that possesses Cal Roberts, Enzio Boldewijn, Ruben Rodrigues, Elisha Sam, Kyle Wootton, Jimmy Knowles…. Had only previously scored four goals in a match last off way back in October, against Barnet… The third game into the campaign.
Since… Notts had eleven shutouts under Ardley and many good days… But fans became disconcerted about performances, often underwhelming and irritating with the side doing ‘enough’ to stay within the playoff fight, when in reality the team were much better than the sixth place, they were in the day he departed.
County fans felt they needed more, even the Ardley believers wanted more…. No one wanted to see him go, but football doesn’t stand still for nice guys…. With Ardley, I predict Notts would have made the FA Trophy final… I predict they would have made the playoffs, but I predict they would have got beat somewhere down the line to endure another season of fifth tier football next…. With Burchnall however, although he seems yet another nice guy, because of his philosophy, because of his background, we just don’t know.
I’ll give him Hornchurch as a game that was really not under his control… Meeting his new side the day before, he might have thought arrogantly that ‘the game would be a walk in the park’… Probably introduced himself and said ‘go out and play’ which they did, too freely, too naively, too many mistakes that wouldn’t have happened with Ardley at the helm. I hope it won’t happen too often now that Burchnall has experienced it early on.
Against Aldershot it felt the side lacked confidence, they had just been knocked out of the cup, a game away from Wembley, by a part-time side two leagues below… It must have hurt… That’s why I was so impressed, to see the side picked up, dogged, determined, together, in beating Wrexham good Friday in front of the BT Sport cameras.
Against Wrexham, the side were far from brilliant. A terrible start could have had them three down, but they dug in, stuck with it, believed in what Burchnall and his resilient no2 Maurice Ross asked of them, and won the game. Sense that they are willing to play for their new ‘HC’ with belief still installed that they can gain promotion.
Verses Woking things were just as disjointed from the off, an abysmal first half, again, like Wrexham, but character in the second, and goals, more goals, and entertainment… Notts with their tails up are the best team in the division, regardless of who picks the team…. Ian Burchnall needs to be the man now that nurtures the talent he has at his disposal, that believes in the likes of Jimmy Knowles, that lets players like Ruben Rodrigues express themselves in areas where they can cause damage, that allows the likes of Enzio and Cal Roberts to have the odd bad game, but believe in them enough to cause chaos next time out by not dropping them because they couldn’t do it midweek at Solihull Moors. Because they ‘can’ do it on a Saturday afternoon at Meadow Lane.
Whilst I believe Burchnall is a coach that will perhaps not get the 1-0’s that Ardley massed, whilst I believe he may fall short at times in those tight games especially where the side has less ball than there opponent, which won’t be often in the National League remainder, I feel when Notts face inferior opposition, he certainly has the right credentials to simply let his side go toe to toe with the opponent they face, and more often than not, in this division specifically, Notts County should come out on top.
Whilst there’s still much to find out about the Coaching methods of Burchnall, there’s much to be pleased about already, and so far so good having survived a double defeat in debut blip… Notts already improved in the table by a place and are nearer to the league leaders then they were under Ardley (by three points). Now Burchnall has the chance to put his own stance on this team that in ‘reality’ can make him look like an even better coach than he is, because if he implements an attacking ethos that his players buy into, then they’ll be no reason why Notts cannot give themselves a very good chance of going up… Which after all, was the reason why the Reedtz bros employed him in the first place.
Style over substance? Why can’t we have both?
*Article provided by Daniel Peacock (Editor).
*Main image @Official_NCFC Ian Burchnall now inputting his methods on the team.