Have Notts Shown Lack Of Trust In Academy Products?

Notts County’s announcement that eleven players have been released ahead of a potential playoff campaign is unsurprising. Manager Neal Ardley does not require a squad of over 30 players for a maximum of three matches. It also gives the players who definitely aren’t in his plans a bit more time to plot their next move which is a classy act from the football club.

Some decisions were expected. The experienced trio of Ross Fitzsimons, Matt Tootle and Nathan Tyson have all had lengthy spells out on loan this season and it was clear they would be unable to force their way back into Ardley’s long term plans.

For Tootle in particular, this is a shame as his first two seasons at the club were outstanding. He battled back from mental health issues and thinking his career was over to being a key cog in the team that reached the playoffs under Kevin Nolan, even winning the player of the season award. He gave everything for the shirt and enjoyed some wonderful performances at right back. It is a shame that his third season didn’t live up to the same high standards of performance and he ultimately spent much of his final year on loan at rivals Chesterfield.

Fitzsimons just couldn’t find a way to displace number one goalkeeper Sam Slocombe. However, his final appearance in a Notts shirt as an emergency recall due to injuries was a fine display of shot stopping and a fitting way for him to be remembered by the Meadow Lane faithful.

Tyson still had pace and desire but couldn’t conjure the early season goals required of him and ultimately dropped down the pecking order once the likes of Wes Thomas and Kyle Wootton arrived and found their range.

However, there are a few disappointing decisions that have been made especially where youth is concerned. Pierce Bird had his best season in a Notts shirt this year and seemed to be improving game after game. Having just turned 21, it is clear that he still has the potential to improve even further and looked a long term prospect at the club. It’s a shame he wasn’t given a little bit more time to prove himself.

Another disappointment is the release of Declan Dunn. He is just 19 years old and has been with Notts for the best part of a decade. He finally got his first start for the senior team at the beginning of this season and impressed. He struggled for consistency after that but the signs were there that with a bit more time he could become a solid member of the squad. Surely he could have been given one more year to prove himself. He would have been on modest wages so it isn’t as if the club couldn’t afford to keep him.

This has happened before and it begs the question why Notts have an academy when they’re so unwilling to give the young players a significant amount of time to break into the first team. If they aren’t seen as first team material, within a year of graduating from the academy they get released. Colby Bishop looked a talented prospect when he broke through a few years ago but he was soon sent packing after failing to find the net in four appearances. Fast forward four years and he’s banging the goals in for League One outfit Accrington Stanley; think of the impact he could have had for Notts if he’d been allowed to stay for a bit longer.

Of course Notts can’t keep hold of every young player for an extended amount of time but it would have been good to see them give a couple more of this current crop a fairer chance of proving their worth. Time will tell if any other stars of the future have slipped through the net.

Tom Surgay

*Article provided by Tom Surgay (Notts County Correspondent).

*Main image @Official_NCFC promising youngster Declan Dunn is one of those released by Notts County this summer.

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