In many ways it feels like an underwhelming appointment, Notts County Football Club’s latest Head Coach is one that you might not even have heard of. One fan on Twitter stating “I was more excited about my tax bill”, but beyond the failings of a relegation season with Swindon Town back in 2016/17, Luke Williams is a tactician that fits the Magpies way, and that is to get the best out of the players at his disposal, by playing the right way.
A number of his former players have expressed their appraisal of a ‘hands on coach’ that likes to play a short passing, possession, based game and who can operate with a number of different formations to his armoury.
Williams for the last two years has worked under Russell Martin, the Swansea City manager who made his mark in charge of MK Dons, playing a renowned passing game that was once described by defender Zak Jules as ‘demoralising’ for opponents. Jules saying “We keep the ball so much that when teams do get the chance to keep possession themselves, they have no legs and within no time, we’ve got the ball back and they don’t see it again.”
After finishing the 2020/21 campaign thirteenth in League One, Martin, alongside his then assistant Williams, left for Swansea City and led them to the lower-middle position of 15th in the Championship last year, but it was the way in which they did things at the Liberty Stadium which alerted the Magpies Danish owners to opt for Williams services and step him up from number two.
Football Radar, remember, look after all the acquisitions at Notts County and the Reedtz brothers oversee incomings and outgoings based on statistical analysis and analytics. Williams has solely been brought in to head the implementation of their unique strategy, the former Brighton & Hove Albion U21 boss stating in an interview on his new club’s website “The process of bringing a player to this football club is thorough. Many different aspects need to be considered and here it’s done in an intelligent way and one which I agree with.
“I’ve already had a brilliant meeting with the recruitment team and it’s clear to me that a huge amount of work goes into selecting the right players. We have an environment where everybody is able to give an input which, in my experience, is not always the case.
“But there’s a joint approach here, with several people bringing ideas to the table. Those ideas are respected and looked at in detail before a final decision is made as a group. I think that’s a healthy way to recruit players.”
Williams has brought with him an experienced lower league footballer in Ryan Harley to assist with coaching at the club and the former Exeter City midfielder will bring a bit of steel and grit to the Notts back room following the departure with Ian Burchnall to Forest Green Rovers of his right-hand man Michael Doyle.
Williams said about Harley who played and coached at MK Dons “Ryan has had lots of experience in the National League and EFL. He’s had promotions at those levels and is someone who’s very knowledgeable about players and other teams.
“He’s a fantastic footballer who relished playing in attacking, possession-based teams and would have been outstanding in the environment we have here. He’s someone who’s played in teams I’ve coached, and he’s also coached with me.”
No doubt Williams, still relatively a novice at the level, especially in capacity of Head Coach, will need the help of Harley to quickly get to grips with the National League and go one step further than his predecessors, Notts will play football the right way under his stewardship there’s no doubt about that, but they did under Burchnall, they did under Ardley, not always coming off to see them through games in what can be a pretty tricky and tough competition to navigate through.
Scrutiny will be immediate from game one on the Williams tenure, a man that has a win ratio of just over 26% in senior football and no real identity, leaving him already with much to do to win fans over, but is one that when you look beyond the difficult time from when he took over at the County Ground in Swindon, you can see a methodical thinking tactic employing gentleman who likes attractive football, who is hoping to get it right at Meadow Lane. Stating of building from the Burchnall era “Continuity will be key to our progress.”
*Main image @Official_NCFC Luke Williams is looking to be the man that gets Notts back into the Football League.