Saturday see’s the start of the 2022/23 National League season and for Notts County, for the fourth successive year in trying to get back up and into the football league, they open up against another side who don black & white, also nicknamed the Magpies, in Maidenhead United.
An unbeaten pre-season for Notts has included an impressive win against established Premier League outfit Leicester City and an entertaining home draw against cross river rivals Nottingham Forest, both four tiers above County in the football pyramid, for Luke Williams, this weekend will be his first taste of competitive action in charge of a new club he’s seemingly now settled in at, as Meadow Lane hosts the opening match of the season with a bumper crowd expected.
After replacing outgoing Head Coach Ian Burchnall who moved on to League Two champions Forest Green Rovers in the summer, Williams, who’s previous managerial spells include assistant, caretaker and main man at Swindon Town, as well as being ‘number two’ at both Milton Keynes Dons and Swansea City, says he and his players are ‘Raring to go’ for the season ahead, commenting “We’re ready and making our final preparations now, we are all raring to go”.
Ahead of Saturday’s visit of Maidenhead, the cool and calming London born 41-year-old when asked how important a win would be to kick-start the campaign with three points, stated “Yeah that would be the ideal start, over the course of the season it’s not going to be the be-all or the end-all but we certainly are wanting to get off on the right foot and we very much want to win in front of our fans at home so that very much is the aim”.
Williams continued on how important the Meadow Lane crowd can be not just for the season opener, but for this season ahead “We want the players to play with intensity and we want them to be really exciting on the pitch, if the fans can create that atmosphere for us, it will help us perform in that way.”
“But we need to do our bit, we need to give them something to cheer about, we need to be bright, and play quickly on the pitch and we need to be ferocious defensively to give them the perfect opportunity to join in and be loud”.
“We have to do our bit first, and if we do, we expect that the fans are going to join in and really get behind us”.
Notts have been boosted ahead of the game against Maidenhead by the fitness of striker Macaulay Langstaff who hobbled off in the weekend win at York City but is said to be in full training with an eye on a starting eleven spot and league debut this Saturday.
The former Gateshead striker who joined along with fellow Tynesiders strike-partner Cedwyn Scott in the summer, will be hoping to rekindle his relationship and add plenty of goals for County this coming season, Langstaff who has already a pre-season hat-trick with Notts to his name, netted 32 in all competitions last season, whilst Scott scored 25 league goals as Gateshead gained promotion from the National League North.
The goals of Langstaff & Scott will hopefully replace those from Kyle Wootton who moved on to Stockport County early in the summer, whilst Notts also lost their exciting winger Callum Roberts to Aberdeen last month, they have also hopefully replaced him, with another prospect that has certainly shone in pre-season, Sam Austin who signed from Kidderminster Harriers alongside defender Geraldo Bajrami, looks like he has the potential to light up the Lane in the attacking third.
Arguably one of the most important bits of business for Notts this summer however, was keeping hold of Portuguese talisman Ruben Rodrigues, despite an awful lot of interest in his services from clubs of much higher echelons, Ruben stays at least for now, and will start the season in his number twenty jersey, looking to help Notts on their long destined promotion push.
Williams has not written off any new faces joining either, with the possibility of losing Rodrigues, and the money in recently from the sale of Roberts, he’s still open to strengthening where he can, stating “We are looking very closely at a few places across all positions on the pitch”
Williams continued “Its difficult for me to give timescales on when we might see players arriving, of course the situation in the National League with no window, we’re going to be looking the whole time, but certainly we are narrowing down our priorities at the moment”.
As for Maidenhead and Saturday’s opening fixture, Williams has already started doing his homework on a side that Notts twice beat 1-0 last season. Williams saying “They’re a powerful group of players from what I can see, they will not hesitate to test us at the back and get the ball forward quickly, they’ll have a really good mentality about that and the players will go and support the play no doubt”.
He continued “there ‘s a couple of guys that are really useful from a set piece for them, so we’ll really have to be aware and we’ll have to contain those threats, and of course we’ll have to go out and put our stamp on the game and create chances ourselves”.
Kick off is at 3pm on Saturday 6th August. For information on tickets click here and visit the Notts County website.
*Main image @Official_NCFC Luke Williams is ‘raring to go’ ahead of the campaign.