Well, here we are, the beginning of round four in the Vanarama National League for this Football Club. Where does time go? Two years ago, we were on the verge of an instant return to the English Football League and now we await the arrival of Maidenhead United to Meadow Lane to see if we can make it a fourth time lucky.
Our pre-season preparations began horridly as we all know by losing former head coach Ian Burchnall to Forest Green Rovers, with former player and assistant coach Michael Doyle heading in the same direction. Ian paved the way for a new style of football displayed at the Lane, which we have seen increased significantly in several different ways by our new and very exciting Head Coach, Luke Williams. The intensity and break-away pace displayed in a number of our impressive performances this pre-season has led to real excitement leading up to the beginning of the new campaign, with many supporters not just our own favouring us to lift the all-important league silverware come May 2023. Williams and assistant Head Coach Ryan Harley have ensured they will be doing everything in their power to return this great, historic club back to where it belongs and believe me, this is the most confident I have felt going into a new campaign in the many years I have spent loving this Football Club likewise yourselves.
Now, for our impressive recruitment, and I sure was tempted to capitalise that as it has really been phenomenal. There is only one place to start isn’t there, Macaulay Langstaff. The £50,000 release clause met to recruit the proven goal scorer looks more of a bargain as the days count on. There is a real hunger to score goals within our new number nine and that has been evident all pre-season given he has netted five in the seven he has featured in. Many claimed the step-up of a league could ruin a player, but in our case, it seems to have made our new talisman better. Ironically, my new favourite line is Macaulay Langstaff scores goals, and those goals tip us in the direction of success this season, believe me.
As for our other newest recruit in the forward department, Cedwyn Scott, he is also no stranger to a scoresheet. The Reedtz brothers dipped into their back pockets again to ensure this signing got over the line, but the investment was very much worth it and that will be proven in time. Scott, despite having a mixed pre-season given reoccurring illnesses, has displayed glimpses of the brilliance in which he is destined to add to our side whilst gradually returning to full match fitness. Fans of clubs who will oppose us this season likewise Langstaff branded Scott as ‘unproven’ but in this life we all know actions speak much louder than words will ever do and before you know it, the pair will be celebrating on a number of different occasions in front of our KOP.
Did somebody order a duo from Kidderminster Harriers? We did, Geraldo Bajrami and Sam Austin. Both signings were hinted at in the mix of all the chaos post-Christmas last season as it is no secret, we as a club had bids rejected for the pairing, with Bajrami in particular having multiple turned down. Prior to the signing of our new defender/midfielder, more interest for the services became apparent but it was later told that an agreement was in place for the 22-year-old to play his football at Meadow Lane this season. As for Sam Austin, another exciting new talent to add to the mix of many at our club. A handful of goals including Emirates FA Cup winners against Championship sides lured Luke Williams into ensuring who appears to be the favoured replacement for Cal Roberts, also played his football at the Lane this campaign. The pair have both completed impressive preparations for the upcoming promotion push, adding more excitement to the capabilities of this squad for the season.
Lets now talk about our first summer recruit, Toby Adebayo-Rowling. Firstly, snubbing interest from above to sign here was not only our first of many statements of intent but another reminder of the calibre of our Football Club and that regardless of our current division, we are still just as if not more attractive considering our present and future plans. Our new full-back has demonstrated his abundance of pace alongside a forever present attacking ability which evidently has been a way of playing for us previously with the likes of Jayden Richardson last year and again this season with the department of wing-backs we now have available for selection. A key noticeable attribute for me and many others following the first interview with Adebayo-Rowling was his personality. Obviously, a key aspect to a signing is to improve areas on the pitch but off the pitch, good dressing room personalities are essential to success, and we know that better than anyone else given in 2018, we had a dressing room of infectious personalities and after they departed, we lost our Football League status in 2019, (apologies for the reminder, believe me it still hurts to this day). Ultimately, my points are, not only is Toby a promising signing likewise the rest of our new additions, but he is one certainly who adds more than just an influx of good performances and that could be telling upon our successes this season.
Finally, Aden Baldwin. Dare I say it the steal of the summer as how often do you see a top-quality English Football League One central defender make the drop down to the Vanarama National League? Exactly! With Aden, you know what you are going to get. A physically dominant, ball-playing, intelligent defender with big game experience. Obviously, previously worked under Luke Williams but that speaks volumes of the quality of Head Coach we have in our possession if this is the level of player he can sway into taking quite a leap down. This addition now gives us the option to play the back three of either Baldwin, Cameron and Bajrami or Baldwin, Cameron and Brindley and lets be honest, either of the two is an incredible trio for this division and arguably the one we’re hoping to return to next season. I really do not feel I have to say much on our new central defender as I am sure everyone is under the impression that he will be a big success and if his pre-season is telling of that, then we are most certainly not wrong!
Just as you all thought I was about to finish, disclaimer, you are wrong. How could I possibly end without speaking about how important it was to retain the services of Ruben Rodrigues. A player who can literally win a football match with a moment of magic and that is felt every time he receives the ball within thirty yards of the opposition’s goal. Now, out of contract at the end of next season, what do we do? Keep him. Plain and simply our best shot of promotion has Ruben Rodrigues starting every single game, playing every single minute, the boy is available for because on his day, unplayable. Believe me, he will eventually break our hearts and move on, but hopefully not without bringing silverware back to our Lane. Unfortunately, Ian Burchnall never really got the full opportunity to understand just what he is worth, but Luke Williams clearly did and signalled that by rejecting the handful of high-valued offers placed on his desk for our Portuguese maestro. The money we could receive for Ruben, substantial of course, but our owners have been no strangers in displaying what is available in their pockets this pre-season and now that Cal Roberts has departed with our best wishes to Aberdeen for a heavy fee, Ruben remains. He is quite simply ours.
Another player I would like to speak about whilst you have made it this far is Kairo Mitchell. Look, we all know last season was underwhelming for him and it was quite disappointing for everyone that he did not hit the ground running but that is the beautiful game sometimes it might just be cruel. As of now, with that season in the past, you can only judge off what we have seen recently and that is nothing short of a new hungry, fitter and better version of him. Time always tells in football but I personally back Kairo as more than good enough back-up for both Langstaff and Scott and when his time does come to prove his point, I back him to do so. We have to move away from the demotivating comments as the psychological effect can ruin a player regardless of whatever they portray across social media or the cameras. There is evidently a player to be released in Kairo and I believe this is the season we will see it.
Now then, enough of me talking, I will let you all get your heads down prior to the season opener tomorrow, which the boys need our fantastic support as ever. As stated at the beginning, round four in the Vanarama National League but be confident, this squad and coaching team know what they are doing and are unbelievably gifted. Remember, we are Notts County and some weekends we have a tendency of ruining weeks ahead but we all would never change it for the world, would we? This league is difficult, we have been here long enough to know that now. Speaking on the term of now, I now also believe this is the season we wave goodbye to this joyous division and get our banner returned to the top of the Jimmy Sirrel stand, agreed? Lets get behind our club from start to end, minute one to ninety and contribute in getting this job and our time in the fifth-tier of English Football concluded.
At the end of the day, we are all Notts, aren’t we?
On a personal note, thank you to everyone who has engaged with my social media output over the course of this pre-season. I worried that the content would have been hard to find but it has been the complete opposite and whilst I thought the engagement would have decreased, again that has been the complete opposite and in fact has increased significantly. I know a lot of you have been extremely unhappy with coverage on this club and I understand as I have seen and understood each point made. But, as I have said already, each matchday, home and away I will be publishing endless content to ensure this club is covered and more importantly so everyone has enjoyable content to interact with, especially if you cannot make the game. I have enjoyed every single last second of every minute of each hour doing what I am currently and a quick thank you from me for all the messages and comments the past few months, you are all helping me live my dream, believe me. Over and out for now until I am on your Twitter feeds again, so probably the next hour or so!
*Article provided by K-Ci Rennicks (Notts County Correspondent).
*Main image @KRennicks40 Pitch perfect as Meadow Lane looks stunning for the season start.