So, here we are, coming up to Christmas remaining at the top of the Vanarama National League. To only lose one of your opening twenty-one fixtures in a season is a sign of Champions and whilst we as a collective agree to not get ahead of ourselves, this team becomes more convincing as the weekends come and go. However, there is one very key factor for our success thus far and that is what I am here to discuss today. This key factor is by no means any secret, in fact, the Vanarama National League rewarded this man last month for his unmatchable efforts in the dugout as Notts County Manager so far. This key factor is Luke Williams.
I think the best part about the instant success under Luke Williams so far is the fact that he was a completely unexpected appointment. Whilst the likes of Altrincham and York City were adamant their managers at the time would not be swayed by what is the biggest job in the whole Vanarama National League set-up and the likes of Mike Williamson and Luke Tisdale kept alternating at the top of the ‘Bookies’ odds, it was obviously Luke Williams who eventually got the job. This again looked like a masterstroke from the Reedtz brothers, who had kept all contact and negotiations with our gaffer completely under the radar and got the business done quickly and effectively prior to the reporting of the players back for the beginning of our pre-season preparations.
Our league position is no fluke, the performances that have led to us sitting pretty at the top of the pile heading into the forever busy Christmas period have all warranted the points return that sees us currently edge the automatic promotion push. Everyone within the set-up that is within the Club, whether that be board, staff or players all speak so highly of Luke Williams and that comes as no surprise. The way he comes across to the media, the behind-the-scenes training videos and on the touchline shows the professional manner he has adapted to as well as the likeable personality he possesses whilst being a fantastic manager. It would be impossible to sing his praises without mentioning the style of football he has introduced to the Club. Many have said Ian Burchnall had played a huge helping hand in this, and I agree, yet Luke Williams has taken it to a whole new level and that is why we are currently sat in first rather than the fifth place which we were sat in at this stage last season. This same new level of football here has seen us win 0-5, 1-6 and 1-4 twice on the road already this season and whilst away form was the barrier to our success last season, it is the catalyst to our joy this time out.
Astonishingly, although Luke Williams reign could not have got off to a better start, there was heaps of doubters over the appointment when it was announced back in June of 2022. But, one man who was very confident that the Club had found the perfect match for the job was Lawrence Vigouroux.
Lawrence is a professional goalkeeper who signed for Swindon Town on loan in the 2015/16 season where Luke Williams was assistant manager at the time. Our gaffer became the manager of the club towards the end of the season and Lawrence’s loan, but the working relationship between the two was one of which swayed the shot-stopper into signing for Williams permanently in the summer of 2016 ahead of the 2016/17 season. Nowadays, Lawrence has established himself as Leyton Orient’s number one and has kept twelve clean sheets in the Sky Bet League Two, which has helped the O’s to the top of the league where they sit five points clear of second place Stevenage.
When Luke Williams was announced, Lawrence was quick to jump onto social media to wish his former boss well saying, ‘Wow what an appointment! The best coach in football… Wishing him nothing but the best!’ The Goalkeeper has more recently branded Williams as ‘one of the best in the business’ and wished an increased longevity on the recent success Notts County has found under his management.
Since, I have always had it in mind to speak again with Lawrence and get the viewpoint of a player who has worked with Luke Williams day in, day out before and when the in-form Goalkeeper agreed to answer a series of questions on our Head Coach earlier this week, I made the most of the opportunity.
Here is what was said:
What is Luke Williams like as a manager from a player’s point of view? Personality, player management etc.
“I thought Luke firstly was an excellent coach, his attention to detail was always top drawer. He gave us all the pictures of what we would see in the game on the weekend. As a person again absolutely top too, not only a great coach but a great man, which is what you need to be a great manager and I am delighted that he is showing that at Notts County.”
What is his approachability like? If a player has an issue, is he the first to sit down and chat to the man about it?
“He is very approachable and with me he was always extremely honest too. I could go to him with anything, and he would always give me the answer I need whether that be personal to me or tactical with the team. It is a wonderful trait of his.”
How are typical Luke Williams training sessions and how much studying of previous performances and of the opposition does he put in to ensure the training seasons set the team up correctly for the next matchday?
“I touched upon this briefly on a previous question, his attention to detail is second to none, it is something I really enjoy with my football. I currently have that now with Orient and Richie Wellens and Luke was the same, we would always have the correct information in order to prepare for a game. He loves the game and I felt like it really resonated with me.”
What was it about Luke Williams that made you so confident that he would fit Notts County so well?
“I just knew that he had all the right tools to be successful whenever it was the right time for him to go back into management. It is no coincidence that wherever he has been as a number two since Swindon, the team has played a really attractive brand of football. Now he is showing it as the main man at Notts County.”
Where does Luke Williams rank in a table of all of your previous/current managers?
“Really hard question as I have had some really top managers in my career since leaving academy football and my current manager Richie Wellens now is definitely one of them. Luke I would say is right up there for me too, I just loved coming into work every day with him and that is not something I can say about my whole career with different managers.”
Luke Williams has recently mentioned he would love his long-term future to be with Notts County. As somebody who has worked under him, how beneficial do you think this would be for the Club if it does turn out to be the case?
“I think managers like Luke do not grow on trees and he is showing how good he actually is at Notts County, and it is fantastic. Seems like he has a great squad there and they are flying. They are always the first team I check the results of as my mum is from Nottingham and because of Luke. Of course, I hope it continues.”
Finally, are you confident Luke Williams can continue what has been a fabulous start to the season and get Notts County back into the Football League?
“I hate to make predictions, but I really hope Luke and Notts County get up back into the English Football League. Notts County are a massive club. I have played there a few times and it is always a great atmosphere! We shall see.”
A massive, massive thank you to Lawrence Vigouroux for his help in creating this article. Without him agreeing, this would not have been possible, and it is hugely appreciated!
What I established from my chat with Lawrence was that it really does feel like we have found the man that is going to grab us that promotion back to where we belong. For us, to hear that the current man at the helm for us is still highly regarded elsewhere with players that he has previously worked with can only mean our current set of players are receiving the same treatment and version of Luke Williams, and that reflects on the fact that we are top of the Vanarama National League. Personally, I believe this is evident through how close the group of players seem to be with the management team. Last season especially, there were many different situations where it was rumoured there had been some falling out between manager and player, for example the Cal Roberts and Ian Burchnall episode of drama. That same type of incident does not reoccur under Luke Williams and Lawrence confirmed that with what he said and from our point of view, to say it is refreshing to hear is a severe understatement.
We now however look ahead to a typically busy Christmas period where the games continue to come thick and fast. There is a huge chance to make some headway at the top with our run being very much more favourable than Wrexham’s and whilst the matter of the fact is that we are moving fixtures forward to nearer weekends to ensure our momentum is not halted prematurely at any point. As a collective, we can only hope the faultless form continues throughout and we come into the middle of the first month of the new year still in the deserved first position. Many big tasks await us but none this squad does not have the quality for so let’s continue to support our side and the impressive football displayed thus far will continue.
*Article provided by K-Ci Rennicks (Notts County Correspondent).
*Main image @Official_STFC Lawrence Vigouroux with Williams (left) during his time at Swindon.