A Summer of Change
We will come onto the pre-season games in a moment but I thought the reader would find it more interesting (as I know I would) if I started by sharing with you the changes in terms of playing personnel that have taken place this summer at Notts County. With the club now playing in the second tier of English football it was essential to retain some players by offering them new contracts, let some leave the club but also bring in new faces that would help improve an already decent squad.
In terms of players leaving Meadow Lane there should be no real surprises. A number of the players who past their peak a season or two ago and some of them have decided to call it a day on their playing career. Alessandro Bruno and Jack King had put in a good shift for Notts County but they were from the quality of player needed if we are going to put in any kind of good performance in the Championship next season. It was about time that Paul Heffernan left the club; he had been instrumental part way through last season in guiding the team to some crucial victories but he is at the stage where his career will start to wind down. Fabian Spiess is a frustrating character, although you cannot blame a player for wanting game time on a regular basis, especially when at the beginning of their career. Spiess moaned and moaned about the lack of game time but unfortunately for him, he was never going to take the number one spot from Jak Alnwick. Give Spiess his dues, he did step in when Jak was injured and put in a number of good performances. However, the fee that Newcastle were willing to pay was too tempting an offer. Rossi is another frustrating player, however this time it is in terms of playing at a high standard consistently; which is something Rossi just seemed unable to do. He started off emphatically by producing some memorable goals but then took his foot off the gas and just became lazy. I really do hope he finds some good form for League One Southend and can return to us the player that he was when he first joined.
I am not going to bore you by showing you ever player’s attributes but instead share some of the reasons behind their purchases and what I think they can bring to the club. Callum McGregor is a player I tried to sign last season but instead he opted for Ross County in Scotland which I felt was a strange choice. He had a change of heart, left County and decided to sign for us at last. He is a great young player that will definitely add quality to a midfield that was left bare at times last season. With Karim Rossi and Paul Heffernan heading out the door, it was important to bring in players that would provide me with some attacking options. Lukas Kysela is a 19 year old with huge potential and it shows that having a partnership with Manchester City is of great benefit. Noel Hunt and out of favour Samed Yesil finish the attacking options and will definitely be called upon if the likes of Gozie Ugwu don’t perform.
The defence is going to be crucial this coming season with us coming up against some good quality sides in one of the toughest leagues. We are naturally expected to return to where we came from, however, I feel with the additions made he we can retain our position in the league. McLaughlin, Miquel, Ngoyi and Perico have been added to the defensive ranks and one or two of them can expect regular starting places. I do feel that we are still a left back short of a team with depth and solid foundations so there may be news on this front in the future.
Steve Short has been brought into replace the moaning Spiess and is a goalkeeper at the very beginning of his career. In truth, he doesn’t have great potential but I needed a backup goalkeeper who wouldn’t be moaning every couple of months because he hasn’t been able to step out onto the hallowed turf. In conjunction with the youth players that have been brought in, it was important to try and add some Premier League experience to the side. This has been provided in the form of Jack Collison (who is my new captain) and Michael Kightly (formerly of Wolves). These two will add a sense of calm to the side, which may be needed when we are put under a lot of pressure. Overall, I am very happy with the additions that I have managed to make to the squad. Even more so with the fact that there is still £500k left in the kitty to help me go find that left back that I think is the final piece of the jigsaw.
Pre-season was a very good period for Notts County with the new players already starting to gel with the current squad and playing some attractive and attacking football. I was pleased with the majority of the performances, no more so than with Lukas Kysela who helped himself to a hat trick against his parent club’s under 21 side. It was a sensational performance and he really did announce himself to the Notts County faithful. He is still a young player, that will have to be weaned into the side gradually but I do think he has a lot to bring.
My favourite performance of pre-season was the comeback against Willem II. We went down two nil very early in the game but managed to pull it back to 2-2 by half time. An 87th minute winner by Mike Williamson (my new vice-captain) capped off what was a fantastic performance all bar the first few moments. This pre-season will stand us in good stead for what will be a challenging and long season. The aim will be of course to retain our league status with any domestic cup competitions being put to the back of our minds; although, I can never say no to a third round tie in the FA Cup against a Premier League big club.
Player of Pre-Season – Lukas Kysela