Left Magpie: Jan/Feb 2024

Words: Colin Sisson
Monday 19 February 2024
reading time: min, words

Revolving doors, open windows but same Notts...


It’s been over a month of significant moves at Meadow Lane but Notts remain in good shape

I’ve started this article six times. Every time I reach the final tap of a draft, something significant happens at Meadow Lane to mean another revision in a month full of new chapters and emotional endings.

Starting with an emotional ending, Luke Williams’ prolonged and painful departure from Meadow Lane was resolved in early January. Like all partings, it was not unexpected but tinged with that glimmer of hope that things wouldn’t have to change. But change they did. Williams mounted the e-scooter one final time on the back of a disappointing loss to Tranmere but it did not tarnish a memory of fluid football watched by record-breaking attendances, culminating in promotion at Wembley.

Fans, understandably, flapped. With both the managerial position vacant and transfer window gaping, it was open season on social media with names ranging from the obscure (Morten Dahm Kjaergaard) to the absurd (Neil Warnock) that suggests there is still some work to do in helping fans understand the methodology behind this Notts side. Rumours swirled of losing the likes of Langstaff, Jones or McGoldrick during these turbulent times, with solid intel gathered from supermarket queues or ‘knowing’ a player’s barber.

While social media went into a frenzy, behind the scenes Notts seemed to calmly go about their business. Player recruitment continued in the same considered manner it always had, not reliant on the whim of the latest management team but following a philosophy that has been established for several seasons now. Luca Ashby-Hammond, Jayden Warner, Charlie Colkett and Scott Robertson all arrived at Meadow Lane with deals actioned before Notts officially announced their new man at the helm, all capable of adding to Notts’ brand of possession-based play and boasting experience at some of the top academies across the country – a suggestion of their potential to be coached and developed into top talents without having to pay the price tag that goes with it.     

In typical Notts manner, the eventual appointment of a Head Coach felt more like the resolution to any good crime novel. Of course it was going to be him! Stuart Maynard’s time at Wealdstone had already proven him to be capable of setting up and playing a system that encapsulated the possession-based, progressive play that Notts had made their staple the year before and he had been nothing but complimentary about Notts having been beaten handsomely at Meadow Lane the season before.    

To lose such a talisman of Notts’ recent resurgence in Williams was always going to have an impact, and Notts failed to pick up a win in the following four games since his departure – even somehow finding a way to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory against Grimsby in the 95th minute. Yet despite all this, and painful away defeats against Mansfield and Wrexham that followed Maynard’s appointment, Notts managed to maintain the footballing fundamentals that had seen the club progress and, almost as crucially, had seen the club descend into the depths of non-league football when operating solely on the whim of the latest manager.

But despite all this talk of composure, of confidence in a well-considered, well-oiled footballing philosophy that permeates through every blade of Meadow Lane grass, I can’t help but find myself giddy at the arrival of 6ft 4ins Gambian striker Alassana Jatta. It is perhaps a little unfair to put so much pressure on someone arriving mid-season into a new country and different footballing environment, but he unknowingly embodies the hope of every football fan – particularly those like me who have clicked through season after season on Football Manager – of finding and signing that season-defining talent that will prove to be the catalyst for a breath-taking final act of the season.

In all likelihood, just with Ruben Rodrigues and Eli Sam before him, the full impact of Jatta’s arrival will not be felt until he is fully settled and established in England… but sometimes you need a little fantasy alongside your philosophy.    

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