Despite a miraculous escape in 2014, Notts County could not repeat the feat in 2015 and avoid relegation to League Two. There’s been more change at the club over the summer than potentially any other, with new boss Ricardo Moniz bringing in several foreign players who he’ll hope with prove a surprise to most opponents the team come up against early on in the season.
Last Season: League One (21st)
Manager: Ricardo Moniz
GKs: Roy Carroll, Scott Loach, Kevin Pilkington
DFs: Mawouna Amevor, Blair Adams, Scot Bennett, Haydn Hollis, Taylor McKenzie, Rhys Sharpe, Jordan Richards, Gill Swerts, Wes Atkinson, Mike Edwards, Elliott Hewitt
MFs: Alan Smith, Will Hayhurst, Nicky Wroe, Robert Milsom, Curtis Thompson, Liam Noble, Lartey Sarpong, Kyle De Silva, Julian Jenner, Stanley Aborah
FWs: Jimmy Spencer, Ronan Murray, Genaro Snijders, Colby Bishop, Billy Daniels, Filip Valencic, Adam Campbell, Graham Burke, Jon Stead
In: Scot Bennett (Exeter City), Robert Milsom (Rotherham United), Rhys Sharpe (Derby County), Gill Swerts (NAC Breda), Jon Stead (Huddersfield Town), Mawouna Amevor (Go Ahead Eagles), Adam Campbell (Newcastle United), Kyle De Silva (Crystal Palace), Genaro Snijders (Oss), Julian Jenner (Diosgyori), Graham Burke (Aston Villa), Filip Valencic (Monza), Scott Loach (Rotherham United), Stanley Aborah (Ferencvaros), Wes Atkinson (West Brom), Thierry Audel (Free), Elliott Hewitt (Ipswich Town)
Out: Balint Bajner (Released), Mustapha Dumbuya (Released), Shaun Harrad (Released), Cieron Keane (Released), Hayden Mullins (Released), Fabian Speiss (Torquay United), Greg Tempest (Lincoln City), Garry Thompson (Wycombe Wanderers), Drissa Traore (Swindon Town), Elliott Whitehouse (FC Halifax Town), Jordan Cranston (Released)
First Six: Stevenage (A), Mansfield Town (H), Oxford United (A), Accrington Stanley (H), Morecambe (A), Crawley Town (H)
Likely Lineup: (4-3-3) Loach – Amevor, Bennett, Hollis, Adams – Wroe, De Silva, Noble – Burke, Spencer, Snijders
A word from…Paul Devlin
On the big step up It was amazing because 12 months before I was playing in the lower levels of the non-league, I’d had a few offers and trials and then within 12 months I was playing in the top league against Coventry City and I was coming up against one of the top England right-backs!
We beat Coventry and then we came up against Luton and beat them so we had a decent little spell towards the end of that season but unfortunately we still went down. It was so surreal though, going from playing Sunday league with my mates to facing England internationals.
I was 18 at the time, I had trials at Leeds, Howard Wilkinson wanted me at Leeds and actually rang me to gave me a rollocking for not signing there but I wasn’t sure about that and I signed for Notts County. It was obviously a wise move because Notts got relegated that season and Leeds won the league!
On mental toughness I think it was actually easier as a younger lad, you’re just interested in going out and playing so things like relegation don’t actually faze you too much.
Neil Warnock signed me and then Mick Walker came in, he’d done every job available and he was brilliant for me, he was used to working with younger players and he was great for me and the rest of the team. The club was in a little bit of a turmoil with a lot of managerial changes but as a young player you want to turn up, do your training and go out on the Saturday and play!
On leaving for his home city club It was difficult, I signed another contract and we had some really good young players, Andy Legg, Mark Draper, Michael Johnson etc.
I just felt that when that team got broken up we would start struggling and when Birmingham came in that was a massive factor for me. Michael Johnson had just gone there, I was a Birmingham fan and a Birmingham boy and it felt like the right time to move on.
On following the club I couldn’t tell you much about the squads at any of my old teams but I still look for the results of Notts County.
They’ll always have a special place in my heart, they were my first professional club, Michael Johnson’s still a great friend, Andy Legg too, we shared a house together and I have a lot of great memories there.
On the current club It’s immensely difficult when you’ve been relegated and things are changing a lot. You need to stabilise things, you don’t want to start the season badly and start to struggle again.
You’ve got to steady the ship and try and build on that, you need some togetherness and to know everyone is pulling in the right direction, it’s about getting the basics right first and foremost.
When you’re talking about that amount of players coming in, it’s very difficult. You’ve got to know how each other plays and get to know each other off the field. It does take time and when you’ve brought 15 players in it means not all are even going to start.
On the surprise factor The manager knows that market, they’ll be unknown quantities so there might be a couple of hidden gems in there that can surprise a few teams early on.
The big question is are they all going to settle in England, are they all going to adapt to the style of play and the physicality? It’s swings and roundabouts, you have got that surprise factor but you need to put the whole thing together.
Most teams getting relegated the aim is to immediately bounce back, whether it’s the Premier League or League Two. But you can get on that slippery slope, I do expect Notts County to be challenging at the top though but it will be difficult with so many changes at the club.
The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: With so many new players it could be a difficult start to the season, or the complete surprise factor surrounding the unknown arrivals could favour Notts County. If it’s the latter, they have an experienced coach who should be more than capable of guiding a squad which is now very much his to promotion.
Key Player: Haydn Hollis – After a few loan spells and a difficult 2013-14 campaign, the 22-year-old really made a break into the first team on a consistent basis and is one of the few remaining from the core of last year’s side. With time on his side and playing at a lower level, he should impress this season.
One to Watch: Graham Burke – The 21-year-old came in briefly on loan from Aston Villa last season and went immediately into the starting line-up. With more chances sure to come in League Two, the Irishman could be one to star.