Paul Mace talks to TT about his Team Notts County.
Hi Paul, so how optimistic are you heading into this season after a busy summer for the club?
As starts to the season go, winning 5-0 away at Barnet is up there. Everyone is getting carried away at the minute, but it made for a gala day out in London and will make for a great pre-match, at least for Saturday’s game.
What’s your early thoughts on ex-Gulls Cameron and Nemane?
Kyle is a very popular figure and was made club captain. We did a 1 on 1 podcast with him and he volunteered that he had asked to be considered for the captaincy and the head coach duly obliged. Strong and commanding and the type of player we needed at the back.
As for Nemane, we have not seen a lot of him yet but looks very pacey and direct.
Who else signed for County this summer?
It was a fairly busy summer for us. Ex-Burton and Swindon midfielder Matty Palmer looks quality, and we also took former Man City and England junior international Ed Francis in centre midfield. Cairo Mitchell and Joel Taylor also both signed for fees from Chesterfield.
Who are your key players and why?
Personally, I always look down the spine of the side as being crucial. Cal Roberts would be our most widely recognised player, a former Newcastle winger who was beset by injuries last season but a real quality player at this level – we call him the Geordie Messi. Ruben Rodrigues is a Portuguese attacking midfielder with an eye for goal – together with Cal they give us a real goal threat.
What tactics does the gaffer like to employ and what’s your probable starting XI?
Our head coach preaches a footballing philosophy and playing out from the back. We play a 3-5-2 with emphasis on ball retention and clearly carry a strong goals threat with Wootton, Roberts and Rodrigues.
Who do you think are your rivals for promotion this season?
I think this is by far the toughest division in our three seasons of being in the National League. It appears that the former EFL clubs have largely all got their acts together and invested heavily. Wrexham favourites for me and I did tip Dagenham and Redbridge as a good outside bet – even before they beat Stockport last week.
Is Ian Burchnall the right man to take the club back to the football league?
Split opinion upon his appointment and had a very bad start. His assistant getting sacked for a racist comment to one of our own players! However, finished season extremely well and off to a flier at Barnet and very popular now.
How good is it getting back to games and which fixtures are you most looking forward to?
Took over 1,000 fans to Barnet – and actually outnumbered the home supporters. A lot of Notts fans have already booked a long weekend in Weymouth next month! Sold about 3,500 home season tickets. We have very few short trips in this division – so Chesterfield is our big derby game
Where’s best for the Yellow Army to grab pre-match food and drinks?
For those making it up on the train, Hooters is always a good shout on the corner of the station and en-route to the ground. Apparently it’s about the only Hooters in the UK so always popular with travelling fans. The Navigation, about 100 yards from the ground, is a good hostelry.
And finally, the Gulls triumphed in the play-off semi final but what is your prediction for Saturday?
Contrasting fortunes for both clubs on the opening day – I suspect this one will be a lot closer than respective supporters might imagine.
COYY – Dom