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Notts County Season Preview: 2012/13

15 August 12 words: Stu Brothers
illustrations: Adam Poole

"There's every reason to be optimistic, so mid-table obscurity beckons"

If last season was a blind date in town, what would it be like?
At first, you think it's going to be a nightmare, but there's definitely an attraction there. Actually, the more time you spend with her the more you think the night's going to end on a happy note. Then, just as you're on her doorstep, she looks down at you, shakes her head, says, "Sorry duck, but your goal difference isn't big enough" and slams the door in your face.

What was the absolute highpoint of last season?
Alan Judge's last minute winner at Wycombe in our last away game stands out for me. Having spent most of the match losing, scoring two goals in the final minutes – the second particularly brilliant – were moments you just never saw coming. Our season was as good as over until Dele Adebola got us back to 3-3. But when Judgey hit the top corner from the edge of the box…scenes.

And the lowpoint?
The moments leading to that Judge goal were pretty bleak, but when the news broke of Martin Allen's sacking after a 3-0 defeat at Hartlepool we all feared the worst. As downright mental as he was, his impact was huge at Meadow Lane - he'd worked wonders in restoring many Magpies’ pride in the club again. Mind you, I don't think we can give Keith Curle enough credit now. A bold - possibly insane - appointment which certainly paid off.

Last year’s star player…
I'd be deservedly lynched if I went for anyone other than Alan Judge. The man's a star. His season basically built up towards the last two months or so where he was just unstoppable. If we're to be successful this season, holding on to him is vital.

Last year’s donkey…
Having left many a barn door untested during his time at Notts, Karl Hawley won't be missed by anyone having been released in the summer. He's spent part of his off-season in New York – I can only assume the Jets are in the market for a new field goal kicker.

If your manager ran a pub in town, what would it be like?
You wouldn't have the best expectations as you walk through the door, but it'd be a classy joint, welcoming of everyone, and more often than not you’d leave pleasantly surprised with what you've experienced. Last orders is always a riot, too.

Who’s new at the club this season?
Gary Liddle from Hartlepool brings bags of experience, even though he's still only 25. Up front there's Enoch Showunmi from Tranmere Rovers - a bulky upgrade on our previous cumbersome striker, Ben Burgess. Defensively, Dean Leacock and Manny Smith have strengthened us without question. Between the sticks comes Bartosz Bialkowski, who many Southampton fans were surprised to see drop so low - hopefully that's an indication of his quality. Jamal Campbell-Ryce looks to be the ideal replacement for Lloyd Sam, plus Joss Labadie and Yoann Arquin have signed up: great potential, questionable temperament.

And who’s been lobbed?
Everyone that we'd have expected (or wanted). Goalkeeper Stuart Nelson is perhaps unlucky not to have been offered a contract having been an ever-present last season. But no one will bat an eyelid at the likes of Burgess, Hawley, John Spicer, Charlie Allen or Jude Stirling being shown the door. Sadly, Mike Edwards also chose not to stay at Meadow Lane, opting for a two-year contract at Carlisle United instead.

Any other pre-season goings-on worth noting?
Notts have gone about their business fairly quietly, actually. There were hopes we'd get Juventus to Meadow Lane in the summer, but their schedule wouldn't allow for it. The club held its 150th Year Gala Dinner early in pre-season which seemed to go down a treat. We even got a toe-curlingly bad message from Sepp Blatter out of it. Lucky us.

What are your kits like this season?
Black and white. Having sacked off the Derby kit after one year, we've got a really smart monochrome this time. It was initially released at the end of last year without any of the sponsors’ logos – not seen the full version yet though, so fingers crossed it's not going to let the side down.

If you nick one thing from the other club in Nottingham, what would it be?
A couple of quid wouldn't go amiss. Or Kieron Freeman. Yeah, Kieron Freeman.

Who will be the more successful club in Nottingham by the year 2020, and why?
Ignoring for a second that there is, strictly speaking, only one club in Nottingham, unfortunately it will be the other lot. We've got a lot of hard work to put in to have any chance of overhauling our newly-minted Kuwaiti-enabled friends over the river, some of whom I seem to remember chanting, “You used to be English, you're not anymore” to Leicester fans last season. Funny how things turn out. Pole position is still theirs for the foreseeable future, sadly, but the community work Notts are doing really should start making inroads into strengthening the fan base for future generations.

Call your shot: what will your club do in 2012-13?
The summer signings look more promising on paper than they did last year, and we've a promising young manager looking to build on last year's late failure to reach the play-offs, and there's every reason to be optimistic. So, mid-table obscurity beckons.

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