Notts County have taken League Two by storm this season and sit comfortably in second, and within touching distance of leaders Luton. How can you summarise the first half of the season?
It has gone beyond everybody’s wildest expectation. Most people thought Notts would progress from last season, but they have come so far in such a short space of time, which is a credit to the manager Kevin Nolan, his staff, the players and the owner Alan Hardy. It’s been a stunning transformation over the last year or so and whatever happens, they have brought pride back to Notts County after a couple of really tough seasons. They have embarked on two really good unbeaten runs this season and have proven to have an incredible never-say-die mentality, which has led to a lot of late goals in games.
There are plenty of seasoned pros with Premier League experience in the squad - is that the difference this year?
I certainly think it’s helped as it has given the younger players in the squad good mentors. The likes of Shola Ameobi, Alan Smith, Jon Stead and of course, the manager, have played at the highest level and their knowledge and know-how has certainly been an invaluable tool for the players who are beginning their careers. They have flourished and I certainly think the elder statesmen of the group have aided that. There is a really good mix of old heads and youthful exuberance. When you put that all together then you can begin to understand why Notts have been so good this season.
Can you tell us about the Magpies’ road to the FA Cup third round?
Well, the first round was absolutely incredible. Bristol Rovers were 2-0 up inside 12 minutes and you were thinking ‘game done and dusted’. But Notts embarked on this wonderful comeback that will live long in the memory especially against a good team in the league above. Two goals from Ryan Yates made it 2-2 before half-time before Jon Stead and Jorge Grant made it 4-2. The second round tie wasn’t so easy as Oxford City gave a really good account of themselves. They came from behind twice to make it 2-2, until Jorge Grant popped up with a crucial last-gasp winner.
How does Kevin Nolan generally set-up his starting 11?
Notts usually play 4-4-2. Ross Fitzsimons plays in goal, and the back four has largely consisted of Matt Tootle, Richard Duffy, Shaun Brisley and Carl Dickinson. In midfield it’s been Terry Hawkridge, Ryan Yates, Elliott Hewitt and Jorge Grant. Shola Ameobi and Jon Stead have carried the striking duties. However, Nolan has taken the opportunity to freshen it up on more than one occasion. He has a very strong squad.
Which player should Brentford be most wary of this afternoon?
Jorge Grant would obviously be the main candidate because of his goals this season. He may have games where he is quiet, but all of a sudden, a switch flicks and he’s helped himself to two goals. What I like about him most is that he very rarely wastes a shot. They are pretty much always on target and he is a lovely finisher when he gets a chance. He’s decent at set-pieces too.
Which Brentford player would you take to Meadow Lane if you could?
Well I remember watching Romaine Sawyers a few years back at Walsall and I really liked him as a player then; a very adept and creative player. Very pleasing on the eye and he takes up some great positions. Can spot a pass and can chip in with a few goals too. He’s a handful and I could tell then that he was too good for League One. It didn’t surprise to me to see Dean Smith take him to Brentford.
What’s your score prediction for this one?
I’ll go for Notts to surprise a few here at Griffin Park so I think Notts will nick a 1-1 draw and take the Bees back to Meadow Lane. I’ll even go as far to say that Jon Stead will score.