League Cup First Round, 23/08/05,
By Mike Peter
Generally in life whenever two parties
meet, in either a professional or social context, one has more enthusiasm
about the meeting than the other. For example, any friends of my parents
are likely to be far more enthusiastic about meeting me than I am them, for
I am young, cool and disinterested whilst they are old and desperate to
wallow in my youth. Or, at least, that's the way I see it.
However, my enthusiasm to meet up
with my friends exceeds their willingness considerably, which is
why I'm on the PC when it's 24 degrees outside.
In football, one typically feels more
excitement when you play a side deemed "bigger" than you.
Still, one wonder's how exciting a trip
to Watford is for the fans of Notts
County. Unlike its
sister, the FA Cup, the League/Carling/Whatever Cup has consistently failed
to generate any degree of excitement about the possible mass of "giant
killings". Instead these mid-August ties tend to be ninety minutes of
utter tedium, with the "bigger" side tending to nick a goal right
at the death after struggling against a side that they patently should be
playing off the park. Hardly the stuff of dreams for those from Meadow
Lane. Besides, not wanting to do Watford a
disservice but there aren't any Premiership sides in the competition yet,
even if Notts County had got the biggest club in the draw I imagine exclamations
of "Ooooh, Wolves!" would sound fairly hollow.
County started poorly last season. After
being relegated in 2004 the Magpies won only one of their first nine games;
after sacking manager Garry Mills they managed to drag themselves out of the
relegation zone, finishing nineteenth. Ex-Stoke and Barnsley manager Gudjon
Thordarson was brought in in May to stop the rot and has done well so far,
installing discipline and organisation that was missing last term; County
are unbeaten so far this season and currently lie fifth.
One significant signing was Kevin
Pilkington; well regarded in Division Four for his performances for Mansfield,
he has replaced Republic
of Ireland U-21
keeper Saul Deeney in the side. Deeney turned down a new contract in the
summer and is now on trial at Bristol
City... in the likely
event that Deeney will have left by Tuesday, trainee Karl Dryden will find
himself on the bench.
County's star turn is defender Kevin
Wilson. The twenty year old, who broke into the team last year, has already
attracted interest from Chelsea and Man United, if you believe the press.
Ex-Rotherham hard-man and captain Julian Baudet will partner him in the
centre of defence with last year's player-manager Ian Richardson and
youngster Shane McFaul providing cover.
At left-back Robert Ullathorne is
somehow only thirty four. He faces competition from ex-Derby trainee Daniel
Martin, who signed in the summer. Another recent acquisition, Brian
O'Callaghan, seems relatively unchallenged at right back. Ex-Bolton veteran
Mike Whitlow is rumbling around somewhere although is more of a coach these
On the right-wing former Coventry
and Welsh U-21 Captain David Pipe is a fan's favourite and a certainty to
start, as is Mike Edwards. Normally a defender, Edwards has been moved
forward due to a lack of options in the centre and adds some bite to the
midfield. The other central spot seems yet to be decided with strikers
Steve Scoffham and Andy White both tried there. At Stockport Thordarson
brought Lewis McMahon - released by Wednesday in the summer - in from the
left with another pre-season signing, Stacy Long, taking the winger's
position. Ex-Cambridge man Matthew Gill and the classy Jake Sheridan are
also options whilst nippy Ruben Zadkovich is reportedly not match-fit.
Up-front the Magpies are also troubled.
Thordarson seems fairly desperate to come up with a decent partnership,
with six different strikers selected this season - all of which have been
lambasted on various messageboards. Either White ("would struggle for
Hucknall") or Gavin Gordon ("rubbish") look set up to
partner Scoffham ("not good enough but hard-working") up front.
Experimental striker Chris Palmer - normally a centre-half - will be on the
bench with Glyn "liability" Hurst
unlikely to get a game.
It is evident that County are a fairly
limited side, despite their good start, and Watford
should pull through. However, with Adrian Boothroyd looking to rest players
and Thordason's organisation skills it could, and no doubt will be, a
struggle. Past experience tells us that one.