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Fan Focus - Notts County (FAC3) Pre-Match Views

Normally for Fan Focus we chat with just one fan from the opposition, but this week Roker Report was inundated with people willing to do it for the FA Cup Third Round match against Notts County, so we're bringing you two!

The first today is Stuart Brothers, who writes for Notts County Blog "The Welly Pie Football Blog". Stuart's been a fan for over 15 years covering the highs and lows of The Magpies, and still harbours memories of his favourite all-time County player, Gary McSwegan. Here's what he had to say about the big match on Saturday...

Hello there Notts County fans! How are the 'Proper Magpies' (as opposed to our neighbours to the north) doing this season?

Stuart: Better than it was a few months ago! Life in League One was a big reality check initially, but we seem to have turned it round in recent weeks under Paul Ince. In the past few months we've put in some great performances against the division's "Big Clubs" but taken nothing away from them, but we've learned to kill off teams finally so we're climbing up the table now.

We'd settle for mid-table by the end of the season, but we definitely have the play-offs in our sights at least! The biggest threat to the season at present is the transfer window, which has seen us lose Tommy Ince, Stephen Darby, Lee Miller and Alan Judge this week, and they've all played a part in our recent good form!

The club is working hard to get them back, and it would be a huge lift for us if they are available on Saturday.

What was life like supporting County while all that craziness with Sven et al was going on?

Stuart: A bit weird. Not living in Nottingham personally, all the United/Chelsea/Liverpool etc fans were interesting in talking about my club for once. Having lived in Wales most of my life until recently, to see us all over Sky Sports News every day took some getting used to. Then as things dragged on you sensed it was all going to end badly and it became quite the embarrassment.

Peter Trembling, the "public face" of the fiasco would be on Sky every day, full of confidence even at the lowest points, but there was one day you just knew he'd given up. What was stranger was that he kept talking about finding investors to put in hundreds of millions into the club...and then he sold us for a pound to Ray Trew. The initial signs were that he'd put us straight into administration, but a lovely whisper in the ear from his wife later and we pushed on for the title. It was all pure fantasy in fairness.

We turned very quickly on Sol Campbell when he jumped ship, but most of us look back thinking he was right all along, was an embarrassing episode for everyone at the club, but one which without it we wouldn't be in League One now.

Do you have any memories of playing us?

Stuart: Embarrassingly, aside from a few hazy memories in the early 90s, not much at all! I can remember a couple of wins the first season I went to Meadow Lane in 94/95 I think, the season we were relegated... but I honestly couldn't tell you much else. Bad times!

Who is the most dangerous player Notts will have on offer and we should look out for?

Stuart: Would have to say (if he plays) Lee Hughes. Probably the most loathed figure in the football league, even after all these years he's a complete pain in the ass for any defender. But he brings more than goals to our side, his grace on the ball is fantastic for someone of Hughes' age and he has this fantastic ability to raise the morale of all the players around him.

Inevitably he'll be met with the usual chorus of boos if he turns up, but in truth he'll only thrive on it and nine times out of ten, ram it back down the throats of those giving him stick. Problem is the moment he leaves the field, the heads of our players drop and we sometimes end up taking our foot off the gas.

Honourable mentions to Tommy Ince (on loan from Liverpool), Craig Westcarr (comfortable on the wings or up front) and Ben Davies (for whom every game in January might be his last with a move to the Championship looking likely in January)

And by contrast, who's the weakest link in the team?

Stuart: Actually difficult to pick one at the moment. It's been a real team effort of late to get the side back on track, but the one thing that keeps cropping up is goalkeeper Rob Burch's lack of desire to control his penalty area. Burchy's a fantastic shot stopper, and has done well since taking his place back in the side, but there's rarely a game that goes by where we're not left wishing Rob would come out of the six yard box to clear his lines.

Admittedly it's a minimal concern right now, and I'm sure the confidence to do so will come eventually! He might not even play this weekend anyway, having limped off on Monday with a calf strain. Stuart Nelson will fill in, who's weakness perhaps is that he hasn't had enough game time recently? In truth he didn't do much wrong to have been dropped some months ago anyway so he'll be fine I'm sure!

I'd imagine we're going to give a few of the star names a rest. Does that give you even more confidence heading into the game?

Stuart: It's not arrogant to suggest we actually fancy ourselves against most sides. As a League Two side last year we travelled to Wigan and won, and just this season we troubled Wolves at their ground, even taking the lead before the fitness of our opponents (and a shocker of a referee, clichéd as it sounds) shone through.

We've beaten some very good teams for our level this year, we won't be heading north with any of the fears you'd associate with us smaller clubs. If Steve Bruce does decide to go second string, we'll put in a great performance I'm sure, would certainly make for an entertaining game.

Who from our lot do you think will give Notts cause for concern, and who are you looking forward to seeing?

Stuart: Danny Welbeck looks absolute quality was one of the players I'd wondered if we might have taken a look at in the summer. No surprise at all to see him do so well in recent weeks for you.

Obviously on a "big day out" such as this we wouldn't mind a glimpse at the likes of Anton Ferdinand, Asamoah Gyan and Darren Bent... but only once we've put the game out of sight of course!

What is your prediction for the game?

Stuart: You have to fully expect Sunderland to run out comfortable winners, maybe by three or four goals. That’s not to say for one second I don’t think we have a great shout at an upset, with or without the loanees.

We've got plenty of preview for the big game on Saturday coming to you tomorrow too, so stay tuned to Roker Report by following us on Twitter or Facebook!

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