RR: How’s your season going then - confident of promotion?
Paul Mace: I liken Notts’ situation in the National League to that of Sunderland in EFL League One. Both sets of fans say the club is too big to be in that standard of football ... but when you are in it, it’s a lot more difficult to get out of it.
Expectations are such that there are no long-term strategies or plans... the simple objective is to get promoted at the end of the season.
One of the challenges of the NL is that there is only one automatic promotion place.
So, I’m not sure any club can be confident.
There are probably abour 6 or 7 clubs in the NL who all say their club is too big to be in there, and must get promoted. Sadly, it’s easier said than done.
RR: I’ve spoken to Ian Burchnall in the past for the site, funnily, as he was the manager of a side in Norway when we sent a few of our lads over to him on loan a few years back. He seems really switched on. How’s he doing, and why do you think Sunderland seem to trust him with their young players?
Paul Mace: My understanding is that Ian is good friends with David Preece at Sunderland, and this helped pave the way for the Patterson loan signing.
Ian has specific footballing principles and is a keen adoptee of a ‘total football’ approach. When we’re good... we’re very very good... but the challenge he faces is that promotion and a target of somewhere between 85-90 points is the expected return for a successful season.
Anything else is classed as failure.
RR: Given the fact he started a big chunk of games for us at the start of the season, some of our fans were surprised that we allowed Anthony Patterson to leave on loan. Were you?
Paul Mace: I think our fans were a little surprised that he came to us given that he had been getting first team chances with you. We signed Anthony at the same time as another EFL loanee - Ciaran Brennan from Sheffield Wednesday. We have sponsored both players - it’s important to make them feel welcome. You can see that both have impressive pedigrees and I am sure both will go on to have successful League careers.
RR: I know he’s not been with County long, but what are your first impressions of Patto - does he seem like a good fit?
Paul Mace: He was unlucky in that he arrived at a time when we were missing three of our starting back five. His first game was at Altrincham and we lost 1-0 and went on to lose our next 2 games - the first team we have lost 3 straight matches in the NL.
As such, fans were more than a little restless. Anthony got his first clean sheet at Yeovil on Saturday and we were impressed with some excellent saves in the closing stages which helped cement a much-needed 2-0 win.
RR: I was reading the announcement piece on the Notts County website from when he signed, and it appears he was brought in to cover for your first choice. Is he back yet? Do you foresee that he’ll automatically dislodge Patterson, or do you suspect our man will hold the position given his pedigree?
Paul Mace: Our first choice keeper is the experienced Sam Slocombe (ex-Scunthorpe) who is widely regarded as one of the top 2/3 keepers in the National League.
Sam suffered an injury in training and Anthony was bought in to play with immediate effect. Sam is expected to be available again very shortly and it is likely that he would go straight back in.
RR: From what you’ve seen so far, what do you like about him?
Paul Mace: Anthony clearly has all the attributes required to be a successful League goalkeeper. He has height and stature, good distribution skills with his feet, and is a good shot stopper. During his first three games with us he’s had plenty to do! I’m sure that when he returns to Sunderland, he will have developed as a keeper and as a man.
RR: The National League is a tough league. I’d suggest that a stint playing there is imperative for most young players, as you can do a lot of growing up over a season or so. Would you agree?
Paul Mace: It’s a very competitive and physical league. One of the big debates in pro football is about a lack of reserve men’s football as a result of the growth of Academies. Unquestionably the National League is men's football, and that brings with it a set of challenges many young pros are not exposed to without getting first-team football. So, in that respect, a grounding in the NL is invaluable.
RR: Patto’s loan deal ends on the 26th October, but there is scope for him to stay longer. What’s your gut telling you - do you think he will?
Paul Mace: I suspect that will depend as much on Sunderland as anything. Normally with loans of this type, they are based on the player actually playing games rather than being on the sidelines. In the National League, we have only five subs and Notts are one of the clubs who do not name a replacement keeper on the bench. As such, if our regular number one Slocombe is fully fit, Anthony’s chances are likely to be limited and Sunderland may well view it as he is better served being back in the North East.