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Notts County ready to move for former Premier League midfielder Joey Barton

The 35-year-old could be set to link up with ex-Newcastle United teammate Kevin Nolan.

Jake Jackman

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Joey Barton
Photo: Getty Images

Notts County are heading in the right direction under Kevin Nolan and are one of the teams competing for promotion at the top of League Two.

That would represent a great season for the Magpies and it appears that their manager has the ambition to push them on further over the coming years.

The former Premier League player is keen to use his connections to bring in some quality and experience, with Joey Barton being one of the names linked.

The two men played together at Newcastle United and were part of the team that won promotion back to the Premier League in 2010.

In a recent interview with BBC Radio Nottingham, Nolan said the following when asked about Barton:

“Me and Joey are good friends. He is a top player, a top lad and I really get on well with him. We will always be in touch so let’s see what happens.”

“Joey is probably going to want to play at a higher level. And if that doesn’t come to fruition then I am sure there will be a conversation in the summer.

Although Nolan admits that he is unlikely to land his former team-mate, it shows his value to Notts County in the transfer market.

His presence at the club makes it possible to target quality players that have played at the top of the English game.

(Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

Since he arrived at Meadow Lane, he has used his Newcastle connections to sign Shola Ameobi and the striker has been a good player for the club

However, it would be an even bigger coup to land Barton, who was last seen playing in the Premier League for Burnley last season.

A lengthy ban from football due to gambling meant that the midfielder hasn’t been able to play this season, but at the age of 35, he still has something to offer the game.

Before his ban, he was a key player for Burnley and played 14 times in the Premier League after re-joining the club in January 2017.

It was a huge shame for Barton that he received a ban, as he was beginning to thrive at the highest level again.

The time away from football will have an effect on him, but he will be determined to finish his eventful career on a high.

It would be somewhat interesting if Barton did sign for Notts County this summer, as he came close to joining their local rivals a few years ago.

Reports in the Mirror, in 2015, suggested the midfielder wanted to join Nottingham Forest after he left Queens Park Rangers, but a move didn’t come to fruition.

Now, he could be offered the opportunity to play in the city, albeit for the side lower down the Football League.

At the time of writing, Notts County are in the play-off positions in League Two and they have a good chance of winning promotion this season.

Their chances of signing Barton will increase if they do go up a division, but his relationship with Nolan means they will be in the races regardless of promotion.

It could be that Barton is motivated by a project rather than money or exposure and the opportunity to join Notts County could be an appealing one.

He would get the opportunity to work with one of his good friends in the game and his ability would allow him to stand out at that level.

Supporters shouldn’t be getting excited about the rumoured signing yet, as it is only speculation at this point, but it is encouraging that Nolan has declared his interest on the record.

Barton may be a controversial figure, but he has won promotion on three occasions during his career and his experience would be invaluable to an ambitious club like Notts County.

If they manage to get this done, it would be one of the eye-catching transfers of the summer.

Jake is a journalist based in the South East. He is a Newcastle United fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Exclusives

Exclusive: George Williams on his Fulham spell, Euro 2016 and two year ambition

We caught up with the former MK Dons and Fulham prospect, now plying his trade for Forest Green.

Max Cohen

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George Williams
Photo: Getty Images

From playing alongside Dele Alli to making the semi-finals of UEFA Euro 2016, George Williams has experienced an immense amount in his footballing career at just 22 years old.

However, the glaring omission from the former Fulham player’s resume is the presence of consistent first team football; the most senior appearances Williams has ever made in a season to date were his 20 matches in 2014/15.

This summer, the Welsh international marked the latest chapter in his whirlwind journey by moving to Forest Green Rovers of League Two in a bid to find stability, play regular football, and possibly even return to the international scene.

Williams sat down for an exclusive interview with The Boot Room in the stands of The New Lawn, reflecting on his time at Fulham, recalling his Welsh exploits, and describing his initial impressions of Forest Green.

The Sky Bet League Two club’s most distinctive feature may be its emphasis on environmental causes, and Williams admits he wasn’t too knowledgeable about that aspect beforehand— but insists the vegan food is quite alright.

“Obviously the thing that sticks out is the whole vegan football club. I didn’t know too much about what being a vegan meant and the reasons behind it, but to be fair the food’s been great.”

Before experiencing the culinary delights on display at Forest Green, Williams started his career in the MK Dons academy. He came through the youth ranks with Dele Alli, and has fond memories of his early days in Milton Keynes.

“We had a great team and we had a manager at U-14 level through that wanted to play good football. It was good to play with young players at that level, as we all wanted to be the best and that made for a good competitive environment.”

“The moment [Dele Alli] joined you could tell he had something different, he was an incredibly talented young footballer. You knew from that moment he was going to go on to play at the highest level, and he’s doing that now.”

(Photo by Catherine Ivill – AMA/Getty Images)

In 2012, Williams moved from MK Dons to Premier League side Fulham. But in his six years by the banks of the Thames, the midfielder made just 17 senior appearances for the club. Nevertheless, he only has good things to say about his time in SW6.

“I can only take positives away from it. I joined the club as a 16-year-old and I got to play for the first team at Craven Cottage.”

Williams recalls a successful spell during Fulham’s 2014/15 campaign, when he was playing regularly and the Whites were on the brink of making a play-off charge. Unfortunately, a combination of injury and change in manager the following season derailed his good form.

“Kit Symons was the manager, and I remember a time if we had won a game we were going to move into just outside the playoffs… I was injured, there was a change of manager, he brought in his own players and I came back from injury trying to get back into the team— it was hard.”

Yet, despite an injury-filled spell that featured four loan spells, the highlight of Williams’ career—his international success with Wales— came when he was on the books at Fulham. The attacking midfielder made his debut against Holland in 2014 and was part of the squad that made the “amazing” run to the Euro semifinals two years later.

“It’s memories that I’ll have for the rest of my life. It was 60 days away in France, and it was an incredible experience to get to the semifinal.. by the end of it we were thinking ‘Hold on we could go all the way here.’ It wasn’t to be, but semifinalists at the Euros was an incredible achievement and I’m very thankful to be a part of it.”

When asked who has had the biggest influence on his career, Williams doesn’t hesitate before crediting Chris Coleman with a major role in his development. The former Wales manager placed his trust in the youngster, Williams said, giving him priceless opportunities to further his ability.

(Photo by Paul Ellis/Getty Images)

However, his last appearance for the nation came in March 2016, and with new manager Ryan Giggs at the helm, Williams has been frozen out of the Welsh set-up. He said his move to Forest Green is a bid to change that, and Williams remains confident he can put himself back in the Wales conversation by playing regular football.

“I don’t see why [I can’t get back in the Wales set-up]. I don’t see why if I get playing here and playing good football, being on the pitch and doing well, I don’t see why not. That’s ideally what I aim to do, I aim to get back into that Wales squad and hopefully I can do that.”

Williams has enjoyed a transitory career path to date, and when asked where he sees himself in two years time he ponders his answer.

“Either playing for Forest Green Rovers and getting promoted with them…,” he starts to answer before pausing for a moment.

Just playing football really, that’s all I want to be doing. Playing football at the highest level I can, and hopefully that could be with Forest Green Rovers, and if not, wherever. I just want to be playing football.”

The desire to simply play football is a sentiment that can be understood for a player who has never had a full season of senior football under his belt.

And at the weekend, Williams made his Forest Green debut away at Grimsby Town, starting on the left wing as the club notched a 4-1 win.

At 22 years of age, George Williams appears primed to enjoy consistent football at Forest Green Rovers, granting the Welsh international a chance to finally fulfill his plentiful potential.

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Exclusives

Exclusive: Christian Doidge discusses new season, career highlights and transfer speculation

The Forest Green Rovers striker spoke to The Boot Room ahead of the 2018/19 campaign.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

Forest Green Rovers will be looking to push on in Sky Bet League Two after staying up last season and Christian Doidge will be central to those hopes.

He has been the undoubted star of the club’s recent success, with his goals not only firing them into the Football League but also helping to keep them there.

There has been speculation regarding his future, as reported by Sky Sports, but he is set to start the season at The New Lawn.

Last season was a period of transition at Forest Green as they re-hauled their playing squad after promotion. The club only stayed up by a single point, but there are several reasons for optimism ahead of the new campaign.

In an exclusive interview with The Boot Room, Doidge spoke positively about the recruitment and the season ahead.

“I think the recruitment has been really good this season. We have brought in some bodies and a lot of experienced players, which is going to help us. I think that is what we struggled with last year.

“We’ve done quite good in pre-season, results wise and it’s one of those things now. You can’t wait for the season to start and play some competitive games. The mood in the camp is good and all the new lads have fit in really well.”

The club’s defence was an area of concern as they conceded 77 times during their debut season, which ranked behind only bottom-placed Chesterfield.

The signings of Robert Sanchez, James Montgomery and Lewis Thomas increase competition for the number one shirt, while Joseph Mills, Liam Shephard and Lloyd James will improve their defence.

Meanwhile, George Williams and Tahvon Campbell are exciting captures that will add even more quality to their attacking options. Forest Green have been very active in the transfer market once again and they will hope that a much more comfortable season is in store as a result.

Doidge will remain Forest Green’s focal point after proving himself during his first season in the Football League. The Welshman contributed 20 goals and five assists in 3655 minutes of football – a return he is looking to replicate this season.

“I was happy considering I had two months out with injury, which killed me at one point and I had a spell of eight without scoring which was hard.

“To get the tally that I got in the end, I was really happy with and that helped us stay in the division. Hopefully I can do that again next season.”

Despite his excellent form during Forest Green’s promotion season, there will have been doubts whether the Welshman could produce the same goal-scoring feats in League Two.

It was a huge step up for the striker, but he quickly silenced any doubters that he had. He believes that a high work rate and ability to forget about missed chances are key to being successful in the Football League.

“I think work rate is massive. At the level we are at, mistakes happen and as a striker, you have to be active in pushing people to make mistakes.

“Obviously, you have to take your chances, but don’t get disheartened if you don’t score, because at this level, you do get more chances. That’s when you have to put them away.”

The 25-year-old demonstrates his impressive mentality and it is no surprise that he taken to the division as quickly as he has. In addition to these qualities, the 25-year-old reads the game effectively and often finds himself in the right place at the right time.

The Forest Green forward is very much a poacher that comes alive in the box and that profile of player often does well in the lower divisions. Despite his success during the last two years, he wants to continue progressing as a player and doesn’t yet believe that he has made it.

(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

“I won’t think that unless I go a lot higher. I still think that I have a lot to improve on and I’m pushing every day to become a better footballer.

“I’ve done extremely well to get where I am now considering the background that I’ve had, but that’s in the past now and I’m looking forward to the future. Hopefully I can keep doing what I’ve been doing the last two seasons.”

His career has been a slow burner, as he didn’t play in the Football League until last season. At the age of 25, he will be looking to progress up the divisions in future years, whether that be with Forest Green or another club.

There has been speculation linking him with Sunderland and Aberdeen, among other clubs, but the striker remains committed to Forest Green.

“My team-mates just wind me up about it if I’m honest. It’s all a bit of fun really. It’s nice to have speculation as you’ve probably done something quite good, but it doesn’t faze me at all.

“I’m 100% committed to the club. They pay my wages and I will remain professional throughout.”

There will be a desire to be loyal to Forest Green after they provided the platform for Doidge to launch his professional career. They took a chance on him in the National League and neither would have predicted the rapid rise that has followed.

Since arriving at The New Lawn, there have been plenty of bright moments for the striker, but the play-off final win at Wembley to earn a place in League Two remains his highlight.

“I’d say the promotion win at Wembley was probably the best and it will be hard to beat. It was such a hard season in the conference, going to all kinds of places.

“It was such an up and down season, really high at some points and then really low.

(Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

“To get promoted at Wembley after all the hard work we’d done all season was tremendous. Obviously to score a goal I’m not known for scoring outside the box, which was an extra bonus with having family and friends in the stands. That’s probably the best moment of my career.”

The goal-scoring exploits of Doidge were one of the driving forces behind the club’s promotion as he regularly netted late winners to maintain the team’s positive momentum. Last season, he passed the 50-goal mark and there have been plenty of memorable strikes.

“I’ve scored a lot of last minute winners, which were nice. I scored one when we were going for the title in the conference here, just down that end. It was a header, last ten seconds, last throw of the dice. That was one that I loved and the Wembley one.

“The goal I scored against Cheltenham with the fans behind the goal. It was just perfect timing as I ran onto the ball and straight into the fans which was nice. It would be out of a couple of those ones, but any goal really. I love scoring goals, even if it comes off my knee, I’m happy with it.”

Those that have followed Doidge since his move to Forest Green will attest that he doesn’t score a lot of eye-catching goals.

That said, he is a deadly goal-scorer and the consistency with which he puts the ball into the back of the net is remarkable and his comments underline his thirst to score goals. That is why he is attracting interest from bigger clubs.

Remarkably, Doidge is the only player included for the match day squad for the play-off final that remains in the first-team squad. There have been wholesale changes as they attempt to adjust to League Two level. It speaks volumes that the striker has remained impressive, despite the changing environment.

(Photo by Andrew Vaughan – CameraSport via Getty Images)

“Off the pitch, it has got a lot more professional I’d say. It’s a completely new team. I’m the last Wembley player on the books I think. I’ve had to meet a lot of new team-mates. All the coaching staff have stayed the same.

“It’s been tremendous for me to work with the coaching staff here. They have improved my game a lot. I know what I’m doing when I’m out there now.”

The addition of more talented and experienced players has helped bring out the best in Doidge. There are now players that can impart knowledge on the 25-year-old striker and Reuben Reid has been one of those.

“Reubs has been brilliant. He had a tough year with other stuff, but he has come out the other side now. He’s done tremendous.

“He is a really good lad, really professional and he is good for advice, any person that has been in the league for that long and higher must be a good player. He has helped me a lot and he’s helped me with the goals as well.”

The journeyman forward has been on the books of 14 different clubs as a professional footballer, but he remains a very good League Two player. His experience at higher levels is invaluable for a developing team like Forest Green and Doidge has clearly learnt a lot from him.

After joining the club, Reid helped to share the goal-scoring burden with six goals and four assists. As he and Doidge have now developed a relationship on the pitch, Forest Green will hope that it will lead to a much better campaign.

Another key attacking player during the run-in was Dayle Grubb. The 27-year-old played nearly 300 times for Weston-super-Mare and dominated at the level that they were playing at. It took him some time to earn a chance, but he grabbed it with both hands at Forest Green.

(Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

During the second-half of the season, he contributed five goals and three assists. Doidge believes that his team-mate is set for an even better campaign.

“Grubby has come in and it is like he has been a professional footballer his whole life. He’s a good lad as well. He’s come from Weston where he didn’t quite get the break, but he has come here and he’s fitted in perfectly.

“He’s come up with some important goals and I can see him getting a lot this year the way he has been in pre-season. He has really committed, and I’m impressed with him.”

Although there have been some exciting additions, it is likely that the trio of Doidge, Reid and Grubb will be the key men for Forest Green this season. There is a real chance that they could challenge higher up the league table if their defence concedes fewer at the back.

It is shaping up to be another exciting season for Forest Green and at the time of writing, they have done a superb job to keep hold of Doidge. There will always be interest in him as long as he is scoring goals and he will move on eventually, but they will want to keep him for at least one more year.

“I want to do well. I want to score goals. I’d love to play for Wales. That is my all-time ambition and I won’t stop until I eventually get it. Hopefully if I score goals to impress the manager, I will see what happens.”

That aim would have been deemed impossible just two years ago, but Doidge has taken to the Football League impressively. He is some way from an international call-up, but he will move closer to one if he continues to score goals and progresses up the leagues.

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Bristol Rovers

Nottingham Forest target Tom Lockyer won’t solve the club’s full-back problem

Forest are monitoring the 23-year-old ahead of the new season.

Max Cohen

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Tom Lockyer
Photo: Getty Images

In the past few weeks, West Ham United full-back Sam Byram has been linked with Nottingham Forest.

However, as Aitor Karanka realises he may need a fallback alternative to the former Leeds man, Forest have identified Bristol Rovers’ Tom Lockyer as another option, according to the Nottingham Post.

Although Lockyer is a promising young defender who has shone for Bristol Rovers, he has not played full-back for his club in over three years and therefore would not solve Nottingham Forest’s right back problem.

There can be no doubting Lockyer’s impressive abilities, as the 23-year-old has captained Rovers brilliantly and is one of the brightest defensive talents in League One.

(Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

An intelligent centre-back with impressive awareness and strong tackling, Lockyer was named Football League Young Player of the Month award in January 2016 and won Rovers’ Young Player of the Season prize in 2015/16.

In addition, the defender has been capped four times by the Welsh national team after making his debut in 2017. A full international who has caught the eye in the Football League, Lockyer would be an intelligent signing for a Championship club looking to bolster their centre-defensive options.

However, although Lockyer does have the ability to play right back, he has not operated in that role for Bristol Rovers since the 2014/15 season, when the club where in the Conference.

If Forest truly want increased cover at right back in order to mount a promotion challenge, then the club needs to target a defender who plies his trade in that position consistently.

Tom Lockyer is one of the Football League’s brightest young defenders and would be a welcome addition to Karanka’s squad. But to truly push for promotion, Nottingham Forest must target an out-and-out fullback with Championship experience.

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