The anxiety is mounting at Meadow Lane. It’s not just the slide down the table due to recent, frustrating, and probably undeserved defeats, that is causing concern, but the longer term worries surrounding the future of two of the club’s prized assets.
Lee Hughes missed the Magpies’ league defeat at Carlisle United last weekend following unsuccessful attempts to ease his hip injury with anti-inflammatory tablets.
The player is due to see a consultant this week, and Notts manager Craig Short has admitted that the club may resort to giving him painkilling injections so that he can play. If these fail, then Hughes will need an operation, ruling him out for a huge chunk of the season and seriously denting the club’s League One ambitions this season.
Hughes was County’s leading goalscorer last season, but injury has meant he has only started six of the 11 league games that Notts have played in the current campaign. Teammate Ben Davies explained the extent of his fellow player’s plight: “He has really been struggling with it and hasn't been able to train. It's reached the point where every time he tries to train he breaks down. I don't think he has played a game this season where he hasn't been struggling.”
He emphasised the value the team places on Hughes’ presence when he added: “He's such an important player for us, because when he plays he scores goals, and we really miss him when he's not playing. We've all got our fingers crossed it goes well for him with the consultant and he does not need an operation."
There are also fears for the future of Davies himself, albeit for very different reasons. After scoring a career-best 16 goals for County in League Two last season, the midfielder drew the attention of Derby County, and Notts turned down a bid for the player from their Pride Park neighbours in August.
Come the new season, and Davies has continued in his rich vein of form, netting seven goals in 14 games so far this time round, making him the Magpies’ leading scorer.
His manager thinks he will again be of interest to other clubs when the transfer window opens again in January, and left everyone in no doubt about his concerns on the matter when he said: "I'm sure there is still interest in him. I think clubs were waiting to see if he could do it as this level, and he is, comfortably. I fear January. He's a huge asset to the club. He's 29 and he's probably playing the best football of his career.”
However, there is a silver lining to these clouds building up over the black and white half of Nottingham, and the name is Craig Westcarr.
Westcarr is County’s joint-top League One goal scorer this season, along with Davies, with five goals in ten games, and his captain, John Thompson, thinks the forward is in the form of his life at the moment.
Thompson said: "He's been brilliant. I've known him since he was 16 at Forest and he's always had a lot of ability. I have always known what he can do and he's consistently producing his best at the moment. Hopefully he will continue producing good performances. If he does he will score a lot of goals this season."
With Hughes in danger of being sidelined for a considerable time, and Davies a target for other clubs, County may very well come to rely on goals from Westcarr. Let’s hope he produces the first of many at home to Plymouth Argyle on Saturday.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.