Easy come, easy go…

October 26, 2010

I’m still in a state a shock. No, not about Celtic’s dismal defending against Rangers yesterday, that I expected (and I have a post on that coming!) Instead, I’m shocked that while watching said Old Firm game I received a text message from a mate saying “Shorty’s been sacked!” I know I should never be surprised by anything in football, but I was certainly caught off guard here. I can’t help but feel a little disappointed, too.

For a new squad, in a new division and under a new manager, I’ve thought we’ve been doing alright. A couple of good solid performances at Wolves and Peterborough, as well as the demolition of Yeovil have shown real potential in our squad, and if we’d had a bit more luck we’d be flying high. Perhaps it is because of Short’s previous connection to the club, but I was personally willing to give him the time to provide us with some much needed stability.

There have been a few dissenting voices towards Short from the first day of the season, but I myself thought that given a bit of time, the side would come together. Indeed, the majority of Notts fans I’ve spoken to this season seem to have had the same opinion, so yesterday’s news came as a shock to a few of us.

Even more disappointing though was the news that Dave Kevan had also lost his job. Dave was a vital part in last year’s promotion, holding the playing squad together while we went through manager after manager, and throughout the turmoil at board level. From what I’ve heard he was very popular with the players too, so it does then seem a little harsh for Dave to be removed from his position.

However, I can see the other side of the coin. We clearly have a highly ambitious chairman, who has the best interests of Notts County at heart. If he didn’t then he wouldn’t have pumped so much money into our beloved club, sold a business for the sole purpose of adding extra funds to the club’s budget, or bought Nottingham Rugby, for that matter. It seems he’s looking to protect that investment, and rather than let too much time slide by, he’s made the decision quickly. Ultimately, this suggests he believes he made a mistake in appointing Short in the first place.

Many of us can make a defence for Short, beginning with just how unlucky we have been under him. So many games we’ve dominated, playing good football in the process, but just unable to take our chances. If we’d scored a second against Colchester the game was in the bag. Sheffield Wednesday were there for the taking as well, and if we’d taken one of our many chances in the first half we could easily have gone on and scored two or three. That’s just to name two matches. However, football is a results business, and “what ifs” ultimately don’t win points.

As a fan I have to trust the chairman’s judgement, something which I’m certainly prepared to do. Now we have heard that the new man “will be an experienced head”. A wise decision I believe, but it has to be the right appointment. I’m not convinced by many of the names I have heard mentioned so far, but I’d suggest there is somebody already lined up. I believe Kevan lost his job because most managers these days expect to be able to bring in their own back room team, or at least an assistant manager. I just can’t see any other explanation, so if you have one please feel free to enlighten me.

So now we have to ask just who is next? I’ve heard a few people suggest Paul Hart, but I’m not convinced that would be the right move. Peter Reid would be a strange one for me too, and some of the other names in the mix are just ‘pie in the sky’. Gordon Strachan? Phil Brown? Never going to happen. I think Paul Ince would be a decent shout, as would Alan Pardew. An outside bet for me would be someone like Micky Adams, who has Port Vale flying in League Two, and who has experience in all four divisions. However, I’m not convinced he’s a big enough name for Ray Trew’s ambitions, so perhaps I should raise mine accordingly. In that case I’d go for Alan Curbishley, but I just couldn’t that happening (see above ‘pie in the sky’ statement!)

Ultimately I’ll back whoever comes into the club. What we need is a manager who will come in and tighten the defence up, and demand more from our front players. We need to turn these good performances into victories, and as much as I accept that Steve Cotterill is ancient history at Notts, I can’t help but think if he’d been in charge we’d have at least six extra points thanks to his demands of the players.

All I would personally ask is that Tony Mowbray gets nowhere near the Meadow Lane hotseat, and I hope Middlesbrough hurry up and appoint him. Nine months of Mowbray as a manager of your team is enough to provide a major dose of the blues to even the most optimistic supporter. For it to happen to both of my clubs within twelve months may see me off to the doctor for a course of valium!

If you need convincing otherwise, YouTube has dozens of examples of Celtic’s dismal performances last season. Get some popcorn and settle down for a true horror show. Just make sure you tell me first so I can hide behind the couch…

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Well, our pleading has been in vain. I think every single Notts County fan in the world wanted to see Steve Cotterill sign on the dotted line and lead us into the new season. I know I did. However, it clearly was not meant to be.

Now I can understand Cotterill wanting a little time to make his mind up. Indeed, he’d been out of the game for a little while before he got the Notts job, which clearly put his name back on the map. It is a testament to just how well he has done since returning to the game that so many clubs were apparently interested in his services. However, I can’t help but feel a little ‘strung along’ by his antics the last couple of weeks.

By constantly requesting ‘more time’ from Mr Trew and co, it seems like Cotterill was trying to give himself a back up in case the Portsmouth job did not come his way, but that is very disappointing. Let’s be honest here, I was desperate for him to stay, absolutely desperate. However, I was getting sick of him stalling, so in the end I’m glad Mr Trew made the decision for him.

Now we have to wonder who is lined up as a replacement. I’m certain that the club have not been sat on their hands for the last few weeks, and the longer Cotterill has played for time, the more this day will have been expected. Now who do I want for manager? I’ve heard several names mentioned. Indeed, the main one I’ve heard is Paul Ince, who wouldn’t be a terrible appointment.

However, there are many others out there. Alan Curbishley is still out of work. Alan Pardew is rumoured to be on a tightrope down at Southampton, and Chris Coleman is currently out of work, too. As much as I’m surprised at myself saying this, even Tony Mowbray would be interesting. There are many good quality managers out there and I’m confident that whoever Ray Trew appoints will be a success.

Just please don’t let that appointment be John Barnes.

Again, apologies for the delay on this post. My time last week was spent researching for my Asian Champions League commentary, and although I was following the Notts news closely, I never quite got a chance to blog on it.

Like most Notts fans, I was absolutely delighted by the news that we have avoided administration. Even though I have a contact close to Trew, when the news broke we were as much as £6m in debt I was fearing the worst. However, last week’s news really did bring a smile to my face, and I was also greatly heartened by the appointment of Steve Cotterill. Although Cotterill has been out of the game for a couple of years, he has pedigree at this level, having earned promotion with Cheltenham, and already I’ve been impressed by his enthusiasm.

The best thing about this appointment is that it allows Dave Kevan to go back to his number two role, something he was adamant he wanted to do, and also provides the squad with a real lift. The effects of this lift were there to see for us on Saturday, and the 5-0 victory over Hereford was greatly deserved.

Even without Hughes we never looked in danger of getting beaten, and this spirit should galvanise us for the rest of the season. It is of great credit to the players and the coaching staff that Notts are in the position we are despite the troubles of the season, and now I am extremely hopeful that Cotterill will see us over the finish line.

With up to five games in hand on some of the clubs around us, plus most of the sides around us still to come to Meadow Lane (Rochdale, Bournemouth, Bury, Rotherham and Chesterfield are the ones that stand out) we’ve got a hell of a chance at automatic promotion.

I’m also going to take this opportunity to talk again about Ray Trew. Despite a few ridiculous comments I’ve read on the Nottingham Evening Post site, I feel Trew deserves real credit for his stance. His actions not only benefit the club on the pitch as we don’t lose the 10 points, but they benefit the businesses who have supported us in the past.

I’m personally pleased that a deal with the rugby club has been reached, despite the potential damage to our pitch, too. The last thing I wanted were for the actions of Notts to kill off Nottingham Rugby Club, so the news that the Green and Whites will share Meadow Lane is good news all round. Not only does it settle one of Notts’ many debts, but it also allows the rugby club to build for the future.

I also read a few comments criticising the fact we will undoubtedly sell off some of the top-earners in the Summer, in particularly Kasper Schmeichel. Depending on what paper you read, Kasper is on up to £18k a week, and despite how disappointed we will be to lose him, that his just not sustainable at League 2, or even League 1 level. Indeed, £18k is probably the entire wage-budget at many clubs in this division, so to spend it one player is quite simply frightening.

I’d suggest we just enjoy having him at the club until the summer, hopefully thank him for his part in achieving promotion, and then wish him all the best for the rest of his career.

However, fingers crossed that Cotterill will be able to keep the likes of Hughes and Davies with promotion, and the promise of stability. But I’m not going to get ahead of myself, we have to win promotion first. Instead, I’d like to wish Cotterill all the best in his new job, and get right behind the boys.

Hopefully, we can roar the team up the league, starting against Macclesfield tomorrow night. Once again, I’ll see you on the Kop.

So that’s it then. Sven Goran Eriksson has left Notts County following Ray Trew’s acquisition of the club on Friday, waiving his right to £2.4m in the process. What has been the most controversial period in our club’s history has come to an end, and with it our Premiership dream, just a little over 6 months after it began.

In the cold light of day, the whole sorry scenario was little short of an elaborate scam. The ‘billions of pounds’ that the so-called group were to invest were not there, and in all reality, never were going to be there. It seems that the players were lied to, Sven was lied to, and most importantly of all, the fans were lied to.

There are all kinds of issues here to asses, and one of the most important ones must be the ‘fit and proper persons’ test that the Football League require all club owners to pass. Now we all know it was difficult for the owners to get the takeover ratified, but I’d suggest the Football League need to cut red tape, and representatives need to be involved at the beginning of takeover deals. This way, new owners would be forced to show their hand right at the beginning of the takeover process, but at the same time would hopefully ensure that no more clubs are thrown to the wolves. The current system seems to allow too much to go the way of chance, and even if the Football League is suspicious, the time window ratification requires can leave many clubs in limbo.

Now Sven has left the club, his first instinct has been to talk to the journalist who has been most keen to unravel the mess at Meadow Lane, a man who had previously irked him, The Guardian’s Matt Scott. In this interview, Scott has suggested that Eriksson leaves Notts County with his reputation damaged. Personally, I disagree. Sven’s reputation took a battering after his time with England, but at Notts he has been a gentleman. He could have walked away several times, but chose not to. He had the right to a multi-million pound pay-off, which he waived. And most importantly of all, he genuinely cared about the football club. His only fault was being too trusting, but on the face of it, who wouldn’t want the chance to transform a small club into European contenders. Indeed, as fans how many of us dream of a Euro Millions win and the opportunity to do just that?

Peter Trembling has also come under fire, and his acumen as a businessman is being questioned. I’d suggest he was simply duped by a friend he had known for ’10 years’ (Nathan Willet) and because of his past relationship, he naïvely believed a friend’s word. I’d like to believe there was no malicious undercurrent in his intentions, something which is backed up by his reported £500,000 loss from his venture.

According to Trembling, Munto invested just £50,000 in their time at the club. However, they had promised to pay the players wages (which were ‘vastly over’ the 60% of the club’s turn-over wage cap installed by the Football League). It seems the only way the club could pay these wages were to stop paying bills, and by using the club’s assets. It is little wonder then that we find ourselves with £4m worth of debt.

But in this ultra-capitalist era of English football, Notts are not alone in the financial wilderness. Indeed, I’ll go into finances in more detail in one of my next entries. However, we should be thankful for the investment we have received this week.

I’m lucky enough to have a contact close to the new owner Ray Trew, and feel vastly reassured by his influence. Indeed, he is an ambitious man, who has his sights set on the Championship in three years, and part of that plan involves promotion this year. I’m also of the understanding that providing his accountants don’t discover too much more debt (ie the debt is under £5m) the club will avoid administration, something which should be music to our ears.

Indeed, even the involvement of Jim Rodwell, a man previously connected with Boston United, does not concern me. The man is involved solely as a mouth-piece for Trew, who is notoriously camera shy. Rodwell has no real power, and as such, his previous experiences are irrelevent.

All-in-all, I’m optimistic that come May we’ll still be celebrating promotion. However, we’ll also have a club built on stable ground, away from the quick sand base Munto left behind. Hopefully, the boys will welcome the new owners to the club with a performance against Fulham tomorrow.

A fitting way to end Sven’s time with us, and who knows, the possibility of a place in the sixth round of the Cup.

“Wembley, Wembley…”

The rollercoaster ride that is supporting Notts County has taken another vicious turn, and once again we’ve got a few more hundred column inches in the press. For all the flaws that come with Munto Finance and this summer’s takeover, it is now obvious that we owe the fact we still exist to Peter Trembling and his associates.

I will admit to having a few concerns in previous weeks. Indeed, I was particularly vocal in my criticism on this very blog when the decision was taken to sack Charlie McParland. However, before they arrived there’s no doubt we were in a mess.

In a true testament to the horrendous predicament we found ourselves in pre-takeover, the Guardian yesterday announced that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs had served us with a winding-up order over ‘a six-figure sum’. Without the takeover, it is quite feasible that we would have been out of business come the new year. That very thought chills me to the core.

However, like most events at Meadow Lane since the takeover occurred, it seems the truth has been somewhat bent in the media. My understanding of the issue from official sources is the winding up order has been issued to Blenheim 1862, the parent company of the club. However, despite reports to the contrary, Munto Finance have now paid the bill. The High Court date of the 18th November is effectively a charade, where the court will acknowledge the payment and dismiss the winding-up order.

After months of looking for flaws in the takeover, this will be further disappointment to the Guardian newspaper. (I sense a tangent coming on) Generally, I’m a big fan of the Guardian. I think it’s a thoroughly decent paper that sticks to the essence of journalism, and in a time where entertainment shows are more important in the eyes of the public than war or famine, it is a vital cog in the British press. I genuinely believe that a newspapers primary role is inform the public of the major issues of the world, and prevent “the tyranny of government”, not to report the latest X Factor bust-up, and the Guardian is a major player in that area. However, it would seem they have made a beeline for Notts County Football Club, and it is a little infuriating to say the least. This has included erroneous stories regarding the actual takeover, Sven’s future at the club and now this HMRC bill.

However, enough about the paper, and back to my main point.

Without this takeover, I’m pretty certain we’d all be back on the streets, cap in one hand, bucket in another, asking for the help of the good people of Nottingham.

(I feel another tangent in the not-too-distant future)

It would seem that a certain section of the other side of the city won’t ever let us forget the £3 they once put in a bucket to help us. Thanks for that, my Red friends. We do appreciate it. However, by continually reminding us that you helped out, I get the impression some of you are the type of people who would not think twice about using the line “but I once lent you fiver in 1974. You owe me,” to even their best friends when trying to get what they want in 2009. I’ve encountered a few of those in the past. Most of whom have forgotten about 1968,  a certain incident involving the Main Stand at Forest, and the help provided by Notts County FC. Your donations, as much as we appreciate them, have merely returned the favour. So thank you, for the 12,357th time, thank you. What else do you want from us in return? Our kidneys maybe?

(Tangent over)

However, thanks to the good people whose vision is to see Notts County competing on the European scene, we are free to enjoy the future and the challenges it will bring, rather than another desperate fight for survival, like the one we endured just a few short years ago.

I hope my fellow ‘pies will join me in raising a glass to that.

So another week at Meadow Lane is over, and we’re all looking forward to the game against Shrewsbury tomorrow. But like most weeks following Munto Finance’s takeover, we’ve barely been out of the news.

Firstly, we had the confirmation of new manager Hans Backe, who will watch tomorrow’s game from the stands. Secondly, Sol Campbell brings the PFA into his fight with the club over a ‘gagging order’ (I’m sure this isn’t the first time Sol Campbell’s name has featured with the word ‘gag’ in the same sentence, but I digress…) and Peter Trembling has continued to outline his future plans for the club. I’ve described following this club as a rollercoaster in the past, and we seem to be picking up pace.

Sol Campbell’s refusal to sign the confidentiality agreement between him and the club threatens the remainder of his very career. After walking out on a five-year contract after a month, part of me can’t believe the cheek of the man. However, I have a bit of an ethical dilemma. I’m a firm believer in ‘freedom of speech’, so despite my outrage at the disdain he treated us Notts fans with, I have a great deal of sympathy with his argument, and believe he should be allowed to have his say.

I appreciate that in some businesses a confidentiality agreement is commonplace. However, football isn’t just any old business, and I have to admit to being intrigued as to his official reason for leaving. Whatever it is, I can only imagine it is about the club’s owners and the finances within the club. However, I would hope that the FA’s recent ratification of the takeover should dissolve any fears the club have of Campbell’s knowledge.

The other issue I have here is more long-term. What is to say these issues with Campbell won’t happen again with another top player further down the line? Will Campbell’s experience stop other players from signing for us? It isn’t quite a precedent, as there was a similar issue with Bobo Balde at Celtic, only he refused to leave, but it definitely isn’t commonplace. Obviously, we’ll only get the answers to my questions when we come to them, but it leaves a little doubt in my mind.

However, after reading the NEP’s interview with Peter Trembling, the doubt turns back into excitement. Trembling clearly believes that the club’s ambitions are attainable, and although we can’t see massive investment in the playing squad whilst we are in League 2, he does acknowledge the eventual target is to be challenging for the top 4 in the Premier League. I can’t help but pinch myself at that statement, considering we have almost lost our football league status in the last couple of seasons. Hell, I was at Meadow Lane against Bury in 2006, when we were minutes away from relegation! Now, the club are genuinely talking about competing for Champions League positions!

However, some of us fans (myself included) do need bringing back to Earth a little. We need to get to the big time first, which is where the new gaffer comes in.

Sven believes that Hans Backe is the man to get us there, and that’s good enough for me. Backe has already said he loves to play attractive, attacking football, which is music to my ears. Hopefully, that’ll start tomorrow with a good win against Shrewsbury and a place in the top 3 again come Final Score.

I hope we can welcome him with the loudest rendition of the ‘Wheelbarrow Song’ for many a year, and if just a few of you have the same level of excitement that I do, the atmosphere will be electric. And I can’t wait.

See you on the Kop.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m still grinning at the two pieces of good news we’ve had this week.

First, Sven confirmed he was turning down the advances of his country to continue his new romance with the ‘Pies, and then the FA confirmed Munto Finance had finally passed the ‘Fit and Proper Persons’ test. Fantastic for us all, but now it’s back to business.

Sven is on the hunt for the ‘right man’ to take the club forward, but like most things at Notts these days, his cards are being kept very close to his chest. So who is the right man for the job?

In my opinion, (and it purely is my opinion) Peter Taylor is the best candidate out there. Now many people are expecting a ‘marquee’ signing, a huge name manager to come in and catapault us up the leagues. I have to question the realism of this, and indeed, even if it is the right thing for the club?

In our current position, I think the most important aspect of the new man’s CV should be ‘does he have lower league experience’? If the answer to that question is no, then he should be eliminated from the search.

A manager like Taylor, who is well schooled in the bottom tiers, is aware of the other teams around us, and the better quality players. If you couple that with Sven’s contacts, we should be able to sign some good youngsters from Premier League clubs and develop a good mix going forward. And let’s be honest here, we’ve already got a decent little squad thanks to Charlie’s efforts over the summer.

The other advantage of a manager such as Taylor is he also has some experience in the Premier League and the Championship, as well as his time with the England kids.

I have seen the Evening Post have announced Taylor has been ruled out, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Other options for me are Paul Jewell and Steve Coppell, but I’m unsure as to just how realistic an appointment Coppell will be.

However, the likes of Roberto Mancini for me are miles wide of the mark, and I’d struggle to see how he would benefit a lower division club such as ourselves.

Then again, if we wait another week I’m sure Roy Keane will become available. Now there’s a possibility…