February 13, 2010
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.
December 15, 2009
Wow. After a prolonged break from my blog, the story I have to come back to is a ‘biggie’. Suddenly, the loss of our unbeaten home record just doesn’t quite cut it.
Munto Finance, the group responsible for changing the face of Notts County, have decided they’d rather remain anonymous than stay involved in English football, and pulled the plug. Then, just a few days later, Hans Backe has walked out on the club, stating ‘promises have been broken’.
Is it just me, or is there a feeling of deja vu here? Didn’t Sol Campbell leave us for that same reason? Sadly, I feel Sven will be next out the door. The club now appears to be fighting for its very existence, amid reports that there is only have enough money to pay the players for December and January.
If you believe the Guardian, which perhaps more of us should have done a few weeks back, then Eriksson is currently embroiled in a fight with the club (or the ex owners) for money which has not been paid to him. This may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and Notts County without Sven is a much worse proposition.
Notts are now crying out for investment, and at least with Sven on board that investment is feasible. However, even if he stays, the club craves some kind of stability. It certainly feels like Munto were a Trojan Horse, and I have to wonder if their finances were holed up in Dubai. After all, they have also pulled out of their bid to buy the BMW Formula One team, which gives me the impression that their cupboard is bare.
Sven is at least a widely recognised face, and if he commits himself to the club I am hopeful investment will follow. That being said, I fully expect him to leave. If he does leave, the squad will be dismantled possibly even as early as January, and the top players will have to be sold. Without Munto’s backing, I have to wonder how Kasper Schmeichel’s weekly wage of allegedly £12,000 is sustainable in League 2. Kasper is at least good enough to play in the Championship, and that is probably where he will find himself.
There will undoubtedly be clubs in League One with a need for a proven goalscorer, and Lee Hughes will be on their radar. Ben Davies may be another option, and the list goes on.
Without wishing to be melodramatic, it appears the club’s future is in the balance. What is needed then is for us as supporters to pull in the right direction. Yes, we are all disappointed that the dream has died after less than six months, but I do have to wonder just how many of us are genuinely surprised? The most important thing is we have a club to support, and once again, the club really needs us.
Lets get ourselves out in numbers and show the boys we’re behind them, whether we win, lose or draw.
The club may be the laughing-stock of the English game, but they are our laughing-stock. Hell, we’ve been a laughing-stock since I’ve been going to the ‘Lane! Our home record over the last few years is enough to make your eyes water, and we’ve had more spankings than Max Moseley. Yes, I’m going off on a tangent, but my point is we’ve had some atrocious teams. Even if we lose two or three players in the coming weeks, we’ll still be better off than the Gudjon Thordarson side!
Does have to make you wonder about the next managerial shortlist though, I reckon I’m in with a shout.
November 10, 2009
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?
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.
October 30, 2009
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.
October 27, 2009
So the decision has just about been made then. Sven Goran-Eriksson had built up a shortlist of managers, but once Backe’s name appeared the decision seemed to be inevitable, and the club are set to unveil him at 1630 tonight. However, is this a good appointment, or a typical case of ‘jobs for the boys’?
Many doubters appear to be unhappy as Backe has followed Sven around for the last few years, working as his assistant both at Manchester City and with the Mexico national side. There have also been doubts about his lack of knowledge in the lower tiers of the English game, the very reason I myself favoured the appointment of Peter Taylor.
That being said, I think it would be naive to doubt Backe’s credentials. Over the course of his career, Backe has won the Danish title 4 times with Aalborg and FC Copenhagen, the Danish Super Cup twice, and the Danish equivalent to the FA Cup once.
As well as this, he has also won the Scandanavian Royal League, a competition featuring the top 4 teams of the Scanadanavian monarchy nations (Sweden, Denmark and Norway).
Along with his assistant manager experience at Mexico and Manchester City, and his time at Salzburg, it is fair to say that Backe certainly has the tools to take the club forward.
The appointment has further advantages with his relationship with Sven. This will hopefully ensure the two maintain a smooth working relationship, which is certainly advantageous to the club. This will allow them to work together to sign the best possible players, and also to bring youngsters through to the first team.
My biggest concern was his lack of knowledge of the English game. However, it is fair to say that Sven has been pretty thorough during his time in England, and with a good solid British backroom, I’d like to think those fears are unfounded.
Since Munto invested, we have been advised that the club’s scouting network has considerably improved, and this will also help Backe to progress.
I am confident the place where he will exceed though is on the training field, and he should hopefully tighten us up defensively whilst continuing to play great football. He also has the benefit of managing at a higher level, and so playing in League One and the Championship (providing we get there…) will not daunt him. I for one would be unhappy if promotion meant we would have to constantly change manager, as at this time the thing we need most is a degree of continuity.
To finish then, I’d just like to welcome Mr Backe to the rollercoaster that is Notts County. I hope you enjoy the ride.
We certainly are!
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.
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…
Well now, there are quite a few journalists with egg on their faces today. Despite all their assurances that Sven was ‘destined’ to leave Notts County for the Swedish national job, he turned them down to concentrate on his role as Director of Football at Meadow Lane.
I for one, am delighted that this is the case, but it has seriously made me question the standard of sports writers in this country. Some journalists who claimed Sven was about to pack his bags didn’t even bother finding a quote, and yet if they had spoken to the club they’d have discovered Eriksson had already turned down ‘more than 20’ jobs since he took on the role. Now even if I’d done that at University I’d have been slated, let alone working as a paid journalist!
But this is nothing new for Notts supporters. For weeks now, the Guardian have been publishing stories attacking the Notts ownership, claiming that the club will fail in the ratification attempt. They are also keen to know who owns the club, when the important issue should be ‘who owns any club’? Do we actually know who owns every club in the league? I mean 100% ownership, not just the ‘face’ of the club?
I’m also quite alarmed at just how negative the press have been towards the club in general since Munto’s takeover. Here is a small club with ambition, and yet the press seem determined to drag the club through the muck. If it was another League 2 club in our position, take Lincoln City for example, I’d be delighted for them, as it’s a chance for a club to break the status quo. What puzzles me is on one hand journalists complain about a ‘lack of competition within the Premier League’, and the domination of the ‘Big 4’, and yet when clubs demonstrate any level of ambition the press seek to destroy them (I’m clearly talking about Manchester City here, before you think I’m jumping the gun on Notts)
However, if Notts do achieve promotion this media glare is inevitably going to continue, so I think we’re all just going to have to accept it.
Fortunately however, the club’s fans seem to be united in their support, and the Football League’s decision yesterday to announce that the club’s backers have passed the ‘Fit and Proper Persons’ test is fantastic news, and league ratification is now only a few days away.
Now we can all look forward to the new manager’s appointment, safe in the knowledge that we’ve finally been accepted by the league and ‘future Notts County legend’ Sven is right behind our little ‘project’.
And that, my friends, is good news indeed.