Apologies in advance, I feel a rant coming on as my nerves have been jangling for weeks now over the future of Notts County, and the facade of the Munto Finance era. Fortunately, it looks like the club has been rescued after Ray Trew’s investment, although our grand plan has to be culled.

Whilst some of us feel disappointed, angry or just plain broken-hearted over the whole affair, most of us are at least relieved that the club will live on. But Notts are by no way unique in their plight, and it is only a matter of time before one of the 92 clubs is officially wound up. But just how has it got so bad?

Well, the birth of the Premier League brought about a new era, with a bold ambition of becoming the ‘greatest league in the world’. Some would argue the aim was achieved (coincidentally, I wouldn’t. La Liga all day for me, but I can see the merits of both arguments) but at what price? The Premier League was to have more television coverage than ever before, more cameras, and ultimately, more money. And with it, the game officially moved from a sport into a business.

Now I’ve argued with people for years that football is more than a business. Indeed, I truly believe in the romance of the game. The idea that a tiny club can climb the leagues and survive with the big boys, or maybe sneak a cup win here or there, that fans of every club will one day have their day in the sun. Fortunately, there are some that agree with me. Others call me naïve or an idealist at best, or something I’ll not publish in a family friendly blog at worst.

I’ve had rants before about football ‘no longer being the game of the people’. Ticket prices in this country are getting to the point where they are simply disgusting, but that’s true in most sports. Indeed, I was quoted £120 for a Six Nations ticket recently, so it isn’t football alone. But now, the clubs themselves are truly suffering, and the recent court cases truly illustrate that.

Now the big issue here is that clubs are riddled with debt. Indeed, Manchester United, the biggest club on Earth, have a total debt of £716m. This is quite simply because when the Glazers bought United, they were able to buy them with borrowed money, which was financed against the club. As a result, the most profitable club of them all is hemorrhaging money. It is little wonder that United fans are so unhappy.

And then there is Liverpool. A club like United, purchased by American owners. Greedy American owners, at that. Another great institution of the English game, saddled with horrendous debt. Clubs like these though will never go under because there will always be somebody who wants to own them. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case with the less fashionable clubs.

Indeed, as well as Notts, Portsmouth, Southend and Cardiff are all finding themselves going through her majesty’s courts at the moment, and Crystal Palace may find themselves heading that way in the not-too-distant future. Now I hope that these clubs are rescued, I really do, as the last thing I want is for any club to go out of business. But we need to stand back and look at the game, and take off the rose-tinted specs Sky have so kindly given us.

I know this next sentence will get pelters but I really don’t care, so here goes. Platini is right. There, I said it. (Although if Platini was consistent then I think all of us would have more respect for him. What about Real Madrid’s debt, for example? But that’s for another time, let’s worry about English football for now.) I would actually support sanctions against clubs who spend too much of their annual turnover. Platini has suggested an idea that clubs should be banned from European football if they overspend. It is certainly worth considering if applied consistently.

I’d also suggest that the Football League and Premier League work together to drive debts down. It is fair to say that now the only way clubs can succeed is if they have a ‘sugar daddy’, especially if you think about small clubs. Gone are the days when clubs could work their way up the leagues on footballing ability alone. And this in itself is sad.

Indeed, we have managers in today’s game who would rather finish 3rd or 4th than win the FA Cup. I find this preposterous, but it is of course the entry into the Champions League and all it’s riches. But the ownership here has to be questioned. The Football League, Premier League and the FA need to ask potential owners what their intentions are when they come into the game. Are they there to make money (the Glazers) or do they wish to stabilise clubs and win trophies? Owners who come in with the intention of making cash, and without any real interest in the game should not be able to buy football clubs. Indeed, had there been a better ownership system, Manchester United would never have been bought. I do like to contrast United and Liverpool with Aston Villa, who have a fabulous owner. But I digress.

In summary, this ultra-capitalist era of English football will undoubtedly have casualties, but the powers-that-be need to act to minimise these casualties. It is time for a change in ethos, a time to ensure the future of the game, and a time for football to become a sport again, and not solely a cash-cow. In the process, they might attract the working man back to the ground, and stop the steady switch of the man in the street to becoming an ‘egg chaser’.

I never want to see my club in court again. I’m sure fans of Pompey, Cardiff, Southend and Palace feel the same way. We need action to ensure that’s the case.

As always, I’d appreciate your feedback.

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…”

Good news for Notts fans at last. In a story I have been personally close to (you won’t believe how difficult it’s been to keep this quiet for a fortnight!) Notts County are set to be taken over by former Lincoln City chairman Ray Trew.

The deal is believed to have cost Mr Trew just a pound, and the investment will clear all the club’s debts.

It would appear that Mr Trew is in the club for the long term. The 55 year-old, who is based in Lincoln, released the following statement.

“I know fans have been hoping for a miracle investor who will spend an astronomical amount of money for a shortcut into the Premier League. Our vision is not for the short term but for the long term. Notts County Football Club is in a difficult financial position. We are here to make sure that in the short term the situation is resolved to provide a platform for the club to move forwards in the long term.”

In other words, the priority of the club is no longer the Premiership. Instead, the chairman wants to ensure we have a club to support in 2, 5 and 10 years time.

My source close to Mr Trew suggests that the quotes attributed to him in the Times are untrue. However, we are inevitably going to see speculation on the future again of Sven Goran Eriksson. Although I do not have any definitive proof, my instinct suggests Sven will leave the club, and in the Summer we may lose our big earners such as Kasper Schmeichel and Lee Hughes. That being said, there’s a fair chance they will leave us a division higher than we are now.

Now as fans we may have to rein our ambitions in, but it at least looks like our debts of approximately £4m will be cleared, and the future of our club secured. And if we achieve our aim of promotion, we’ll at least have League One football at Meadow Lane.

A consolation prize, maybe, but our club exists. Whilst Munto Finance burns, Notts County FC lives on. And that, my friends, is far more important than ‘chasing the dragon’ of the Premiership.

Chin, chin.

Well, I will concede I feared the worst. Many of you will have noticed my deafening silence over the last few weeks of this blog, mainly because the only interest I had was about the future of Notts County. Now it would appear that future has been secured following Peter Trembling’s announcement yesterday.

Now I’m not going to get carried away here. I’ve done that before, when I bought into the Munto Finance fairytale, the dream of the Premier League and (whisper this quietly as it now seems so ridiculous, the Champions League) and I’m not prepared to allow the same thing to happen again.

However, I’m optimistic by what I hear. If HMRC are happy, that’s a massive step as it keeps out of Court. Despite the breaking news of us having 28 days to pay £324,000, it would appear that this new deal truly has saved us. I’m also pleased to see that the anonyimity of the investors is only dependent on the ‘due dilligence’ period being completed. Once this is over, it would seem the investors will reveal themselves. However, as we don’t know exactly how much this group are investing, the future of Sven Goran-Eriksson will still be questioned.

Now lets be honest here. The desire I have to see us climb the leagues is a long way behind my desire for the club to exist, so if the investment is only enough to keep us on an even keel which leads to Sven walking, so be it. However, with only a few days left before the close of the transfer window, I’m hopeful we can keep our squad together at the very least.

Lee Hughes is almost unstoppable at the moment, and his fitness is paramount to our success. If we can win our three games in hand on most sides around us, we should find ourselves back in that top 3.

And with news on a new manager to follow ‘in days’, with that manager likely to be Peter Taylor,  things at last seem to be looking up for Notts. Now, we have our FA CUp replay to look forward to, and a few more quid to bring in, especially if the game is picked up by the TV cameras, we really are pushing in the right direction.

Now lets all hope Sven has a few more tricks up his sleeve, and we have a smoother 2010 than 2009, which culminates in a promotion party come May. If we can keep playing like we did at Dagenham, we’ll go a long way towards doing that.

Hope to see you on the Kop.

"Normally they buy me a drink first..." Sol gets up close (photo: Daily Mail)

 

Now for too long I have remained quiet on the issue of Notts County, this is for a number of reasons (well, two). First of all, Mike has firmly nailed his colours to the County mast, and writes about County with such eloquence and passion that I don’t feel I could contribute anything worth reading. Secondly, I find it difficult to write about because, quite frankly, I don’t care that much about it.

But now I feel that I, as a blogger, must weigh in with my own opinion and, for what it’s worth, I’d like to put forward a potential plan of action that I think will solve all the problems over at Meadow Lane.

Leaving all joking aside, I do think that what is happening to County is an absolute disgrace. It’s like a footballing Agatha Christie novel over there. Let’s consider the cast:

1)      Qadbak Investments – British Virgin Islands based, failed in a bid to buy BMW Sauber. Apparently representing the interests of the Shafi family, initially denied by Anwar Shafi, but then a further press release was issued which indicated that the Shafi family and the Hyat family WERE involved with Qadbak and Notts County (Jesus).

2)      Sol Campbell – Former England defender, left club after one game, presumably not happy that he’d been skinned by most of the Morcombe front line.

3)      Sven-Goran Eriksson – Former England coach, has allegedly demanded upfront payment of his contract from Swiss Commodity Holding, a newly formed Zurich registered company.

4)      Peter Trembling – Notts County Chairman and former Munto Finance cheerleader, last seen stood outside Meadow Lane, playing a tin whistle, begging for money (OK, I made that up)

This was (and is) clearly a ridiculous state of affairs, and shouldn’t have been allowed to get as far as it did. The Football League should have insisted on a full and public exposure of their accounts and structure before even being allowed to look at an English club.  I genuinely don’t understand the secrecy, I mean, are you telling me that Abramovich doesn’t have at least ONE skeleton in his walk- in closet? He probably does, but that doesn’t stop him making appearances at Stamford Bridge.

Anyway, with Trembling scouring the globe looking for investment, I’d like to suggest something that will really help the County cause.

I think they should tarmac over their pitch and use it as an overspill car park for fans travelling to The City Ground. Car Parking space is at a premium around there and they could make an absolute fortune.  I suggest that County play their games over at the Forest Fields Recreational Area, there’s some decent sized pitches over there and also it’s got quite good public transport links, so Lee Hughes would be OK getting home after matches.

*sits back and chuckles*

Afternoon all, hope you had a good Christmas and New Year. Mine was relatively quiet and stress-free. A pity the same can’t be said about Notts County, as in the fifth day of this new decade, the club has been issued with yet another winding up order.

Normally, I try to be positive about this kind of news. The club are making the right kind of noises about the bill being paid ‘with plenty of time’ to spare, and Mr Trembling assures us there is nothing to worry about. We’ve also discovered today that the Football League have hit us with a transfer embargo while the finances are resolved, which again I’d not have worried about previously due to the depth of the squad. But right now, my mood is changing.

This petition has been served to the club’s parent company, Blenheim 1862 Limited, and is once again over unpaid taxes. But this does make me think that the club is being run by a bunch of amateurs. How can we possibly have two winding up orders in three months? And why, when the mega-rich backers came in, did they not pay these bills off straight away? If money ‘was no object’ as was claimed, was the club’s first objective not to wipe all debts? Surely viewing the books should be in the mind of any investor?

Trembling at least tells us he was aware of the petition. However, I’m getting sick of hearing from him. I’m now genuinely worried that beyond this season, my beloved Notts County will have gone out of business, all because the faceless board were not prepared to show us true transparency. With that transparency, the Football League and the media would not have been all over us like a fat kid in a cake shop, and we’d have been able to get along with the important stuff…earning promotion.

As it is, we still sit here without a manager, and as one of the most inconsistent teams in the league. I was looking forward to January, adding a couple more faces to the squad to boost our promotion push. However, this latest news may put off potential managers, who may be worried about what may happen in the future.

Hans Backe left the club over ‘broken promises’. I think there is a segment of our support who feel promises to us have been broken as well. Now, we need to see this bill paid quickly, and we need assurances from the board that any debts are covered. We also need to see a manager come in who can lift the squad and earn us that promotion we so desperately desire.

The next few weeks will tell us everything about Notts County. I just hope that come March, we still have a club to support.

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.