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.
February 11, 2010
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.
January 27, 2010
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.
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.
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.