“We will be a football league team next season.”

Sheer joy. Sheer, sheer joy. Probably the purest emotion felt at the final whistle on Saturday which brought to a close Notts’ first win in 14 attempts. Seconds after the whistle, Meadow Lane was awash with smiles and heartfelt applause, something sadly lacking for the past few months and my, how those players deserved every second of it. To a man Saturday they were tremendous – heart, passion, desire, fight and that little touch of quality that saw us over the line.

Come 2 pm and the team news, I think a few people expected a bit of a re-shuffle, not a Moniz 9 changer away at Orient re-shuffle, but maybe a couple of different faces brought in after last weeks defeat against Grimsby. However, Nolan made only one changed, bringing in Haydn Hollis for the injured Carl Dickinson. Many assumed Thierry Audel would slot into left back but it was the Selston Socrates who deputised at left back and I have to say it worried me; how wrong I (along with plenty more I suspect) was proven to be.

The first half, like most this season, wasn’t the greatest spectacle but Notts looked good in all departments, particularly defensively and Audel in particular a colossus at the heart of the back four; not a header was lost when he was near. Alongside, Haydn Hollis had a tremendous first half; he’d obviously been given a job to do and did it in style; we all know he’s got the attributes to be an excellent defender at this level and he really showed that Saturday; he was strong, imposing and assured on the ball.

Notts’ two big chances came in the last 10 minutes of the half and both fell to Jon Forte. Firstly, Jon Stead played a neat ball through and Forte raced toward goal only to be denied by the legs of the Crawley keeper. Forte should have buried it; give it two weeks, a little bit of confidence and he dinks that over the goalie all day. The second chance was a tricker one, a header whilst pedaling backwards that looped over the bar and onto the roof of the net. Those two near misses gave the whole occasion that feeling most football fans can sense some days; today might not be our day.

Half time came and went and minus a shocker of a penalty from Alan Hardy, not much changed at the start of the second half as Notts continued to look dangerous, generally from set pieces. For most Notts fans this will come as a shock, but the set pieces on Saturday were a million times better than they have been at any time this season and when you’re struggling to put fluid patterns of play together they’re an absolute God send. Rob Milsom and Michael O’Connor more often than not out the ball into great areas and finally Notts looked they’d actually been working on them in training; what a novelty!

What wasn’t a real novelty for the Notts faithful was a key 10 minute period in the second half. It started when Jon Stead nipped the ball away from the Crawley centre half and was unceremoniously body checked, flattened and sent crashing to the turf; yellow card when only really a red was a sufficient punishment. Then, minutes later, Notts came as close as possible to breaking the deadlock when Milsom and Forte went close in the same move but the ball sailed into the Kop. Finally, this mini act in the drama was topped off when the impressive Curtis Thompson was sent off for a second booking after a tug on the advancing Crawley winger. In the heat of the moment, Thompson did what a vast percentage of players would’ve done, however in the cold light of day Notts had numbers to deal with the threat but nonetheless, second yellow; off. Shit. Chance gone. Or so it seemed…

Just 3 minutes later ML was went crazy when Audel’s towering header crashed back off the bar, hit a leg and bounced into the gaping goal. Absolute scenes. Bovril went flying and hope at last adorned the faces of Notts fans. Notts’ lead, hopes and seemingly dreams only last 15 minutes when a thunderbolt from 25 yards cannoned off the underside of Adam Collin’s crossbar and nestled into the back of the net. The dejection on the faces of all in black and white was visible to see; again, shit. Again, chance gone. Again, ‘or so it seemed…’

Even though Notts were down to 10 men, Crawley never really looked like finding a winner. They had decent possession but their midfield was too deep and withdrawn and they lacked any real cutting edge. Lewis Young at right wing back looked their only real danger but he was excellently snuffed out by Hollis and the hard working Adam Campbell. Notts looked like the only team who’d win the game and they duly did when on 89 minutes, Michael O’Connor superbly jinked past 3 defenders, squared to Hollis whose controlled shot was parried by the Crawley keeper into the path of Forte who prodded home form 6 yards out. Again; absolute scenes as ML erupted. Taking a moment to look to the bench, Kevin Nolan was mobbed by all who could get near to him and in that moment it was clear that we have a real, real chance of staying up.

For the first time in months I clapped as the Notts players left the field. I felt an enormous sense of pride after witnessing that performance. They were by no stretch of the imagination a free flowing, creative, attack centred side, but they worked their bollocks off, fought for every scrap and left everything out on the pitch. Nolan has got them right up for the fight and I think they’ll produce. We will be a football league team next season; the future looks bright and finally we have some hope to cling on too. Twinned with this, the fans are back onside. ML has generally been an awful place to watch football for 12/18 months but that tide has turned and the faithful know it has. Nolan must embrace this wave and carry us on it for the remainder of the season.

Although I always have and always will, I fell in love with Notts County all over again on Saturday.


What sort of chairman will Alan Hardy be?

So, there we have it, a new owner and a new manager all within the space of 24 hours. The general consensus on Alan Hardy seems very positive; he speaks with great passion, character and most reassuringly of all, sense. I get the feeling his first managerial appointment, in the shape of the perennially underrated (as a player anyway) Kevin Nolan, hasn’t been received with quite such glee, mainly due to his managerial inexperience twinned with our current league position and ‘form’, but it seems that Nolan does and will have the support of the fanbase because he comes as part of the new regime and as part of change; change we’ve desperately needed. Just for a second imagine if Ray Trew would have appointed Nolan in this situation…
I was thoroughly impressed with both men during their press conferences but one question, from the evergreen Colin Slater no less, and Hardy’s lack of response got me thinking: what type of owner will Hardy be? When asked by Slater, Hardy gave nothing away which, in all fairness, is a clever move because no Notts fan wanted nor needed Hardy to come in yesterday and promise the earth because we’ve been there before and been let down so many times. Press conference at 2. Announcement at 12.
So, what sort of owner will Alan Hardy be? First and foremost, Hardy looks like he will be a very visible figurehead of the club, something we’ve cried out for for a good few years now. For too long now we’ve been rudderless in most areas of the club. Hardy spoke time and again about leadership and, in particular, ‘leadership qualities’. Hardy will try to embody that around the club.
Hearing that he has quickly moved to meet all staff and players at the club before Saturday is a positive sign that people will know who he is and what he expects. I envisage those meetings see Hardy outline his personal and expected ethos, and get across his passion for the club. The hope is that everyone buys into it. At the minute, on the pitch anyway, we’ve got little going for us, so people have to buy into it. Hardy knows the club needs to become united and he will look to be the man to bring all quarters together.
Purely based on his recent tweets and comments, Hardy also seems like a chairman who will listen and actually act upon things worth acting upon. When Slater asked about his conversations with Harry Redknapp, Hardy said he reached out in order to learn – learn about the role of a chairman, learn about the nuances of the various relationships he’ll have to build and keep and learn about the industry he confessed he was a complete newbie to.
Hardy’s been to a fair few games this season and it’s very evident he’s learnt a lot from the fanbase judging by the reduction in ticket prices for the local derby with Mansfield Town. As the owner of the Football Club, he will have some massive decisions to make and some of those decisions will not be met with blanket support, but if fans can see that Hardy has listened and been advised, he’ll have plenty more supporters than doubters.
Fans of football clubs want to be valued and Hardy knows that. Although it’s obviously ‘business speak’, Hardy spoke confidently about the ‘customer journey’ yesterday too without delving into much detail. This is clear evidence that he’s learnt a more about than club than some may assume. The matchday experience at Meadow Lane hasn’t been great for a while now – it’s too expensive – the ground looks tired and empty, and the product on the pitch is poor. As fellow Gerrit Forward blogger Jacob tweeted recently: how hard is it to have a football club that’s a fun place to have a beer on Saturday’s and doesn’t lose all the time? Here here.
What reassures me most about Hardy is that he is realistic. He spoke well about short, medium and long term goals, but never really nailed his black and white flag to any particular mast. He knows and openly appreciates that he has a massive job on his hands and priority number one is survival. Obviously he’ll look to settle the debts that’ll bring us out of the transfer embargo and give us a chance of playing a part in the transfer window this January, but Hardy will do all he can to keep us in League Two.
On top of this, the training ground seems a key issue to sort and by the sounds of it he’s already made steps towards achieving this goal. A similar note was struck with the academy, every Notts fan knows this has been a huge disappointment of the club in recent years and will be a vital part of any success we which to have in the future. Hardy has acknowledged all of these points but above any other he knows that we must stay up. There are no grand plans of the Championship in 5 years and a city wide monorail system; just an admission that we’re in a real fight and he’ll be leading the charge head on and will expect everyone associated with the club to back him.
Overall, the last couple of days have filled me with plenty of optimism. I really hope as many Notts fans as possible get down to Meadow Lane tomorrow, free pie or not, and start the Hardy era off with a real bang. We all know that the team tomorrow have a massive task ahead of them, but with a big, vocal and supportive home crowd behind them, maybe we’ll break the run and see a little bit more optimism fill the club. Maybe we’ll even see our first goal scorer do the chicken dance…


News at Noon (12.25 pm approx)

So 12 o’clock came and then went ever so quickly. Then 12.25 pm  (approx) came and it was confirmed, their for all to see, a sight for sore eyes;

After promising news at noon via Twitter yesterday, Alan Hardy delivered (25 minutes later than scheduled); he had become the Chairman and Owner of Notts County Football Club and in turn everyone connected with the club could breathe and return to sanity again…

Twitter became awash with messages of support, thanks and excitement to overturn the nervy ‘ITS 12.01 AND HE’S NOT SAID ANYTHING YET’ ones. Plenty of likes and retweets later and word became pretty public, the Trew’s were no longer officially in charge of the club (officially being the key word here; it’s feels like they haven’t been in charge for a while now) and our new horizon was finally upon us.

And my oh my do we need that new horizon. The announcement, albeit temporarily, has shelved the nagging facts that we’ve got Mansfield at home Saturday, we’ve lost 10 games in a row and Richard Duffy and Carl Dickinson will probably be involved. Reality bites.

What today’s announcement has brought is a little bit of optimism back to a fan base that has been on its arse for a while now. Everyone can now see we have the opportunity for a fresh start and while it’ll take time, Hardy seems to have such an enthusiasm that he should be able to lift the malaise that’s been allowed to settle in at the club. Notts need a character, someone who the club can unify behind and someone who’ll lead from the front. If his Twitter posts are anything to go by, Hardy could be that man. I pray he is that man.

With the fans (hopefully) coming back on side, I know the fan base will turn out on Saturday because they simply have too. As a club we need to ride the crest of the Hardy wave and hit Mansfield hard on Saturday. It’ll be tough, even if for does ‘go out the window in a derby match’, you cannot forget we’ve lost 10 in a row. It’ll take a monumental effort, from all sides.

From the sounds of it, we will also have a new manager in place for Mansfield; that wave rises a little higher. If, if the appointment is the right one, the optimism levels will rise that little bit more; unveil the gaffer at 12.55 and get the crowd going, let’s ramp it up, let’s make it difficult for the Stags. Believe.

If all comes to pass, only one thing can top it all off; a performance and a result. Those 11 on Saturday have a hell of a job on. Steve Evans will have Mansfield right up for it and Notts have to match them and more in every department, in every minute during the 90. Those players have massively underachieved recently, we all know that and have bore witness to most of it, and it’s time to stop all the talk; let’s see what you’re made of. Run hard, get amongst them and back each other up. Press in packs, be courageous in possession and for God’s sake, mark your fucking man in the 18 yard box.

Saturday just became even more massive than it already was for Alan Hardy’s Notts County. Welcome aboard Alan…




Social Media

Social Media is such a wonderful thing. How else would you be able to view Patrice Evra’s range of costumed ‘Britains Got Talent’ auditions featuring Paul Pogba, see sumptuous Lionel Messi last minute free kicks under two minutes after they’ve happened and interact with people 15 years ago you’d only ever see on a screen? Wonderful.

However, with every great facility we can make use of, there is always a murkier side to it and it’s this murkier side that has had plenty of Notts fans talking in recent times.

About a week ago, after being goaded on Twitter by Notts fans, captain Michael O’Connor finally retorted by asking said user to not be mentioned in tweets and ending his dispatch with ‘dickhead’ – directly aimed at the tweeter. Obviously, this isn’t right. As people it’s wrong to resort to name calling and in his position as captain of the club, O’Connor shouldn’t have posted what he did; 100%. O’Connor by proxy of being a footballer is a role model and his response cannot be accepted. Fans pay very good money to watch Notts and support us within an inch of their lives and that sort of reaction is out of order. That all goes without saying, but after the raft of abuse him and other players have received on Twitter, who is surprised that a reaction was offered?

Let’s go back to the playground. If you pester and annoy another lad in your year, call him this, that and the other and get no reaction; you ramp it up. Purely because you want to see the reaction. Eventually, you say one more thing, he turns round and smashes you in the face and you go off crying to tell; whose fault is that?

Let’s go into town on a Saturday. You’ve had a few shandies and you see a group of lads acting the fool. You stare over a bit, subconsciously pushing your chest out and then you hit shoulders as you walk past each other. You square up, have words, say something inflammatory (I’ll bet a ‘your mum’ line or something about his jumper) and then get dropped; whose fault is that? 

Now let’s go back a few days. If you and other fans fire abusive, aggressive and derogatory tweets to an individual and then he sends a message calling one of them a dickhead; whose fault is that? I’m not saying fans aren’t allowed to voice their own opinion – this is exactly the premise I’m exploiting by doing this – but there are ways of doing it and if people choose to do it in this way, then don’t be too surprised by anything that comes out of it. Yes O’Connor is in the wrong for his reply, but it’s not really surprising…

So what this isn’t, is me ‘blaming fans’. What this is, is me saying that fans have every right to air their opinions, voice their concerns and show that their appalled by what’s going on of a Saturday afternoon because frankly, it’s not good enough and something has to be done about it and I am one to voice my opinions – again, what this is all about. What I’m saying is if you goad someone and they turn round and tell you to fuck off, don’t be hugely surprised. You wanted a reaction; you got one.

I’ve heard, read and said plenty about unity in the past couple of weeks; so let’s get on it. 


Notts vs Carlisle 

I feel exactly like John Sheridan after the last 8 games; I’m completely sick and tired of repeating myself after watching Notts put in another inept, substandard and down right awful performance. As 2016 came and went at Meadow Lane with little more than a whimper, many fans headed home for a glass or 3 of New Years Eve fizz utterly despondent at another home defeat.
I can’t say the afternoon started positively after seeing the team sheet. Two names continued to haunt it; Richard Duffy and Carl Dickinson whilst a seemingly forgotten and forgettable name was added to it; Alex Rodman. Sigh. It seemed Notts would set up in a 4-4-2 and the duly did with Rodman and Rob Milsom filling in the wide berths and Michael O’Connor coming back into centre midfield to partner Curtis Thompson. For the first 8 minutes Notts weren’t too bad, they got in down the right hand side a couple of times and looked like they had an idea of what to do. Progression?
Not a chance. After 9 minutes Notts were undone by the thing that keeps undoing them this season; defending. A straight forward corner was whipped into the box and Carlisle’s Number 9 out muscled Louis Liang to meet the ball first and plant a firm header past Scott Loach. A free header, again. I’ve never seen a team defend so poorly when the ball comes into the box. Time and again the oppositions main ariel threat/lone striker is either left alone to head at goal or out muscles one of our centre halves to get to the ball first. For me that’s not about quality, that’s about desire. Those strikers want to head that ball in the net and will get rid of any defender to get there. Well why can’t the Notts defence do that? Why can’t they give the striker a bit back and impose themselves on them? Why can’t any of them just win a header…? Desire.
In fairness to Notts, they responded today. They kept working and kept trying and eventually on the half hour, hallelujah, a goal! O’Connor’s delivery was met by the head of Jon Stead and as soon as it left his head it was goal bound from my view in the Kop. 1-1 and something finally to build from and then something rather miraculous happened, an opposition defender made a mistake from a Loach goal kick and Jon Forte nipped in to dink over the on rushing goalie and score in off the post. Pandemonium. Sadly short lived pandemonium…
As the half drew to a close, Carlisle broke down the left wing and it looked odds on Curtis Thompson would chase him down and put the ball out of play but a moments hesitation from Thompson saw the wide man get away, get a good cross in and find AN AGAIN UNMARKED Jabo Ibehre to power in a header. Same old sorry story; the basics just aren’t being done. Thompson should have smashed the winger out of touch but Duffy and Dickinson have to take some responsibility, get hold of the striker and not let him get a head in. Duffy looks like he plane spotting when that cross comes in. Basics. Desire.
Half time came and went with a decent meat and potato pie and bovril to warm the heart but there was nothing warming about Notts’ second half performance. Carlisle still looked dangerous playing the long ball and Notts simply couldn’t deal with it. Inevitably Notts succumbed to Carlisle pressure and conceded a third headed goal when Jason Kennedy beat O’Connor to a long throw and flicked home. O’Connor was beaten too easily by the run of Kennedy but was in no way helped by Haydn Hollis who made no attempt to cut out the long throw with no one around him. Another couple of fine examples of Notts players not doing their jobs properly.
The one event that stirred the Notts fans the most in the second half was the bizarre double substitution on around 75 minutes. Adam Campbell and Vadine Oliver came on for Jon Stead and Curtis Thompson. Neither were amazing yesterday, but Thompson was our most effective midfielder and Stead can always sneak a goal (and my owed we desperately needed one yesterday) and Vadine Oliver is, well, Vadine Oliver…
Notts managed, from memory, one shot on target in the second half, which came in injury time from the lively Adam Campbell but that was it. Another home league defeat of what has been a dismal 2016 at Meadow Lane.
One tweet in particular made me think yesterday: do they even care? I think they do, I honestly think they care. But I just think as a collective they’re in no way good enough to do much about the slump that we’re in. The players are massively letting Sheridan down, but Sheridan doesn’t seem, from the outside, to be doing much either. Yes individual mistakes are killing us, but goals from set plays can be defended against with time on the training ground. We have no discernible pattern of forward play or defensive shape – what is happening day by day? Because I’d love to see training of a week day if that’s what they turn out on a match day.
So to 2016 at Meadow Lane its goodbye, good riddance and good God that was awful. I’m afraid to say the same should be said to John Sheridan when Alan Hardy takes over.
Here’s to 2017.