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Green Light in the City

Left Magpie: December

12 December 16 words: Adam Taylor

It's been another month of frustration for Notts County fans, with disappointing performances both on and off the pitch...

Notts County shirt: Illustration by Natalie Owen

Let us begin with an apology. Last month’s article erred considerably in tempting fate over a then apparently imminent takeover. Subsequently, as inevitable as a downpour when leaving home without a brolly, a shower of an altogether different nature has since festooned Meadow Lane.

The much-needed takeover and associated new direction now seems some way off, given we are back to speculating about fanciful foreign interest. The origin of rumours linking American, Chinese and now Argentinian consortia is open to question and there is certainly a sense of the boy-who-cried-wolf about the whole affair. Were the intention to leverage the sole known interested party, interest from a consortium in say, Newark, would seem much more plausible.

Alan Hardy made Ray Trew an offer in the summer, the value of which would surprise many. Mr Trew saw fit to decline the offer, presumably believing, not unreasonably, that John Sheridan would be capable of mounting a sustained promotion campaign this season and thus boost the value of his asset. A winning club with happy fans will generally find a buyer, regardless of any financial ‘black hole’ undermining its foundations; as a Munto’d Notts proved themselves in 2010.

Unfortunately this has not happened. Performances since October have dropped off a cliff and the overriding sentiment amongst the fan base is one of extreme disenchantment bordering on a sense of apathy; reflected in home gates which continue to decline alarmingly.

Mr Hardy has since been quoted by Dan Robinson in the Nottingham Post as describing a further offer which he believed to be ‘very aggressive and a fair price’. One does not have to read too closely between the lines to infer that Mr Hardy’s valuation has reduced since the summer; there would be little to justify an increase in quantum for a relegation-threatened club struggling to entice 2500 home fans on a Saturday afternoon.

As a result it appears that Mr Trew has gambled big and lost. Again. After all, any asset is worth only what a willing purchaser is prepared to pay to the vendor on a given day. Here it is worth examining exactly why things have become so bad, that even many season ticket holders cannot be bothered to turn up anymore.

Firstly, and this is painful to say, the product is atrocious. We live in an age of unprecedented entertainment options, each vying aggressively for our attention and many available at the swipe of a thumb, often without having to part with any cash or even leave the house. As such it becomes increasingly difficult to formulate a compelling argument to part with over twenty quid to sit in the cold, desolate surroundings of Meadow Lane and watch a team with a track record of mostly losing football matches, generally in a less than inspiring fashion.

Glance around the next home game and see if you can spot any fresh faces, ones you have not set eyes upon previously. More often than not, dotted amongst the empty seats, discarded food packaging and pigeon poo can be found only habitual users, their minds decayed by years of self-abuse and unable to kick their black and white habit. It is rare to spot a young person who has come along of their own volition, much less a student or tourist exposing themselves to the gateway of live football.

Indeed if football was an illegal drug, the Police would likely encourage disaffected youngsters along to Notts, as exposure to the product we regularly main-line would put them off for life. Rather like the father who has caught his son enjoying one of his Regals behind the shed and deems to make him smoke the whole pack as a harsh lesson.

Nevertheless it is simplistic to say that £22 is too much to pay. Well clearly it is, although such a statement ignores the fact that football is too expensive across the board at this level. Were ticket prices halved, it is inconceivable to think we would get twice as many people in; a difficult equation to balance, not just for the owners at our club. Remember, the long-term addicts will always beg, borrow or steal what it takes to get their fix.

To cut prices therefore would leave the club at a competitive disadvantage, given the going rate for League 2 is round about the £20 mark. A governing body that was fit for purpose would end this standoff amongst clubs, by capping ticket prices by division, removing the need to shoot first. Unfortunately ours is too busy suckling greedily on the teat of its cash cow, whilst dreaming up new and inventive ways to smuggle Premier League B-Teams into the professional game.

These issues are not new however, so why else have things got so bad? Against a backdrop of on and off-the-pitch shambles, the now infamous SLO statement was released through official club channels, chucking a hand grenade into an already volatile pit of resentment. Entitled ‘A Plea from the Heart’, the piece was widely interpreted as a thinly veiled threat not to try the patience of the present regime, even concluding with the extraordinary suggestion that, were the thumb of our displeased Caesar to turn downwards, supporters should question what part they had played in the club’s liquidation. This at a time when Notts were scheduled to be up in front of the beak over an unpaid tax bill and heavily rumoured to be heading towards administration.

Rightly or wrongly, the Supporters Liaison Officer position is generally seen as little more than the owner’s stool pigeon. Whether or not this ominous message was passed down from the top, it has certainly led to serious ill-feeling which could have been avoided. It is the time of year for football compilation DVDs and, were someone to release the Own Goals and PR Gaffs of the Trew era, this sorry episode would surely be the Ronnie Radford.

Following yet another defeat at home to Wycombe, in front of another dismal crowd, calls on social media for a change of manager spread beyond the usual reactionary characters. With the odious Steve Evans now in the dug-out at Field Mill, it is hard to identify a prospective candidate who would offer an improvement on John Sheridan, much less would you trust Ray Trew to find him. Any alternative would be working within the same restrictions as Sheridan, amidst a poisonous atmosphere which shows no signs of lifting until the Trews unhitch their Bentley and leave town. It can only be hoped that, given Sheridan has a track record of survival with crisis clubs, he can learn from his mistakes and repeat the trick.

Gloom, gloom and more gloom then. A long time ago this column highlighted the schism between two distinct factions of Notts’ support, the resoundingly pessimistic ‘Bed-Wetters’ and the apparently naïve ‘Nodding-Dogs’. Yet it seems in the post-Fullarton apocalypse there are no longer any surviving Nodding Dogs. Rather, we are all now just Plague Dogs; roaming morosely in the sparse wastelands of NG2, awaiting an end to our misery. Until the club changes hands, it is difficult to forecast a happy ending.

Notts County FC website

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