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Left Magpie: Moneyball Arrives at Meadow Lane?

28 July 19 words: Colin Sisson

The arrival of Alexander and Christoffer Reedtz as new owners of Notts County has been celebrated by fans as a welcome, fresh start for our beloved and beleaguered club. But what makes this all the more exciting is that they seem determined to finally put an end to the debilitating behaviours of the past.

 

Early signs of this were seen at their initial press conference; a delightfully low-key affair. Far from the pomp and bluster of previous regimes promising promotions and waving five-year plans, the Reedtz brothers took time to answer questions in both a respectful but guarded manner. When given the chance to feed the media the type of lines that lead to queues at the season ticket office, the number of signings expected or the size of the financial budget, they politely abstained and simply reaffirmed their pride for being given the opportunity to realise their dream of owning a football club such as Notts. The fact that fans had to experience this only through official channels rather than personal (sometimes too personal) Twitter accounts was also seen as a positive step in acknowledging the errors of the past. 

It was poignant too that their first course of business, despite having serious on-field problems, will be to pay all staff who’ve remained unpaid for two months, with some reliant on emergency funds generated by NCFCOSA and LifeLine just to make ends meet. The owners’ determination to thank those staff and the fans that financially supported them certainly suggests that they could be the right type of owners to lift morale at Meadow Lane - a club that has seen a horrendously high turnover of staff in many of its key departments. A club such as Notts is often reliant on the dedication of its staff to its community and cause. As a fan, I never want to see that dedication punished so callously ever again and, although a press conference is no guarantee, the promotional video for working life at Football Radar’s London office certainly suggests that they know how to look after their employees.

The arrival of the Reedtz brothers could also mean the end to a major on-field issue too. For far too long, Notts have lurched from one methodology to another in the hope of arresting our steady decline. Whether it was identifying young talent to nurture under Chris Kiwomya or a foreign invasion in the form of Ricardo ‘you-score-two-we-score-three’ Moniz, Notts have unsuccessfully found a formula to stick with or a manager to deliver it.

But for the first time, Notts have an owner from the football world who have seemingly invested in their own ideas. Using data gathered from their Football Radar business they acknowledge that clubs like Brentford and Brighton, who recruit undervalued players through data analytics- nicknamed Moneyball after its application in baseball, are the models to follow.

This may sound like a dangerous departure for the average fan, but the facts are that Notts spent well in excess of £500,000 last season to end up relegated, while players such as Luther Wildin, who Notts deemed surplus to requirements, are now being touted for a £1m move to Arsenal. If Notts are to return to the Football League, then need to return with a much more sustainable system. 

One thing this rather tumultuous takeover has taught me is that, while I hope the Reedtz brothers can finally put an end to obvious errors, I too need to learn to stop a few destructive behaviours. This time last year, I was convinced Notts would be lapping Meadow Lane with the League Two trophy before a ball had even been kicked. Now, I’m just delighted I still have a club to support and I need to remind myself of this once this season finally kicks off. We currently have a dangerously limited first-team squad, with Ardley admitting to missing out on 52 identified transfer targets while under transfer embargo, so any expectations of promotion should be firmly shelved. Let’s just enjoy the ride. 

As for Ardley himself, at the season’s close, I saw him joining that ever-growing list of ex Notts County managers; yet, through this disastrous takeover process, he has carried himself with the utmost professionalism that befits the club I love. By giving him time to impress he has delivered well above expectations in this postseason and deserves much longer at the helm to build to a better future. 

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