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Left Magpie: There’s Something Happening at Meadow Lane

16 October 19 words: Colin Sisson

I wouldn’t blame fellow Notts fans for having to read that sentence twice, as normally there are words like ‘disturbing’ or ‘depressing’ to clarify the latest activity at the Lane. But happening it is. And I think I like it.

Sure, the National League has proven to be a shuddering culture shock, which might seem amusing seeing as Notts had spent the four previous seasons entertaining the luminaries of League 2. But nothing can prepare you for some of the dross the National League can serve. The games come thick and fast, on a variety of surfaces, in places you have to Google, against players you thought had long-retired or found alternative careers. And some almost have; Chorley’s visit to Meadow Lane boasted a bouncer in goal and they were managed by a Headteacher. 

Not that Notts can afford to cast too many condescending glances. We’d have struggled to field a PowerLeague side as preseason began, were transfer embargoed until the end of July and didn’t have an established training ground until late August. We must’ve looked more Money Pit than Moneyball to the Reedtz brothers. 

But, despite all this, we find ourselves sat in the playoff positions in October and riding a six-game unbeaten run. We’ve begun to defend relentlessly for 90 minutes, exemplified most recently against Torquay where bodies, and Ben Turner’s face, were laid on the line to defend Notts’ lead. There’s a sense of purposefulness in our midfield play that arguably hasn’t been seen since Nolan’s L2 playoff push and the forwards seem to be holding their own Goal of the Season campaign. It feels good (and football hasn’t felt good for such a long time). 

The feel-good factor seems to be being felt off the pitch too. With much of Notts’ woes taking place on Twitter last season, it was with some sweet irony that a tweet from Les Bradd in late September of him embracing the Reedtz brothers and Neal Ardley gave fans the confidence that the deep scars of relegation were finally beginning to heal. At the time the tweet felt out of context, with Notts sat in the lower half of the league on the back of two stale draws and struggling to put back-to-back performances together since February of the previous campaign. 

But, gradually, stories of cohesion began to grow. Ardley spoke candidly to Leigh Curtis about the role Football Radar’s data was beginning to play in informing his shaping of the Notts squad whilst Notts’ commercial team launched their first initiative to bring fans back to Meadow Lane with over 9,000 in attendance against Fylde. 

And it’s the fans that have provided perhaps the strongest sign of cohesion at the club. With minutes remaining against Torquay, the chant of ‘Neal Ardley’s black and white army’ was taken up and quickly gathered voice across Meadow Lane, from Kop to Pavis to Family Stand; a fitting tribute to a man whose perseverance and professionalism was finally being rewarded with the performances it deserved. Ardley rose to the occasion and applauded the gesture, seemingly understanding the significance that he had been accepted by those, like myself, who had struggled to find footballing faith in the face of such inconsistency since he began his tenure. 

And almost as importantly, Ardley seems to understand that this suspicion was far from the fickleness of football but a by-product of experiencing the mostly-putrid performances of our recent past. So forgive us for feeling more than a little excited when Les Bradd tells us he’s ‘not seen togetherness like this since the 70s’ - as that was certainly the start of something special. 

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