The summer is traditionally known as “the silly season” in the press, but Notts County have pushed the silliness up by at least a few notches with the news that they are in negotiation with Sven Goran Eriksson over him taking over as their Director of Football. Whether a manager with such a high profile is necessary for a club that will be starting this season in League Two, but what is more concerning is that here again is a club with new ownership apparently making a decision that the best solution to the matter of how to get out of this league is to throw money around like it’s confetti.
Eriksson, of course, will go anywhere if the price is right, which goes some way towards explaining why his last two managerial positions were at Manchester City and in charge of the Mexican national team. In recent years, however, holes have started to become apparent in the argument that he is one of the best coaches in Europe. After a degree of lionisation after he took the England job, he was ultimately found to be wanting. England’s turgid performances at the 2006 World Cup undid much of the goodwill that he had earned with the 5-1 in Munich against Germany in 2001 and a surprisingly swashbuckling display at the 2004 European Championships.
Since then, however, his reputation has suffered. His time at Manchester City was marred by inconsistency on the pitch. City were as capable of beating Manchester United at Old Trafford (which they did in February 2008) as they were of losing 8-1 to Middlesbrough (which they did in his final match in charge, three months later). After this, he headed to Mexico to take over their national team. As Mexico are one of the twin powerhouses of the CONCACAF region, it should have been one of the less complex jobs in world football. Things didn’t quite, however, work out quite as simply. However, a draw with Canada and defeats at the hands of Jamaica and Honduras piled the pressure, and defeats against the USA and a second defeat against Honduras left his position as untenable.
If he agrees terms with County, Eriksson will most likely not be taking over in the manager’s chair – that role seems likely to stay with the current incumbent, Ian McParland. Such an appointment, however would seem likely to create as much disharmony behind the scenes at the club as it might increase their profile. How would you feel if you were Ian McParland this evening, with the national press taking great delight in reporting your club’s attempts to parachute someone in over your head? With just three weeks until the start of the new season, McParland should be either be removed or given the authority to get on with managing the club as he sees fit. He is the manager. He should be allowed to manage.
That, however, would require a degree of sensible policy from the club’s new owners. The fact that they are in discussion with Eriksson would seem to indicate that common sense doesn’t seem to be very high on their list of priorities at the moment. The club’s six new signings so far have been reasonably restrained – four have come from other League Two clubs, with one joining them from BSP club Kettering Town and another on loan from Nottingham Forest – but how long will Eriksson tolerate signing players of this type? Munto have still not put forward anything solid to confirm how they are going to pay for their anticipated upward surge through the divisions.
The whys and wherefores of this spending are one thing but the moral argument is something else altogether. All we can do is repeat what was said on here when the subject was discussed before. The rush to this sort of spending is certainly a temptation, but the history of football with littered with failed endeavours that bear an uncanny resemblance to what we may be seeing the start of at Notts County now and it is not mere jealousy (which is, frankly, a lazy accusation to level at people that are critical of what is going on at Meadow Lane at the moment) to ask questions of a new leadership which is promising a great deal. After all, the long-term future of the oldest Football League club is a little too valuable to gamble with, isn’t it?