Notts County – The Morning After The Night Before
Peter Trembling and Sven Goran Eriksson left Notts County today, ending an insane seven months at Meadow Lane. In the first of a two part look at what has been going on at the club, we take a quick look at the new men in charge and whether they can look forward to a period of stability, even if it has to be accompanied with a slightly more realistic self-perception of their place in the overall scheme of things.
The dream that started at Notts County died today. After weeks of turbulence, many at Meadow Lane had been holding onto increasingly tenuous claims that big investment was coming into the club and the continuing presence there of Peter Trembling and Sven-Goran Eriksson. Both men have now left, and what remains at Notts County is now either a return to the hand-to-mouth existence of the last few years or, perhaps, something worse than this. As the clocked counted down after the adjournment of their bankruptcy petition, there was talk of investment – one consortium found itself cast asunder shortly after they thought they had agreed a deal with Trembling – and the more fanciful among the Notts’ support continued to hold their flame for him until the very end.
Today, though, the scales fell from thousands of eyes. There was no multi-million pound investment. There were no tens of millions of pounds of, well, somebody or other’s money coming in to make all their dreams come true. Notts County, in an act of coming to back down to earth so violent that it shook those that were still dreaming wide awake, were sold again for £1. Within hours, Trembling and Eriksson were gone and a new regime were in charge, promising a new age of austerity at Meadow Lane. “I might upset a few people”, said Ray Trew, presumably in the tone of voice of one that says what they bloody well like and like what they bloody well say, and Notts supporters will be hoping that he has learnt from his mistakes from the past.
Trew has been involved in football before, at Lincoln City, and he is best known at Sincil Bank for his departure over an attempt to sack manager Keith Alexander in January 2006 after Alexander had been put on gardening leave for reasons unspecified (“The directors took this decision to enable them to explore a number of important issues that had been brought to their notice” was the official line by the club at the time). When Alexander was reinstated at the club a couple of weeks later, Trew was voted out of the club and a later attempt by Trew to take the club over led the Imps’ chairman Steve Wright to comment that he “would seriously question the motives” of Trew and his fellow former director Keith Roe, with Wright also noting that, “I must express my disappointment at the style of these particular approaches.
If we are charitable, however, we can mark Trew down as someone that has made mistakes in the past but that has at least had the candour to state that Notts County were living beyond their means and that something at the club has to change. Of more concern to Notts’ supporters will be the appointment of Jim Rodwell as their new Chief Executive. Rodwell is a former player, but of greater note is his time as the chairman of Boston United. Rodwell was the chairman of the Pilgrims for just a year, but in this time he stood shoulder to shoulder with Steve Evans (who had been found guilty of the FA of “contract irregularities” and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to evade tax in November 2006, while Rodwell was the chairman of the club), oversaw a CVA that angered the Football Conference so much that it relegated them straight into the Blue Square North – consider that in comparison with the treatment of Chester City this season – and saw them sold to a housing development company, Chestnut Homes. For further reading on Rodwell, it is more than worth having a look here. Note the date: November 2006 is a good six months before their relegation from the Football League was confirmed. Prescient stuff there, from the guys at “Cod Almighty”.
In an interview with BBC Radio Nottingham this evening Rodwell pointed his prior involvement in football out, but stayed clear of mentioning anything specific about what had happened during his time in charge at York Street. The Pilgrims ended their first season in the Blue Square North still in administration and were demoted again, this time into the Unibond League. They remain there now. Such a rapid fall from grace may give Notts County supporters pause for thought this evening. At the very best, they are trimmed of their talismanic Director of Football Eriksson – the one man that convinced many that the dream was still alive even after it was apparent to all that there was something very, very wrong at the club – and the likelihood of their being able to hold on to their highest paid players such as Kasper Schmeichel and Lee Hughes seems remote, to say the least. More ominously, though, very little has been said on the subject of the club’s battle against HMRC at the High Court. We’ll leave the first part of this with Peter Trembling’s leaving statement, before handing over the Mark Murphy for a full and frank examination of Trembling’s time in charge at Meadow Lane.
We have been on a relentless search over the last couple of months for parties intent on investing £25m-£50m into Notts County. I have said all along that for relatively little investment and the capability to build thereafter, this opportunity represents one of the best, pound for pound in football. Proposed investors have concurred with that statement and have shown intent and proof of funds in their respective quests for getting involved with Notts County. However, the biggest challenge all along has been time and it has proved impossible to secure the major investment in the tight timeframes we have. The new owners are not of the £25m-plus ilk but they do know the football business and most importantly have sufficient funds available to ensure the immediate survival of this football club and not least in view of our court case in less than two weeks. In addition they are intent and focused on promotion this season which has been the major objective from day one.