DURING THE PAST FEW WEEKS I’ve been visiting Meadow Lane, home of Notts County with a couple of friends for a diversion of a bit of Saturday afternoon football, old habits die hard, and taken a big interest in the Magpies’ fight for survival in League One. Chairman Ray Trew has publicly acknowledged that he was preparing the club for the bottom flight of teams. With Notts fully seven points adrift at the bottom of the table in March, this could only have been viewed as prudent. Over three home games though I watched the team, never shorn of fight, grow in confidence, winning each one of those games – one from being two goals down.
It’s been an interesting experience watching the players’ performance grow along with their confidence and there have been some outstanding displays from the likes of Spencer, Grealish, Sheehan, Campbell-Ryce and Liddle. It almost seems churlish to single out individuals though as it has truly been a team effort.
The Notts I viewed in the first game played some pretty awful football if truth be told. A lot of head-tennis in the middle of the park and desperate no-look hoofs up the field to nobody in particular. Some of the defending was very shaky too. Over the weeks though they have come to play a good deal of decent football, passing the ball and using the wings, especially the clever ball play of on-loan youngster, Jack Grealish.
I have to confess, I had no particular thoughts about manager Shaun Derry, a man who appeared to be something of a cheap option with no managerial experience at all. Seeing the local man’s belief, determination and shrewdness has however convinced me that he has done a great job in the short time he has been back in his native city of Nottingham. In addition to that, his open letter to the Notts fans and the people of Nottingham a few days before the game was top-class – as were his interviews pre and post game around the final fixture of the season. Let nobody say that this man doesn’t have great determination and is very sincere too. Well done, Shaun.
I read a small article about team captain, Irishman, Alan Sheehan recently too who touchingly explained how his faith kept him going through the tough times with a weekly visit to his local Roman Catholic church in West Bridgford, nice stuff for someone to say in these cynical times.
The final Saturday against Oldham in Lancashire saw Notts needing at least a point for safety after all their courage and fortitude over the past few weeks. Well into the second half it appeared that things were going terribly wrong when Oldham went ahead and Notts were looking down the relegation barrel with just fifteen minutes to go. A handling offence in the area however and a penalty to Notts with that man Sheehan stepping up to the spot saw Notts home, to great relief. Results elsewhere additionally going the Magpies’ way to ensure safety also. You can view Sheehan’s coolly taken spot kick here and feel the palpable relief from the black and white part of the stadium.
So, on to the close season and a job well done. The club have only three members contracted for the next campaign so there will be changes. For my money it world be an excellent idea if Notts were able to keep this nucleus of players together as much as possible. With a modest fan base that may proved economically difficult but with the end of season spirit and fight shown by this group of players they could do very well indeed next year. They’ve fought as one – a true team. Well done to all involved, you’ve made your fans proud and been truly worthy of the black and white striped jersey.