Saturday’s the day we play the game.
A possible swansong for Notts County as a Football League club beckons on Saturday for a somewhat ominous-feeling visit to Meadow Lane a few miles away. The Magpies make their final home appearance of a disastrous season against Grimsby’s Mariners. A day which must bring a heart-sad feeling to many a Notts supporter. I can feel for them.
Recent weeks have seen growing anger and disbelief at their team’s many dismal showings and the extremely worrying news regarding the at-risk future of the club itself. Although crowds have remained fairly healthy for a team propping up the rest of the Football League, it’s been sad to hear some of the vitriol aimed at the players and especially the manager, Neil Ardley.
Fighter – Notts midfielder Michael Doyle
I really can’t say whether Mr Ardley is a good manager or not. He was brought into an incredibly dire situation with a bloated and underperforming squad, shorn of confidence, one with little dynamism, energy, goal-scoring and no clue on the basics of defending. His single window of opportunity in the transfer market in January being recently reported as featuring 80% of his targeted players being ‘unwilling ‘ to sign for Notts, leaving him with limited choices. He is however, clearly a good and honest football man though, unselfish and courteous towards his many critics. I find it a little sickening the way he is being referred to by some ‘fans’ of the club – enough indeed to make me question how much success they really deserve. I don’t need to expand on the recent reported death threats and vile abuse forwarded at club staff via an ever more appalling social media. They are beneath contempt.
In January , the ex-Wimbledon manager, Ardley, brought in fully eight players from what were slim pickings. Within those players have been the experienced midfield heads of Scot, Jim O’Brien and Irishman, Michael Doyle. Clearly a pair of battle-hardened warrior pros they have strove manfully with others such as the excellent Mitch Rose to bring some fight into a lacklustre situation. Another veteran, former Scottish international Craig Mackail-Smith has belied his age with some energetic performances, when played.
Subject of abuse – Neil Ardley
The weeks have passed and opportunities for safety appeared and quickly disappeared on a regular basis, Notts unable to capitalise on the failings of their relegation rivals and now there are just two games left to alter the fate of this club. It is now partly out of their own hands with a win for Macclesfield Town tomorrow spelling relegation to the desert of non-league football after 157 years long years.
It is a little tragic yes, but then Notts County don’t have or deserve any special privilege in these matters, by the end of Saturday or the following one they will have recognised and deserved their fate and so will their rivals. Before this set of fixtures I have really felt deeply for the first time that they are more likely to be relegated than not. Time may have finally caught up with them.
I do believe though that Notts have players such as the aforementioned Doyle and O’Brien who will fight to the death in these two games. We can ask for no more. I’m going to channel a little bit of Jimmy Sirrel magic for them, they really need it.