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Thread: Notts County, The Decline and Fall

  1. #1
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    Notts County, The Decline and Fall

    That much-loved poster MIG said, on another thread, that Notts’ problems started with the Trews.

    Whenever I see comments about when Notts’ decline started, I think of this piece from Paul Wain’s excellent book, “Notts County – A Pictorial History.”

    “The same directors who had such bold plans for the club when they signed Lawton and others then threw the massive potential away. The sale of Sewell was the start of a policy which led to the long-term decline of Notts County. Cottee and Levy were part of a minority that opposed the decision and resigned after further policy differences in December 1951. They later joined the ambitious committee at Forest and from then on nearly all the ambition was on the other side of the Trent. The seeds were sown – Forest would end the decade in the First Division, Notts in the Fourth. Where would Notts be today if Cottee and Levy had won and Barnes and others had resigned.”

    I started watching Notts in 1955, so this was a bit before my time but I do remember that from when I started to the end of that decade, Notts were dire.

    The first time I remember Notts being in crisis mode was when they were saved from going out of business by Bill Hopcroft stumping up £10,000 in 1966. Crowds were averaging just over 4,000 by this time.

    It was twenty years later, in 1986, when the famous meeting at the Astoria (the old Sherwood Rooms) took place, Notts were now in debt to the tune of £1.8m and this was when Lifeline was born.

    Then in June 2002 Notts went into administration with debts of £6m. It was 18 months before Notts came out of administration, thanks to Haydn Green.

    As we all know, the Supporters Trust were followed by Munto and the next crisis was at the end of their tenure when Ray Trew stepped in. Thanks to him writing off to share capital almost £11m, the club’s debt was still in the region of £6m when AH took over. That debt has, in my estimation, now increased to £10m.

    So, there you have it. With hopefully new owners about to take over the reins, take your pick on who is chiefly to blame for the decline of the Magpies. Personally, I reckon that we’ve been a basket case for years. But what an opportunity it seems was missed in the 50’s.

  2. #2
    I wouldn’t agree that there was a consistent decline until this century. There were various crises in 1958-9, 1965-6 and 1986, but Notts were able to recover from all of these to the extent of reaching the First Division in 1982 and 1991. Admittedly we were playing second fiddle to Forest since about 1957, but we were still a relatively successful, soundly based (most of the time) club.

    I would argue that the decline truly began with the botched Scardino takeover in 2001 (which led to administration for a long period and then stagnation under the Trust) and was massively exacerbated by the Munto episode. We don’t seem to have had a sound financial basis since Derek Pavis was Chairman. The problems certainly began long before Ray Trew.

  3. #3
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    Indeed I have often wondered what happened to all the money from the record gates from Lawton's era and the big transfer fees. Notts certainly had momentum. It wasn't totally destroyed in the 50's though and the bounce back from the fairly new 4th Division saw some very good gates and some good players. But that other team had also just won the FA Cup which detracted a bit. In fact it seems that whenever we have a period of success they have a better period of success as happened late on in the 70's and early 80's.

    But we lost momentum again with the sale of the likes of Hateley and Astle and the failure to get back into the second tier and then that torrid period in the mid-60s when we nearly went under for the first time that I'm aware of. By the time we'd regrouped much of the 50's momentum had gone, football itself was having a bad time, and that other team were doing well. We just couldn't make our success stick and that was the beginning of the end that we see now.

    Missed opportunities, poor/greedy management and a smattering of bad luck culminating in vain and desperate businessmen thinking they can play football manager without setting the foundations as Dunnett and Sirrel did.

    Now, when was that gypsy curse made?

  4. #4
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    Absolutely the most interesting post on here for some time. I would like to think we all agree that the Trews are not the catalyst for Notts' problems. They did assist well to bring them to head!

  5. #5
    There can be no doubt that whoever has owned Notts, certainly since the 60's, that they have had to pay significantly for the pleasure.
    Some have left a positive impression, some less so. Hardy & Trew are not dissimilar, they would make one bad decision and compound it with another and then another, such as churning the same unproven Managers in the hope of finding gold dust. There was an awful lot wrong with football in the late 70's and the 80's but this city had two of the best managers British football has ever seen and it may be a while before we see their like again, if ever.

  6. #6
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    ... what a good educational topic, 60YAP.
    My view too about the sale of Sewell. We've flattered to deceive ever since. It makes the heroic days of Jimmy and Howard all the more remarkable; Warnock's too.
    COYP

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frigiliana Pie 1 View Post
    I wouldn’t agree that there was a consistent decline until this century. There were various crises in 1958-9, 1965-6 and 1986, but Notts were able to recover from all of these to the extent of reaching the First Division in 1982 and 1991. Admittedly we were playing second fiddle to Forest since about 1957, but we were still a relatively successful, soundly based (most of the time) club.

    I would argue that the decline truly began with the botched Scardino takeover in 2001 (which led to administration for a long period and then stagnation under the Trust) and was massively exacerbated by the Munto episode. We don’t seem to have had a sound financial basis since Derek Pavis was Chairman. The problems certainly began long before Ray Trew.
    100% agree with this.

    The problems we had in 1959, mid 1960s and 1986 had as much to do with Fword as anything else, any club would struggle in the shadow of that kind of success, but the 2002 problems were purely of own, or Scardino and Storrie's, making. We just haven't recovered from that with just three decent isolated seasons in all that time since (with only one ending in success), every other season has been a battle against the drop or the odd mid-table non-entity (about three of those). That's not going to form the basis of a sustained recovery.

  8. #8
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    Incidentally, this coming season will be the first time we've been three promotions behind Fword's level since 1970/71. The biggest ever gulf between the two clubs must have been 1967 when they finished 2nd in the top flight and we finished 20th in the 4th tier.

  9. #9
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    I've been watching Notts since the early 90s, and from my perspective it's clear that we've never really recovered from the mess we found ourselves in 2002. Before that, the Pavis era seemed relatively calm, despite going from the top flight to the old fourth division in five years!

    Even so, the Pavis era was littered with bad mistakes and missed opportunities. Selling Rideout to Rangers, getting rid of Warnock, wasting money on players like Agana and Jemson, missing out on the playoffs back to the Prem thanks to a freak own goal away at Derby, appointing Murphy, and so on. But hey, what club's history isn't riddled with 'what ifs'?

    Plus, we've always had to contend with them across the river - a far bigger, richer, more successful, and better supported club. Plenty of teams have to share a city with another team, but none have to do so in such close proximity, essentially ruling out any kind of territorial claim. We've done well to maintain as many supporters as we have if you ask me.

  10. #10
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    Missing out on the premier league in hindsight was absolutely massive for us. I really think our fortunes have been set in stone since then.
    We are just one of the also rans in the next 4 divisions now, when with a bit of luck we could have been a championship side quite easily.
    Look at the teams that formed the very first premiership....other than Coventry who are a basket case anyway everyone else has by and large succeeded.

  11. #11
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    It's interesting to look at the historical perspective but in some respects Notts aren't in terrible health at the moment. We're better supported now than we have been since the early to mid-90s and have a much younger fan base than we did even 15 years ago. There's the foundation to be a much stronger club than we have been. What's scuppered us in the off-field instability that we haven't been able to shake off since Pavis sold us. One of the sad things about Hardy's tenure is that for a while it seemed we might finally be moving in a more stable direction, but he opted for the recklessness that's led us to where we are now.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by LilCrazyKim View Post
    It's interesting to look at the historical perspective but in some respects Notts aren't in terrible health at the moment. We're better supported now than we have been since the early to mid-90s and have a much younger fan base than we did even 15 years ago. There's the foundation to be a much stronger club than we have been. What's scuppered us in the off-field instability that we haven't been able to shake off since Pavis sold us. One of the sad things about Hardy's tenure is that for a while it seemed we might finally be moving in a more stable direction, but he opted for the recklessness that's led us to where we are now.
    The last two seasons have seen excellent support, you are right, but do you really think that will continue into this coming season? Season ticket sales must have completely stalled since early June, and I can't see anything but a long, hard struggle. We'll be lucky to average 4000 at home.

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