Goalkeeper Carly Telford is back to give her firsthand account of Notts County Ladies folding and discuss her return to Chelsea Ladies and what the future holds.
Lights out at Notts County
It all started on the Thursday night when we all got a message on TeamApp, which we use for messages about training and general club things so everything stays in one place.
On our little WhatsApp group, people were asking if they’d seen what Rick [Passmoor] had said but I hadn’t seen anything, and I didn’t know what anyone was on about.
Basically, it just said training on Friday morning had been cancelled and to meet at Meadow Lane at 11am. We were in the middle of game preparation so we feared it would be something serious, but we thought it might be an opportunity to meet Alan Hardy because we hadn’t met him at that point.
So, we gathered at Meadow Lane in the morning, Rick had come down and went to the offices and then Colin Walker and Paul Campbell [our coaches] came down.
Everyone was kind of chatting and laughing about what it could be but Colin and Paul didn’t look very happy and it made us all a bit nervous. Kirsty [Linnett] said she hadn’t slept much the previous night so we were all beginning to hope it wasn’t anything serious.
Then Jade [Moore] and Laura [Bassett] were taken into the office with Rick and we went into a separate room with one of Alan’s people. It was almost like a media set up, he was sat at the front and we were all sat facing him. Bass came back in and she looked like she was raging, Jade came in and looked really upset so we knew something wasn’t right.
Rick was at the front and he just looked in shock, the guy told us how it was and that as of 4:30pm on Thursday 20th April, the club had been liquidated and no longer existed. We just sat there looking at each other, nobody said anything. I looked at Leanne Crichton and we just didn’t know what to do, we asked if we had a game and they told us we wouldn’t be competing in the Spring Series, we just didn’t exist. People were asking if we’d be getting paid, people had bills to pay, but we were told we wouldn’t be getting paid. People were getting upset and it was just an awkward moment.
They told us they’d contacted the PFA, as if it was a nice thing to do, we asked them to leave and then just cracked on. Bass rang Mark [Sampson] and he was brilliant, as were the PFA – they got us our pay for the month and released out of our contracts. Some girls don’t have agents so it was a big help to them. It was really weird because we were saying goodbye to each other because we didn’t know when we’d see each other again.
Myself, Leanne, Dani [Buet], Fern and Aileen [Whelan] all went to Costa just to sit with each other and have half an hour to ourselves. People were on their phones to parents and partners explaining what had happened, the media knew and there were already reporters outside the ground when we left. The BBC had known since 10:30am – they knew before we did. It was totally mishandled, I couldn’t really be bothered with Alan’s reasons when I heard them.
It’s his money and what not but it’s the timing of it that I can’t ever forgive him for, he could and should have done it in January. If you’re a businessman and you know you won’t make any money from it then what do you expect to happen? I think he’s probably surprised at how much of a backlash he’s had.
We were asking where he was and we were told he was in London, he didn’t have the nerve to show his face but none of us were really shocked about that. He shows himself a lot on social media but couldn’t be bothered to introduce himself to us, that kind of summed him up. He’s since said he regrets not telling us to our faces but he wasn’t really bothered. He managed to get to the BBC studio to do an interview but couldn’t come and tell his team we didn’t have a club anymore.
I had to take time to get my head around it, our development coach, Tanya, was kind enough to strike a deal with the University of Nottingham, so we spent a week training together there. As we were still contracted to Notts, we didn’t know when we’d be free to sign for other clubs.
Clubs had contacts with players but nobody could give an answer until we knew we were free from our contracts. I spoke to my agent and said I’d sit tight because I hate not knowing what situation I’m in. Leanne went home because it’s major for her ahead of the Euros and Glasgow welcomed her with open arms.
The international girls met with Mark at St. George’s Park and he reassured us all that things would be ok, there was no pressure from his end, and we’d meet up as normal for the next international camp. He told us not to feel like we had to up sticks and move to the other end of the country, he said we could come to St George’s Park and work with him and Marieanne [Spacey]. Lee Kendall [England’s goalkeeper coach] also told me I could come and train with him if I needed to.
It took a lot of pressure off us, some have obviously got sorted but others such as Rachel Williams – who works – and injured Amy Turner want to know what’s going on. Some clubs have already used their budgets and have filled their squads so to hear those things from Mark made it a bit easier for us.
For me it’s not worked out too bad, Hedvig [Lindahl] and Becky [Spencer] getting injured meant Chelsea came knocking. They told me it made sense for them to approach me and it would make sense for me to accept it. I was a bit tentative because of what happened previously but I’ve grown up a lot since then, their situation has changed and how they go about their business is very different.
It would have been silly and shown a lot of immaturity to say no, me and Emma Hayes never had bad blood. I hated what happened and how it happened but Chelsea went onto win things and I had a great few years at Notts. If we’d not kept that relationship we wouldn’t have been able to do this and I hope all the other girls can find clubs now too.
It was nice to see Kirsty, Jade and Jo [Potter] yesterday but it was weird because we were team-mates a few weeks ago, but that’s how it is. I’m in a privileged position where clubs offered me the chance to train and that was nice to know, Jamie [Sherwood, Yeovil manager] messaged me before Charlotte [Haynes] got injured and told me he was gutted but he’d always welcome me down to train.
After Charlotte got injured, he text me straight away on Sunday but I had to tell him I’d accepted Chelsea’s offer. I told him I’d have loved to and it’s really nice to have those kinds of options. Funnily enough, we had a new goalkeeper coach who came in the week before Notts folded and he was really good but I never really got the chance to work with.
I was thrown straight in at Chelsea, Emma rang me on Sunday and said I’d be put in straight away on Wednesday. I couldn’t get in Monday or Tuesday because I’m still studying at University and we had second year presentations to do. But she told me not to worry about it and there was no pressure on me to be in every day, they’ve been really good about it to be honest.
Emma’s just told me to make it work for me and get in when I can, they could have been very strict but it’s not been that way because they understand it’s a very strange situation.
And there I was on Wednesday night, I’d only gone down earlier in the day to have medicals, meet everyone and go through tactics and how Chelsea play – it was a bit of a whirlwind really. I hadn’t been there since I left and they were part-time, it’s grown so much and it was nice to see some old and new faces – it’s a completely different place to when I left.
I realised very quickly I was involved with a very special group. We had Gemma Davison, Ji So-yun and Crystal Dunn on the bench! I said to them I don’t think we even had 16 players and staff collectively at Notts, it’s a very different world but I was in glad I wasn’t at the other end anymore against that attack!
I’m still learning half their names, I was shouting at people on Wednesday and I couldn’t even remember some of the names! They were very welcoming, very chatty and asking how things were, Kaz Carney was telling me not to be nervous and that I was here for a reason. People don’t have to do that but they were really nice and I hope I’ll have a lot of fun in the next few weeks.
Against Reading, we had moments where the ball was pinging around the box and then it’s cleared off the line by someone’s hand – which was probably a penalty – then it’s cleared again. But when I was in goal for Notts County, that definitely goes in and I’m stood there going ‘what the hell!’
It only took me an hour and a half to get back from Reading last night, I’m still living in Nottingham but I know I can stay with Raff [Claire Rafferty] if I need to be down there. I’ve got a few weeks now without a game because of the cup final, but there will be a lot of recovery, training and some big games before we’re done.
I haven’t thought about life post-Chelsea, now I’ve got to do as well as I can to put myself in the shop window. I’ll be a free agent come the summer so I need to leave myself with some good options for after the Euros. I’m going to have a good time here and enjoy it and then see what happens once everything’s done and dusted.
I don’t know if I’d go abroad, if the league was competitive and if I had to do it would be an option I’d discuss with Mark. The league here is growing, even though what happened with Notts isn’t ideal, but I know Emma said that the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City would have helped them try and pay the bills off to keep Notts afloat. But it happened so quickly they were never given that option so I hope a few lessons have been learned – clubs that don’t have funding need more support.
You can follow Carly on Twitter at @CarlyTelford1