It’s well known that magpies love shiny things. After several years of nothing but lint and rusting metals, it seems that the Magpies of Notts County are finally on course for something truly worth collecting – the League Two championship. Ross Bramble takes a look at their journey to the top of the table.
The recent history of Notts County barely befits the magnitude of their grand old name. As the oldest professional football club in the world (155 years young) and the club that bequeathed the now famous black and white stripes to Italian giants Juventus, there is a romanticism to Notts County that time just can’t seem to erode. But it’s certainly had a damn good go.
The Magpies haven’t been out of the bottom two divisions on English football since 1994, back when the Championship was known as Division One. That season, they finished bottom of the table with only nine wins in 46. Only two seasons later, they were suffering relegation once more after finishing 24th in Division Two. They’ve only enjoyed two promotions since then – in the 1997-98 season, and the 2009-10 season.
In that time, the club was sold for a pound, flirted with administration, switched between 28 managers and been relegated back into League Two. Not even the shock additions of Sven Goran Eriksson and Sol Campbell could fix their wagon.
In 2017, though, there finally seems to be a sense of belief. The current chairman, Alan Hardy, has already announced his intentions to build the club up from the bottom and instil a long-term infrastructure that can support the side for years to come. Kevin Nolan, the ex-West Ham midfielder who began his managerial career at Leyton Orient, was the man trusted with guiding the side back into League One. Although seen as a cheap option by some upon his appointment, Nolan has defied his critics to lead the Magpies up to second place in League Two, at the time of writing at least.
Only high-scoring Luton Town are besting them in the league standings so far this season. With an impressively low three defeats from their opening 20 games, it seems both Luton and Notts County are settling in for a tussle for the title as the League Two season runs through its Christmas period. Neither side have shown signs of allowing their early season form to slip and both will fancy that this year can be their year.
Success, however, comes with a price. Chairman Hardy announced this week that the club were spending nearly £40,000 a month on player and staff bonuses thanks to their runaway success in League Two this season. In an interview with BBC Radio Nottingham, Hardy claimed he could “only sustain it up until the Championship”, and that he lacked the financial means himself to see the club into the Premier League. Foreign investment was mooted – always a calculated risk for clubs in the lower leagues. His omission will undoubtedly be the cause of some concern among fans who know have become all too familiar was struggles in the last few years.
That being said, the Championship could yet be a many number of years away for the Magpies. Their current success is to be enjoyed, and bridges such as that should only be crossed when approached. It’s impossible to know exactly what the future holds for Notts County, but for a grand old club that has been so poorly treated in recent years, it warms the heart of millions of fans to see a true footballing institution finally carving out some success this season.
Well. Unless you’re a Forest fan. When was the last time we had a Nottingham derby in the league anyway?
Follow Ross on Twitter – @rossbramble
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