From Champs to Chumps - the Season So Far

2001/2002 began so promisingly. A takeover of the club underway, an ambitious new Chief Executive in place, "Division 1 standard" signings left (Baraclough), right (Cas) and centre (Caskey, Mildenhall, Hackworth), and an eight through the gate campaign.

Everything looked in place for a promotion challenge and, given the financial woes of our rivals, we finally had the chance to become the number 1 side in Nottingham. So where has it gone so wrong?

A performance analysis of the figures involved may give us some insight.

Derek Pavis, outgoing Chairman and President for Life:
When one of your star players names his pet snake after you, you can probably guess that you are not that popular. Mr Pavis's egotistical reign at Notts was characterised by some very good and very bad managerial appointments. Warnock, Allardyce and Walker were all heroes but we also had to endure Slade, Kendall, Murphy and finally Jocky Scott. Walker and Allardyce left following personal disagreements, Murphy kept his post for so long to "spite" the supporters who were calling for his head. So it was no suprise that Mr Pavis's final recommendation as chairman was to give a Scottish clown a 4 year contract based on the fact that he was cheap. (In the Plumber's defence he did call off the Brealey takeover when "Honest" Reg's track record was brought to his attention and eventually sold the club to people he felt had the best interests of the club at heart). Perfomance this season: 5/10.

Albert Scardino: Incoming Chairman
Mr Scardino's credentials looked impeccable. A Pullitzer Prize-winning journalist and media figure with money in the family and a genuine love for the game. However, throughout all the hype, Mr Scardino nevered promised to invest his own (or his wife's) money in to the club. Instead he made vague assertions such as "money will be available for new players". As it turns out, Mr Scardino appears to be no more than a front-man for the city, there to raise cheap loans that allow his henchman, Mr Storrie can exercise his plan to run a football club as a profitable business. Mr Scardino has probably secured the club's loans with his own money, and for that we are grateful, but we were led to expect a lot more. Performance this season: 3/10.

Deputy Chairman: Peter Storrie
Ah, the power behind the throne! Mr Storrie has a plan to run a football club as a profitable business and has the full backing of most Notts' supporters in securing the future of the club. In the summer he persuaded the likes of Caskey, Cas, Hackworth and Mildenhall to turn down offers from better placed clubs to help launch a new era of quality football. Unfortunately, it appears that many of Mr Storrie's pronouncements are more hope than hype. He has made two very bad decisions - Scott and Brazil. Scott was patently never interested in managing Notts (see below) and yet he was given a four year contract. Similarly Gary Brazil was given a lengthy contract on someone's recommendation? Its difficult to work out whom. Jocky hardly spoke to him and his previous track record was hardly great. Since Jocky's departure, Mr Storrie has taken more of a role in the day to day running of the club and left the coaching to Brazil. He has grown more distant from the fans and his pronouncements sound less and less realistic. Performance this season: 3/10.

Jocky Scott: Ex-Manager
Jocky came south with mixed reviews from north of the border. Dundee fans respected his record but complained about his negative tactics, especially at home. Aberdeen and Hibernian fans hated his guts! Notts fans gave him his chance but by the end of last season it was apparent that he would struggle to create a promotion winning side. Remember, Jocky frequently left the ground for his home in Dundee at 5p.m. on Saturdays and did not return until Wednesday, he refused to speak to his players or assistants and had nothing but contempt for the supporters. An ideal candidate for a four-year contract then, well Messrs Pavis, Storries and Scardino thought so. In the end his contempt for the fans came to a head and he was fired. Rumours of a scuffle with board members abound. Good riddance then! But Notts are left to pick up the bill for the remaining three and half years on his contract. Performance this season: 2/10 (for keeping us out of the relegation zone)

Gary Brazil: Manager
I have heard about Mr Brazil is an extremely nice man. Articulate, friendly and open, he is liked by many. Its a shame then that his track record as a manager is so awful. 39 points gathered from 46 games over his two spells in charge. Awful tactics, unmotivated players, unsure where they are supposed to play. Its not Gary's fault, believe me! Gary was given a long-term contract at the same time as Jocky Scott. The club cannot afford to get rid of him, nor can they afford to bring in an experienced manager to replace him. Instead we bring in two muppets from Exeter who's managerial records are worse than his. Word is that he has lost the confidence of the players. It can only be a matter of time before he goes. Hopefully it will be this season rather than next by which time we will be in division 3. Good luck in your future career Gary, it won't be in management. Performance this season: a hapless 1/10 (for getting rid of Hamilton).

Goalkeepers
Midlenhall was the big summer signing but has looked low on confidence since joining Notts and has been responsible for conceding a number of goals. Garden on the other hand looks like the most competent reserve goalkeeper Notts have had since Mike Pollit. But the management keep picking Mildenhall despite his mistakes and it finally looks like his confidence is picking up. Perfomance this season: 5/10.

The Defence
We had our doubts about Baraclough but the rest of the summer signings looked like hits. Cas turned down the 3rd placed team in the SPL to join Notts, Caskey the 5th place team in Division 1. Mildenhall and Hackworth were both targets for higher placed clubs. In the end it was the defence that worught the manager's ire when things started to go wrong. Ireland and Fenton who had previously looked so promising now looked like chumps. Richardson, a target for Wimbledon in the summer made multiple mistakes. Bara played like Bara. So we changed it. Grayson, Chilvers and Stone were brought in and still the defence looked shaky. Could it be the tactics, or could it be that Jocky shook their confidence by blaming defensive errors for every single setback during his 16 month reign of terror. Stop blaming the players! Peformance this season: 6/10.

The Midfield
For several years Notts have lacked creativity in midfield. But with the summer signings of Cas and Caskey and the poaching of Kevin Nicholson from Northampton, fans expected a lot more this season. Nicholson, a starlet at Sheffield Wednesday and a hero at Northampton has been the biggest disappointment. Caskey started slowly (literally) resulting from a lack of fitness and motivation. He has however improved in recent weeks. Cas is class but lacks the finishing power that could turn him to an all-time hero. But our main problem in midfield this season has been the inability to win the ball. Owers is past it and is more exposed than ever without a ball-winning partner beside him. Bolland looks promising but cannot keep fit. Brough has been anonymous. Without a pacy ball-winner in midfield our defence is frequently exposed particularly when the opposition has pace. At least the anonymous Hamilton has gone. Performance this season: 5/10.

The Strikeforce
Mark Stallard has been forced to play through injury this season and it has not been the deadly force he was in 2000/01. Allsopp has been a leader upfront scoring 17 goals but his big mouth has led to suspension at a crtitical time. Hackworth, a Champions League player last season, has not lived up to expectations but needs to be given more time. Its nice that Heffernan has had a chance to play in the first team but the word is that he is not quite ready for senior football just yet. Performance this season: 4/10.

The Future
If Brazil stays then he needs a senior figure to guide him though the rest of the season. His lack of experience frequently shows in his tactics, team selections and his inability to motivate players. It may be no coincidence that both his tenures have coincided with injury crises - motivated players play through injury!
Ideally, Brazil will go before it is too late to be replaced by an exerienced lower division manager such as Steve Parkin or Jan Molby. Or how about John Rudge? We have a talented squad and it is frustrating for everyone to see that talent go to waste.