The day before Sven-Göran Eriksson was unveiled as the Director of Football at the sixth worst League club in England I said to a friend “we are in danger of turning into a circus”. His reply, echoed by around 90 per cent of fellow Notts fans, was: “I’d rather pay £20 to see a circus than the rubbish I’ve been watching for the past ten years.”
And that is just one of the fevered responses to the hysteria (and yes, it was hysteria) in Nottingham. Nothing official was coming out of Meadow Lane, but that’s hardly surprising given the lack of information fans received about how much money the new owners, Middle-Eastern backed consortium Munto Finance, were going to plough in. It is also odd that an international investment fund doesn’t have a website – after all, it’s not as if Munto are publicity shy. Nonetheless, at the following day’s press conference, Sven spoke of his and the owners’ ambitions: “We are starting from the bottom of the bottom and trying to take it to the top. Hopefully that will happen,” he told the eager crowd.
A Burton-supporting colleague, still smarting at his wife for booking their holiday in August meaning he will miss the Brewers’ historic first league match, brought it home most vividly. “It’s the biggest football story of the year,” he said, while checking the AA’s recommended route to Bournemouth. “Is Accrington’s ground still a shithole?” he continued. “I can’t wait to see the pictures of Sven stood on the sidelines there.”
And amid all this hysteria, there’s still a part of me that is extremely uncomfortable with the whole idea. Our former chairman, who weeks previously had urged the supporters trust that held the majority shareholding and voted him in to back the takeover, referred to the very same organisation as “a social experiment that hadn’t worked.” This is demeaning to my friends who set up the trust and worked tirelessly and selflessly to help Notts come out of administration six years previously. And where is the money coming from for Sven’s alleged five-year £2 million-a-year contract to help mould manager Ian McParland into Alex Ferguson?
After all, Notts are a club that the previous week failed to sign Jack Lester from Division Two rivals Chesterfield for just £50,000. Are Notts, with virtually no hooliganism and almost a blueprint for a family-friendly club, going to become Division Two’s donkey, being strung up and whacked with a big stick by everyone from Gigg Lane to Sixfields for the next nine months?
A hastily cobbled together vox-pop by the Nottingham Post saw four toothless old men and one glamour model all state what great news it was for the city, while the paper decided to go with the back page headline of “Sven-tastic” rather than “Sven-sational” because they couldn’t make it fit on the page. Even the local BBC news chose to lead with another swine flu story rather than Sven’s appointment. One thing that has been missed amid all the back-slapping and brouhaha is the new owners’ diabolical decision to change the club badge from a magpie to some Philip K Dick nightmare of castles and purple blobs.
At the time of writing our forward line on August 9 could be any two from Lee Hughes, the ageing Delroy Facey, Craig Westcarr or Luke Rodgers – described by my County-supporting mate as “that short-arsed fiery twat who couldn’t score against us for either Shrewsbury or Port Vale”. But friends who had boycotted the club under the old regime are renewing their season tickets. The bloke at the corner shop, my football-hating next door neighbour, the Derby fan at work, even a scruffy student-looking oik with a Rochdale sticker in his car who pulled up beside me at the traffic lights wants to bang on about Sven. Old clients and suppliers from a sales job I gave up three years ago have been contacting me to ask what my thoughts are.
And this is where Sven’s appointment could turn out to be the major coup most Magpies fans think it is. If a printer from Romford, whose failure to buy enough ink from me in 2006 made me pack in the sales job, is back in contact, what will this do for tickets and merchandise sales? Who might Sky Sports want to show live on a Monday night in October: Ipswich Town (to pluck a name out the air) or “Sven’s” Notts County?
Amid all the taunting from piss-taking mates who claim the Swede has “only joined you because Nottingham has six women to every bloke”, the “biggest football story of the year” could well be a great credit-crunch busting piece of business. For a few months at least.
From WSC 271 September 2009