15 April ~ There's a growing sense of dread around Meadow Lane at the moment. The euphoria of last season's controversial, yet meteoric, League Two championship is a distant memory and we've just appointed our third manager of the season in Martin Allen. Former playing hero Craig Short was replaced after a handful of games with us sitting comfortably mid-table. But the ambitious owners decided that wasn't good enough as they lauded to the local press their ambitions of a second successive promotion, or the play-offs at the very least. So they appointed Paul Ince, whose uncompromising style of management consisted of telling the same local press that Notts were in a relegation battle. This was back in October.
At the start of this season, I mentioned on this site that I – and a number of fellow Pies – would take fifth from bottom before a ball was kicked. I was roundly turned upon by one online message board, accused of a lack of ambition. I think those who criticised me would gladly shake my hand if we do, somehow, manage to finish 20th in Division One.
Contrast our position with Saturday's opponents at Meadow Lane, Bournemouth, whose talented young manager Eddie Howe thought long and hard before joining Burnley earlier in the season. At the time the Cherries were strongly in a play-off position which I'm sure most of their fans would have been delighted with. They then lost star striker Josh McQuoid to Millwall but the results still came. What did they do right this season that we did wrong? I've no idea.
Rumours are rumours of course, but if you believe some of them Craig Short was a pushover for the players in the dressing room who never really got their respect – hence being pushed out. Ince, on the other hand, was a disciplinarian who trained the players into the ground. I don't necessarily believe either that much, but something has gone drastically awry, with us sitting third from bottom having been gubbed eight games on the trot.
Do I think we'll go down? Yes. The players confidence is shot and we've a manager with an unenviable record with lower-division teams. Some (notably Brentford) he's done well at, others (Cheltenham) stuck him on a disciplinary before sacking him for whatever reason. After Tuesday night's 2-1 defeat at Yeovil he told the local press he'd stopped the coach on the trip down to make the team practice set-pieces in a field. We still ended up looking like turnips.
Many of us just want this season to be over, regroup and see what happens over the summer, whatever division we are in. Whether the outcome is positive or negative for the Magpies, I'm the first to admit that I cast a jealous eye upwards at how our opponents have adapted to League One football compared to the boys in black and white. Dave Evans