Appointment felt like a new chance but it’s been thrown away
25 March ~ Readers of WSC will remember that a few years ago Notts County were taken over by Munto Finance, a mysterious consortium who turned out not to have any money after all. By the time that was apparent, Notts, with Sven-Göran Eriksson in charge, had won League One by some distance. I am not sure if Eriksson, now life president of the club, has expressed a view on the sacking of Shaun Derry. If so, it is unlikely to be as forthright as mine. I believe it to be a disgrace.
At every lower-league club managers come and go, as do players, and we struggle to remember who our current No 27 is – he’s on loan from Tamworth but on loan to them from Everton, he’s third-party owned so we have to pay a bloke in Hong Kong when he plays, meaning we rested him for games such as the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy on Wednesdays.
But even having accepted the contamination of football with spirit-sapping business rhetoric, the sacking of Derry is still an outrage. If I were to discuss this with Robbie Savage on 6.06, I think he’d agree with me that, in the current climate, giving management of a team to an ex-player and lifelong fan (of an “unfashionable" club, of course) was something to applaud. “I can’t fault the club,” Savage might say, before emphasising “but in the real world…”.
Folklore has it Derry asked for a go at keeping us up in November 2013 when we were bottom of League One. And he did it, winning almost every game in the closing stages of the season. But Savage and I, in my imagined conversation, would then disagree with my belief that it would be preferable to be relegated with Derry than stay up with yet another transitional arrangement (Paul Hart at the time of writing – ex Forest, a journeyman, nothing to either excite or outrage). After all, the difference between the bottom tiers is negligible and there’s something of the “soul" of the club in the presence of Derry on the touchline, appearing to really care, beyond the fan-applauding, platitude-uttering optimism that you get from so many managers these days.
Notts’ current owner Ray Trew paid off the Munto debts, and until this week was regarded as a generally good thing. We have had cheap deals for kids, a price freeze on season tickets, a consistent focus on the fans and the club’s 150-plus year legacy and – my personal favourite – the provision of a warm bar serving decent ale in the family stand (usually occupied now by single adults whose kids were persuaded to attend to facilitate access but refused to return after seeing a home defeat to Fleetwood in freezing conditions).
Contrast this with Eriksson’s Hooters bar bill, Sol’s Campbell’s one appearance (a loss at Morecambe) and Munto’s secret “strategic” development trips to North Korea. Surely, when results declined and disquiet set in, this manager would be given more time? Our song is "I had a wheelbarrow, the wheel fell off". We watch with irony, we expect to lose. After the sordid Munto affair, having Shaun Derry in charge felt like a new chance. It couldn't last, eh Robbie? Julian McDougall