Notts County Not Adjusting to Non-League football
Background image: Warren Smith
Ranking among football's founding clubs is a big enough responsibility without any added pressure. Notts County bears that labour of love every single day. Not exclusively on match days when the fans let them know, but every millisecond.
Eighteen sixty-two is forever stored in time’s index as the year Notts County began their football journey, crafting English football in its infancy.
Contemporary followers grew accustomed to the back-and-forth between League 1 and 2. None expected the Magpies to be relegated to the fifth tier one year after reaching the League 2 playoffs. The club wasn't prepared either and is taking its time to adjust to non-league football.
Performances haven’t been great. A dozen games in, the club is not acting like a full-time cat among the part-time pigeons. The consortium at the top decided to keep Neal Ardley who’s been in the role since November 2018. Ardley's record isn’t particularly enticing, winning eight games from 40 matches in charge.
The gaffer told the press his side was several players short of his vision after the opening day 1-0 loss to Eastleigh. The Epsom-born manager stated his squad didn’t possess the physicality to fully compete. Non-league players have earned a reputation as part-time plumbers likely to foul more often than hoof the ball up route one. Ardley claimed to be looking for "bigger players".
Nathan Tyson, Richard Brindley and Zoumana Bakayogo give County presence in games. All towering subjects, the trio represents the strength to compete in this division.
That said, the incoming players haven’t exerted much influence in the early doors. Notts have been distinctly average. Reading the National League data tables the Pies are either just below or above the mid-point for all attributes. The reasoning behind Notts’ 16th position is their opponents by and large played better. The scoreline against Bromley this past week was predictable. The Ravens score more than they concede. County doesn't. Hence, Bromley won 2-1.
Concentration coupled with fitness is a problem. Notts are slow starters. often conceding in the first 15 minutes. Chasing the game opens them to further punishment. You'd expect them to enjoy more success if they could get out on the front foot. No. Ardley's squad led eight times in games this season but could only see their way through the full 90 minutes on three occasions.
Kyle Wootton is playing well. He has three goals in five games but enjoys little support. Others need to contribute.
Fans are put off. To add insult to injury, the Meadow Lane contingent pays far beyond the standard price for the division. Granted, their facilities are fancier, with a few extra bells and whistles, but 20 quid is a bit much for National League fare. That'll buy you four matches at Woking. Yeovil also went down last year but only charge £16. At least it keeps the away fans to a limit. Not that it helps much.
It also hurts the bottom line. According to Carousel Royal Web Hosting, Notts County averaged 7,300 fans this past year in League Two. So far in '19/20, the highest headcount has been just over 6,200 v Wrexham.
The Magpies' plight isn't as bad as it might be. They faced the same fate as Bolton, possibly even Bury, but former chairman Alan Hardy sold the club quickly to Danish investors. The Reetz brothers proclaimed their ambition for an instant return to league football to begin another 157-year run at the professional level to match the one that ended this past spring. So far, it's proving easier said than done. Something is rotten in Nottingham and the Danish princes must decide whether to keep their manager or not to keep him. To suffer the slings and arrows of defeat and all that. As it has been for more than four centuries, that is the question.