Three days removed from Sunday’s FA Cup heroics, just two minutes away from being 14th in the league, but once more you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the end of days at Meadow Lane.
After celebrating their own success (a 6-1 win over Bristol Rovers on Saturday) Walsall came to Meadow Lane with a point to make after Notts turned them over on New Year’s Day. But in truth this is a game Notts should have won by some distance. There’s very little point in drawing 1-1 with the likes of Manchester City if you’re only going to do the same with Walsall in your next game.
It wasn’t hard to imagine the side having an FA Cup hangover, Sunday would have pushed each player to the limits. But you at least hope everyone had enough in the tank to push past the division’s basement club.
Whilst Notts’ failure to capitalise on Lee Hughes’ 64th minute header is a massive disappointment, don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s still only one defeat since November and our games in hand will continue to rise thanks to the FA Cup run. The question is now do we have the legs for it?
The important thing now is to improve the squad during the transfer window.
Last season Steve Cotterill worked wonders for the club with a threadbare squad, and Paul Ince and Alex Rae now find themselves in a similar position, only with less players. Of course there’s the belief that you shouldn’t build a squad around loanees, but we’re left with little option at this moment in time as we await the loan window to open.
With all the last few days in mind, i contacted Notts Chairman Ray Trew for his feelings about both the cup run, and our league campaign.
WP: Firstly, thank you for taking the time to talk with me. I’ll start by asking you how the last few days have been, from the massive high of Sunday, to what i assume you must feel was a massive blow tonight against Walsall?
RT: I thought the team played exceptionally well on Sunday and whilst I would have settled for a draw pre-match, I felt somewhat cheated that we ended up drawing. I thought the team was exceptional throughout.
Last night I came away from the ground feeling like we lost. We were never going to be on top of our game after such a performance against Man City. However, I thought in patches we played some good stuff and deserved to take all the points. The goal we conceded was a very bad goal to give away.
WP: I think Sunday managed to surpass every expectation the supporters had for the afternoon, but what was your take? Was the day as big a success as it appeared from our point of view?
RT: The only disappointment I have about Sunday’s game is with the Council. There was no justification in them not allowing us to have full capacity. I think both on and off the pitch the day could not have gone any better except getting the win we deserved.
WP: Is there anything the club can do in this situation, or by taking action do you only risk making matters worse for yourselves? Surely there’s a case of loss of earnings isn’t there?
RT: In short, no. We could go to the FLA (Football Licensing Authority) but that could have repercussions and it’s not a road we would want to travel down.
WP: Is it safe to assume that game shattered our all records for gate receipts at the club? Are you able to go into that at all?
RT: Whilst I have no measure or statistics to answer this question accurately, I would have thought you would not be wrong in your assumptions.
WP: Personally i’m still undecided on a man of the match for the afternoon. On an afternoon of so many stand out performances, who in particular caught your eye?
RT: I would concur with your thoughts. I thought all eleven played their part and played exceptionally well. That said I thought Darby, Pearce, Harley probably had there best performance to date in a Notts shirt.
WP: You had told me yourself recently how you felt we could beat Manchester City, but did the team still manage to exceed all expectations from you?
RT: No they didn’t. I think this team on their day can be a match for any team. Yes we may not have the skills of some teams but we make up for that with sheer determination and a mindset of not getting beat. I just wished we turned in performances like that in the League.
WP: The one unfortunate blight to Sunday was Manchester City’s complaint against the club of sexism. Does the club intend to issue a statement in their defence?
RT: Given the recent press coverage on this subject I don’t really want to add fuel to the fire. All I am prepared to say is that we have sent a response to Man City and that I hope – is the end of the matter.
WP: Many supporters this week have been pulled up by fans of bigger teams and have praised Notts’ display. As Chairman have you had similar moments yourself? And have you found yourself reliving Bish’s goal over and over again?
RT: I think Notts were put on the map after last seasons exploits in the cup. This season’s cup run has only enhanced that feeling. But unfortunately I have found the time yet to watch the game again but I have seen the goal on YouTube countless times.
WP: Your time at the club has already been littered with fantastic moments, where does Sunday rank?
RT: I find it hard to choose between our away win at Sunderland and the game on Sunday but both are certainly up there at the top.
WP: There were rumours on Sunday that Manchester City had agreed to share their own proceeds with Notts, was this ever even likely?
RT: Absolutely no chance. As you all know we had to pay them a transfer fee of £250k for Kasper and we tried very hard to get this reduced but they were not having any of it.
WP: I would imagine you woke on Monday feeling it was important to carry on the previous day’s momentum on transfer deadline day. How disappointed were you that you weren’t able to add any more players to the side?
RT: I was very disappointed. I was convinced we had got our hands on 3 quality players but for various reasons the deals fell through. That said one of the players we wanted is still a free agent and I am hopeful we will secure his services.
WP: On the back of Sunday, having seen the tired legs first hand, did last night do anything to make you think Notts’ job in the loan window (acquiring the necessary talent to push on) might be harder than you’d first envisaged?
RT: Nothing has really changed for us. Paul has identified a number of targets he wants to bring in, but many of these we knew we could not get until the end of the season. He is not a manager who will bring someone in on loan just to make the numbers up. He wants players that either go straight into the team because they are better than what we have, or someone who can sit on the bench and who has the ability to change the game if used.
WP: Have you been forced to adjust your hopes for this season yet, or do you still look at the table and consider us to be in a false position?
RT: I am still hopeful we can get into the play offs despite dropping 2 points last night.
WP: Can’t imagine you would have been happy with the loss of 11,873 supporters from the Man City game at last night’s game. Have you seen even the slightest improvement in attendances since you previously voiced your concerns?
RT: No unfortunately I haven’t. I would have hoped after the performance the lads gave on Sunday we would have got 6500. So I was very disappointed in last night’s attendance.
WP: What message would you give to the stayaway supporters who won’t have seen your concerns on the messageboards in the past? Put into words just how valuable their contribution is, especially at the moment.
RT: Firstly let me begin in answering this question by saying that there is a limit in terms of cash I am prepared to put into this club and there has to come a point in time where the football club is self sustainable. I am attempting to do this by making investment into the I current infrastructure hoping to get new revenue streams.
However, in the short and medium term if fans want to see a better standard of football and more success, then I am afraid they are going to have to start supporting this football club because based upon average attendances this season, it does not support the salaries of our current squad let alone enhancing it.
WP: Obviously with a lot of rearranged games being played in midweek you’ll need to subsidise these losses through attendance, will the TV money be needed to compensate for this?
RT: The board have agreed that the monies we have gained from this cup run will only be used to strengthen the squad so sadly not.
WP: Now we’re in front of another international audience for the replay on ITV (and incredibly for the potential fifth round tie), do you retain your initial confidence in the team?
RT: Absolutely, I sincerely believe we can go to Eastlands and get a result. I have had a feeling of deja vu for some time as there are so many similarities to last season. So I am equating this match with Wigan. Draw at home after going a goal up and win the replay!
WP: Speaking of the similarities, one of the biggest is that the games in hand are piling up every week. But with a squad smaller than that which Steve Cotterill worked with, do you think that this year that the FA Cup will hinder our league campaign?
RT: Unfortunately I do. As I stated in a earlier response Paul Ince will not add numbers for the sake of doing so and whilst we are using the loan system Paul does not like it because he is not able to build a team that is his for the future. I have not given up hope of reaching the play offs but many more performances like last night will make that harder to achieve.
WP: And finally…have you dared to dream about Wembley yet?
RT: That’s a bridge to far I think and whilst its great for the club and fans to have a good cup run our priority has to be on the league.
And so with that, i figured i’d taken up enough of Ray’s afternoon and thanked him for his time.