And so it continues.
On the back of five straight defeats, Paul Ince finds himself being shown the exit at Meadow Lane with the team languishing in 19th place – just two points above the relegation zone.
Whether the dismissal is justified is something that remains to be seen. Had Craig Short’s been a results-based firing, you could perhaps argue now that it wasn’t justified based on Ince’s tenure. But with recent performances being as woeful as they have been, it’d be a struggle to make a decent case for Ince to have stayed.
Those five losses of course are merely the headline here, with there being other sub-plots to the story. The biggest of which being that for the past 11 games, his Notts sides have failed to craft their own goals from open play. Save for an Alan Gow penalty, Neal Bishop deflecting home a free-kick via backside, and two gifts from a Brentford defence, County have done nothing of note in front of goal.
Changing room unrest, a popular theme this season is another story but it’s difficult to comment on that.
When you look back at Short’s managerial tenure, it wouldn’t be difficult to make a case for the defence in that the performances were there at least, and it was just a case of being more ruthless in front of goal. The decision of whether to stick or twist was taken and Ince was brought in just as quickly as Short was gone.We know the decision to fire Short (and assistant Dave Kevan) wasn’t results-based, but you do often wonder what role they played in the final outcome.
Quite simply, there was nothing positive to speak of from the Notts performances of recent weeks. No passion, and certainly no belief. All we were given was a procession of defeats against some truly appalling footballing sides. Teams such as Peterborough, Oldham and Bristol Rovers have all visited Meadow Lane in recent weeks and found very little resistance. Notts would see plenty of the ball, our resolute defence would stand tall for large periods…but would ultimately capitulate in the second half.
It’s been a common tale throughout the season, but it had reached a stage where any hope you have for a County goal vanishes the moment our opponents score, we’d reached that level of hopelessness on the field and something needed to be done.
At Saturday’s conclusion against Oldham, i was sat just a few rows up from where the post-match press interviews are done in front of the Derek Pavis Stand. Both Stephen Darby and Bish made their way upstairs to speak to Colin Slater for Radio Nottingham, and their expressions were of beaten men. Defeat had hurt, and you get the feeling that it was only going to get worse.
The word “stability” is one that’s been thrown around a lot this season, particularly in recent weeks of constant knee jerk reactions at recent defeats. But at what point do things stop being knee jerk, and become an actual problem? For many people, myself included – that time came on Saturday.
No one involved with Notts wants to see the constantly revolving door at County, but you need to find the balance between stability and success. What sense is there for keeping a manager in the job, just because those who have gone before him have failed or moved on? The situation for Notts at the moment is critical and action needed to be taken.
The dismissal by “mutual consent” came as a surprise to no one on Sunday afternoon, in fact the greater surprise to me was that it wasn’t announced by the time i’d got home on Saturday evening.
Immediate emotions were mixed for me personally. I had great hopes that Ince would take County forward and really make an impression this season – and it’s not as if the entirety of his time in Nottingham was as dark as the recent weeks have been.
We’ll always have a fantastic day at Sunderland for example, the visit of Manchester City to Meadow Lane was a proud day for everyone associated with Notts, and there was a time when the playoffs were a realistic aim as an Ince Jnr inspired team were threatening to sweep aside everything before them.
But when the likes of Tom Ince and Lee Miller returned to their parent clubs at the end of their loan deals, to coin a phrase – the wheels fell off.
Injuries too have been a constant headache for the squad, with the likes of Carl Regan Lee Hughes, Krystian Pearce and Alan Judge missing for long periods, alongside suspensions for the likes of John Harley and Mike Edwards – but you have to feel that their was still enough quality in the squad to get a job done in their absences.
Any feelings of compassion for Ince though quickly evaporated on Sunday, as his “spokesman” took to Sky Sports News, to rubbish claims of a mutually agreed firing, saying he quit in light of the financial constraints.
Financial constraints at a club who sold Ben Davies above his market value? Financial constraints at a club with two lots of TV money from their recent FA Cup campaign, not to mention the winnings from said run? The man is quite simply an idiot if he thinks anyone will fall for the same old “financial constraints” spiel he fed the press upon exits from both MK Dons and Blackburn Rovers.
The thing is that when he came in, we were told of his demeanour but few took notice. We were told he’d pass the buck, but we didn’t listen. We took no notice of those who said the football would deteriorate. And we certainly cared not for those who focused on a blatantly wayward attitude – we simply didn’t care if it meant getting results.
Lesson learned the hard way then. When people said he wouldn’t take responsibility for his actions, they weren’t lying. Ince had become notorious for his inability to not conduct post-match interviews (damned if he did, damned if he didn’t to be fair).
However on Saturday afternoon, mere minutes after a chorus of “Incey Out” chants echoed out from the Kop end, he couldn’t make his way up the Pavis steps to clear himself on local radio quick enough!
Onwards and upwards though, those days are behind us now and we welcome old friends Rochdale tomorrow evening in desperate need of a response from the Notts County players, led by head scout Carl Heggs.
It’s a game which Ray Trew will almost certainly have a degree of sentimental value for on the back of last year’s campaign, he’s not likely to have put his trust in Heggs if he thought his team would lie down like they have in recent weeks.