On the back of another tumultuous season at Meadow Lane, Club Chairman Ray Trew must surely be hoping for a rest next season?
In one and a half seasons Mr Trew has already endured six managers, one league title, two fantastic cup runs, and safety achieved on the final day of the season.
Following on from his first interview with me back in February, i spoke with Ray again to get his thoughts on the campaign that’s just passed, what the club is doing in the close-season, and his hopes and expectations for 2011/12.
How has your pre-season been thus far? Things are never quiet at Notts so have you been able to take a minute to take stock of last year?
Pre-Season is probably the busiest time for myself, Jim Rodwell and Martin Allen. That said, I probably like this period more than any other point during the season as it fills you with optimism and promise.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to sit down and reflect on the highs and lows of last season just yet, but I do aim to do that if only to learn lessons.
Obviously you must be delighted with the in-roads Martin Allen has already began to the playing staff and his back room. But do you find yourself being a bit cautious though having seen some of the “quality” the previous appointments have brought in?
Certainly not. I have every confidence in Martin’s ability to identify and pick a player. I think his record of signings at Brentford and MK Dons speaks for itself.
Did there ever come a point last season where you thought the only way the season would end was relegation? What was the lowest point for you, the one game where you didn’t think things could get worse?
Absolutely. After our defeat against Huddersfield (away), I was convinced that if we didn’t change our manager, we were doomed to relegation. So having pondered over it all of Sunday, I decided to summon a Board meeting for the Monday morning to air my views. We debated the why’s and why not’s and concluded in the end to give Paul Ince one more throw of the dice, to see if he could change things around.
I am convinced if we had not dismissed Craig earlier in the season we would have acted sooner.
For all the negativity though, there were some highs in there. What is your one favourite memory that you’ll take from last year?
It goes without saying our home draw against Man City.
How did it feel to hear Alex Rae and Ince complain of having “someone else’s squad” despite bringing in about a dozen players during their regime? Did any of those loanees or free agents do much to impress you?
I was quite annoyed to say the least when I heard those comments. We gave that management team carte blanche to either sign new players or bring in as many loanees as they wanted. It was an open cheque book, because I believed at the time they were appointed we could push on and make a challenge.
The one player to impress me out of the loanees Paul brought in was his son Tom. I think the lad will go on and play at the top level.
How untenable had Ince’s position become? The rumour mill suggests a lot of unrest behind the scenes, were these amongst the factors to remove him alongside the results?
We dispensed with his services purely on the results.
That said, I did personally think that something was not quite right in the dressing room and after the Huddersfield defeat I made some tentative enquiries, but all I am prepared to say is at that time the players showed loyalty to their manager.
Was it frustrating on the final day of the transfer window in January? Do you think enough was done by the manager to chase up the required talent? Then to have Ince’s agent the day he was released on Sky Sports News blaming the budget, it couldn’t have been easy?
The fact is Paul did not want to sign anyone permanent during January. He wanted to wait until the summer. As I said in a previous question, we supported him in every aspect.
The comments made by his agent were a complete smokescreen. The fact is we dispensed with Paul’s services – he did not resign.
What was your take on Carl Heggs’ post-match comments following defeat at Dagenham & Redbridge where he slated his players just days after promoting the importance of keeping morale high?
Carl is not unlike Martin in some respects. He wears his heart on his sleeve and has passion in abundance. I think his comments were out of pure frustration and something he regretted saying. I think if given the opportunity, Carl will do well in management.
The club has decided against installing undersoil heating during the close-season. What is currently the plan to combat the frost that has wreaked havoc with the schedule for so long aside from shifting the pitch?
During our pitch renovation, we have installed behind the goal, in front of the Hadyn Green stand a gas pipe. This pipe will be used in conjunction with a dome to fuel heaters. This has added benefits over undersoil heating, in so far as we can grow new grass during the bad months
Will the club be taking extra precautions for the Wolves friendly to ensure there’ll be no reprisals from the League Cup fixture at Molineux? Did it ring any alarm bells for you when you saw the game had been arranged?
None whatsoever. It was the Wolves Chairman himself who approached us to get this pre season game on.
During your short time at Meadow Lane you’ve been keen to rebuild the club from the ground up with new facilities all over Meadow Lane. What comes next in those plans?
Firstly, I think its important to give some rationale into my motives for building the club from the ground upwards. If Notts are to remain competitive and more importantly stable, we need to derive new revenue streams, that is why I have put emphasis on ground development.
The next part of my plan, is to construct a 800 seater restaurant/function room which will overlook the pitch by having a glass frontage. This development will include redesigning the club shop, the ticket office and more importantly the façade of Meadow Lane itself.
The dust has began to settle on unrest over the new Fila kit now, any regrets at all? Any plans to change the previously planned white “Lawton” strip in favour of a black and white design as some have suggested?
None whatsoever. The reason why we went for such a drastic change to the customary black and white stripes was to originally incorporate the names of our season ticket holders on our home kit. It was only when the order and had been placed and production had started were we told this was not feasible due to time constraints.
Hence, why this idea is now on the Lawton 150 year centenary strip.
We will undoubtedly return to our traditional kit the following season.
With the 150th anniversary celebrations fast approaching, a lot of people are excited at the glamour friendly that is planned for Meadow Lane next Summer. What’s the latest on that, are the club closer to sealing a big name now?
Myself and Jim are due to go to Juventus in July to sit down and see if we can sort this game out. We have contingency plans if they are not able to meet our requirements though.
And how are plans progressing for the museum at Nottingham Castle? Do you have a timeframe for that to begin yet?
We are looking to have this up and running by November and having it running for a year to coincide with the actual date of our anniversary.
What were your thoughts on the club’s league fixtures when they were published? Had the club made any requests to be taken into consideration this year when they were being compiled?
It would have been nice to open our account for the forthcoming campaign with a home fixture but deep down I knew that wasn’t going to happen because of us having home fixtures in he past two seasons. The only request we made of the FL was to ask for all our local Derby’s to be held on Weekends. Sadly that didn’t happen because we have Sheff Utd on a Tuesday evening. All in all I am quite happy with them especially if we are in contention after Christmas because what a great run in we would have.
And you must be excited about your first game with Nottingham Forest in the League Cup? Does the club plan to maximise profits themselves, via merchandising, possibly having MLSB open pre-match etc?
I am very much looking forward to this encounter with our neighbours, for me its the perfect draw.
And yes we will certainly be maximising the opportunity. We intend opening all our function suites including the MLSB
And finally…what are your hopes and expectations for the season ahead? Have you set a target or are you happier this term to hold back and see things as they progress month by month?
I personally was not setting the bar as high this year. A top table finish would have been sufficient for me. However, our manager has expectations of getting to the play offs as a minimum.