Thanks For The Memories Mad Dog

Martin Allen’s Notts County career was abruptly ended this evening before the team coach could have even arrived back in Nottingham.

Hartlepool exacted their revenge on us by the same 3-0 scoreline they fell to at Meadow Lane earlier in the season and with it only aided Mad Dog’s exit.

I wrote barely two weeks ago that Mad Dog must’ve been looking over his shoulder in the manager’s hotseat. After all, he’s working for a Chairman who has fired for form much less severe than that which Notts find themselves in right now.

With that said – the evening’s news still comes as a huge shock despite whatever rumours that might’ve circulated for the past few weeks. In amongst the initial uproar (rightly or wrongly) that will develop tonight it’s going to be important to remember that this sacking is absolutely not entirely a results-based decision.

Certainly, those results and performances have not been the best as of late. The current Notts side are a pale imitation of that which showed such pride in the shirt back in the first few months of the season. Still, you only have to look at the league table to realise just how much better things are under Allen’s stewardship then they were in League One under Craig Short or Paul Ince.

How long has this been coming though? It would appear Allen has been walking tightrope for the whole of 2012 so far.

At the beginning of the calendar year, a post was made on Twitter by someone who suggested that Allen would be fired the very next day. He cited that the board were finding it increasingly difficult to deal with him. As ever, it was stamped with the trusty old “good source” line.

The tweet was brushed off with relative ease, frowned upon as a case of internet hi-jinx.

Behind the scenes though it was very much a real scenario that would’ve been played out had it not been for the rousing comeback from his side at 2-0 down against Huddersfield the day previously. The game finished 2-2 after a rousing finale.

A week later followed an encouraging 2-0 win at Championship Doncaster Rovers in the FA Cup. This was followed by a trip down to the south coast for a visit to Bournemouth where Notts surrendered an early 1-0 lead to eventually lose 2-1.

Allen left of his own accord the very next day and not on the team coach with his players. Problems between both sets? Impossible to say and anything else would be purely speculative. But it likely didn’t do much for team solidarity in defeat – anything to do with talk of a trashed hotel room in the sea front Marriott hotel?

MK Dons came to Meadow Lane in the next match in a fixture Notts near enough dominated. The game was to end 1-1 in a second successive home draw against a side above us in the table. Surely a huge positive to take from the weekend’s events?

Perhaps not.

Speculation was rife that evening of a disagreement in the changing room where a number of players had been slated for their efforts. It seemed a game where his side thrown the proverbial kitchen sink at MK Dons just wasn’t enough for Allen.

Since then – the displays haved done little to take away from the suggestion that he had lost the players. The following Tuesday against Preston was as a blunt a display as there’s been this year. An FA Cup exit then at Stevenage ended with scuffles amongst players and fans.

But that was before two wins on the bounce seemed to have steadied the ship a little. Certainly they were hardly the most convincing against two sides currently in the bottom six – but six points are six points regardless of the opposition.

The playoff hopes were in the balance right up until today’s game. The abject failure of today’s defeat confirms what everyone should have already known – Notts County are a mid-table outfit at this moment in time.

Take what I say with a pinch of salt if you wish, but i’ll stand by what i’ve heard. I think near enough everyone is well aware of the failings in the transfer market, where talent like Shefki Kuqi chose against playing for Allen, rather than the financial side of things as was described in the press at the time.

So as I said at the beginning of this piece – his dismissal is not purely based on results. Not that this will do much to appease the already assembling lynchmob.

Despite all i’ve said, I can’t help thinking that Martin Allen will be a huge loss to this club and it’s a crying shame that he goes out with a wimper. Certainly the start of his time at Meadow Lane seemed to point at bigger and better things.

How long ago now that final day last season against Brighton now feels. I’ve lost count of how many times i’ve wrote on here that we were dead and buried before the Dog came in. I would struggle to think up another manager that could’ve saved us. Regardless of whether your fuse was running short recently – he’s owed immense gratitude for that.

Same also at the beginning of this year. Written off by many before a ball had even been kicked based on an average pre-season and signings that didn’t grab the headlines. No one saw that 3-0 win away at Carlisle United coming on the opening day.

Nor the immense efforts put in by his players as we all made the short trip across the river to play Forest in the League Cup. We lost the game that night – but we all walked out heads held high.

What was to happen in September in Turin has been written about enough by now – but the wave Martin gave our group at the top of the Juventus Arena will remain with me forever. Even from the heavens, you could see the smile on his face and what that night had meant to him.

In that respect, maybe he’s a victim of his own success. After last season’s fight against relegation we’d have all taken mid-table this year – but having seen the higher reaches of the table for so long it has become difficult to take the downward spiral that followed.

Me and Sean even met him the day of that game down in Bournemouth. We only spent a few moments with him but he was happy to sort us out with free tickets for the game that day without us even asking- he knew the importance of how much supporters spend following their side. There can’t be many in the game who’ll pay the kind of attention to the finer details.

Rightly or wrongly, he’s a man held in high esteem by many, considered to be amongst the club’s greatest managers next to Jimmy Sirrel and Neil Warnock. That’s some statement to make after just ten months in charge – such was the impact of his own promotion of himself and Notts.

The club was just recently awarded the The Football League Family Excellence Award for the very first time – thanks in no small part to Allen’s insistence on getting players out with the fans. His efforts will be long remembered at Meadow Lane.

It’s another sad day for the club, and the end of a short-lived reign that deserved so much better than today’s defeat.

Where next? It’s something I haven’t pondered in any great detail yet. I’m still somewhat haunted by the vision of Ray Trew with Keith Curle at Meadow Lane some games ago. I had lived in hope that this might have been with a view to a move for Warnock – but we’ve missed the boat now.

Talk is that a replacement will be named much sooner rather than later, but despite the recent loss of form and rumoured off-field problems – I can’t help but think we’ll struggle to find a man more suited to the Meadow Lane asylum than Mad Dog was.

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