After a bad run of form from last season carried on into this season, Kevin Nolan saw his Notts County reign come to a controversial end.
A run of just eight wins in the last 28 games in all competitions, rounded off by a dismal 3-1 defeat at Lincoln City on Saturday was enough for owner Alan Hardy to make the decision on Sunday morning.
Every Notts fan will have their own view on whether he should, or should not have been axed, but regardless of their opinion they should be grateful of the job that Kevin Nolan has done as Magpies boss.
When he was brought in in January 2017, Notts were at the foot of League Two, on the back of a record run of 10 straight defeats in the league. Somehow he managed to turn it around, and quickly, otherwise Notts may well be now playing Conference football.
He then got Notts into the League Two play-offs last season, although that doesn’t show the full story. Notts were seven points clear of the play-off places in 2nd at the start of 2018, in the end, they finished seven points adrift of the automatic promotion places.
Therefore, even though he is owed a lot by the club, and even though he had the best win percentage (41.7%) since Keith Curle (45.1%) in 2012/13, his sacking isn’t a real surprise as it’s been a constant, unfortunate downward spiral since the turn of the year.
So, who should replace him? Here’s a look at some of the people that are being linked to the Notts job:
Harry Kewell: The former Leeds and Liverpool midfielder is, at time of writing, favourite for the job. This is not a name that I suspect many Notts fans would have expected to be favourite for the job, as the current Crawley manager hasn’t exactly set the world alight with his time at the Red Devils. He’s been at Crawley for a little over a year, with a win percentage of just over 31%. They finished in a mid-table 14th last year, 13 points clear of the bottom two and 16 points off the play-offs, a clear improvement on their 19th place finish of 2016/17. Kewell was apparently spotted in the crowd of Notts County’s 4-0 home defeat by Yeovil Town, but I doubt will be a name that excites many Notts fans.
Gary Bowyer: The former Nottingham Forest full back is currently 2nd favourite for the job. He has experience in getting promotion from League Two when he got Blackpool promoted in 2017. He was also in attendance of Notts’ recent home game against Yeovil and would probably be a preference for many Notts fans. His overall win percentage, combining his time at Blackburn as well as Blackpool is 36.2%, so not shabby at all, and he was at Forest at the same time as current backroom staff members Steve Chettle and Mark Crossley.
Steve Chettle: Chettle was manager of owner Alan Hardy’s other club, Ilkeston Town until a week ago when he was brought into the Notts backroom staff. Another former Nottingham Forest defender, he played 415 times for the Reds through the 80s and 90s and was part of the League Cup winning sides of 1989 and 1990. As a coach, he’s been manager of the Forest academy, has been assistant at Nuneaton Town, and won promotion with Ilkeston Town last season. He would be a bit of a ‘safe’ appointment and wouldn’t be the first choice for most Notts fans, but as mentioned as got experience of working with current coach Mark Crossley.
Michael Appleton: A bit of a wildcard, as he features much further down the bookies’ list, as does everyone else who isn’t one of the previous three people I’ve mentioned, but my personal preference for the job. The former midfielder had his career cruelly cut short aged just 27 after tearing cruciate ligaments in his knee, but that made him more determined to make a success of his coaching career. After being Roy Hodgson’s assistant at West Brom, having been a manager in the academy for the previous eight years, his first three official managerial roles were at struggling clubs: Portsmouth, Blackpool and Blackburn. He managed to steady a sinking ship at the three but wasn’t really in charge of any of them for long enough to prove himself. He managed to do that though at Oxford United, steadying the club in his first year and then getting the U’s promoted in his 2nd year with a very attractive, attacking brand of football. In his third year, the Yellows finished 8th in League One, finishing just four points off the play-offs in their first season back in the 3rd tier. They also made two EFL trophy finals during his tenure but lost them both. He left Oxford in the summer of 2017 to join Premier League Leicester as assistant to Craig Shakespeare, and was placed in caretaker charge when Shakespeare was sacked, winning both his matches, but left last summer as part of a backroom reshuffle under Claude Puel. He has experience of getting out of League Two, and if he was willing to drop back down into the 4th tier, I think he would be the best replacement for Kevin Nolan.
Regardless of who the next appointment is, it needs to be quick, as Notts need reinforcements in before the loan window shuts at the end of the week.
The odds are changing all the time, with the likes of Darren Ferguson and former Notts managers Keith Curle and Steve Cotterill not too far down the list as well.
It’s a crucial appointment for the Magpies as we’ll soon see if promotion this season, the aim before the season started, is realistic. Owner Alan Hardy has received a lot of criticism over the past few weeks, so let’s hope that he can redeem himself and get his next decision right.
Picture Credit: Notts County