With the season only 17 games old, Notts County are already in search of their third manager of the season.
Harry Kewell’s sacking on Tuesday may have come as a shock to some, but in the aftermath of his comments after Saturday’s FA Cup defeat at Barnsley, he left owner Alan Hardy with little choice over his future.
When Kewell took over at the start of September, he said that Notts were most definitely fighting for promotion; on Saturday, when asked in his post-match interview if he had seen any improvement his response was “when I came in you were bottom, you’re now 22nd “.
I think it’s fair to say that that comment especially, was the nail in the coffin for most Notts fans, and his mere 75-day tenure at the club was, in my opinion, rightfully over.
As for the next appointment, at the time of writing, nobody is yet confirmed, but former Wimbledon boss, Neil Ardley is in the running, as is Paul Hurst and Michael Appleton, alongside the former Notts boss Kevin Nolan, who is rumoured to be interested in a return to the club, just over 10 weeks after he was sacked by them.
Regardless of who it is, Alan Hardy is said to want him in before Saturday’s game with Cheltenham, which is looking like it’s becoming increasingly important.
Cheltenham Town are, along with Macclesfield Town, one of only two sides currently below Notts in the league table.
What makes that worse for Notts fans is that the Robins have a game in hand on Notts, which if they win would take them above the Magpies, leaving County in the relegation zone.
Saturday’s game therefore is a definite six-pointer, with the added pressure of probably being the first game under a new manager’s reign.
Cheltenham manager Michael Duff hasn’t get the best of squads to play with, and that is told with the fact that they’ve only scored 12 goals this campaign, despite having some names like Luke Varney and Tyrone Barnett amongst their strikers, who collectively have transfer fees of nearly £5m throughout their careers.
But up against Notts’ defence, who have shipped an average of over two a game in the league, that may well not matter.
County will be without midfielder Elliott Hewitt, who is suspended for picking five yellow cards so far this season, and are also without midfielder Noor Husin, who is away on International duty with Afghanistan.
Other than that, the Magpies should have a fully fit squad to choose from: Jon Stead and Kane Hemmings have both been missing for the past week, which Harry Kewell says was because of injuries, but it was rumoured to be due to a squad fall-out between some of the players and the manager – so it would be no surprise if they are both fit again on Saturday.
The alleged fall-out could also mean that players such as David Vaughan, Dan Jones, Tom Crawford and Matt Tootle, to name just a few, could return to the first-team, having all fallen very out of favour under Kewell.
Notts and Cheltenham are the two most out-of-form sides in the division; the Robins haven’t won in their last ten league matches, dating back to September 8th, whilst the Magpies haven’t won since the start of October, six matches ago, so Saturday really is a huge game for both teams.
Notts are unbeaten in their last six meetings against Cheltenham, winning four of them, and have only ever lost twice to them in their history. But form will be totally irrelevant for both sides, as they will target winning, what is so far, their biggest game of the season.
Regardless of who Notts appointed, or have appointed, Saturday is the start of a new era at Meadow Lane, that if isn’t successful could result in relegation out of the Football League for the first ever time in their 156-year history.
The fans will hopefully turn out in their numbers, to get behind the new manager, and help Notts pick up an invaluable win that will keep the Magpies out of the bottom two, and hopefully see them start climbing the table to safety.
Picture Credit: Notts County