Thursday, September 09, 2010

A look ahead to...Notts County

This is a game that really emphasises how far Charlton have declined.

Since I got sucked into this mad world of football, I only really remember Notts County languishing in the lower reaches of the Football League. They may have been the oldest club on the planet but that accolade was not transferring into results.

While we were pitting our wits against Arsenal and Manchester United - beating the former and drawing with the latter - English football's pioneers were battling minnows, suffering severe financial problems, and struggling to preserve their status amongst the elite 72 teams in the country.

Fast forward to now, though, and we are on an even playing field. Whereas the Addicks' band of brothers failed in their attempt to jump up a division, the Magpies', like their namesakes up in Newcastle, did not. That said, their promotion campaign involved no shortage of tumult.

June 2009 created plenty of excitement when Middle Eastern consortium Munto Finance sauntered in. They brought money, which they used to acquire players far too good for League Two, such as Kasper Schemeichel and our very own Johnnie Jackson. Mild Swede Sven-Goran Eriksson followed and was instilled in a Director of Football capacity. Elevation was expected. The Premier League in the shortest possible time frame was the goal.

But County's success was modest. They floated around the play-offs, looked capable of surging forward but couldn't quite manage to sustain their push. Then Munto Fiance were proved to be dodgy, boardroom battles ensued and I think I even recall a rumour that the Magpies could have slipped into administration.

Ultimately though, some good old English intervention saved the day. New owner Ray Trew - a salt-of-the-earth chairman if ever I've seen one - entered with realism, reminding everyone that this is Nottingham, not Madrid and that such outlandish goals should be forgotten. They were aiming for Charlton, not Chelsea.

Steve Cotterill was the manager that led them to the peak of League Two and because of that, into League One. He left for Portsmouth over the Summer, though, and ex-Blackburn defender Craig Short plonked himself into the Meadow Lane hotseat.

County have had a mixed start to life in the third tier - losing their opening two games 3-0 before narrowly defeating Dagenham & Redbridge, drawing a six-goal thriller with Bournemouth and then last weekend, tonking Yeovil 4-0.

Browsing through their squad list, one name sticks out like a sore thumb - Lee Hughes. The ginger frontman once transferred for the entertaining sum of £5,000,001, but he made headlines for all the wrong reasons years later when after driving recklessly through a Warwickshire town, he collided with another car and killed one of the passengers. For his crime he was sentenced to six years imprisonment but ended up serving just three.

Whether or not Hughes deserves a second chance after performing such a stupid and dangerous act is up for debate, but I must credit the man for seemingly turning his life around. He could quite easily have felt sorry for himself and frittered the rest of his existence away, but he hasn't done that. He has got his head down, rebuilt himself and last season played a huge part in County's promotion. Some will argue that he can never redeem himself fully and that may be partly true, but he owes it to himself - and the man whose life he prematurely ended - to try.

This piece has taken a rather sombre and moralistic turn, so I will now return to the football. Other than Hughes, who is always liable to pop up with a goal, the Magpies also have experience in the shape of ex-Chelsea left-sider Jon Harley and guile in the form of 29-year-old midfielder Ben Davies. Goalkeeper Rob Burch has also impressed me whenever I have seen him but he is playing second fiddle at the moment to Stuart Nelson.

The Addicks have played second fiddle over the last few weeks, firstly to Huddersfield and then Exexter, and could really do with their first convincing home performance of the season on Saturday.

Conuty alumnus Johnnie Jackson should replace Matt Fry at left-back, while after a distinct lack of attacking substance in our previous few games, Scott Wagstaff and Therry Racon will be especially disappointed if they do not force their way into the starting line-up. Christian Dailly is out for a month or so with a fractured eye socket and missing man Kelly Youga won't play, but is stepping up his training schedule.

I'll be at The Valley as always, hoping for a win, but not quite believing that we are playing Notts County in a league game.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well CA, I remember going to their place to see Charlton in, I think, 1978. Must have been the second division.

So for me this is just full circle!

Pembury Addick