I should nail my colours to the mast before we start here. I’m firmly on the side of ‘Ardley In’.
In the last 10 years we’ve had 15 managers and he’s only the third to last over a year. In that time, we’ve been to the brink of League One play offs and now face our first season in non-league, having to qualify for the FA Cup proper and making our first appearance in the FA Trophy.
We will never prove this, but in my mind one of the reasons for that is the lack of stability caused by changing manager so many times.
When a new one comes in, they inevitably want their own players which means a year or two of upheaval and wages being wasted on players who don’t have a prayer of getting in the team.
So, how do I see his first 12 months?
Let’s face it, Ardley took over a club in turmoil. We were in a mess, sacking our second manager of the season just 3 months in and an owner who was becoming a laughing stock. Little did we realise how much worse it would become.
Many’s the time Ardley must have wished he was back on holiday, or at home with his family, and most Notts fans were grateful that he came to try to rescue us.
At that time, though, I don’t think most of us actually thought we would go down. It looked bad, but there was plenty of the season left. Lots of points to play for, we’d never been out of the league, there are plenty of clubs smaller than us and in trouble, so surely we’d be able to get our way out of it?
5 points from his first 4 games gave us hope but it was almost 2 months until we won again, and I think that period is what ultimately cost us, especially the home defeat to a Macclesfield side which looked a whole lot more fired up that we did, and tore us apart at times, albeit only winning by 1 goal.
Good business was done in January, but late, and who can blame players for not wanting to commit to us early.
Another false dawn with 7 points in 3 games against promotion chasing sides made us think the new blood was what we needed, and those games certainly showed they had the ability, so why didn’t we get more out of them?
Ardley gets a lot of criticism for being negative, and did often set up with 7 or 8 defensive minded players but was that because of circumstances? I’d have like to see us go at teams a bit more, but he’s quite right that if we did that and found ourselves 2 down inside 15 minutes, the game had gone.
Over the summer he had every right and every chance to walk away, and many would have done. That he stayed is something all Notts fans should appreciate.
Not only did he stay, but he somehow managed to recruit the basis of a squad despite rumours of the club being sold to property developers, wages not being paid and a very real chance that the club would fold during the closed season due to unpaid tax bills. And we were under a transfer embargo!
Naturally the start of this season was tough, disjointed and scrappy, but we still had a club and hope once again.
The same criticisms rose again, that he didn’t motivate the team, they made too many errors and weren’t attacking enough, but a run of 2 defeats in 14 games while playing twice a week with a new squad was surely more than we were entitled to even hope for when most of us just wanted to survive in the league this season?
Ardley must take a lot of credit for raising those expectations and faces the backlash when we stumble.
We’re about to enter a great part of the season in a position. far better than most of dared hope for. Within touching distance of the play offs, a settled squad, great owners and (whisper it) stability within the club.
Let’s not spoil it.