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Alex West

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  1. When heading to an away game on a Saturday morning prior to an afternoon kickoff, it’s difficult to not notice the number of different social groups which are associated with Notts County. I would like everyone reading this article to imagine the ‘typical football fan’ in the following scenario: 8am: Meeting point is Lloyds, Hockley for ‘brekkie and a pint’. 9am: Next it’s a stop in the shop in the train station for numerous purchases of Beer and Cider. 9.30am: Board the train with 9 of ‘the lads’ before consuming a number of cans and taking part in a few sing songs. Midday: Off the train and into the nearest boozer for a few cheeky pints and a further sing song. 2.30pm: Head to the ground for one last pre-match pint before taking our seat with the rest of the NCFC faithful. Now, build a picture of the ‘typical supporter’ described above. Describe his clothing, attitude towards Notts, social class, and most importantly, his personality. Let me guess: Polo shirt? Smart jeans? Smart trainers? No NCFC clothing? Prefers away days? Looking for ‘aggro’? Prefers to get drunk? Working class? Labourer? Unemployed? Loud mouthed? Arrogant? Rude? Now, I can only guess the percentage of our readers who would have matched the scenario with the description above, but I can envisage it being quite high. Would you categorise the typical away day Notts fan above being associated with the stereotype of a smartly dressed, tanked-up brickie looking for a punch-up? I ask the question because perception, not just in football, is a massive part of life and is often misinterpreted. I’d like you all to stereotype my life below and take a punt at what my average away day looks like: 29 years old Male Partner of 11 years with mortgage in £130,000 house Three-year-old son Fully employed as major supermarket manager with generous salary Clean criminal record Never been assaulted nor assaulted another person I ask the question because of ‘perception’ and how it can be often misunderstood. The away day itinerary listed above is in fact my away day itinerary. I travel away with up to 9 or 10 others. Not once have we been involved in physical confrontation with police or rival fans. Not once have we engaged in looking for these two actions and not once have we travelled home following the game with nothing more than a sense of male bonding and a feeling of enjoyment and relief at getting away from the missus work for the day. This seasons most memorable away trip has been Blackpool. Not for the football, not for the result, but for the relationships I can continue to build with people that I can call my friends and share a common interest with. We got drunk. We got merry. We danced, all night until early morning, and then fell drunkenly onto a twin bed in a budget Premier Inn at 3am. Is this wrong? Are we thugs? Yobs? Or are we a group of friends who enjoy others company combined with alcohol and a sing song on the sea front? I often read messageboards and Facebook posts on the official NCFC page and read comments slating the ‘youths at the front at Orient’ and the yobbos who let off smoke bombs at Mansfield. I think we all need a reality check here. In 2016, Notts County had 3 football related arrests away from home – this equated to less than 1% of the total football related incidents in League 2 last season. Alan Hardy and Kevin Nolan have made NCFC enjoyable again and more and more fans will begin to become involved with Notts County. Now as fans we have a decision to make, do we continue to look down at our noses at a different looking, different talking supporter or do we relish their desire to enjoy football as a whole experience and embrace their commitment to the cause? Now let's be clear – I’m not for one minute stating that all football fans are angels, because they’re not, and there is still a growing hooligan element in the game which give groups of travelling football fans a bad perception to the public eye - but be wary of making rash assumptions when you see the boys enter the pub at 10am for a beer and a brekkie. We enjoy our football, we enjoy our away day, and with no hidden agenda. I for one ENCOURAGE more groups of travelling fans to get together early in the morning and sink a few pints before the match. Why not? Because it's socially unacceptable? Because having a sing song and a Jagerbomb in the boozer will upset a few golden oldies who have sensitive hearing aids? Give me strength. Until Notts County fans start becoming violent or physically offensive to others, I am in full support of our away fans antics – and long may it continue. See you all at Wycombe – get the beers in. Share your thoughts about this feature article on Pride of Nottingham by signing up to the website, visiting the forum and joining in the chat with hundreds of fellow Notts County fans.
  2. “It’s crucial that we stay grounded, and remember that football can change ever so quickly, and live in hope, that when the road becomes bumpy, which it will, we remain strong, united and continue to pull in the same direction”, was a phrase I used in my most recent article. Saturday proved to be a stern reminder that football can indeed change ever so quickly. Following a superb performance and result at Plymouth Argyle on Tuesday evening, Notts fans (me included) could be forgiven for predicting another battling victory on Saturday. Oh how we were wrong. Travelling down the M1 at 10.30am with a nice cold bottle of Peroni is how my away days normally begin and Saturday was no different. There was however one major difference in the pre-match conversation I held with my companions whilst on the road – there was a sense of optimism, a sense of excitement and a sense of real belief that we would carry on our turn around in form. Something which has been lacking during the previous 6 months. Notts never looked like replicating the performance of Tuesday night, especially after falling behind after 3 minutes. Don’t let the stats fool you, we were poor, we were second best and we were way off the pace. The opener was real school boy defending, something that can be forgiven in the 90th minute, but not in the first three! A short corner went completely un-noticed by the slowly reacting Notts defence, and the inevitable happened. An-unchallenged cross into the box was swiftly followed by a un-challenged header into the top right hand corner of Collins’ bulging net. Wonderful start by the Pies. I missed the header as I was still taking in the fabulous scenery and trying to figure out the starting line-up. Never mind. Onwards and upwards I thought. Notts never really got going – at all. Most disappointingly was the lack of fight for the second ball. I don’t buy the ‘we had a long trip midweek’ line that I overheard by a few Pies fans on exiting the ground. The players weren’t tired, they’re professional footballers whose sole job role is to play football. I have no sympathy for ‘tired’ footballers. I will note however, that Kevin Nolan didn’t use this as a reason for our defeat on Saturday and took it on the chin and accepted we were poor – which was the most refreshing. It was never going to be a walk in the park. ‘We don’t get down when we lose – and we don’t get upbeat when we win’ is the philosophy Nolan is trying to grow into his players' mindset. It has been working, hence our form and our position in the form table. However, it must be clear that the effort and performance shown on Saturday falls well below the expectation of Nolan and indeed, the fans. Notts player ratings at Stevenage (6 as average): Adam Collin – 5 – Frustrating but can’t be blamed for any of the goals. Very unprotected for all 3. If he has been instructed to slow the play down, then this may explain his constant hesitation to release the ball to the full backs. Don’t think he actually made a save. Clackstone – 3 – I felt sorry for the lad. He got torn to pieces down his side and should have been replaced by Hewitt after 30 mins with Duffy coming into the middle. Fully expect a shuffle on Saturday. Hollis – 4 – The best of the back 4 but he shouldn’t be the focal point of our defence. A decent covering centre half but not a leader. Caught way out of position for all 3 goals. Hewitt – 4 – Godden had him at 6’s and 7’s for all 90 minutes. A better defender against big centre forwards but horribly exposed against the excellent movement of the Stevenage front two. Bola – 4 – His worst game for us so far. Terrible distribution and looked exhausted at the 60-minute mark. An excellent wing back when we are in our attacking element but will never be a full back. Would be perfect in a 3-5-2 as a LWB. Milsom – 5 – Missed his partner in crime and was left exposed by the lack of positional sense by Thommo and Grant. Thompson – 5 – Lots of energy – lots of running – no impact. We missed O Connor terribly today and wouldn’t be surprised to see Tootle or Smith in the middle on Saturday to give us more balance. Grant – 4 – Is not a ball winning midfielder which is the role he was asked to play today. Can not play in a two-man midfield and needs to be given less responsibility. Perfect for the Alan Judge role. Yeates – 5 – Probably our best player – but be under no illusion, he was poor. Really tried to make things happen but the complete lack of movement alongside and in front of him made it difficult. Stead – 4 – Worst performance I’ve seen from Stead. We were under pressure from the first minute and Forte would have been a better option to try and hit the channels. Missed a good chance at 0-1. Ameobi – 4 – Missed our best two chances and clearly isn’t a goalscorer. Needed pace alongside him today to take the pressure of his hold up play. A bad day at the office all round. Normal service will be resumed on Saturday... won't it? #12thman #COYP Share your thoughts about Alex's feature on Pride of Nottingham by signing up to the website, visiting the forum and joining in the chat.
  3. Is the Hardy Era the Real Deal? In the summer of 2009 I received a text message from my dad informing me that BBC Radio Nottingham had just reported that a Middle Eastern consortium were close to completing the purchase of my beloved Notts County Football Club. What followed was numerous statements of intent which included the record breaking signing of Kasper Schmeichel, the unveiling of Sven Goran Eriksson as Director of Football and promises of Premier League football within five years. We dared to dream. And that we did – in abundance. We waved £20 notes in the faces of visiting supporters, we sang Sven's name from the Kop and we followed in massive numbers all over the country. What a difference to the 2008/09 season which saw us graced with a strike partnership of Sean Canham and Spencer Weir-Daley. It was a pipe dream which of course, turned into a worldwide talking point – for all the wrong reasons. In between now and the collapse of Munto Finance was the ‘Trew Era’. What started so positively ended so badly. As Notts Fans, I think the vast majority believed that Ray Trew always had the best of intentions for our club – he put his hand in his pocket, he provided managers with big budgets and always promised the world to his supporters. Is this what we needed? Did we need big promises of Premiership strikers? Championship football? This, that and the other? Its difficult to envisage what the reaction of our growing fan base at the time would have been if Trew would have earmarked his intentions as stabilising and steady business growth instead of making unrealistic promises which ultimately, he failed to deliver. His stubbornness to hire proven managers proved to be his ultimate stumbling block – especially towards the end of his tenure – with appointments of novices Chris Kiwomya, Shaun Derry and Ricardo Moniz eventually saw us relegated back to where 2009 all began. By the time of Moniz's sacking, Notts fans had very little patience left and Trew's ‘Football Manager Dream’ was very close to being in tatters. Then without doubt – the final nail in the coffin had well and truly been smashed in – in the form of Jamie Fullarton – the less said about that the better. Mark Cooper and John Sheridan were arguably the best options available at this point but the underlying issue was clear – the problems were higher up the food chain. Then welcome Mr Alan Hardy. What a transformation you have made to our football club. Within weeks, Hardy recognised what would make our football club start ticking again. The Fans! He understands what as football fans, we all want – honesty, transparency, desire, passion, communication and most importantly of all; a clearly set out, aligned and carefully structured direction to take this football club forwards again. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise what Alan Hardy’s intentions are. Do things the right way, put energy into the community, grassroots, give the fans what they really want and start forming a relationship between the product and its customers. The reaction from not just Notts fans, but the community as a whole has been remarkable. Our average attendance under Alan has doubled already under his tenure and the team have responded magnificently, albeit to coincide with brilliant match day offers. Most importantly however, we feel proud to be fans of Notts County again. Alan Hardy has engaged in a way to build trust with the fans. He has been transparent. He hasn’t promised big money signings, he hasn’t promised Championship football. What he has done, he has engaged in a way that has been passionate but honest and realistic. He has identified the need to get the fans back through the gates which is what ultimately, matters most. Currently, everything is positive; second form team in the division, unbeaten home record, heart and desire being shown from the top down to the players, free pies, reduced match day tickets and a new vibrant and positive match day experience. That’s been achieved by simple communication, listening and gaining a mutual respect with the supporters. However, It’s crucial that we stay grounded, and remember that football can change ever so quickly, and live in hope, that when the road becomes bumpy, which it will, we remain strong, united and continue to pull in the same direction. Hardy has created a real buzz - we are excited to not just go to Meadow Lane, but to travel away in numbers, to have a feeling of not crumbling when the first goal goes against us, to see heart and fight from the touchline and the players again, is a joy to behold. That touchline fight of course comes from one man. Welcome to Notts County Kevin Nolan. Nolan and Hardy clearly have an aligned approach on how to take this football club forward. The unity that has been created in such a short amount of time has been breath-taking. Forget the CV’s. Forget management experience. Forget past promotions. When you have a man in your corner that demands respect, loyalty, trust, effort and a real desire to fight for this football club – the rest is easy. We are a League Two outfit. We don’t need a Jose Mourinho on the touchline, we need someone that understands what makes our team tick and what the fans really want. Alan Hardy identified the type of character to take this club forward immediately and has got his first appointment absolutely spot on. The past five years have been tough, loyalties have been tested, patience has ran thin, but the future looks bright. The future looks exciting again, and finally, once again, its time to start being proud to be a Notts County fan. See you all at Stevenage – COYP. Share your thoughts about this Notts County feature article on Pride of Nottingham by signing up to the website, visiting the forum and joining in the chat.
  4. Hi guys. Sure 27 years old - been supporting Notts for 20 of those Been with my partner since 16 and have a 2 year old boy - Jack (and before you ask - yes he is a pie!) Work as a supermarket manager Glad to be on board and will endeavour to update my column weekly
  5. So, what can be said about the once voted 'most stressful club' some years ago? Well, the last few years have brought us relegation battles, false promises from rich owners, and more managers than Betty has made hot pots. It's been a season so far of ifs and buts, hasn't it? It certainly has for me. What if Ricardo Moniz was given sole responsibility for player recruitment? What if he was allowed to choose his own backroom team? What if Izale McLeod was given a strike partner instead of putting his perfect match on the left wing? Maybe things would be better - maybe they would be worse? Who knows? The most alarming and most frustrating element of the season is: what is our agenda? What direction and philosophy is the club trying to follow? We were promised a quality core of players surrounded by up and coming talent – yet the opposite has happened. These questions haven’t been answered - which is probably the most frustrating thing for every Notts fan that 'packs' out Meadow Lane every other Saturday afternoon. There has been an evident divide among Notts fans regarding the chairman, Ray Trew. It’s hugely apparent that he does have the ambition to take this club forward, by substantially backing Moniz in the summer with quality acquisitions in McLeod, Jon Stead, Scott Loach and of course, the foreign contingent which everybody was so excited about. However, it’s fair to say that performances have been inconsistent at best. We've had truly awful performances against teams we should be competing with on all levels - Carlisle, Wimbledon, Cambridge, Mansfield and of course the horror show at Salford. But on the flip side, we have seen the best attacking football seen for years against Barnet, Huddersfield, Crawley, Luton and Premiership side Aston Villa. So what have we learnt from the squad we have? How can we describe the quality of players we possess? Personally, we potentially have one of the best XI in the division with one of the division’s most lethal finisher, arguably the best goalkeeping duo and quality across the middle in the shapes of Stanley Aborah, Liam Noble, Robert Milsom and Curtis Thompson. We have good quality in both youth and depth that very rarely challenge the starting XI with Genaro Snijders, Wes Atkinson, Rhys Sharpe, Lartey Sarpong, Scott Loach, Jimmy Spencer, Ronan Murray, Graham Burke, Gill Swerts, Kyle de Silva and Filip Valencic all warming their cobbles on the bench with a hot cup of the Kop’s famous Bovril. So why the poor league position? Why another manager that couldn't last a season? Does it come from above? Are Trew and Winter getting involved into footballing affairs instead of letting the manager do his job? And on that note we welcome Jamie Fullarton - is he the 'Yes Man' that RT has been after? Maybe. Or maybe, RT has seen something in Fullarton that no one else has. Sacked from Bolton for 'mismanagement' of the youth team and known for his aggressive and disciplinarian management style. Not the appointment Notts fans were shouting about when the shortlist consisted of proven high quality managers with names of John Sheridan, Mark Cooper and Lee Clarke who have all been successful at this level. To say Jamie needs to win over the fans quick is the understatement of the season. Fullarton is up against it already with his bizarre team selection and awful defensive tactics on Saturday accompanied by the worst performance of the entire season. Now we go to Luton, another team in this division that should be challenging the top 6. Myself, and 8 others, will be checking into the Comfort Hotel and no doubt come 3:45pm, be moaning and groaning at another bemusing team selection and awful first half of football. Or knowing Notts, be 3-0 up with the best attacking and fluid football we have seen for years. Who knows! It is Notts after all… See you all Saturday. COYP Do you agree with this article? Let Pride of Nottingham know by signing up to the community, visiting the forum and joining the conversation.

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