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  1. 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.

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