Poverty Stricken Display As Rovers Humiliate The Maggies!


Mick Chappell


“This was not only a defeat, but a humiliation and probably the most poverty-stricken display Notts County have provided for their long-suffering supporters for very many years. It is useless mincing facts. This Notts team, with forward reshuffles caused by injuries, was just not good enough to cope with virile Doncaster Rovers, who strolled through the game which they had completely in hand after the first few minutes.” Stinging words, indeed, but before anyone assumes I’m still affected by the delirium of the Maggies outstanding win at the Keepmoat Stadium last Saturday, I hasten to add that they were penned by the Nottingham Journal’s football correspondent, A.E. ‘Bill’ Botting, on Monday. August 31st, 1953 in response to the ’Pies apparently slightly below par performance against rampant Rovers, who’d carried out a 5-1 demolition job at the Lane two days previously. By a remarkable coincidence I happened on Mr Botting’s equally embarrassing demolition job whilst de-cluttering our exceedingly cluttered loft the day after the Maggies latest meeting with Rovers had ended in a rather more satisfactory 1-0 win that might even have satisfied their acerbic critic. Bill was Colin Slater’s predecessor on the old Nottingham Evening News and its morning sister paper, the Nottingham Journal, before later emigrating to Australia where he was presumably far removed from the wrath of any sensitive Notts’ fans he might have offended.

Funnily enough the loft clearance is taking much longer than I expected because the contents of almost every box or tea chest I open seem to be wreathed in yellowing copies of the sort of local newspapers that abounded sixty years ago, but have gradually fallen by the wayside over the course of time. Naturally I have to sit down amongst the gloomy grime to peruse them from back to front and relive the memories of yesteryear. Still, the wife knows me well enough to let me get the job done at my own pace, though that also has something to do with the fact that there really is brass where there’s muck, so she won’t complain as long as I regularly unearth little ‘treasures’ that will raise a bob or three at Johnno’s auctions as a pre-match Saturday treat! Anyway, at the end of the day, the surprising thing is how often history repeats itself because as Winston Churchill reputedly once said, “We simply don’t learn from history”. So, as the 2012/13 season draws to a disappointing close for reasons that are as plain as the nose on Jimmy Sirrel’s face, it’s perhaps worth putting Mr Botting’s scathing comments into context by recalling that they resulted from the fact that Notts were still fielding the nucleus of the team that had romped to the 1950 Division Three (South) Championship Title three years previously.

Of course, the crucial difference was that County’s scoring teeth had been pulled by the sale of Lawton and Sewell, who’d contributed fifty goals to their promotion success and, as A.E.’s report later lamented, nothing had subsequently been done to strengthen the side up front. Even so, with the benefit of ‘future sight’ I suspect we were relatively spoiled by post-war promotion success to the extent that none of us knew what ‘long-suffering’ really meant back then!


Furthermore, as if to confirm that nothing changes, not least the weather, anxiety was also expressed that the Donny game was watched by just 10,117 rain-drenched spectators who constituted the previous weekend's lowest Second Division attendance! What would Notts give for such an attendance next August, I wonder? Fortunately, however, things turned out much better for the seven hundred plus Maggies’ fans amongst last Saturday’s near 13,000 Keepmoat crowd as they basked in some belated Spring sunshine as Notts ruined Donny’s predicted promotion party with a backs-to-the-wall 1-0 win thanks to Joss Labadie’s stunning, fourteenth minute, thirty yard free-kick. Prior to that the returning Judgey tested veteran ’keeper Sullivan, with a somewhat less venomous free-kick, whilst Leacock prodded an effort wide of the angle following Sheehan’s flag-kick; however, it was Donny who then piled on the pressure to the extent that it took an offside flag to deny them the close-range ‘equaliser’ that Furman headed home.

Teenage ’keeper, Spiess, who was deputising for the indisposed Bialkowski, then proceeded to take centre stage with several agile saves and when he was finally beaten just before the break Hughesy popped up to hook the ball to safety. Nevertheless, after boss Brian Flynn’s half-time pep-talk, Rovers really began to turn the screw and were ultimately denied a leveller by another goal-line block on seventy-seven minutes. This time it was Krystian Pearce who dropped back to tidy up after his only ball-watching moment throughout the whole ninety minutes allowed Paynter to round Spiess and shoot for goal from a narrow angle. Now, I’m normally a modest sort of bloke, but at this point I must claim some credit for Krystian being on the pitch at all after spending fourteen months bending the ears of Mad Dog, Keith Curle and latterly, Chris Kiwomya, about giving Pearcey and, for that matter, Haydn Hollis, a chance to shine. So much so in fact that I’ve gained a reputation amongst the media men as the duo’s ‘surrogate agent’, but rest assured no windfall will come my way if Krystian permanently returns from ‘Coventry’ to confirm he’s worth a new contract against Coventry next Saturday! Ironically, the enforced absence of Boucaud, who in my opinion, is the icing, but not the cake, has also allowed Labadie to contribute the midfield steel that, Bish apart, has been in short supply this season.

Consequently, as I’ve long suspected, it seems the solutions to many of the Maggies’ major problems have been right under our noses all along. What’s more, Spiess’ assured display might give Kiwomya another pleasant head-ache as regards the possibility of cashing in on Bart in order to finance proven strikers who’ll go a long way towards completing his promotion jigsaw puzzle. Believe me, promotion’s no pipe dream judging by Saturday’s tigerish team performance during which all eleven players literally put their bodies on the line to out-do the best League One currently has to offer, Indeed, Labadie’s late strike almost eased this particular rite of passage for Kiwomya’s ’Pies, who were even boasting greater possession by that admittedly welcome final whistle. All in all, then, the ’Pies look well set to end the season on a high that should work wonders for their confidence at the start of next season. Let’s face it, Notts have never looked sufficiently well equipped to have a realistic chance of play-off success this year and we all remember how the bitter aftermath of failing at the death in 1988 and 1996 caused managerial heads to roll as two decent teams subsequently lost self-belief. What’s more Chris Kiwomya is now well placed to add his own recruits to a ‘filtered’ squad that will hopefully retain the best of what Martin Allen and Keith Curle brought to the Lane together with a significant number of up and coming, home-grown players.

It’s also reassuring to note that another of Jimmy’s basic principles is now close to fruition in that in all but two positions we now have two players competing for the relevant shirt. Of course, success will ultimately depend on finding those all important goal-scorers who should do much to solve the ’Pies perennial problem of not be able to beat their promotion rivals. Incredibly, that particular predicament has worsened this season as the Maggies have managed a paltry two wins in twenty-two matches against the eleven teams currently above them in the table. Consequently, even when their eleven draws against such sides are taken into consideration, County have averaged less than 0.8 points per game or thirty-six points over a complete forty-six game season, which would have won them the 2013 League One Wooden Spoon were it not for the ten point deduction imposed on Portsmouth! In stark contrast their twenty-three games thus far played against the twelve teams below them in the table have yielded forty-seven points from fourteen wins and five draws, which equates to just over two points per match, or automatic promotion form in anyone’s language. So, even if we finish on a high by completing the double over Coventry this Saturday, it seems the mega bottle of Bostick I offered the gaffer at the Doncaster pre-match presser might still come in handy for keeping floating feet on the ground, not least those of the Youth Team if they manage to bring back the Midland Youth Cup from Walsall’s Banks Stadium this Friday evening.

Failing that it seems Chairman Trew is hedging his trophy-winning bets by changing the name of his ‘other team’, Lincoln Ladies, to Notts County Ladies for their forthcoming campaign in the FA Women’s Super League. Ah well! ‘A rose by any other name.......’, I suppose and at the very least the Ladies are bound to be more attractive to watch than their male counterparts, so why not give them some support against the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea whilst the lads are enjoying their summer break. Anyway, let’s finish where we started because I suppose you’re wondering how Botting’s cannon fodder eventually fared sixty years ago and, even if you’re not, I’m going to tell you because, like all County fans, I enjoy a story with a happy ending! Well, as correctly predicted by ‘R.H.L.’ in the ‘Inside Saturday’s Soccer’ column that appeared alongside Bill Botting’s belligerent words on that fateful day, manager, Eric Houghton, was soon on his way back to Aston Villa, the club with whom he’d spent two decades as a player. Although the mysterious ‘R.H.L tipped Bill Corkhill as Houghton’s successor, it was in fact George Poyser who got the nod. Appropriately enough, in a week when congratulations are due to Mansfield on their long overdue return to League football. Poyser was a Stanton Hill lad who started his career at Teversal Colliery and eventually became a member of the Stags’ team that was first elected to the Football League in 1931.

More importantly, however, he dug the Maggies out of a bit of a hole as he inspired them to fourteenth-placed respectability. At the start of the following season Poyser pulled off a masterstroke by tempting the legendary Jimmy Jackson to return to the Lane after spending twelve months in ‘exile’ in Toronto and ‘JJ’ duly responded by netting eighteen goals in twenty-five League and Cup appearances. Jimmy was given splendid support by three youngsters, Albert Broadbent, Ron Wylie, the Don Masson of his day, and Gordon Wills, who scored thirteen, twelve and eleven League and Cup goals respectively as George steered County to seventh spot in Division Two, their highest finish for twenty-six years, Even more memorable, however, was the jaw-dropping sight of a Notts County manager actually appearing on our twelve inch TV during the build-up to that season’s infamous FA Cup Quarter Final 0-1 defeat against Third Division York City. Believe me that was a really bitter pill to swallow for an impressionable ten year old who, in the absence of any Health and Safety Wallah’s, was allowed to watch the match whilst sitting on the running track that surrounded the pitch after a record-breaking crowd of 47,310 squeezed into the Lane. Like me, most of those who were there will certainly never forgive that bloody Arthur Bottom for not being sporting enough to inform the referee that his blatantly offside goal should have been ruled out! Even so, there’s no doubting that ‘GP’ did us proud that day and throughout a season that I’d say was just what the doctor ordered, so let’s hope CK can prove his doubters wrong by following suit during his first full season in the hot seat!

This article appears courtesy of the Nottingham and Long Eaton Topper, the biggest Free Newspaper in the UK (www.toppernewspapers.co.uk)