Notts County have hit a turbulent run of form in recent weeks. Struggling to string together consecutive wins. Their chase for automatic promotion looks over, has manager Kevin Nolan put himself at risk?
Christmas Day, 2017, Notts County were sat in 2nd place. Comfortably 5 points clear of 3rd placed Exeter City and 4 points off of league leaders Luton Town. Nolan had County playing well. Producing effective, points winning football, scoring 39 goals and conceding only 24 in their first 23 games.
Fast forward to March, we are in the middle of an international break but the Football League never sleeps. Notts County took on Chesterfield on 25th March, a team lingering in the relegation zone and destined for the drop already.
Chesterfield ran out 3-1 winners.
7 games to save your job!
— Positive Notts Fan! (@magpie_gunner) March 25, 2018
Nolan has experience in promotion, in what it takes to drag an underdog through the tough spots. His playing career with the likes of Newcastle, Bolton & West Ham exposed him to these kinds of scenarios, this kind of pressure. So why has he been unable to motivate and teach his players to do the same?
Transferring your skills as a player to management and imposing your mentality, beliefs and ability onto others isn’t as straightforward as many think. But what Nolan can do to the County players is train them hard, organise them well and impose as much of his wisdom as he can on them.
Something could be said that this is a steep learning curve for a young manager. There are many aspects to management. Especially in the lower leagues where a club cannot afford to hire a person for every role imaginable. But recruitment is key in these divisions.
Nolan and Notts County start regularly with a strikeforce that despite scoring a fair amount of goals, is aging & tired. Shola Ameobo and Jon Stead are a pairing with a combined age of 70. Reinforcement in the January transfer window is imperative for many clubs who are chasing promotion, teams and players need that morale boost, improvement or reality check that the club means business.
Nolan did take on Mason Bennett from Derby County during that period, but has only given him 2 games since his arrival. In those 2 games Bennett has already managed to hit the back of the net. Scoring goals is primarily what wins you games, and winning games is what gets you promoted.
Alongside scoring goals, you need to keep them out at the other end. Some County fans have berated Nolan for not playing goalkeeper Fitzsimons over Adam Collin between the sticks.
Fitzsimons in for Collin would be a start mush
— Craner (@charliecraner_) March 25, 2018
Managers must trust themselves, and their own judgement. But they must also be humble enough and confident enough to realise and rectify a mistake. If fans and pundits alike can see a problem, why can’t the manager?
Been waiting for a response since Xmas Kev still waiting combined age 70years up front oh for a jan transfer window to make sum positive signings #missed opportunities on a massive scale
— Danny (@dannybarber80) March 25, 2018
Kevin Nolan has no plan b. Got hammered for saying it v Stevenage but his subs scored. Very evident today
— Flag FC fan (@properblokefc) March 25, 2018
Nolan has a lot to learn, but will Notts County and the fans have the patience? He has thrown away what was a supremely promising position for The Magpies, but the play-offs are still an option. Do they have what it takes to overcome them?