Our newest contributor at Nottingham Sports is Notts County fan and writer Tom Surgay who asks the question in his first article (hopefully of many) for our website… “Has the EFL’s agenda ensured Notts have had a wasted season?” Here’s what Tom has to say.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the planet, the debate about what to do about the remainder of the football season rumbles on.
The Vanarama National, decided to end their league season with immediate effect just leaving the question of what would happen with promotions and relegation. With Notts County lying third, securely in the play-off places and only seven points off the top with eight games remaining this news was a huge blow to the Magpies.
The next development was that League Two clubs voted to cancel the season early, without completing the outstanding fixtures. They are yet to decide on what will happen regarding who goes up and down but the likelihood is that the club occupying the only relegation spot in the league Stevanage, will be spared from falling out of the football league. There will be a space in the division for next season due to Bury’s demise thanks to financial difficulties last year. The logic would be that leaders Barrow will inherit that position leaving Notts and the other playoff sides having to do it all again next season.
Meanwhile League One and the Championship are yet to announce their decisions on how their seasons will end and the Premier League are looking into using neutral grounds to help get the remaining fixtures played.
The disconnect between the upper echelons of the game and the lower levels is in my opinion astounding. It is the same sport being played that is governed by the Football Association after all. The leagues and clubs would do well to remember that.
Of course, the health and safety of the players, staff and supporters is of paramount importance and should be put first. That is more important than finding a solution to rounding off the season. What is mind boggling however, is that different solutions are being chosen by different teams and different leagues. Self interest and greed have, in the vast majority of cases, won the day.
If some leagues are going to play to a conclusion then presumably it is safe enough for all leagues to follow suit? If one league is brought to an early conclusion to help with logistics and people’s welfare then surely this should be applied to all leagues? Otherwise, confusion and chaos reign.
There are always going to be some teams left unhappy. If, for example the season was completely voided, the leagues left unfinished and the results scrubbed from the record books, Liverpool would rightfully feel hard done by. When football was postponed they were 25 points clear at the top of the table and just two wins away from a first ever Premier League title. To have that taken away would be heartbreaking and undeserved. However, everyone would be losing something. Every team on the cusp of promotion, cup victory, European qualification or best ever performances would have it taken away from them. To that end, it would seem as fair as it could be.
Instead, some teams are going to get their date with destiny and others such as Notts are going to be denied theirs by decisions made by divisions they don’t even play in.
The concern for Notts County is that the plan was to keep the stay in non-league as brief as possible. The preference was to get promoted straight back into the Football League at the first time of asking. It is clear by the quality and quantity of players that have been attracted to Meadow Lane this season that there is a generous wage budget at Neal Ardley’s disposal. That makes sense if it reaps immediate rewards, it ends up being a kind of short term pain for a long term gain. Once back in the Football League the owners could tighten their belts a bit and have Notts operating at a more reasonable expenditure rate, whilst still achieving decent results on the pitch.
However, now this looks to no longer be the case, it begs the question will the owners be happy for Ardley to operate at the same sort of financial level for a second consecutive season? If they are not, a lot of the current squad will either have to take pay cuts or leave. This would be a massive shame as it would spoil the good work Ardley has done to assemble a quality squad, mould it to play the way he wants, and get it to gel so seamlessly together in such a short space of time. With a lower wage budget this will mean that County will only be able to attract lower quality players to the club probably resulting in poorer performances and league finishes.
If this is the case, it could be years until Notts are back where their supporters feel they belong: The English Football league. It would also make the past seven months and 38 games, before the virus hit a gigantic waste of everyone’s time, effort and money which is an absolute travesty.
*Article provided by Tom Surgay (Notts County Correspondent).
*Main image @Official_NCFC Mitch Rose and Wes Thomas could have to wait another year for promotion.