Issue Maybe Notts County are – gulp – doing it right

As told by Michael Wood

One can’t imagine that a few years ago Mark Lawn imagined he would be looking forward to the start of the football season as a chance to sit a few seats away from Sven Goran Eriksson who returned to English football with Notts County as director of football but the Swede and the Shipley based business man will be but yards apart for the opening day of the season.

Much mockery of Svennis’s return to English football at a low level with one blog summing up the move saying “If the money is there, then Sven will be there.”

You struggle to recall how Sven went from the man who beat Germany 5-1 to being today but it had far too much to do with his proclivities in the bedroom and not enough to do with his inability to tackle the Steven Gerrard/Frank Lampard midfield which was great at getting to places but lost grasp when they were there. Sven came more close, more often than any other England manager to success.

So why is he watching Steve Williams – the Barber from Bamber Bridge – make his professional bow in August and not off preparing for a World Cup or at least a Premiership or Championship campaign? Public relations partly – Sven is damaged goods – but then came a thought.

Notts County are owned by men richer than nations and the assumption is that they have arrived at Meadow Lane to buy success in short order. They have signed City man Graeme Lee and former Bantam Delroy Facey to achieve this.

Sven, Graeme Lee, Delroy Facey. It would seem that they are not putting the resources into the playing squad. If signing Graeme Lee was instant promotion then City would not be facing Notts County in League Two.

It occurs – and perhaps this will be proved to be wrong – that the money of which there is lots is going to Sven and Tord Grip and going behind the scene rather than on big contracts for players the way Fulham or Wigan rose through the leagues.

Qatari tycoon Abdullah bin Saeed Al Thani fronts an investment group which owns County and as with most investment groups he no doubts looks for longer term and sustained profits. This is not Blackburn and Abdullah bin Saeed Al Thani is not Jack Walker. It is not about pride it is about building a football club to be successful in the longer term.

How long? Sven talks of the Premiership and has signed a five year contract but if at the end of that five years the ramshackled County of last season are gone and a foundation for sustained success is in place then he will have done his job. Academy football, training grounds, recruitment policies. These are the things that one would want to put in place for longer term success and these are the remit of a director of football and County have gone for a man vastly over qualified for the job at League Two level.

Perhaps the remit is to build Notts County as a Premiership club from the outside in rather than the model of getting it Premiership on the pitch and hoping the rest well follow. After all that is the way Bradford City rose and fell.

At five on the first day of the season City fans will cheer to the rafters should we win and we would be joined by the sniggering behind hands of many ready to have a pop at Sven but short term results are not (it would seem, I could be proved wrong with a glut of spending tomorrow) the aim but rather the construction of a solid, robust entity which can maintain any success it has.

Notts County – for all the money bags talk – might be doing things right.