David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Martin Allen’

Only title win will quench Gills fans’ thirst for success

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Lower league fans love to have a dig at those who support top-four Premier League sides and their demand to see three points every week, retorting with “come and support a real team” and the like. Yet having been top of League Two for the bulk of this season, a chunk of Gillingham’s support are beginning to show a similar attitude after Martin Allen and his men surprised all by heading into the final months of the season at the summit of English football’s fourth tier.

Granted, performances have been indifferent at home and the results largely similar. Priestfield has become something of a bogey ground in recent months as opposition teams come and outplay a team seemingly filled with nerves and lacking confidence. Yet record-breaking away form – 11 wins in a season is the best of any Gillingham side ever – has kept the team’s nose in front of any other side, raising expectations with only 11 games to go.

What is the indifferent home form down to? Allen claims teams are raising their games when they visit, making it doubly difficult for the Gills to dominate. Shouldn’t it be down to the team to ramp up its performance once more, though? You’d think so, but it’s hard to remember the last time Gillingham convincingly won at home – perhaps stretching back to beating Scunthorpe 4-0 in the FA Cup last November.

Since then, the Gills have won three out of 11 at home with only one of these victories coming by a two-goal margin. In the league, Gillingham have not scored three at home since beating Burton 4-1 on October 20th and a few midfield departures have left the side lacking the creativity to do the same again. Supporters then have their backs up, this affects the team and performance levels drop.

The players would be well within their rights to blame a poor atmosphere for contributing to disappointing displays, while the fans will say it is up to the squad to give them something to shout about. As with most things in life, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

But away from home, Allen and his men have cracked it. Eleven wins, five draws and just the one defeat against Torquay in October have propelled the club to top position. The formula seems simple enough: nick a goal and then soak up the pressure. Just ten away goals conceded shows how the Gills are among the best in the country on their travels, with a high-performing back five of Stuart Nelson, Matt Fish, Joe Martin, Adam Barrett and Leon Legge are key.

The big questions, of course, are ‘will Gillingham get promoted?’ and ‘will they win the league?’ The team are still eight points clear of fourth place with 11 games remaining, so the club are on track for promotion. But with only one title in the club’s history – the old Fourth Division in 1963-64 – the fans are demanding more.

Gillingham have a remarkable four away games still in March, with only two at home. If they can somehow remain unbeaten across this month and continue their exceptional away record, then they’d be in an excellent position to win the title.

With fans’ expectations higher than ever, there’s no better time to rediscover the very best form at home and pull away from Port Vale and Burton. It certainly won’t be easy with a crowded fixture list, but it’s the same for everyone. Gillingham’s record-breakers are only potentially eight weeks away from truly making it a season to remember – then the supporters may finally have something to cheer at Priestfield.

Written by Ben Curtis, We Are Going Up’s Gillingham Blogger

Ben tweets at @benjamin_curtis

Where could it go wrong?

Monday, October 8th, 2012

Gillingham really do have what it takes to get promoted this season. That’s if the first 11 results of the campaign are anything to go by and judging by the mood around the club, nobody is settling for the play-offs in May. Yes, it’s too early to be certain. But the players have given themselves the almost-perfect foundations from which to charge towards League One, steamrollering their way through teams without breaking into too much of a sweat and pacing into a three-point lead.

In fact, that’s been the biggest eyebrow-raiser so far: how the squad have killed games off early and taken it down a gear. There’s still plenty to come, too, as we head into the second quarter of the campaign. Whichever eleven players Martin Allen has put out – often he’s been making five changes a game – there has always been the feeling they are nowhere near their peak.

And when they do peak, there won’t be a team capable of stopping them.

A lot of this early-season positivity is down to Allen’s introduction. Following the departure of Andy Hessenthaler, ‘Mad Dog’ has taken a more-than-capable squad of players, made a couple of additions, got them fitter and more organised. Hessenthaler didn’t fail in bringing together a decent group of footballers, but couldn’t get them working together. Allen’s taken on the baton and set about turning them into record breakers.

Five league away wins in a row – and, with that, a new club record – and 26 points from 33 is very different to argue with. We’ve already played a number of the bigger teams, including Wycombe, Chesterfield, Port Vale, Oxford and Bradford. We’ve already beaten bogey teams (Southend and Barnet) and recovered from defeat (winning at Northampton). We have one of the league’s top scorers in Danny Kedwell, the league’s best defence and best goal difference. Youngsters like Bradley Dack are coming through and showing promise, while the more experienced 36-year-old Deon Burton looks to be an excellent signing.

What could go wrong, then? Plenty over 35 games, of course. The odd injury or suspension is unlikely to affect things due to the size and quality of the squad, but a prolonged and widespread problem could provide some turbulence. Players of quality, like Jack Payne, could leave in January, though the club is in a place where it could turn down offers for most of the squad. Four red cards in five games is far from ideal in keeping first-team consistency, so perhaps ill-discipline could hinder in the months to come.

Yet with a strong financial backing, you wouldn’t think so. Having previously been saddled with large debt caused by an overspend on the Medway Stand’s construction and relegation from the Championship, the club has found itself in better shape from a wedge of transfer money. Matt Jarvis’ move from Wolves to West Ham is thought to have netted Gillingham around £1 million, while former youngster Ryan Betrand continues to pull in £100,000 for every ten appearances he makes up to 40. An England call-up also earned the club £200,000.

And Paulo Gazzaniga’s move to Southampton – for anything between £750,000 and £2.5 million, depending on where you read about it – has left Gillingham near-debt free, if not in the black. Even if Gillingham are still in the red, it’s clear that money would be made available to Allen in January if the squad is in any kind of strife.

Key to Gillingham’s progress, though, is Allen. He’s already said temptations from anything below the Premiership will not lead to him leaving. He and Paul Scally have been working well together thus far, but few relationships in football are long-term. If Allen is still the Gillingham manager at the end of the season, it is hard to see how Gillingham couldn’t take one of the top three positions. Even if not, they’d be a strong contender in the play-offs.

Martin’s messages through the club’s website, where he updates supporters on squads, friendlies, new contracts and invites to the training ground, have helped him quickly become a fans’ favourite. Training at the local outdoor swimming pool in the summer and other quirky training methods have kept the players on board. All of this leaves Gillingham fans ominously wondering: where could it all go wrong?

Could it?

Written by Ben Curtis, We Are Going Up’s Gillingham Blogger

Ben tweets at @benjamin_curtis

Use Your Allusion

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

“Great leadership does not mean running away from reality. Sometimes the hard truths might just demoralize…But at other times sharing difficulties can inspire people to take action that will make the situation better.”

John Kotter, Professor at Harvard Business School.

For the third season in a row Barnet FC have avoided relegation to non-league football on the last day of the season. This is a troubling  statistic, which no amount of euphoria or relief from a dramatic win away to Burton Albion can disguise or dispel.  Whilst league survival is clearly a positive outcome from the season, why is is that Barnet have found themselves in this position once again this season, and what can they do to prevent this from happening in the next?

I would argue that Barnet FC’s problems are a result of a culture within the club of playing and reacting within an artificially constructed paradigm, and not engaging with reality. In short, Barnet are victims of hyperreality.

Hyperreality refers to a hypothetical inability of consciousness (be it individually or as a group) to distinguish reality from a simulation of reality. In a world where media and other influencing agents can radically shape and filter our perceptions of events and experiences, consciousness can be tricked from engaging with any real world emotion or stimulation, opting instead to engage in artificial stimulation and endless reproductions of a fundamentally empty nature. Crucially this can lead to enjoyment and fulfilment only being found through imagined or simulated of reality, because reality can be difficult, confusing and unpredictable, whereas an artificial reality can be comfortable, predictable, and has the illusion of control.

For Barnet, it would appear that their group hyperreality extends to a created reality whereby they are permanently underdogs, and the most fulfilment and pleasure they can derive from their season will always be the avoidance of relegation, the more dramatic the more fulfilling.

The general journalistic narrative surrounding Barnet certainly contributes to this. Often considered relegation candidates and, aside from cursory match reports, the most press attention they receive of a season is indeed when they avoid relegation. This narrative is not one of achievement, or building success, but of clearly stating that if they want recognition, it won’t come with a season of mid-table security.

Whenever Barnet looked like they might break out of this hyperreality, and engage with the actuality that the squad,  particularly after the January transfer window, was capable of much more than simply fighting relegation, results belied this.

Consider that Barnet went unbeaten in November and January, winning eight and drawing two in the process. These were results borne from ability, nothing more or less. It would appear that Barnet were unable to deal with the reality of moving up the table, and changing their paradigm, and thus reverted to playing within the imagined reality of relegation, complete with all the clichés of ‘heads dropping’ and playing ‘direct’ football when conceding first. From a team who had been playing good, effective football just days and weeks prior to this, it was absolutely frustrating to watch.

Also consider the team’s achievement in reaching the area final of the Football League Trophy. Teams from League Two who flirt with relegation tend not to progress particularly far in cup competitions, simply because they are not good enough. Why did Barnet buck this trend? Arguably because this encapsulated their problem with their constructed reality better than any other event this season.

To reach the area final Barnet were required to beat Brentford and Colchester, teams who finished 9th and 10th respectively in League One. The point bears repeating, this is not something that teams that nearly get relegated in three consecutive seasons accomplish generally, because they are not good enough.

In losing to Swindon in the area final, however, the hyperreality of Barnet achieving nothing but survival was reinforced, in mind and deed. Barnet went on to lose five games from their next seven, having gone a month unbeaten prior to this event. Barnet had not stopped being competitive, but I believe that they thought they had.

Finally I want to look at the build-up to Barnet’s Lazarus like comeback to remain in League Two and demonstrate the impact of hyperreality.

On the 10th March Barnet beat Port Vale, away 1-2. In their next nine games they lost six and drew three games (including draws against both Hereford and Macclesfield, teams who were both relegated) before winning their remaining last two games to preserve their league status.

Whilst some would suggest that this was the result of Martin Allen re-joining the club for the final three games of the season, I would argue that this is only a partial explanation. More likely is that Barnet wanted to simulate the events of the previous two seasons, of which one element was a last minute managerial appointment. Unable to derive any satisfaction or fulfilment from a mid-table finish, which was within their scope, and unable to break out of their hyperrealism with a Wembley appearance, Barnet engaged in what could be accurately described as a (currently) endless reproduction of reality.

It is often said that the League table doesn’t lie, but it doesn’t tell the whole truth of Barnet’s season. Yes we won 12 games, lost 24 and managed a ratio of one point per game, so far so dreadful. It doesn’t tell the story of a team who had the league’s (joint) top goal scorer, a team that were one win from a Wembley final, and a team that went two separate months unbeaten. So what is the truth?

From my perspective Barnet were undermined by their inability to reconcile themselves to reality, that they had a good team and were capable of a mid-table finish. The hyperreality of a heroic, against the odds, fight back from relegation was far more attractive. Barnet, currently, fight with relegation because the alternative, is worse; even less media coverage, no sense of satisfaction or accomplishment, and because the emotions a last day escape provides, no matter how many times this is reproduced, beats dealing with the reality that they should take no satisfaction from fulfilling a minimum requirement of their league season.

So what can be done to change this? Short of winning a trophy, as I see it, Barnet have one other option which could inspire a dramatic change in paradigm. It is also something the club are working upon implementing in the near future. I believe that moving from our Underhill stadium, to a modern venue, with modern facilities, befitting a team with aspirations of promotion, would be hugely beneficial psychologically. What better way to break with the hyperreality of the present, than to literally and physically move away from it?

Written by Hugh Webster, We Are Going Up’s Barnet Blogger

Hugh tweets at @hughwebster

Humble Pie: How Keith Curle won over the County faithful

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

Well, I must say I can hardly believe it.

Just three weeks ago, Notts County fans were shellshocked by the announcement that Martin Allen had been sacked by the club. After all, he was a popular coach who helped save the club from relegation last season and was producing decent results. Even more bewildering was the fact he had been replaced by Keith Curle, a manager with an unimpressive record to say the least. However, the results have been completely astounding, and have convinced the County faithful that he’s definitely good enough for the job.

First was the Stevenage game at Meadow Lane. Curle was warmly greeted by the County faithful from the start, despite their doubts and the dark cloud still lingering over Allen’s sacking. Their warm welcome and cordiality was rewarded in the form of a Zona Cesarini goal (Google it: this is the first of several Italian references in this article) from Jeff Hughes. It ended 1-0 County.

The weekend game, against local rivals Chesterfield, was a fairly open affair which could have gone either way, again settled by a late goal, this time from on-loan Southampton striker Jonathan Forte.

Tuesday the 28th brought win number three, with Hamza Bencherif netting in injury time – in the first half on this occasion – to grind out another 1-0 win. Lee Hughes’s red card after 89 minutes, combined with five minutes of injury time to play tested the Pies to their very limit, but they hung on. Three wins, three goals scored, none conceded. The word catenaccio springs to mind! Comparisons to Steve Cotterill, engineer of 14 wins from 18 games in 2010 en route to the League Two title, were already being made.

Win number four came at home against Carlisle United. Amazingly, there was another clean sheet for County as they put two past the Cumbrians courtesy of Forte and Alan Sheehan.

Cruelly, Zona Cesarini (that’s injury time if you’re still wondering) proved County’s undoing away to Tranmere. Jamaican international Damion Stewart netted his first for the club after five minutes, but holding a lead for that long often proves a huge feat and in the 93rd minute, Tranmere captain John Welsh broke County’s hearts with a header past County keeper Stuart Nelson. Even though four wins and a draw from five is nevertheless an amazing feat, it is truly frustrating to be denied the even grander achievement of five wins from five with none conceded right at the very end of the fifth game.

The following three fixtures would have struck fear into the heart of any fan of a League One team: Charlton Athletic, runaway leaders of the division, away, then home games against Sheffield Wednesday, third in the table and Sheffield United, who are currently second.

What happened in the Charlton match was beyond the wildest expectations of not only every County fan, but everyone interested in the Football League. Judge opened the scoring on 16 minutes, then Forte scored with his right foot on 18 minutes, followed by his left on 35. Then with his head on 40 to complete a 22 minute hat-trick.

4-0 up, Against runaway leaders Charlton. Away. In the first half. Even if you use the strict German definition of hat-trick, which involves three goals scored by one player in one half of a match, with no other scorer in between, it fits. Truly a perfect hat-trick, and a perfect first half to cap off a near-perfect first three weeks in charge for Keith Curle.

Predictably, Charlton gaffer Chris Powell have issued some stern words to his players at half time, who duly came out all guns blazing in the second half. Bradley Wright-Phillips netted on 51 minutes, and four minutes later came a second, as Scott Wagstaff headed past Nelson. County, however, survived the relentless pressure and finished the game 4-2 winners.

So there we have it. Six games, five wins, one draw, ten scored, three conceded. That’s championship-winning form. Of course, talk of promotion is still very much premature. The two teams below the Pies, Carlisle and Stevenage, have two and three games in hand respectively, while the MK Dons are six points ahead in fifth place. Much rests on County’s following two games and those in hand of the teams below. Cementing a play-off position is a realistic objective and definitely back on the agenda, one thing is for sure though; County have the ability to split the League promotion race wide open if results go their way against the Sheffield clubs, which potentially could make for an amazing finale to the season.

And here’s a little more trivia; Forte, the surname of Saturday’s hat-trick hero, means strong in Italian, and is colloquially used to describe brilliance or affection – “sei forte!” translates to “you’re great/ace!” It stems from “forza” which, again, literally means “strength” but can also be used to mean “come on!” You may recall it from the name of bunga-bunga expert Silvio Berlusconi’s political party, Forza Italia, which has roots in traditional Italian football lingo, such as “Forza Juve!”

And who are County playing in pre-season this summer for their 150th anniversary? Why, only Italian giants and eternally grateful black-and-white-striped kit loanees Juventus. It’s very clearly written in the stars! So here’s to an exciting run-in and…. Forza County!

Written by Giuseppe Labellarte, We Are Going Up’s Notts County blogger

Giuseppe tweets at @JoeJonesHome

Mad Dog’s swift demise

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Life. You could be getting on with things as normal. Business as usual. Steady. Ticking on. Same old, same old. Then, all of a sudden, something happens so quickly that, once it’s taken place, you think “what just happened?” Like the time I was temping for a company many moons ago, and I made a small mistake on the job. The manager spotted it, called me to her office, and told me she was letting me go. There and then. At 3pm on a Wednesday. No notice. One minute I was in, then a blur, then I was out.

I remember sitting in my car for a while afterwards, not so much disappointed at the situation, but bewildered and shocked by just how quickly it happened. This is the feeling Notts County fans are experiencing now. Martin Allen was managing the club quite admirably. Though it had been a while since talk of automatic promotion, the team sits 11th in the table and, although they suffered a poor 3-0 defeat away at Jeff Stelling’s Hartlepool, previous results had been decent and, all in all, things were steady.

Then, on February the 18th, a notice on the Pies’ website: “Notts County wish to announce that Martin Allen has been relieved of his duties with immediate effect.” What?

Just like that, he was gone. A manager everyone thought was getting on ok and had turned County into a steady, top half League 1 club, no longer there. And while the dismissal of a manager usually leads to several days, if not weeks, of finding a suitable replacement, a new manager had been brought in within 48 hours. Not Steve Cotterill, who, despite his woes on the red side of the Trent, would have been a popular choice at Meadow Lane based on his previous County spell, but Keith Curle.

Yes, Keith Curle…What?

An eccentric, popular manager, who was liked and respected by his players and who actively strived to raise the team’s profile in the city, dismissed and replaced with one whose previous posts are limited to Mansfield Town, Chester and Torquay United – and let’s be honest, they weren’t exactly flying high with him in charge. Mad Dog was there on Friday, gone by Saturday and replaced by Curle on Monday. It’s like some twisted surreal footballing version of a popular Craig David song. It does not make sense.

But despite the madness, rational thinking is needed. One thing to take into account is that Neil Warnock has just been appointed manager of Leeds United, and could have attempted to recruit Curle to his backroom team at Elland Road, as he did at Crystal Palace and Queen’s Park Rangers, so County owner Ray Trew may have wanted to move quick to secure Curle’s signature. The fact that Curle and Kevin Pilkington were at the Exeter game should have raised eyebrows. This, combined with the speed of Mad Dog’s dismissal and Curle’s swift appointment, are tell-tale signs that changes may have been in the pipeline for some time. By the looks of it, there were some serious backroom problems which we don’t know about – a Nottingham Post interview with skipper Neal Bishop hinted at “irreconcilable differences” between Allen and Trew.

So, as things are, where should the fans stand? My opinion is that, as a County fan who remembers nearly dropping out of the Football League altogether, not to mention the crazy financial doping period, complete with Trainspotting-style comedown which had Portsmouth, Leeds United and Gretna written all over it, Trew’s tenure has so far been a success, bringing much needed stability to the club, and thus, I will give him the benefit of the doubt and get behind the new manager. Like I said, there may have been good reasons for Allen’s dismissal. We don’t know. However, animosity at this stage is not beneficial.

Curle has not managed a club since 2007, but has been a coach at Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers (who, let’s not forget, were promoted the Premiership) under Warnock, so let’s hope this will reflect positively in his managerial tenure and that this Keith won’t end up a lemon. So, let’s see how things get on, onwards and upwards, and as always, COYP!

Written by Giuseppe Labellarte, We Are Going Up’s Notts County blogger

Giuseppe tweets at @JoeJonesHome

On-form strikers propel Magpies into play-off position

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

It’s been six weeks since that friendly against Juventus. You’d have been forgiven for thinking that Notts County would have slumped into apathy and discontent following that magical night in Turin, much like someone who’s just returned from a great holiday and has to report back to their miserable, mind-numbing job the following day, and for their focus to slip in the following several weeks.

Instead, the Pies have been in scintillating form. After the impressive 2-1 victory against Walsall, a midweek game away to Exeter ended in a 1-1 draw which, bearing in mind it was the Pies’ third game in six days, and (a long way) away from home was more a case of a point earned rather than two lost.

Three whole days without a match followed, before another away game ended in a 2-0 win for Nottingham’s bianconeri. The game following that must have felt like a huge relief to County’s by-now-surely-exhausted players, as it came a whole week after the last one, and back on home territory. Rochdale were dispatched 2-0, Lee Hughes and Sam Sodje getting the goals.

October began with a 3-0 defeat away at Milton Keynes, the Dons playing against ten men for all but four minutes of the game. A bad result for County, but playing a team which Martin Allen has tipped as this year’s League One champions at their own ground, was always going to be hard with a full team, never mind a man down. This blip continued into the next game, the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy clash against rivals Chesterfield. Three more goals conceded by the Pies in a single match, this time in front of the County fans, meant the Spireites would progress in the competition at their expense; another rival team beating them in a cup clash this season. Here’s hoping County don’t get Mansfield in the FA Cup.

Whatever words Mad Dog administered to the players following that cup tie must have worked as three proved to be the magic number again against Hartlepool – luckily it was Jeff Stelling’s boys picking it out of their net, courtesy of two from Karl Hawley and one from the brilliant Cristian Montano, who unfortunately is no longer at Notts, having been recalled by West Ham before being loaned out to Paolo Di Canio’s Swindon.

Redemption against bitter rivals Chesterfield came quickly, as County smashed another three (with a little help from a Drew Talbot own goal) against the Spireites at their own ground. The Sheffield derby the following day meant Magpies fans couldn’t brag about being in the top three for too long as Wednesday moved above them in the table, but nevertheless, the club are sitting comfortably in the play-off positions, which is a welcome relief from last year’s struggles. Last weekend the Pies earned another point in a game against Brentford, courtesy of a penalty from the other great Hughesy in the team, Jeff. So impressed is Mad Dog with the Northern Irishman, he’s declared to the media for him to be recalled to the national team.

Just over two months into the season, it’s a good time to be a Pies fan. The football is attractive, the strikers are all scoring, the atmosphere both in the team and at the ground is buzzing and the results speak for themselves. Although I’m still very cautious at the moment, should the team keep playing and notching up points the way they are – and manage to cement ourselves in the play-off positions – then this season could definitely be a memorable one! I’m a few weeks too late to talk about swapping leagues with our great rivals Forest, but wouldn’t it be nice to get the chance to play them in the Championship next season? We’ll see how things get on!

Written by Giuseppe Labellarte, We Are Going Up’s Notts County blogger

Giuseppe tweets at @JosephGoodart

Toppo’s Top Tens – Short Managerial Reigns

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Football managers – who’d be one?

It is often said that a new manager needs time to bring in his own players and try out different formations. Despite this the average tenure of bosses has gradually decreased over the past two decades as trigger happy chairmen wield the axe if things fail to go to plan.

The pressure for immediate success from fans and owners is another reason so many managers collect their P45’s each season. Peter Jackson walked away from the Bradford City hotseat last week after a couple of months in charge – hardly enough time to build a successful squad – to become this season’s first managerial casualty in the Football League.

He was in charge of his side for a relatively short period, but it is nothing compared to the reigns of the men below who stretch the phrase ‘short-term’ to its very limits. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ten of the shortest managerial stints in Football League history….

10: Gary Megson, Leicester City

During Milan Mandaric’s spell as owner of Leicester City, it seemed the club changed manager every week. The reality was of course nowhere near that bad, but it wasn’t great either as seven managers occupied the dugout at the Walkers Stadium in a four year period. The fourth of those was Gary Megson, who arrived on September 13th 2007.

He guided the Foxes to their first league win in early October, beating Sheffield Wednesday away 2-0 but was soon attracting interest from Premier League Bolton Wanderers. Mandaric rejected a first approach from Bolton but the Trotters publically stated Megson as their number one choice as a second approach was rebuffed by the Foxes.

After Bolton made another move Megson was given permission to speak to the Trotters and on October 24th he left Leicester City to take over at the Reebok – 41 days and nine league games after joining the club.

9: Dave Penney, Bristol Rovers

Former Doncaster Rovers, Darlington and Oldham Athletic boss Dave Penney was appointed Bristol Rovers manager in January 2011, replacing the sacked Paul Trollope. Rovers were struggling in League One when Penney arrived, by the time he left they were staring relegation in the face.

He took charge for thirteen matches and lost nine of them before being ousted by the West Country club less than two months after joining, a 2-0 loss to Dagenham & Redbridge proving to be the final straw for his employers. Penney’s only wins came against Swindon Town and former club Oldham while his biggest defeat was a 6-1 demolition at fellow strugglers Walsall. 33-year-old club captain Stuart Campbell took over until the end of the season.

8: Steve Coppell, Manchester City

Steve Coppell was appointed Manchester City manager in October 1996, the Sky Blues seeking a quick return to the Premier League having been relegated four months before. Sandwiched between his second and third spells as Crystal Palace boss, he lasted just six games and 33 days at Maine Road before quitting, citing the pressure of the job as his reason for leaving. Unsurprisingly, his tenure is the shortest of any City manager to date.

7: Paul Hart, Queens Park Rangers

Queens Park Rangers moved to appoint Paul Hart as their new boss in December 2009. Hart had a nine month tenure on the South Coast as Portsmouth manager prior to this role, but even that could not have prepared him for what proved to be a brief stay in West London.

Hart’s predecessor Jim Magilton left after falling out with a player and Hart too had a bust up with one of the playing staff, Adel Taarabt before leaving in January 2010, less than a month after his appointment. On the pitch things did not go well under Hart as QPR won one of his five Championship matches in charge against Bristol City, the manager heavily criticised for poor tactics and player selections before being shown the door by Flavio Briatore.

6: Bill Lambton, Scunthorpe United

Former goalkeeper Bill Lambton managed just three official league appearances as a player.  Having moved into coaching Lambton following retirement, he turned up at Leeds United as manager in December 1958. He stayed there for just four months, a lengthy tenure compared to his next job at Glanford Park. Lambton took over as Scunthorpe United manager before a 3-0 defeat to Huddersfield in his first game in charge saw his reign brought to a very swift end, three days after it had begun.

5: Martin Allen, Leicester City

Back to the East Midlands for the third of Milan Mandaric’s Leicester City managers.  Martin Allen arrived at the Walkers in May 2007 having had success at Brentford and MK Dons in the previous three seasons.

However soon into Allen’s reign his relationship began to deteriorate with chairman Mandaric over disagreements about transfer targets. The former West Ham and QPR midfielder’s contract was terminated by mutual consent on August 29th 2007, after just four matches in charge.

4: Micky Adams, Swansea City

Current Port Vale boss Micky Adams took charge of the then-struggling Swansea City in Division Three not long after the start of the 1997-98 season, having guided Fulham to promotion from the league’s basement division in 1997. However the 36-year-old left South Wales after 13 days and 3 games in charge, claiming money promised to strengthen the squad never materialised.

3: Steve Coppell, Bristol City

Steve Coppell makes his second appearance in this list for his brief stint as Bristol City boss in the summer of 2010. Having enhanced his managerial CV by steering Reading to the Premier League for the first time in their history, alongside his achievements at Palace, all seemed rosy as the former Manchester United midfielder arrived at Ashton Gate to replace Gary Johnson as manager.

England goalkeeper David James joined from Portsmouth and the Robins were instilled as pre-season favourites for promotion from the Championship. However two games and 112 days later Coppell walked away from the club and retired from football management with immediate effect, claiming he could not ‘become passionate about the role and give the commitment the position needs.’ It was 1996 all over again.

2: Dave Bassett, Crystal Palace

Dave Bassett established himself as one of the brightest managerial talents outside the top flight as he oversaw Wimbledon’s incredible rise up the Football League. He won three promotions with the Crazy Gang in four seasons before accepting an offer to become manager at Crystal Palace in June 1984. Technically Bassett never signed a contract with the Eagles, however after four days at Selhurst Park he quit, refused to sign on the dotted line and returned to Wimbledon.

1: Kevin Cullis, Swansea City

Probably not the most well-known gaffer on this list but his is a name Swansea City fans try to forget in a hurry. Kevin Cullis was appointed manager at the Vetch Field in February 1996 by new chairman Michael Thompson as the club languished in Division Three. He had never played professional football and his only previous managerial experience came as the Youth Coach of non-league Cradley Town in the West Midlands.

His career at the Swans lasted two games in which his side shipped five goals and lost twice. In his second match against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road, Cullis’ half-time team talk was apparently ignored as the players took control and he soon resigned, 13 days after his appointment. The phrase ‘lost the dressing room’ could not be more apt.

Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up blogger.

Tweet Steven at @steven_toplis with your suggestions for Toppo’s Top Tens.

A Massive Wind Up?

Friday, August 19th, 2011

I think someone might be taking the piss.

Silly things are happening at Meadow Lane; and were it not for the fact that he is currently dead, I almost expect Jeremy Beadle to jump out and announce that it is all a big hoax – that Notts County’s proud 149 year history is actually just one massive ‘long con’, leading to a series of punchlines that this may only be the start of.

Football-wise, things are alright. We looked clueless against Charlton, but have shown a degree of quality and spirit against Carlisle, Forest and Tranmere, to make us think we might not be fighting the drop come May. This is thanks mainly to new signings Jeff Hughes and Alan Sheehan, who both look clever buys: Hughes is a player who wants to get on the ball and make things happen, whereas Sheehan’s set-piece delivery is so good that we don’t really miss Ben Davies anymore.

It is not what is on the pitch that is the issue though – it is what is going on off it that is ludicrous.

Firstly, we are playing Juventus.

The actual Juventus – the Old Lady of Italian football.

Now, it is no secret we gave them their black and white kit back when they started out, but the likelihood of them wanting us to go over there for a friendly to celebrate their new stadium opening just seems daft. Will the Juve fans be bothered? Will ours be bothered? Will the return fixture at Meadow Lane even feature any players from Juve we might have heard of? Is it worth playing a vanity game two days before we play Walsall in the league?

I don’t know.

But that was not the only odd thing to happen at the Lane this week.  I am still not sure if this other one is a genuine wind-up or not (I am only just getting used to the eccentricities of our manager Martin ‘Mad Dog’ Allen – a man who once took a training session in the middle of a roundabout because the team bus broke down).  Anyway… the issue is this:

He used the club’s website to advertise for someone to teach him to whistle.

“Good afternoon,

I am desperately trying to find somebody that can teach me to whistle. This may sound like a joke but I can assure you it’s not. This is not for my dog, this is for me to whistle from the technical area.

Any ideas please let me know asap via media@nottscountyfc.co.uk.

Regards,

Martin”

This was on the club’s website. The official website.

What in God’s name is going on?

Why does he need to whistle? Is he planning on signing a sheepdog before the transfer window closes?  Will we end up with a contingent of shepherds jostling for position in the technical area, trying to get Mad Dog’s instructions to the players?

Why can he not just shout anyway? Or semaphore? Smoke signals? Why not whack a bloody great lighthouse in the dugout and flash Morse code at whichever disinterested full-back he is having trouble trying to contact during crucial moments of the match?

So much nonsense; so many questions; but the one I would ask is this:

If Mad Dog had put his advert for a whistling teacher on the club’s website a week earlier, and Juventus had seen it… would they still have invited our club round to such an historic occasion in their history?

Our striker Lee Hughes laughed as we went out of the League Cup to Forest.

I think other people are laughing at us now… lots of them – and I should know, because I’m one of ‘em.

Written by Dan Dawson – We Are Going Up’s Notts County Blogger

TILES

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Tiles.

“White, square, dull, bland, horrible tiles.”

They are the reason Notts County have been trudging round the lower reaches of the league for many years now.

I know – because the new boss says so. They are his own words quoted above.

Martin “Mad Dog” Allen scraped together enough points in the last six games of the previous season to keep us up, and is now charged with turning round a club that has barely caught its breath from a sham Middle-East takeover scandal.

The way Mad Dog sees it, we are the oldest league club in the world; Juventus nicked our kit; we have sat at the top table of football (for a bit…and a long while ago); but looking round Meadow Lane, you would never know it… and that translates to the players.

I’ve been watching Notts for 20 years– I’ve seen us play in the top flight; I’ve seen us beat Forest; I’ve seen us when we were crowned the richest club in the world (if that was based on imaginary Disney-dollars from equally-imaginary Middle-Eastern backers, instead of actual money); I saw us storm to the League Two title only a couple of seasons ago – but I still never harbour any wild hopes or expectations about our beloved club anymore.
There are just too many obstacles in the way. We have little or no money, no youth system to speak of, and cannot keep hold of the few decent players we do get. Notts fans are some of the most pessimistic I’ve ever come across – the sort of doomed resignation that only comes from decades in the shadows of the bottom two divisions. Even the talk of us possibly signing Marlon Harewood (after all, a fringe player in the Premier League’s gotta be big for a third division side) has not aroused much more than a shrug from most fans I speak to, usually followed by, “yeah but he probably won’t come anyway, will he, duck?”

So maybe Mad Dog’s right. Maybe we all need a kick up the arse – to be reminded of what this club once was, and what it can be again. He came out with his rant about the tiles in a 20 minute rambling interview on the edge of the pitch – you could literally hear the workmen banging away in the background while he bemoaned the lack of inspiration around Meadow Lane:

“There’s nothing in the history of Notts County FC, oldest club in the world. There’s no logos, no banners, no sayings, no pictures, no statements, no mission statements.”

This year, that changes. Mad Dog is the man to change it. We will batter Forest in the first round of the cup; Harewood will sign and score 40; we will be champions of League One by April; and we will begin the long process of restoring not only this club’s status as one of the greatest in the world, but also restoring the belief of a disaffected portion of the finest city of the East Midlands.

This is the year, Notts County is the club, and Martin Allen is the man.

How’s that for a mission statement?… stick it on a tile, quick.

Final league position predicition: 14th

Written by Dan Dawson – We Are Going Up’s Notts County Blogger