Notts’ biggest question: guns or butter?

The macroeconomic concept of guns versus butter is meant to demonstrate the relationship between a nation’s investment in its defence versus civilian goods and, perhaps unsurprisingly, rises to prominence in moments of national crisis. William Jennings Bryson’s resignation speech before the First World War is the first recorded use of the idea, while Göring and Goebbels both used it to justify extreme rationing in Germany during the Second World War. It’s a theory for a crisis. And Notts are definitely facing a crisis.

There is little doubt after Saturday’s performance that, whoever the new Notts manager is, recruitment is likely to be high on the agenda. We looked devoid of ideas and determination against Cheltenham, a side that far more prepared to fight to avoid the relegation places than Notts did. This fact wasn’t lost on Alan Hardy himself, given his recent response to a tweet that at least 80% of the squad should fear for their safety in January, despite the sizeable investment he’d already made in the summer.

There’s no way this squad should be where it is in terms of ability. But ability in a crisis is the metaphorical butter: slippery, unpredictable and lacking in rigidity. It’s great in small doses. A turn or tricky bit of play can get fans off their seats – but fails to satisfy the fans’ hunger long term. It’s unhealthy. Whoever we bring in next needs to be built of sterner stuff.

Not only do we have a squad built on butter, it’s growing fat with the benefits too. There are far too many players sat comfortably on long contracts and sizeable wages. What motivation do they have to raise their game? If the club fails, they are protected by at least another year of employment. If they aren’t wanted, a large payoff awaits. The concept of a two year deal in League Two seems to be one of false economy as it doesn’t always ensure performance.

What Notts need are metaphorical guns. Players who may not possess the slippery, silky skills of their buttery counterparts but offer the deadly combination of commitment and desire. It’s perhaps no surprise that the most consistent performers in this poor season have been those who see Notts as a chance to grasp, not just the simple gratification of a contract. Fitzsimons and Turley are two who seem most reliable. Both have been steeled by experiencing life in the lower leagues and know what lurks there; their performances at least show that they don’t want to go back there again.

Further damning evidence of this summer’s transfer saturation comes in the form of Jon Stead, a player we missed desperately on Saturday despite investing nearly half a million pounds on attacking options. As every dribble, flick and half-hearted cross was swatted away on Saturday it became painfully obvious that we needed someone who would be pulling shirts and busting lungs to get into the area and unsettle a defence that sat higher and higher up the pitch as they realised the toothlessness of Notts’ attack.

So whoever Notts’ new man will be and bring into the side, I hope they realise the need to increase Notts’ weaponry and not add to a side already bulging with the wrong type of ingredients. Because “guns will make us powerful; butter will only make us fat”.

Colin Sisson

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