Notts County Football Club, aside perhaps from matters on the pitch, are one of life’s great forms of entertainment.
We just do it so much bigger and better than everyone else. Want the intrigue of shady investment vehicles, plotting to rig the stock market with a Quadbak shaped bandit-jammer? Ours was on a scale to fool Sven, Sol and the Peoples’ Republic of North Korea.
Fancy some peril on the courtroom steps, as we seek to negotiate another winding-up order? Even those of us below forty can recall narrowly avoiding liquidation on at least three occasions, one of which had punters queuing round the block at Barry Noble’s Astoria.
Think your Chairman is a bit of a character? Well, let’s just say ours has risen to the occasion…
If a script was submitted to film producers containing recent events, it would probably be rejected as too far-fetched. In reality, the Alan Hardy years (or ‘Banter-Era’ as some have termed it) contains all the ingredients of a Hollywood classic and, like the best works of cinema, even contains a poignant subtext – beware the modern-life perils of social media.
Initially we have the unchecked rise of an outsider, a maverick who doesn’t necessarily play by the rulebook but by George he gets things done. Emerging from the misery and darkness of our previous ownership, ‘Big Al’ was an unbending beam of light; his presence dominating any form of discussion about our club at a time when our resurrection seemed preordained.
As regards the supporting cast, his bromance with Kevin Nolan had the wise-cracking chemistry of a Trentside Woody and Wesley; their 2017 heyday initially taking the club away from jeopardy before hustling the mean courts of League 2. It seemed this white man really could jump and all was rosy in the Meadow Lane garden for the first time in a long time, or so it seemed.
Intrinsic to the formula of any feel-good movie, generally at the mid-section, is the inevitable crisis point which is where we find ourselves now – in no small part due to Hardy’s unwillingness to take the right advice. He may have been listening but he just wasn’t hearing.
The bromance ended, Maverik Hardy and Goose Nolan no longer oiling each other up and hi-fiving on the beach. Likewise the hangers-on from the early days, boardroom wingmen so keen to bask in the self-reflected glory and lord it up as the big football men about town (and the Larwood), have long since jettisoned.
What’s more the establishment, offended at this upstart newcomer and his wanton disregard for the comfortable status quo in which they exist, took every opportunity to poop the party. Indeed the wave of Hardy-steria (© The Pie Fanzine) peaked at the weekend with a cynical character assassination in a national newspaper, before all manner of personalities were falling over themselves to ridicule (not unreasonably) and pick over the bones of a man who had subsequently washed his own life down the plughole.
At this point we have the Hollywood staple of redemption, or at least the baby steps. Bravely getting up from the canvas to appear on the local news; as he stood in front of Natalie Jackson like a naughty schoolboy, the catcalls from the baying crowd began to subside. Whilst we are yet to quite see the Politburo rise as one, there is a definite shift in public opinion and a genuine appreciation following the conclusion of our January transfer business.
Even the 600-page thread covering Notts on the Stagsnet forum now shows some sympathy, possibly because they too currently exist within their own Pretty Woman fairy tale.
Back to real life. This incredible transfer activity since Monday has shown the club is not throwing in the towel just yet. Unlike the previous regime which was prepared to let the club slip beneath the bath water, Hardy has dug deep to let Ardley bring in the much needed big characters, ship out some of the dross and change the dressing room dynamic ready for the grand finale.
Indeed the ‘inappropriate photo’ situation is just so ridiculous that it appears paradoxically to have helped disperse some of the dark clouds of doom and gloom, now we remember how to laugh at ourselves.
This could not have come a better time, given we prepare to host top of the league Lincoln this weekend at the Meadow Lane Convention Centre. Make no mistake: It’s on.
The Imps will arrive en masse expecting a procession on the pitch and public humiliation off it. Our club must therefore seek to turn the situation on its head and take ownership, if we are to stand any chance against a frankly excellent side.
Every inflatable cock and balls waved at us from the away stand should serve to motivate players, staff and supporters, reminding us each of the uniqueness and importance of our special collective. In this sense, maybe ‘Little Alan’ could even become the most influential newcomer of the January window (Michael Doyle excepted perhaps).
Our club is the purest form of entertainment, a genuine underdog story which never ceases to amaze, amuse and at the same time have us crying into our post-match pint. Love him or loathe him, Hardy has been pure box office in this regard and we all know we’ll miss him in some ways if / when he’s gone.
A result on Saturday could be the start of something truly glorious. To unashamedly paraphrase; us Notts fans know all too well that it’s not how hard you hit, its about how hard you can get hit and still keep coming. Football isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and I for one didn’t hear no bell.