Christmas is well and truly over. My recycling bin can vouch for that. But there’s one feature of the festive season that I wish I could force upon every member of the Notts playing staff: a copy of A Christmas Carol to read.
Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is a staple story of the season ever since its incarnation in 1843, but its meanings and morals have huge significance to our beleaguered and joyless squad in 2017 too – and I’m not simply talking Muppets here.
Scrooge cuts a miserly and joyless figure at the start of the novel. Deeply depressed and set in his ways, he scorns any personal criticism as ‘humbug’ and ignores the attempts of others to see the error of his ways. Though I don’t agree with some of the direct, personal criticism our players receive on Twitter, several have blocked fans simply for asking their thoughts or reaffirming to them the direness of our situation. Other players are choosing to be as silent as Bob Cratchit, sat in the metaphorical corner counting their income quickly and quietly.
The players, like Scrooge, need divine intervention to change.
Should the ‘Ghost of Seasons Past’ arrive at their door, many can look back with pride and fondness at their careers up to joining Notts. Smith, Stead, Forte, Loach, O’Connor, Dickinson and Duffy have all played at much higher levels and enjoyed success. How we wish they could channel that now. Others, like Burke, Campbell, Hewitt, should be able to use the frustration at being released from bigger clubs where they spent the majority of their footballing education as motivation to prove their previous employers wrong. Or even to simply get a better deal elsewhere. Whilst Hollis, Thompson and Richards memories should still be mixed into the concrete of Meadow Lane, having come up through the ranks.
If that visitation doesn’t shake them out of their joyless performances, the ‘Ghost of Season Present’ should. 10 defeats in a row, making them officially the worst team in Notts County history (and that takes some doing), means that the only way is up. Scrooge is treated to insights into the lives of all those his actions affect in this part of the novel. How I’d love to have made the players endure what the 264 travelling Notts fans had to on their way home from Morecambe. But some players just don’t want to. It’s easier to block a disgruntled fan on Twitter than mark 37 year old Kevin Ellison it seems.
If that isn’t enough to get the players going for the remainder of the season, maybe the ‘Ghost of Football’s Future’ will. If the spectre of National League football and relegating the World’s Oldest Football League Club is still not enough to drown out the ‘humbug’ I’d ask them to move forward 20 or 30 years. Me and my adult sons will still be there, as will you (God willing) and as they shuffle around the perimeter of the Meadow Lane turf, knees arthritic from a long career in the game, what do they want us to say? Do they want me to point to my boys and say ‘See those, lads? They’re responsible for our darkest times. Our worst season. They don’t deserve a clap’. Or do they want ripples of appreciation to spread around the ground as a sign of respect for them turning this abomination of a season around? For us to reminisce about fight backs and last minute winners that kept the club up? We look after our ex players at Notts, but you’ve got to earn it.
Of course, Dickens’ novel ends with a rejuvenated Scrooge bouncing out of bed the next day to right his wrongs. But that’s only fiction, right? Or is there a local derby coming up where this could all change…
Remember this, Notts players: you wear a chain forged in life. You made it link by link and yard by yard. You girded it on your own free will and of your own free will, you wear it.