Raw emotions on a dark day

Notts County fans away at Swindon Town

Long-suffering Notts County fan Adrian Rawden delivers his summary of a difficult day… both on and off the pitch.

It’s Sunday morning and, as with most mornings this last few months, Iʼm lying awake bleary eyed checking Twitter after another loss – or, rather, capitulation.

Notts County had been relegated after a 3-1 loss away at Swindon Town… as if you needed reminding. Here is my story on that disastrous day…

24 hours earlier…

I didn’t manage to see the final league game. I bought my tickets for me and my pops, Iʼd done a few radio interviews, and was anxious – excited with a mix of dread – at the thought of seeing my beloved Pies fight for league survival. Itʼs been an unhealthy cocktail but, whatever, I was prepared to order it in the Last Chance Saloon. However, it was not meant to be…

We left later than most fans and I suffered a double puncture on the Leicester western bypass/A46, not long after the Hobby Horse pub, a mere 25 minutes into my journey. You could not make it up!

Deflated in mood, my wheel had literally fell off! I tried in vain to get it sorted but modern cars no longer have a spare. The can of foam to replace the missing air is only sufficient to get you back to safety. I was devastated. I donʼt mind telling you that I cried the first cry in a day and night of tears.

I thought I would follow events on social media and the radio, but I just couldnʼt bear to do it. I became angry – bitter, even – and decided to let fate take its course. I have been disenfranchised from my club this season – spats with the man at the helm and knowledge of goings-on conspiring to increase my resentment further.

I flicked through my messages as support came in from ex-players and folk I know. I sat in my office at home looking at personal effects gathered and treasured, and reflected on my life following Notts…

Then, all of a sudden, my wife and my kids were shouting my name – ‘Ade, Ade, Dad Daddy!!!” – we are staying up! Jeff Stelling’s voice boomed with excitement that Notts had escaped the trapdoor with a Hemmings penalty and Cambridge were already 1-0 up at Macclesfield. My mood instantly lifted, high on this feeling of new found hope and my family embracing me like we had won the league!

That was beautiful… I breathed it in became briefly intoxicated. I was in the best place listening to the best news! Happiest Iʼd been in a while…

Notts were on the up, I was told… playing with purpose – fired on by both the magnificent following and the news that Macclesfield were losing, then… chance!! Ohhhh, over the bar – a sitter for 2-0…

Then, like a bolt, the happiness was shattered with the news Macclesfield had equalised… Various expletives and a crash in mood took me. The season summed up in that 30 seconds.

Any hope and optimism crushed, fine margins we were back in the abyss. And, within eight minutes, the real Notts turned up. 2-1 down and staring in the face of reality with no way back. Calamities at the back once again conspiring to undo any good.

84 league goals. The inability to defend killing any realistic hope and never truly addressed by any managerial intervention or player recruitment.

Final nail. Another goal. 3-1. Game over. League survival ended. Our proud association as league founder members expired. No more solidarity payments. No League Cup. The indignity of FA Cup qualifiers.

Images of Sol Campbell and jubilation added to the heartbreak. Scenes of Notts fans clapping singing and cheering like we had survived seemed churlish to me at this point, but brilliant like a strange dark comedy – summing up a bizarre season of monumental cock-ups, managerial merry-go-rounds and owner antics.

The aftermath

I was numb. Stone cold numb. Instantly, tears ran down my face… “Whatʼs up daddy?”

“Erm nothing just being silly, “came my reply, hastily retreating to my office. I sat there thinking how my dad would be feeling… how those travelling fans were coping. Many in that crowd Iʼd forged some connection with or knew.

I put the radio on, trying to gain some further insight into events – some connection to what was happening. Odd, as Iʼm usually first to pipe up on Twitter… Not this time.

Twitter didnʼt feel appropriate. Too soon, some would say (you know who
you are.) Too knee jerk. Too bitter. Too emotional.

I listened Ardley sounding, well, like Ardley. Sad. Remorseful. Genuine. A
good man let down by a group of players.

Then came the chairman – our owner, Alan Hardy – a gibbering wreck. The sighs. The staged pauses. A total polar opposite of the emotions that his manager had just shown. Lacking any respect for what the masses of supporters in the stadium might be feeling.

I was raging. This is the man who is largely at fault and why the world’s oldest league club is now contemplating trips to Bromley, Dover and Barrow. This is the man who had literally made Notts a laughing stock. This is the man who had worked tirelessly to promote his own agendas and personal interest through media attention and vast incompetence.

The busiest man in the world now brought to his knees, struggling to string a sentence together. Notts’ BBC frontman Charlie Slater asked questions while the world’s loudest PA system announced nothing. Satire indeed. But, this man gave a further glimpse that he yet may still be at the helm next term… FFS!!

Unbelievable. He continued… The soundtrack to an incredible turnaround since Christmas 18 months ago and the highs of champions-elect. Open top bus on ice since early September… Numerous scandals and the club still in limbo awaiting sale… Five-year plan… Meh!

Totally oblivious that no one cared. Except for everyone connected to our great proud club. Fans, friends and clearly those looking down the barrel of a P45. Good folk. Genuine folk. Selfless folk. A community in full mourning.

The tears at this point became more profound. My sadness, fighting anger.
Anger winning. Then sleep. Deep sleep. Weight lifted. Strangely calm. So itʼs Sunday morning now…

Iʼm with my family. Safe. Still a Notts fan. Still thinking about what could- should have been. Scrolling through twitter taking in the emotions of others fuel my anxieties about the future.

Reflection

I saw Notts in the top flight and, subsequently, in all the other divisions. I’ve seen relegations, promotions and silverware lifted. Administrations. Appeals for funds. Highs and lows.

And players… Dined, sat and travelled with them. Employed former Magpies stars. Sat in boardrooms. Spilt Bovril on the ash steps of the Kop. Collected stickers, autographs and shirts. Visited the San Sirrel and watched the Pies from every angle. And behind glass. And travelled up and down the country with the salt of the Lane. Dressed the boys in blazers and slacks for the Wembley trips. Taken coaching and tips from Sirrel and staff. Sponsored and fundraised. And was proud to see my company name adorn the Kop with my family in tow. Great memories.

I’ve done things with my club that many would envy, so now’s not the time for pity or envy… Just reflection and time to put things into perspective.

You see, you might break me. You might upset me. Make me angry. But, you wonʼt take away whatʼs inside me… A lad whoʼs still 13 at heart with single Magpie top, a scarf and hope. And, most of all, a family of Pies who will help me cope.

Letʼs hope we can survive the next winding up order and conclude the sale of the world’s oldest professional football legacy or the National League’s oldest newest member! Quite catchy ainʼt it!?

Tears before bedtime, anyone?

You Pies. X

Adrian Rawden

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