On appointing Chris Kiwomya to the hot seat at Notts County in the Spring, club chairman Ray Trew emphasized that this decision was taken with the future very much in mind:
‘When making this appointment we were looking for someone who could realise our long-term vision for the club, someone that we could work with to bring progressive success alongside the development of young, home-grown talent from our successful youth set-up’.
Trew went on to say that ‘we are not putting any immediate demands of expectations on Chris. We have said to him that the team is to mould as he sees fit and to prepare for the new season’ and that ‘we are not demanding instant results, we see this as the start of a project, one that we are asking our supporters to get behind as we look to grow together as a club’.
So, a modest set of aims and ones that were very much in keeping with an uncertain financial situation at Meadow Lane, the club’s most recent published accounts at that point revealing assets totalling £1,227,820, liabilities of £3,791,686 and debts of £2,886,921 – far from a bright situation if not the worst in the division – an HMRC winding up order was thrown out in all of 2 minutes at a hearing in February but Kiwomya did point blank refuse to discuss financial matters when collared by a Finnish blogger in the Summer.
So where did it all go wrong?
The Magpies endured a torrid beginning to the season after Kiwomya maintained an average record of 5 wins, 7 draws and 5 defeats at the back end of the 2012-13 campaign.
It was a tough start in terms of fixtures with high-flying surprise packages Rotherham and Leyton Orient both proving to be too strong, the latter to the tune of a 5-1 score line while the club also tumbled to miserable defeats against Stevenage (1-0), Peterborough (4-2), MK Dons (3-1) and fellow strugglers Sheffield United on the first day of the season (2-1).
As with so many sides in the bottom two divisions, the playing personnel had been overhauled in the summer with the likes of Jeff Hughes and that serial deliverer of spectacular goals Alan Judge among the departed, while youngsters were blooded perhaps sooner and in greater numbers than Kiwomya would have ideally liked.
Some heartening knockout performances provided some hope but in the end, Liverpool were to prevail after extra time in the League Cup and County seriously failed to live up to their billing as one of the bigger clubs in the division.
The pressure mounted on Kiwomya with message boards pretty much united in the belief that his tenure should run its course – a desperately underwhelming win ratio comparing unfavourably to other managers who had long since found themselves out of work. What’s more, heads appeared to have hit the floor and the players appeared to have no answer if the team fell behind.
The start was disappointing in particular because the business done between April and August appeared to have been well judged in many respects. Plymouth fans will tell you how quickly Judge can go off the boil and if the capture of Danny Haynes constituted a risk given that former wunderkind’s failure to fulfil his potential so far in his career, his pacy running looked set to dovetail well with the skills of Yoann Arquin, Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Joss Labadie. Nor did the capture of Mustapha Dumbuya look too shabby – the Sierra Leone full back arriving from Crawley.
So it appears to have been a case of under achievement and despite a half-decent run of results, a clear the air meeting of the players in advance of the recent home win against Tranmere and the arrival of a couple of well-judged loan signings to provide greater competition in the squad – most notably the arrival of Celtic’s Scotland under-21 international Callum McGregor – the upswing proved to be only temporary.
McGregor had also been on target twice in the subsequent 4-0 hammering of Crewe with only an unfortunate reverse against in form Carlisle marring the overall impression of improvement – the Cumbrians’ manager Graham Kavanagh admitting to the Nottingham side’s superiority in possession and that he couldn’t wait to see the end of the game.
With Wolves defeated on penalties in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy – a team who Kiwomya had previously confessed he felt it would be impossible to compete with, there seemed suddenly to be grounds for serious optimism by the Trent.
But a triple spin of defeats against Swindon, Gillingham and Preston has sealed the end of a dispiriting spell in charge for the former Ipswich and Arsenal front man. In a league characterised by the underperformance of several of its more storied brethren – see also Bristol City and Sheffield United – Notts should not be where they are and the decision as to who takes over needs to be a judicious one.