What I want from my football club - Part 2: The East Midlands
The Seventy Two has canvassed the opinion of several Football League writers from a variety of different clubs to ask one simple question: what do you want from your football club? Given around 300 words to play with, there were numerous responses so we will be looking at a cross-section every day this week, continuing with the thoughts of Nottingham Forest, Derby County, Leicester City and Notts County supporters.
Nottingham Forest by Pat Riddell
I don’t expect too much from my club (no, really). Winning games is nice — play-off semi-finals seem particularly troublesome for some reason — but it’s always with hope rather than expectation. What I do want is a strategy, a framework, a blueprint for success. There’s clearly no guarantee of delivering success but we should, at least, have an idea of what we want and how we want to get there.
For the past 13 years we’ve lurched from one manager to the next, from one philosophy to another, with no clear plan or idea about what kind of club we want to be. Are we big spenders? Are we a prudently-run club? Do we scour the lower leagues for bargain buys and bring through academy players? Do we have some kind of balance between youth and experience; journeymen and potential; flair and grit?
At the end of this month we finish another season with several key players out of contract. A season which began with the promise of spending big and replacing the exodus last summer (neither of which happened). A season during which our best players have been Joel Lynch (signed from Brighton for £200,000), Garath McCleary (signed from Bromley for £20,000), Andy Reid (free transfer) and Adlene Guedioura (loan from Wolves).
We don’t need to spend millions on transfer fees and wages, we just need a manager with a footballing philosophy, an eye for talent and an understanding of the Championship. It’s all too easy to cite Norwich, Swansea, Blackpool and Southampton as prime examples but if we don’t attempt to emulate their success then we can’t say we tried and failed.
It’s too early to say for sure but the combination of Steve Cotterill and Sean O’Driscoll is, at the moment, delivering the promise of good football and results as well as getting the best out of our players. Whether it’s a false dawn, only time will tell…
Derby County by Joel Clyne
It’d be easy to say that I want a Russian oligarch or a Sheikh from the Middle East or whoever else with x amount of billion in the bank to buy my club but in truth, it’d be incredibly boring and I’d always be casting envious eyes over at clubs who are doing it “properly” so to speak.
I’m much more in favour of building a club in the right way, with solid foundations and an emphasis on youth development. It’s pleasing that there is a long-term structure in place at the club but the changes I’d want are in the short to medium term.
It’s no coincidence that the season in which Clough has been given a bit of cash the side have performed significantly better and are heading for their best finish under his management. Clough rarely gets credit for the job that he has done since taking charge but it looks as if he’ll guide this side to a top half finish on what, club coach Johnny Metgod referred to, “a side with a bottom six budget”. Clough and his staff have a good eye for a player, it’d be nice to see him given funds to express that.
The academy is producing players, this season Jeff Hendrick and Mark O’Brien have made the step up to the first team and have been capped at Under 21 level for the Republic of Ireland. Mason Bennett became the youngest player in the club’s history and he, along with Will Hughes, have starred for the youth team and rightly been given opportunities with the England Under 17’s.
The structure is in place for the long term, the American owners now need to dip into their pockets and give Clough some funds to add to what has been a promising season because surely then good times are on the horizon for Rams fans.
Leicester City by David Bevan
In my ideal world, my football club would be supporter-owned and bring through talented local youngsters on a regular basis while maintaining a consistent or improving league position. In reality, it is “big-spending Leicester City”, the Thai duty free vehicle that has been stationary on the hard shoulder for most of the season. I have had to re-evaluate what I want from my football club, hence this little experiment to see what other fans want and expect from their own.
Abandonment is not an option. That strange, uncontrollable shaking as the final whistle approaches in an important game is showing no signs of going away and I could never swap that for anything else. Instead, it has become important to seek enjoyment in more specific aspects of life as a Leicester City fan.
The main source over the past few months has been a return to a coherent transfer policy – something which can be extremely difficult in the Championship, particularly when the money is there to fund big-money signings. I don’t like big-money signings. I was raised during the Martin O’Neill era and while everyone knows about the £650,000 we spent on Muzzy Izzet and the £750,000 that bought us Neil Lennon, fewer people talk about the larger fees that went awry even under O’Neill. His record in the transfer market was far less successful if you only take seven-figure fees into account.
So the scattergun policy of last summer never sat comfortably with me. Perhaps my favourite thing about the club at the moment is watching the progress of two of our three permanent January signings – Danny Drinkwater and Ben Marshall. Both schooled for some time in the Manchester United way of playing; both with plenty of educational loan spells in the Football League behind them; both young and hungry to achieve things with their career. Perhaps most importantly, I won’t react in a knee-jerk way to poor form from any young player as long as they have proven their talent and never compromise on workrate.
What I want from my football club has had to be adapted following the King Power takeover. But if we’re going to spend money, then I’d rather it was done sensibly with the long-term future of the club in mind and young players given the chance to learn and grow and realise their potential.
Notts County by Stuart Brothers
The question of what I’m wanting from my football club has come up a few times in recent weeks. At weekends watching the Premier League’s smaller sides being dumped on by officials, it’s led me to question whether the Best League In The World™ is really all it’s cracked up to be.
Of course we all want our teams to be testing themselves against the better teams in the country – but at what cost? Gone will be our regular 3pm Saturday kick offs, ticket prices will soar, officiating will become seemingly less impartial. We’re force-fed the notion that the top flight is where everyone should want to be. Right now, my own opinion begs to differ.
Admittedly though, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’d consider Notts to be a mid-table League One side – I genuinely believe that as things stand, this is our natural level. That’s not to say the foundations aren’t there right now for us to push on for bigger things. Notts currently sit three games away from the League One play-offs. Would I back us to progress further than the semi-finals? Sadly not, but as they say – form goes out of the window, so who knows? Should the unthinkable happen, and with the added revenue the Championship would bring we could firmly establish ourselves in that division within a few years.
Our Chairman Ray Trew has done a fantastic job so far of getting the club on a sound financial footing, balancing the books as best he can. Having cleared over £7m of debt though, you have to think the Premier League offers the best chance of recouping his investment. Daring to dream again – let’s get into the top flight, invest as little as possible and take the money and run, giving our club the best possibility of a future. Let’s take what I consider to be a massively flawed parachute payment system for all it’s worth and do a runner!
The relationship between those at board level and supporters could scarcely be better. The chairman and his wife are fantastically approachable people, either at games or via email and social networking.
They’re fantastically open with us as well – maybe at times a bit too much. Ray’s enthusiasm has a tendency to get the better of him, and he has often spoken of imminent signings that have failed to materialise. When times are hard, people are quick to throw these in his face despite huge investment in both infrastructure and playing staff.
Whilst times are as good as they are right now though, there’s very little to complain about!