In July 2009 “Middle Eastern investors” took over Notts County, the world’s oldest club, aiming for the Premier League. Many fans thought it sounded too good to be true…
By Joe Dodge-Taylor @JoeDodgeTaylor1 | Image: Wikimedia Commons
In July 2009 a company called Munto Finance took over Notts County, the worlds oldest professional league club. Claiming they had the backing of Middle Eastern Investors, their original aim was to get the club into the Premier League, and the appointment of ex-England manager Sven Goran Eriksson as director of football demonstrated this. However, things weren’t necessarily as they seemed. As Goran-Eriksson admits “I started to have doubts when they came and told me the milk bill had not been paid”.
Following the takeover, the 2009/10 season began with a real sense of excitement and expectation when Notts kicked off with an emphatic 5-0 thrashing of Bradford City. With the summer arrivals of goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and defender Sol Campbell from the Premier League, Ian McParland’s team initially seemed untouchable, and were the early leaders of League Two. By mid-September, however, there were already signs of problems to come. Notts County faced an away trip to Morecambe where Campbell was going to play his first game. The day didn’t end well for County, losing 2-1, and just a few days later Campbell left the club in bizarre circumstances after only playing one game. When first joining the club Campbell said, ‘Notts County are the best club for me in this moment in my life’. After leaving by mutual consent shortly afterwards he revealed in an interview, ‘I bought into a dream and I wanted to make that dream a reality. But it took me less than a month to realise that it was all heading to a different conclusion’. Campbell’s departure left fans intrigued and bewildered by what was going on behind the scenes at the club.
“Notts were an unwitting pawn in one of the largest attempted global frauds ever perpetrated.”
On the pitch at Meadow Lane performance levels had dropped and in mid-October McParland was sacked and Hans Backe was appointed in his place as manager. Backe made a solid start but the rest of the calendar year brought dark times to the club threatening its very existence. In November, County’s large debts, including an unpaid tax bill of £600,000, emerged, and it soon became clear the new owners didn’t have all of the money they claimed. On 10th December, news broke that Munto had put the club up for sale. This looked like the end of a club who were soon to celebrate their 150th anniversary. After Backe resigned just days later, 2009 ended horrendously with the club managerless and in a dire financial state. As Paul Mace, Notts fan and author of the book ‘One Flew Over The Magpies Nest’ notes, ‘Notts were… an unwitting pawn in one of the largest attempted global frauds ever perpetrated’.
In spite of this, 2010 surprisingly proved to be one of the best years in the club’s recent history. In February, Ray Trew, the owner of Lincoln Ladies Football Club, wrote himself into Notts County’s history books. Trew bought the club for just £1 and took over as chairman while Goran Eriksson bad farewell. Later that month Steve Cotterill was appointed manager and by May he had won the League Two title and promotion to League One.This season was like no other, it contained thrills, many spills and one that we may never witness in our beautiful game again.Football really is a funny old game.