Notts County Sack Kevin Nolan: Was there method in Magpies madness?

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 27 August 2018, 11:23

After just five games of the League Two campaign, Notts County have parted company with manager Kevin Nolan.

The dismissal seems, on the face of things, very harsh on the former midfielder. He not only led the club to safety at a time of uncertainty in 2016-17, he also guided them last season to the play-offs, where they were partially let down by a series of dubious refereeing decisions in defeat to Coventry.

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In the summer, the Liverpudlian had the best win % of any Magpies manager since 1975 and even if that has been in the fourth tier, there is an argument to say that he had earnt himself an element of trust.

He had been trusted enough to give the squad an overhaul by releasing 11 players – just three of which were under 30 – and adding 10 – of which only David Vaughan was over 30.

Having allowed the man he had dubbed Nolan a potential future England manager back in May to build the squad in his image, it might seem crazy for chairman Alan Hardy to then bring in a new manager with new ideas off the back of five bad games.

Have, as Ian Abrahams suggests, Notts County made a stupid, rash decision they will come to regret (scroll down for tweet)?

That remains to be seen, but the decision to dismiss Nolan is not quite as senseless as outsiders might perceive.

Firstly, they have only won twice away since Boxing Day.

In that time, they have lost at Barnet and Chesterfield, who both lost their EFL status last season, were thrashed 8-1 at Swansea in an FA Cup replay; and conceding eight in one game can be a sign that all is not well, considering that most teams try to limit the damage after shipping three or four.

Those defensive issues have leaked into the current campaign.


Nolan stayed loyal to centre-backs Richard Duffy and Shaun Brisley; a decision that has thus far proved an unmitigated disaster.

Duffy and Brisley have started the season in atrocious form; they, too, must take an element of responsibility for this, given that both players have performed in League One in recent years.

Nolan dismissed first-choice goalkeeper Adam Collin and did not sign a replacement, instead trusting Ross Fitzsimons, who he had only seen fit to start 16 times last season.


Of the new signings, Enzio Boldewijn has shown flashes of potential going forward, most notably the curler at Cambridge, but he and fellow wide man Nathan Thomas have not always been as switched on as they might have been out of possession.

Vaughan, if lacking mobility at 35, has shown some reasonable touches but is perhaps let down at times by the lack of movement from forward areas.

Ironically, the likes of Kristian Dennis and Kane Hemmings were brought in to shake up an attack that sometimes last season comprised of two Precambrian, physical but slow target men in Jonathan Stead and Shola Ameobi; neither Dennis nor Hemmings have quite made the desired impact.

For that, some of the blame must go to Nolan.

The main reason Hardy made this change though was to save the season: it is incredibly rare for a team to take one point from their opening five games and go onto win promotion under the same manager.

Promotion was their sole aim after the summer investment and therefore, the club might have felt they had to make an early change so as not to leave what they hope will be a resurgence too late.

Nolan though, should not be disheartened: he leaves Trentside with his reputation arguably stronger than it was when he first took charge.

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Graham Westley
Graham Westley
16th February
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