I thoroughly enjoyed the party to celebrate winning the title at the weekend.
Of course it wasn’t Chelsea’s Premier League triumph, that almost foregone conclusion will have to wait until this Sunday when the Londoners will almost certainly dispose of Wigan to take the trophy away from Manchester United.
No, I strolled the 20 minutes from home to watch Notts County collect the League 2 champions award after demolishing Cheltenham 5-0.
The walk to County’s Meadow Lane stadium takes you past the opulent Trent Bridge cricket ground which is the home of Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club and also hosts international and Test cricket matches and the City Ground where Championship side Nottingham Forest play.
County are very much the poor relations of Nottingham – the city also boasts a leading ice hockey side, the Panthers – but this year this modest club have been very much in the news with the false dawn of the takeover by the mysterious Munto Finance who turned out to have no money after all. But despite a roller-coaster of emotions the players still managed to keep their focus on the task in hand – winning promotion – and they did it in style. The week before, they walloped Darlington 5-0 on their own ground, and over 11,000 – nearly twice their average gate – packed into Meadow Lane to see them put another five past Cheltenham. The ground was awash with banners, flags, scarves and what seemed to be an enormous amount of brand-new Notts County replica shirts.
The Magpies stormed into a four goal lead within half an hour including a dazzling nine minute hat-trick from leading scorer Lee Hughes. Notts still have one game left – they visit Torquay this weekend – but have stormed out of League 2 in stunning fashion: They have acquired 92 points – nine ahead of second placed Bournemouth, have scored 96 goals and have a massive goal difference of 65.
Notts also boast one of the best goalkeepers in the lower divisions, Kasper Schmeichel, the former Manchester City player and son of the Manchester United legend Peter. He was making his final Meadow Lane appearance because County have agreed to release him on a free transfer at the end of the season. The 23-year-old Dane was reported to be on £15,000 a week after being signed at the beginning of the short-lived Munto Finance ‘revolution’ last summer.
Schmeichel had four years left on his deal but chairman Ray Trew said: “To hold out for a possible transfer fee was too big a risk for this football club.” He continued: “If we were not able to sell him, the value of his contract over the next four years was such that it could have had severe financial implications on Notts County’s future. “Kasper has agreed to forgo all his future wages, which is a huge concession by such a young man.” No wonder Schmeichel got a huge reception when he was substituted a minute before time on Saturday.
Goalkeepers were also in the news in the Premier League.
Mega-rich Manchester City were incredibly allowed to bring in an emergency loan keeper following a shoulder injury to first choice Shay Given. The club that has splashed out over £200 million in transfers had previously had the cheek to try and re-call on-loan goalkeeper Ian Hart from Birmingham. Their complaint was that with Given’s regular back-up Stuart Taylor also injured, they were ‘only’ left with Faroe Islands’ international Gunnar Nielsen.
Let’s hear a big ‘ahh’ for City. Maybe they should have spent some of those millions on better goalkeeping cover.
Anyway, the Premier League, in their wisdom (!!!) allowed City to sign Sunderland’s Marton Fulop on an emergency loan for the reason of the season. Premier League rules prevent players moving outside of a transfer window unless in “exceptional circumstances”, but in a statement, they said Fulop’s temporary move was granted “in line with our rules regarding injuries to goalkeepers.”
Last month Chelsea faced a similar goalkeeping crisis, when Ross Turnbull was their only fit goalkeeper for the league game against West Ham, but Chelsea promoted academy product Rhys Taylor to the bench.
And there was maybe a hint of tongue in cheek in the comments of Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp following the injury to his keeper Heurelho Gomes against Bolton: “Gomes’s groin is sore,” said Redknapp. “He’ll have a scan and see what the damage is. Hopefully he is OK.” Redknapp added: “Gomes felt his groin go – we will get on to the league to see if we can get two more goalkeepers. We have got four already but we will see if we can get a couple more.”