As Alan Hardy spoke on the night of his anniversary as Notts County owner, the local businessman was both reflective and optimistic. A lot has changed for Meadow Lane and the Magpies in just one year, so Impact spoke to the man responsible for such progress to look back on his journey as Notts County owner and ponder their chances following the FA Cup fourth round draw,
Well, Wolves or Swansea in the fourth round of the cup, Alan; how do you fancy welcoming either of those sides to Meadow Lane?
AH: “I think it’s great. I mean, I was after a Premier League side, a top six side, a Man United, a Spurs or a Liverpool. It wasn’t to be, but the next best thing is a home game and to sell out, so with due respect we didn’t want a Yeovil or a Rochdale. We wanted a side where we sell out the stadium.
“That’s really important for us from a financial angle. We want 20,000 here, we want it absolutely rocking. Kevin Nolan said after the game on Saturday he doesn’t care who we play as long as were home, as this is a fortress here. We call it our fortress, we’ve only lost here once in twelve months, to a Portsmouth side on the last day of season where they were promoted at the top of their game.
“We’ve beaten a League 1 side in Bristol Rovers, beaten a Championship side at the weekend, who says we can’t go one further and beat a Premier League side!?”
“what we’ve brought to the club is a real unity amongst the players and they feel they’re invincible”
You got into the fourth round thanks to great win at Griffin Park, everything about that day was great, wasn’t it? The away end sold out, what did you make of the occasion?
AH: “Absolutely. It didn’t do a lot for my nerves, I was in bits, and then at the final whistle I started to tear up, and Darren Fletcher had to take me to one side and say “come on big lad pull yourself together where not having any of that nonsense!”
Would you say that performance embodied everything you’ve brought to the club in twelve months?
AH: “Well I’m not sure if you saw the spirit on the pitch, but the players, they were making crunching tackles and putting balls out for corners, getting into little huddles of three and four and gearing each other up. So I think what we’ve brought to the club is a real unity amongst the players and they feel they’re invincible. You know, our game against Cambridge, we were 3-0 down and fourteen minutes to go. Most people had written us off, and we got a 3-3 draw.”
“the bulk of that team lost ten on the trot last season”
What do you put the success down to this season? Second in League Two at the moment, and you’ve been up at the top for much of the season, why do you think this season has been particularly good?
AH: “It’s down to the togetherness, the togetherness of the team. It’s about the confidence and it’s about the spirit they’ve got. Okay, we’ve got a couple of new players in with Yatesy and Jorge Grant. But the bulk of that team lost ten on the trot last season. They’ve just been inspired by Kevin Nolan and his management team, and you know, these lads were told week in week out they were rubbish and not fit to pull the shirt on.
“All of a sudden, the new manager comes in and says “hang on, no you’re not, you’re brilliant. These are the bits of your game you’re brilliant at, so were going to work on the positives. The bits you’re not so good at, we’ll work on those too, but the other parts of the team can cover those weaknesses. So it’s a whole team effort, not just eleven individuals playing on the pitch isolated like they were when we came in.”
Moving off the pitch now, Darren Fletcher has said he wants to take you off Twitter or limit your influence on that, but is it important to keep that interaction with the fans?
AH: “It’s two fold. One, it makes me accessible to the public, which is important. If they want to ask me a question or give me some feedback, I’m there to receive it. Secondly, it helps me gauge what the sense is and what the spirit is out there.
“It’s really important for me to know whether the fans are in a good place, a positive place. What annoys them, what frustrates them, what I need to work on. And other things, like the seats missing off the toilets, so the women said they feel like they can’t sit down to do a pee, so we’ll sort that out. It’s about the whole experience, from parking your car, walking to the ground, entry through the turnstiles, buying your drink, buying your bag of crisps, watching the game and then leaving. It’s all about the customer experience, it’s no longer about what happens between 3 o’clock and 4:45.”
A lot of the fans at your recent Q&A closed their question with a thank you, for all your doing for the club. How does that make you feel?
AH: “It’s very humbling, I said so from the day I took over. I was like: “I can’t believe I’ve got the keys to Meadow Lane!’. When I hear the fans say that, it just makes me not forget them. I was at Carlton with my kids yesterday and a group of twelve year olds came over and thanked me. That means just as much showing such maturity. Sometimes, in this footballing bubble we are in, we don’t get a true perspective of what’s going on out there in reality and the influence you are having on people’s lives. It’s those points that ground me and say, actually, you are talking about people’s lives and how important this football club is to people’s lives. That’s why Twitter works for me.”
Finally, what are the targets for the rest of the season?
AH: “Promotion, definitely. Luton will win the league, they’ll run away with it. We are fighting for the runners up trophy. It’s a big game on Saturday against Lincoln, we don’t want to get beat and them to close that gap on us, but yes, promotion is our target for the season.”
To celebrate his one year anniversary, Alan Hardy has announced that all tickets for the game against Crewe on February the 3rd are just £2. Another great gesture from the chairman, who continues to be a breath of fresh air on the Trent.
Liam Kenny and Joe Tanner