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When Kevin Nolan walked into Meadow Lane at the beginning of this year, surely no one could have predicted nearly 12 months on, the Magpies would be sitting pretty on top of the tree.
After the disaster that is Leyton Orient almost ruined a managerial career before it had gotten off the ground, Nolan is enjoying life at Meadow Lane safe from interfering owners and letting the football take up the column inches.
County have the title of being the oldest association football team playing at a professional level, but like most in the lower reaches of the Football League there have been flirtations with debt, foreign owners and even closure.
Nolan himself is no stranger to some of those issues despite plying his trade further up the chain, and the ill-fated spell at Orient where despite almost winning 50% of his matches, four months was enough for the owners to dispense with his services and consign another young manager to the dole queue, a patient wait for a new job which for most never materialises.
County have gone through 6 managers, including Nolan, in the past four years, with relegation to League Two occurring during that period. This season, Nolan has steadied the ship, has won just over 50% of his matches and appears likely to take County up to League One if they can repeat the form of the first 17 matches over the course of the season.
To help him achieve that aim, he has a good smattering of former Premier League stars, notably Alan Smith, Jon Stead and Shola Ameobi, players who have been on the international stage now working to get County out of the basement division.
But this is League Two, and it’s not a given that despite the experience the club holds in its ranks, slip ups can easily occur. A small stutter in the last few weeks has seen Accrington, Exeter and Luton close the gap and one mistake, one slip and they will pounce.
Compared to some in the division, County can be thought of as a ‘bigger’ club with a capacity of over 20,000 at Meadow Lane and a scalp for the likes of Forest Green, Morecambe or Barnet.
Whilst the complacency of last season appears to have been eradicated, Nolan should be applauded for not letting the Orient experience tarnish his reputation.
With the drive and determination that was evident throughout his career you would expect him to push this County side onto bigger and better things, one thing’s for sure, if performances dip in any way you can believe those boots will be getting a dust off and the barking orders must just get a little louder in the ear!
Written by Trevor Knell
Follow Trevor on Twitter @trevk37
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