Anyone thinking that Notts County would breeze straight back into the Football League received a major wake-up call on Saturday afternoon.
County’s long history counted for little as a physical Eastleigh side sent the Midlands outfit tumbling to a 1-0 defeat on the opening day of the National League season.
Neil Ardley’s side failed to muster a single effort on target and their misery was compounded as Michael Doyle and Damien McCrory were both shown straight red cards late in the game.
Read on as we look at the Magpies’ fall from grace and their chances of bouncing back into the EFL at the first time of asking.
Hardy folly leaves County in a pickle
Notts County went into the 2018/19 season strongly fancied to win promotion from League Two having missed out in the play-offs the previous year.
Fans inclined towards betting used the Coral promo code to sign-up and back County into favouritism, but the campaign turned into an unmitigated disaster.
Alan Hardy’s calamitous ownership of the club ultimately cost County their place in the league, but also nearly saw them go out of business.
Staff went unpaid for two months, while a transfer embargo left Ardley working with one hand tied behind his back after he replaced Harry Kewell.
Hardy’s antics on social media brought further shame on the club and supporters breathed a collective sigh of relief when he put County up for sale.
New owners bring a fresh approach
Danish brothers Christoffer and Alexander Reedtz have promised fans a brighter future after taking over from Hardy at Meadow Lane.
The pair, who own analysis company Football Radar, say they will use similar techniques to the ones that saw Brentford and Brighton & Hove Albion rise up the leagues.
The Reedtz brothers plan to use an analysis team of over 160 people to aid County’s bid to climb back out of the National League as quickly as possible.
Brentford’s data model has helped them find players who have sparked a jump from League Two to establish themselves as a solid Championship club.
Brighton have also used data analysis to enhance their traditional scouting methods and now find themselves in the Premier League.
Ardley the right man to take County forward
The National League is littered with clubs who have struggled to make it back into the league and County will be eager to avoid a similar fate.
However, in Ardley they have a manager whose experience around the lower leagues should stand the club in good stead this season.
Ardley saved AFC Wimbledon from relegation to the National League on the final day of the 2012/13 season, before guiding them into League One via the play-offs three years later.
He was sacked after a poor run of form at the higher level, but the job he did at Kingsmeadow with limited resources should not be underestimated.
County are unlikely to find things easy in the National League, but if the new owners back Ardley he is undoubtedly shrewd enough to guide the club back into the EFL.