Notts County: A look back at Keith Curle's reign at Meadow Lane
HE came into Notts County sounding like Madonna and went on to make one big record.
He was a big hit with his players, took the Magpies to the top of the charts in League One and even left them still in the top ten, but there was no 'Ray of Light' at the end, only the sack from Ray Trew.
Keith Curle's buzzword when he walked into Meadow Lane almost a year ago was 'express yourself'.
He wanted his players to do exactly that. And they did, how they did, winning ten of his first 16 games in charge to surge up League One and just miss out on the play-offs on goal-difference.
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The tone to his reign was set in its very first game as Jeff Hughes scored an injury-time winner in a 1-0 victory against Stevenage at Meadow Lane.
After wins in all of his first four games came his finest hour, or rather 90 minutes, as he inspired Notts to a 4-2 win against Charlton Athletic, the eventual champions of League One, at The Valley, with on-loan Jonathan Forte scoring a 23-minute hat-trick in the first half.
Further big wins followed against Leyton Orient and Yeovil Town, with Lloyd Sam, the best loan signing Curle made, scoring a hat-trick against the Glovers at Meadow Lane, to lift the Magpies into sixth place.
In super form, they looked destined to finish in the play-offs with only three games left of last season, but they were shocked 4-2 by Bury on home soil and slipped to seventh, decisively.
They won their last two games, dramatically so at Wycombe Wanderers as Alan Judge scored a super winner deep into injury time, to finish level on 73 points with Stevenage, but their rivals clinched the final play-off place with a goal-difference of plus-25 compared to the Magpies plus-12.
Having gone so close to leading Notts into the play-offs, the target for Curle this season was simple – promotion into the Championship.
And, strengthened by strong summer signings, like Polish goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski, Dean Leacock, Gary Liddle, Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Andre Boucaud, they began the campaign as they ended the last one and hit the top of League One at the start of September.
They only stayed there for one game, but they were in the top-six for all but one weekend until mid-November, before sliding down the table, dipping as low as 14th place before climbing back to their present position of tenth.
Curle's league record speak for itself. It reads played 45, won 21, drew 13, lost 11, so the Magpies won or drew 76 per cent of games under him.
His biggest achievement is obvious – guiding Notts to a club-record unbeaten run of 22 away games, which stretched over almost a year and smashed a 41-year-old record of ten away league games undefeated.
Achieved entirely in the club's 150th year, it is an incredible feat that will surely last another 150 years, maybe forever.
It is hard to see it ever being topped, in truth.
That all came to an end in a 2-1 defeat at Leyton Orient at the end of last month and Curle was sacked after only the second away defeat of his entire reign, at Hartlepool United. The irony.
The axe did not fall because of the Magpies' away form, however. Quite the opposite. He was shown the door because of their form at Meadow Lane.
Superb away, they struggled at home and have lost six league games on home soil this season, winning just five.
They also crashed out of all of the cup competitions in front of their own fans, exiting the Capital One Cup to shock finalists Bradford City, the Johnstone's Paint Trophy to Sheffield United and the FA Cup to League Two Rotherham United.
A 3-0 defeat to the Millers in a second round replay in mid-December was easily the lowest point of Curle's reign, but there were far, far, more highs.