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Notts County's broken dream

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Simon Austin | 16:46 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010

Notts County's mysterious owners promised to bring magic to Meadow Lane.

Their dream of Championship football within five years seemed fanciful, but the recruitment of Sven-Goran Eriksson as director of football gave it some credence.

It's only six months since those heady July days and owners Munto Finance, their previous frontman Peter Trembling and Eriksson have all departed.

The League Two club are challenging for promotion, it's true, but they are also £3.9m in debt and have a High Court date with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs pending.

Sven Goran Eriksson and Peter TremblingEriksson and Trembling had big plans but wre unable to bring them to fruition

New owner Ray Trew, who bought County for £1 on Thursday, is confident he can settle the club's tax bill and HMRC's winding-up order, but he admits they could still go into administration if more debts are uncovered.

When you consider that debts increased by £1m during the four weeks Trew was negotiating to buy the club alone, this is a worrying prospect.

How did the heady optimism of July turn so quickly into the devastation of today?

No-one's better placed to answer that than Trembling, the former executive chairman of the club who was once the frontman and defender of Munto Finance.

He claims he was hoodwinked by father and son Nathan and Peter Willett and Russell King, the men who made up Munto, the "acquisition vehicle" formed to buy County.

Trembling says he has ploughed half a million of his own money into the club and feels "bitter" about the last six months.

The trio claimed they had links to the Bahrain royal family and gave a guarantee they would invest a minimum of £5m in the club but instead put in just £50,000, he insists.

"I plan to sue them for leaving the club in the lurch," he told me. "It's about the things they haven't honoured, contracts they haven't honoured. I had a big contract and Sven has even more reason to be unhappy."

The former England manager has kept a dignified silence in recent weeks but is due to release a statement about his time at County, according to his agent Athol Still.

Trembling says he has tried to phone and email the Willetts and King, but "they seem to have disappeared".

He still believes "the project and plan" for County were "perfect", adding "if only they had had the money to do it", which does seem a rather large caveat.

And Trembling wasn't the only person who bought into the improbable dream.

The Supporters Trust, which owned 60% of the club after helping it out of administration with a £170,000 loan in 2003, voted overwhelmingly to give its shareholding to Munto Finance for nothing.

Their willingness to believe in the promises of a white knight might seem misguided now, but with the club £1m in debt at the time and Munto providing a guarantee of funds, it was perhaps understandable at the time.

As it is, the aims of County's new owners are now rather more modest than those of their predecessors.

"The Premier League, that's not really part of our plans," new chief executive Jim Rodwell told BBC Sport.

"We are talking more about sustainability and taking the club forward. What came before, that was a pipedream."

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