Aileen Trew: Notts County fan, driving force and football addict
Finding out her football-mad husband was considering buying a club was not welcome news for Aileen Trew.
Ray Trew's previous experience as a board member at Lincoln City, while by no means all bad, had been full of stress, hard work, lost hours, lost money and squabbling.
But his decision to buy debt-ridden Notts County five years ago has proved a life-changer for a sceptical Aileen - and in a good way.
"Ray just came home and said 'I'm thinking about buying a football club, and my first reaction was 'Oh God, no. Haven't we got enough on our plate already?'.
"I was a bit wary, but he was so enthusiastic about it that it was easy to get swept along."
Mrs Trew's transformation has been pretty dramatic; not only is she a director at the club, she's now a real football addict. And the addiction is all-consuming, to such an extent that it's her hubby who is in danger of being neglected.
Ray explained: "She wasn't that interested in football, but now you can't keep her away. She's crazy about it. Football 50 hours per week would not be enough for her."
But it might never have happened had they realised the size of the financial mess they were inheriting when they assumed control of the club in 2010.
The Trews bought Notts for a £1 from Peter Trembling, who had himself taken over following the Munto Finance fiasco - a too-good-to-be-true fairytale featuring promotion promises, but based on make-believe money.
The Munto era was convincing stuff - for a time. Former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson took over as director of football, ex-England defender Sol Campbell signed and there was talk of more superstar arrivals and massive investment in the ground and infrastructure.
It was real. It was actually happening. The oldest football club in the world was about to lead the way.
But then things began to crumble in spectacular fashion. The funds weren't there, the lavish spending was a lie and Campbell left after playing one game.
"That was when alarm bells started ringing," said former Notts midfielder Matt Hamshaw soon after. "And then other little things started happening here and there."
The luxury hotels and no-expense-spared travel soon stopped, and suddenly there were more worrying signs when it came to the basics.
Hamshaw explained: "We thought, hang on a minute. We have all this money and we can't even buy bottles of water?
"The plug had finally been pulled. But up until then we were still going with it."
The Trews had to pick up the pieces.
"When Ray first came to me with it, there was a manageable amount of debt - something we could reasonably sort out," said Aileen.
"We were fine with that, but as every day and week passed and another letter came through the mailbox demanding more money from all over the place. It was so much more complex than we originally thought.
"It was very stressful - the first year especially."
But she was soon hooked and became a valuable "sounding board" for her other half.
"I spent more and more time at the club, I became more involved with things with the supporters and meeting with them to start with until such time as we thought I am spending so much coming over here and sorting things out, I might as well be here and work here," she said.
Aileen's job involves working behind the scenes, being fully involved on matchdays and knowing every detail of life at the club.
And she also loves the football, with Notts now just four points off the League One play-off places after Tuesday's 1-0 away win against Leyton Orient.
But she scoffs at the idea that her role is any more or less significant because she is a woman. The notion of being discriminated against because of gender does not even occur to her.
Notts also employ Becky Knight as a physiotherapist and Hannah Herbert as a football analyst. And Ray is also chairman of Women's Super League side Notts County Ladies, who play out of Meadow Lane following their rebranding and move from Lincoln.
Employing women in what until relatively recently was a completely male dominated environment is "natural, as it should be", she said.
"They don't look at me and say 'here is a woman in the boardroom'. There is no conscious effort to highlight women in football at all. It's about the best people for the job. Whoever is right for the job gets the job."
Aileen now runs the day-to-day business, along with chief executive Jim Rodwell.
|Hooked on football|
|"My mum and dad weren't really football people. They are both Scottish and we would watch the Home Internationals and that was great, and the FA Cup - always the magic of the FA Cup. But gradually I have become more and involved in football, including watching matches. After working all week, and the games, Sunday is definitely my time for sitting down and watching whatever match is on the television. I never thought I would be so interested. Sad isn't it?"|
Ray was "hands on" for the first two years, but has now stepped back to look after his other business interests which enable him to "fund the football club".
The Trews have invested around £19m in their five years in charge and hope the club could trade without making a loss within the next two years - but it has been tough.
"I don't think people realise just how much we put in to it," said Aileen.
"I don't mean money-wise but time-wise; how much we gave up with the family time and how much worry we have had. And now we have got to a stage where is it a lot more enjoyable."
The pure enjoyment comes from being a fan.
"Whenever possible I will go with the supporters for away games," she said. "I can't with home games now because I am working and making sure everyone is alright."
But when her duties are done, it's a different matter.
"I am sure if you see any pictures of me, I don't think there is a single one of me with my arms down. I am always having a little sing," she added.
"I am very enthusiastic. I follow it as a fan. I also follow it with my director's head on.
"If I see us not playing very well, I know the implications it will have on my business and what sort of mail I will get.
"But equally when we do well, score a great goal or a great pass is played across, I am as enthusiastic as the fan who has been here for the last 60 years."