We go to war again Saturday.

Let’s go back a month. Monday 21st January. Notts have just lost 2-0 away at Yeovil and most Notts fans are pretty desperate about the whole situation.

I stroll into the staff room for the weekly dissection of the football that’s just been. They’re not all there every Monday, but generally around the soft chairs you find fans of; Crewe, Cambridge, Coventry, Everton, Man City (an actual City fan, not a new money City), Sunderland, QPR, Man United (again, an actual United fan), Hull, Mansfield, Newcastle and of course, Nottingham Forest or UNICEF FC if Dan Taylor of the Guardian narrated the scene.

Now, I’m a big advocate of giving any of them stick if they’ve had a bad weekend football wise and I’m more than happy to take it back. This season I’ve had to endure more and more of it. That’s how it works. I accept that. Within minutes we get on to Notts. There’s sharp intakes of breath, faux sad faces and then the question; ‘Do you reckon that’s it then? Down?’

‘You know what, we probably are. I reckon we’re dead.’

The realisation had hit home. Fuck. We were dead. The first half of that week was dreadful. Steadily, it got better. Signings came and it started to look even better. Then, he came.

1, 2, 3, 4…

I remember saying on Friday on The Terrace, a day after the deadline has passed, that what eight new signings did bring was a change of attitude and an abundance of quality, but what they hadn’t brought was eight points. Eight points adrift. It looked difficult. With Lincoln, Forest Green and Mansfield next up, it looked somewhere near impossible.

Now, let’s bring it back to today. I’ve no doubt plenty of Notts fans are pretty gutted again after last night. Let’s face it, they were shit. Newport came with a game plan. They’re a tremendously well drilled side and have two nuisance but effective forwards at this level. Notts were bullied. Their spine beat ours.

Maybe the changes were a hinderance but plenty saw logic in them at 6.45. Alessandra had a poor game and in turn we missed Mackail-Smith’s intensity and energy. I didn’t think Hemmings was that bad. He looked to get on the ball but had a fair few dumped at his head and lacked movement around him. Stead did what Stead does when he came on but the goals conceded weren’t down to that.

Last night was punctuated by individual mistakes and poor decisions. At the back we looked panicked and never dealt with Matt. We never got Enzio in the game in the right places and we found out that Michael Doyle does actually give the ball away. It was all a bit flat, nothing quite worked and whilst we huffed and puffed, we were never going to blow a three goal deficit down.

What they didn’t do last night, was give up. Jim O’Brien epitomised that. He’s a brave man. He gets the ball whenever he can and he tries to make it work. It doesn’t always come off. But he’s brave. We’ll need that.

We’ll need it from all of them because it’s exactly what’s brought them within two points of safety. Of course in the moment, last night was infuriating but do not forget that this same group of players dragged back six out of the eight points required in three games not many people gave us any chance in.

They were top notch against Lincoln. Even better at FGR by all accounts and then completely dominant against Mansfield for 90 minutes. That’s not licence to write last night off, not by a long stretch. With 13 games left no game is ‘free’ or a ‘write off’ but the seven points from three should put last night into perspective.

I’ve no doubts that dressing room knows last night wasn’t good enough. Michael Doyle doesn’t need telling he was shit, you bet your house he knows and told himself.

When the new signings came in, everyone knew a reaction was needed. After last night, we need another. They’ve shown us they can deliver.

We go to war again Saturday.

COYP x

Notts vs Lincoln

After the week that had everything (as well as a little bit too much) in it, it was finally time to get down to the real quiz; the fight for survival. Before Daniel Taylor’s ode to the mighty Nottingham Forest hit the screens of many a Notts fan, now two Saturday’s ago, the outlook was bleak. Eight points adrift. A squad bereft of the fight necessary to stay up. Relegation looming large. However, after a Transfer Deadline Day topped off with the Michael Doyle shaped Cherry, the optimism had returned. Could it be done?

The start of the answer to that question came at home to Lincoln. Over 4,000 away fans. Clear favourites to win the league. Balls.

Neal Ardley, fresh from a tremendous Transfer Window, had no less than seven recent signings in the starting XI; Ryan Schofield, Mitch Rose, Ben Barclay, Sam Stubbs, Michael Doyle, Jim O’Brien and Craig Mackail-Smith. They were joined by Rob Milsom at (oddly) left back, as well as Lewis Alessandra, Enzio Boldewijn and Jon Stead. The final three finding more obvious roles in being deployed on each flank and up front respectively. That selection left striker Virgil Gomis on the bench alongside Ross Fitzsimons, Matt Tottle, Pierce Bird, Elliot Hewitt, David Vaughan and Kane Hemmings. Options. Lovely.

With a lively atmosphere building, Notts raced into life as they got their foot on the ball and looked to be brave. O’Brien swapped passes with Mackail-Smith 30 yards out, O’Brien then found Rose who swung a poor looking cross into the first man. Stead nipped across Harry Toffolo, nicked the ball and went to ground as the defenders follow through seemed to catch him. Penalty. 35 seconds in. Wow. Here we go. On first viewing it seemed nailed on. With further reflection, I’m not so sure. Stead spotted the ball. The faithful could have been forgiven for being nervous after Stead’s last penalty sailed into the Kop. But, like a man who’d never missed one, he strode forward and slammed the ball into the GK’s bottom right hand corner. Delirium. Brave Steady, brave boy! Bravo!

From then on in, many thought Lincoln might lay siege to the Notts goal but to a man those in the famous black and white stripes held strong, worked hard and showed some real quality going forward. Enzio carved a shooting chance out for himself after some neat passing on five minutes but it was straight down the GK’s throat. Promising. 15 minutes later, Enzio nearly put Bruno Andrade into the away end with a ‘tackle’ he could never pull out of due to the pace he was moving at but it signaled the intensity Notts were at for the majority of the first half. They were superb. They thundered into tackles, closed spaces brilliantly and made Lincoln look ordinary. John Akinde was an obvious out ball but Barclay and Stubbs marshaled him superbly, looking to meet the ball first when they could and sit just about in his shorts when they couldn’t. Tremendous.

With such a team performance unfolding, it was O’Brien and Doyle who were running the show. They were both magnificent. They covered ground, won tackles and passed  forward and to feet when they had the ball. They were brave. They set the standard. O’Brien is undoubted quality, but my word Michael Doyle is some player. One of the best moments of the game was actually during a break in play. Whilst a Lincoln defender lay prone, Doyle, O’Brien, Mackail-Smith and Mitch Rose went around every other outfield player to have a word. Talkers. Leaders. It may sound simple, but it was phenomenal to see.

In the 10 minutes before half time, Lincoln looked a little more like the side top of the table. Jason Shackell had a tame header saved before Andrade levelled things up on the stroke of half time. He cut in from the left, was afforded too much time and space by Enzio and O’Brien before slapping one past Schofield. I think Schofield will be disappointed not to keep it out, but it was a decent strike.

Two weeks ago, the second half would have been met with sheer dread by most Notts fans, but not Saturday. Saturday felt different. Lincoln grew into the game but Stead had the first chance. His looping header evaded Grant Smith in the Lincoln goal but it bounced on and over the bar.

Both sides traded chances as the game went on. Lincoln broke on Notts, but the break down in communication wasn’t punished as the move fizzled out with Harry Anderson sticking his shot straight into the Kop. Enzio stung the palms of Smith but it looked like honours would remain even. Then, two Notts chances in five minutes. Firstly, a lovely move down the left involving Rob Milsom and Kane Hemmings saw the latter slide the ball to Gomis seven yards out. Gomis was slightly off balance and his touch ran away from him. Oh, for a better first touch. Moments later, Enzio picked the ball up in his own half and strode forward at pace. He skipped over the ‘tackle’ of “one greedy bastard…” (The Kop’s opinion, not mine) Michael O’Connor, fed Stead on the right and carried on his run. Stead found Enzio with the return ball, but it was a fraction behind him and he could only shovel an effort onto the post. Agonising. A fraction further forward and it’s an easy sweep home.

Two minutes later, Notts’ world came crumbling down around them. Akinde brought Andrade into play down the Lincoln left and as he burst into the box, he nudged an inch in front of Sam Stubbs. Legs collided. Bodies tumbled. The finger pointed. Penalty. Stubbs lay agonised on the turf. Heads went into hands. Nightmare. Akinde spotted the ball and trotted up to it. He looked at Schofield hoping he’d dive early but he didn’t. Akinde stroked his penalty harmlessly past the corner Stead had hit with such power earlier in the day. Relief. Scenes. Limbs.

There was one final moment of debate as a neat Notts move saw Mitch Rose get into a shooting opportunity six yards out but the next thing we knew he was on his arse. “PENALTY” resounded around Meadow Lane, Ardley went ballistic but nothing was doing.

The final whistle came and the faithful rose to their feet. To a man, everyone who turned out in black and white on Saturday was phenomenal. Ardley has spoken at length about getting the right characters in and he has delivered that in buckets. He’s also spoken about taking the shackles off and allowing the players to play. They did that Saturday too and it wasn’t just the responsibility of the forward players. Ben Barclay and Sam Stubbs battled manfully against John Akinde, but when they had the chance, they brought the ball down, had a look and hit feet. Bravery. Rob Milsom, underwhelming since his return, had an excellent game at full back. Never out of position, never ghosted past, never shirked a tackle and got forward to support. Fantastic.

Jim O’Brien and Michael Doyle have taken most of the plaudits since the final whistle and that’s fully deserved. Not only are they experienced and ready for a fight, but those boys can play too. They both pick a sweet pass. We’ve gone from having no midfield to that. Wow.

Up front too there was pace, movement and ability. Having Enzio back is a real plus. Even after three months out he caused Lincoln all sorts of issues. On his day, he’s one of the best attacking players in the league. He needs 16 more of his days. They all do. If they do that 16 more times, they’ll win more than they lose and they might just do it. We all hoped they can. They shows us they can. They’ve got 16 games to prove it.

COYP x

#ThisIsOurLane12

Wow. What a question.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved this club. I mean, loved. I think my Dad took me to my first ever game when I was about six months old; there’s a picture of me somewhere in the family picture crate.

My earliest (I think!) memory of me being Notts obsessed didn’t actually take place at Meadow Lane, but at another place so dear to my heart; Nuthall Methodist Church. As a member of the 32nd Nottingham Boys Brigade we were blessed with so many opportunities and one such opportunity was playing football on Saturday mornings. This particular morning, I must have been around six or seven; the company we were playing didn’t have enough players. As they warmed up, I noticed they wore that quite beautiful Notts tartan away kit. My Dad and my brother both had them, so I knew it well. When we were asked if any of our lot would like to volunteer to play for the opposition, before anyone could question it, I had abandoned my friends and our yellow shirt – quite awesomely adorned with the BMW badge as sponsor – and ran over to the other team to collect a piece of tartan finery. That memory sticks with me.

In my early seasons at Meadow Lane, I vividly remember the season we won Division Three under Sam Allardyce. I imagine eight-year-old me thinking that it was bloody wonderful being a Notts fan if that’s what it was always like! I remember Gary ‘Corporal’ Jones banging goals in left, right and centre. He scored from the by-line at home to Scunthorpe and it was the only goal of the entire season not put onto the end of season highlights package. The rest too. Ward, Redmile, Pearce, Finnan, Robson, Farrell, Dudley et al. I loved that team. They were heroes to us all.

From that point on, if it hadn’t already, obsession took over. My whole world revolved around Notts. I remember doing my Year 5 ‘Talkabout’ at Junior School on Notts. My big brother Matt helped me write it, there was even a quiz at the end. I took shirts, videos and programmes in to show everyone. Some of my best friends to this day sat and listened to me talk about Notts. They still listen now, I think.

About this time, if not a year or two earlier, I started to watch Notts home and away, barely missing a game for seasons. Apparently, Dad took Matt and me on the Supporters Bus but that didn’t last long, for whatever reason. So, my young, bright, innocent eyes were opened to the quite fantastic world that was Acko’s Bus. Wow. I travelled up and down the country with some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. Amazing for different reasons certainly, but amazing, nonetheless. I was the youngest on the bus for a good few years and I loved it. The memories are endless; Benny falling into a ditch on the way home from one away day, Seadog’s tweed trainers at Coventry away in the Cup and a few too many viewings of the iconic Rita, Sue and Bob too. Bloody hell.

One defining day on the bus is now legend in the Nixey Family; The Lost Weekend – October 27th – 28th 2001. Bournemouth away (made even worse by it being played at Dorchester FC’s ground). We’d set off at some ungodly hour of the morning and had a driver who couldn’t be described in family friendly terms. After declaring we would only be stopping for 45 minute, we eventually made it to the ground. Notts were absolutely shit but not as shit as the man in the middle; Joe Ross. You think referees are bad now. Wow. Three minutes in, all was rosey in the garden as Tony Hackworth, yes, Tony Hackworth (he played four minutes in the Camp Nou for Leeds don’t you know?) put us ahead. Then, 2-0. Danny Allsopp; what a player by the way! From that point, the whole world caved in and we lost 4-2, had about six men booked and Simon Grayson sent off.

Things only got worse after the game. At 6.15pm, we hadn’t left the carpark of the ground. About 10.30 we had to stop so our bus driver could swap over with someone else. We stopped somewhere a million miles away from home. I remember being sat amongst the lads, watching ITV’s version of MOTD. Robbie Keane whacked in a stunning free kick for Leeds at Old Trafford only for him to have to take it again. Odd the things you remember about football. A few minutes later, after my Dad had brought me a packet of Salt and Vinegar Squares, I just broke down in tears. I was 11, knackered and emotional. Benny came up to me, put his arm around me and said I was only doing what everyone else wanted to do themselves. Nick O’Dowd then came and sat with me as we watched a few more highlights. Eventually, our new driver was ready to take us home. The original driver, weirdly, waited on the road to wave us off. Everyone piled to that side of the bus to give him quite the send-off. “We are going home, sing we are going home!” echoed around the bus for at least 20 minutes. We got home about 2.30am, but wow, what memories.

By this point, it was definitely obsession. Even at school, if we were asked to do creative writing, I would shoehorn Notts into it. I knew everything about the club and I loved it, even though we were shit. Great Escapes became commonplace. Players and managers came and went. For a short while, in body only, so did I.

At about 14, my mate Mallo asked if I wanted to go and train with Priory Celtic. I went along but never signed on. Saturday afternoon? No thanks. I’ll be at Notts. Then, Notts went away to Rushden and Diamonds. October 30th, 2004. 1-0 down inside a minute. 4-0 inside 53. 5-1 at full time. I remember Matt Gill being subbed off, stripping his shirt off, throwing it to the floor and giving the Notts end the middle finger. I turned to Dad and said I was going to sign for Priory that Thursday and play Saturday. I did. I enjoyed playing for Priory, even though we were, you guessed it, shit. I still went to Notts when I could and I still loved them. You never lose that. About a year after signing, I knew I had to pack in Saturdays. I missed Notts so much. I would race to the car after games, flick Radio Nottingham on and listen to Uncle Colin. I saw out that season but left. The two Priory teams at our age group were merging and although I probably would have been around it, I wouldn’t have played much.

Pure obsession, twinned with that love, took back over. Especially when I hit 16 and I could finally play for the only other football team, apart from Notts, I wanted to play for. Trowsers FC. I was buzzing. By this point I was getting better but wasn’t quite ready for men’s football. I turned out every Sunday, worked hard when I got a chance and chipped in with a few goals over two seasons. Bulwell Rangers at home to make it 2-2. Boom. Favourite goal ever. The title was on! I got to play in a Notts kit with those who I’d grown up with on the bus. It was amazing. That year we won the league was unreal. In my mind, I played for Notts County. I loved those lads. I learnt so much about football but also about growing up. How to look after people. What being a team meant. My eyes have seen and my feet have danced. Thank you Skipper x

When I went to Uni, I didn’t travel religiously home or away to watch Notts; I couldn’t afford too. The obsession and love never left though. I used to watch Sheffield Wednesday at £6 a game. Great value, but I’d be bored after 60 minutes. I would rather watch Notts get panned 5-0. Honestly. At Uni, I played Saturday morning football with another great set of lads at AFC Dynamo. We won the League and Cup at Bramall Lane in my final full season with them. Most of them were Wednesday fans. A couple of United lads. One Barnsley. One Stoke. Me keeping the Magpie flying high. I’d like to think that the friends I made in Sheffield know a little bit more about a club they’d never previously bothered with.

After Uni, I moved back home and got a job as a teacher. I always wanted to be a teacher. I thought I would try to keep my football club close to my chest at both places I’ve worked so far but I could never really do it. Kids are curious and give me a chance to talk football and I will take it. I also have quite a habit of poking fun at anyone who lets me know they’re a Forest fan. Even if that Forest fan is 12.

When I set out on the #ThisIsOurLane initiative, I wondered how I would find writing my own. What I’ve realised is as well as my amazing family, Notts has been the other constant in my life. I do not remember a time without them and I cannot imagine life without them. I’ve spent hours, days and weeks of my life travelling up and down the country with Dad and Matt (whilst being packed up with sandwiches, cakes and crisps by Mum) seeing everything from the weird, wonderful and Brian O’Callaghan away at Carlisle in between.

As a kid, I was one of the only Notts fans in the playground. At Uni, the same. As an adult, one of the only Notts fans in the staff room. I love that. Being a Notts fan isn’t about the glory. It’s about us; the fans. There aren’t that many, but it means so much to us all. Those faces you see everywhere you go. Those people you have nothing in common with apart from Notts. Those people who just want the same as you; us to score more than them.

That’s what we need for the final 17 games. The fans will back the players until the last. The players need to respond. I dearly hope they can. Dropping out of the Football League is unthinkable.

What does Notts County mean to me? It’s simple. Absolutely everything. They have punctuated my life at every turn and they will continue to do so. They were my first love. I adore this football club. One song you don’t hear all that often any more sums it up. Not only for me, but for all of us;

“I know I am. I’m sure I am. I’m County ‘til I die.”

If you’re still with me at this point, thank you. Thank you to everyone who has trusted me with his or her memories of the greatest football club in the world. Bar none. COYP!

#ThisIsOurLane

#ThisIsOurLane11

Name
Adi
How long have I supported Notts County?
24 years
What Notts County means to me.

I should say that it’s been a long a gruelling, endlessly-morose time spent supporting this club but even after coming to terms of the eventuality that we’re shit and seemingly cursed, I can’t stop believing in it. Someone mentioned ages ago that it’s the hope that kills you and in turn with Notts, it will most likely skim a couple of years off my life, but at the end of the day everything’s out to kill us all.
Bobby Robson’s 2013:
“What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes. It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city. It’s a small boy clambering up stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf beneath him and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.”
I fully anticipate that these words are copied and pasted for all younger lads who are looking at what football means, but the truth is in these words, especially for me. Directors, Chairmen, managers (haha), television appearances and bad transfer clauses have all come and all have gone. However the first time I was bought into the ground, the bustle of black and white shirts, swearing, the smell of the burger vans, programmes (oh the programmes), the overarching and crescendo of passion emitted by these “other people” jumps into your heart and doesn’t ever leave. I’ve been to hundreds of matches and still every time I walk in, it’s a little feeling of anxiety but with an overwhelming feeling of safety, or in essence, arriving home.
The pride of the city is another aspect, more so for a city with two clubs with one outdoing the other. No Notts fan will say that we’re a better side than Forest and in all fairness, the success they’ve had outweighs us slightly, so growing up in the 90’s with the glamour of the Premier League, it was very hard to stay loyal to Notts especially when every lad is walking round your school in a Forest Labatts shirt. That said, they had worse shirts than us, nothing could match up to the tartan away kit or the Home Bitter classics strewn in black, white and a bit of yellow. Being proud is very easy this day and has been for years since becoming an adult and yes our title of oldest professional league club may fall, however, we’ll be the first Nottingham team and always will be. The sight of the Trent when walking to the match, walking past the reminders of the lace industry, the sound of Colin Slater (until last season) and the view of chimney from the Eastcroft Incinerator.
Finally, the icing on the cake. I was told last year, by my dad, who’s 72 that he was bought to his first Notts game by his dad, who in turn, before he passed told my dad was taken to his first Notts game by his dad. My grandad then proceeded to tell me of his discussions with his dad that his dad, my great-great grandad attended Notts games from when they were first founded. This 157 year history has been replicated from my own lineage of which I will never give up on, even if we end up playing on the muddy banks of the Trent itself.

Name
Matthew Taylor
How long have I supported Notts County?
18 years
What Notts County means to me.

It’s about belonging.

It’s about having something that joins the whole family together, across generations.

It’s about the indescribable feeling when a last minute winner goes in and hugging another man that you wouldn’t normally do in any other situation.

It’s about seeing the same people every game for years and having in depth football conversations despite not knowing their name.

It’s about the Kop finally having chips.

It’s about having a laugh, whatever happens.

It’s about us versus them.

It’s about this being my club, and nothing being able to ever change that.