Worst Team of the Decade

So, with only a few days and even fewer fixtures left before the decade is out, it seems popular to look back in fondness on those who we’ve witnessed adorn the famous Black and White stripes. However, in an effort to buck the trend and give you a look down an alternative memory lane, I present to you, the long suffering Notts County faithful, the worst Notts side of the decade. Enjoy…

Goalkeeper – Liam Mitchell

This is the only position that I’m not really happy with having to pick. Over the past decade we’ve been relatively blessed with the goalkeepers we’ve had; Kasper, Bart, Roy, Nelson and even, shock, Adam Collin. The unconscious bias argument takes a whole new turn with AC… I’ve gone for Mitchell, firstly, because he isn’t any of the others we’ve had and secondly, I seem to remember an incident with him and a fan whilst he was at Mansfield(?) that was quite unsavoury.

Although, kudos to him for *allegedly* saying he knock Alan Hardy out if he wasn’t paid on time last season whilst at Ilkeston Town.

Right Back – Jude Stirling

What a mountain of a man! Stirling had an outrageous throw on him, but that was about it. He had a turning circle not even a Tug Boat would’ve been envious of. Was seemingly great craic around the dressing room, not so great outside of it.

Left Back – Sean Newton

If the Notts Twittersphere is to be believed, he was signed by Derry on the recommendation of Nottingham Post Notts writer Leigh Curtis. Leigh never was instated as Head of Recruitment – although he’d have done a better job than all round charlatan Guy Branston. Newton came with a decent reputation and could hit a good dead ball but proved to be a particularly poor Derry signing. Last seen playing every single position, as well as being captain, for York City. Note: Closely ran thing with Newton and Civard Sprockel.

Centre Half – Sam Sodje

An utter comedy character whilst at Notts. I remember him getting sent off on the final day of a season and this then maybe scrutinised as part of the Sodje Bro’s betting scandal.

Notable mention to for Martin Allen whipping him on up front a few times to cause havoc. Havoc for the opposition, havoc for Notts. But mind, that lad could jump.

Centre Half – Tom Williams (C)

No description needed. I’ll let you decide what the C stands for.

Honourable mentions; Liam Chilvers, Carl Regan, Andrew Boyce, Taylor Mackenzie and Civard Sprockel.

Centre Midfield – Jon Spicer

Came in along with a raft of ‘good football men/old pro’s’ under Craig Short but was utterly useless. I have simply no idea what he was good or even competent at. A complete nonentity. This decades Ian Hamilton.

Centre Midfield – Hamza Bencheriff

Just one not so fine example of Notts sweeping up ex-Forest academy grads. Like Stirling, Bencheriff was an absolute unit of a man and was equally as versatile. He could do bits at centre half and centre midfield. Probably most remembered for booming massive diagonals into the Pavis Stand from centre half.

Centre Midfield – Mark Fotheringham (VC)

Shithouse. Played in a friendly at Meadow Lane against Galatasaray and was fucking unreal. Completely bossed it. Two days later, he adorned the back page of the Nottingham Post with the quote, “Let’s go up as Champions!”

First game of the season, Sheffield United away, he piled in for the final 20 minutes, we lost 2-1 and at the final whistle he tried to blame the referee in front of the travelling Notts fans. It was the moment I knew he didn’t have anything about him. Absolutely shit therefore after but bizarrely ended up signing for Fulham… must have a great agent.

Honourable mentions; Ismael Demontagnac, Scot Bennett, Julian Jenner, Luke Hubbins and Lewis Golbern.

Striker – Enoch Showunmi

Scored an absolute belter in the aforementioned Sheffield United game. Had Harry Maguire on toast. Toast. Had a song about the size of his wang. Has two degrees and is often cited as a ‘clever footballer’. Couldn’t hit a cows arse.

Striker – Ben Burgess

Another of the Spicer ‘job lot’ signings. Could barely move. Seemed to be forever injured. Seem to remember he even played centre half at one stage? Career path;

Premier League

Notts County

Primary School Teacher

Meadow Lane – The strikers graveyard.

Striker – Kevin Smith

Who? Exactly.

Honourable mentions; Sean Canham, Leroy Lita, Jacob Blyth, Njogu Demba-Nyren and Jeremy Balmy.

 

There you have it folks, my own personal run at Notts’ worst team of the decade. Obviously, this side is managed by Jamie Fullarton and the club is owned by Alan Hardy.

Just remember, Tom Williams now plays football for the internet…

Notts vs AFC Fylde

So, here we are. Two months into the season. Fourteen games played (F-O-U-R-T-E-E-N). Five wins. Five defeats. Four draws. Twenty scored. Fifteen conceded. Eighth. The time of bemoaning the embargo, pre-season and that prick is now over – we are very much in the conference.

Following a run of injuries to key figures, Neal Ardley has continued to shuffle the pack in recent weeks. Yet, after a week that has seen two trips to London, surprising to many, he stuck with the team who managed a 2-1 win away at Boreham Wood on Tuesday night. Connell Rawlinson and Damien McCrory continued to forge their centre back partnership, Mitch Rose and Regan Booty likewise in midfield and match winner Sam Osborne was given another chance to impress out wide. The ever improving Kyle Wootton continued to lead the line as Notts looked to put back-to-back wins together for what seems like an eternity.

Notts started brightly and were the first side to worry either custodian as Sam Osborne unleashed an absolute thundercunt of a volley from the edge of the 18 yard box. It came right out of the blue but Dan Lavercombe was equal to it and tipped it over for a corner. After the corner was well defended, Wes Thomas created a smart chance for himself, turning cleverly inside the six yard box, only for Lavercombe to deny him. Five minutes later, Thomas was to draw first blood for Notts as he collected a sharp pass by Rawlinson about 25 yards out. Keeping his composure and bustling through a couple of challenges, he slapped a right foot effort high into Lavercombe’s net from a tight angle. 1-0. Relief. Joy. A foothold.

The next 10 minutes or so drifted by without much incident, apart from the referee having to be substituted after colliding with Kyle Jameson – probably not your finest moment in front of 9,000 fans…

For the reminder of the first half and the first 15 or so of the second half, Notts flagged badly. The exertions of two London trips seemed to have caught up with them. They lacked the zip of the first 25 minutes and allowed Fylde to come back into the game. In fairness, they created little in the way of clear cut chances and were restricted, in the main, to long shots that sailed over Sam Slocombe’s crossbar. The second half started much the same as Fylde gained territory rather than clear cut chances. Osborne was the first to find his way to the dugout after being out on his feet. It was nice to actually see Osborne play. It’s well known that football fans want to see “one of their own” given a chance and Osborne has been around the Notts first team for a while now but have only seen him sporadically. He can probably count himself unlucky not to have featured a little more last season, given the state of things, but as fans we see only a tiny percentage of the bigger picture. He looked assured with the ball and used it positively; he certainly knows how to hit one as well but after 50 minutes he was knackered. Ardley knows his attributes and his limitations. He’s certainly done enough recently to merit a continued inclusion, but he’ll have to be looked after, dipping in and out won’t hurt him.

Osborne off saw Sean Shields on and a change of shape to combat Fylde’s deeper lying midfielder and striker. Ardley shifted to a diamond four in midfield, Shields heading it up and Rose underpinning it. In theory, it was a smart move, in practice, Notts got slightly overrun. Legs were going and Booty and Enzio drifted slightly too far away from the centre of the park. Shields ran willfully but was taken out of the game by simple, straight balls too often. On 68 minutes, the warning bells sounded but Slocombe produced two fantastic saves to maintain the lead. One at close range, one from long range. Both strong, both massively necessary. Just over 10 minutes later, they were all the more precious.

After Notts regained some sort of equilibrium, the impressive McCrory made it 2-0. Booty floated in a front post corner, Rawlinson flicked on and McCrory, unmarked and six yards out, made no mistake. Bullet. 2-0. Pot, bang, lovely. With little else of note to rouse the faithful, Notts managed their way to their second three points of the week. Six from nine. Not bad at all.

After what has been a hectic start to the season, it is starting to feel like things are clicking. By no means were Notts at their best on Saturday but despite that, they kept Fylde at arms length for the majority of the afternoon. Prior to last Tuesday there was a sizeable wave of frustration being aimed at Ardley, but two wins and six points later, a lot of that seems to have drained away. There is certainly an argument to say Notts should have started slightly better, but to be eighth after fourteen games isn’t too bad a return for me. There are still some who are expecting Notts to stroll the league and steamroll teams; “Oh, it’s only Bromley…” Oh, do fuck off…

We should probably have a few more points on the board, but now the squad is assembled and they’ve had time together you can see it coming together. They’re trying to do the right things with the ball. It won’t always come off but they’re trying to do the right things. There is a pattern of play. We will have to continue to be patient, of course, but I think the signs are there that we could have a decent season. Slocombe is a steadying influence. McCrory is starting to look a class above. Richard Brindley doesn’t belong in the conference, clearly. Rose and Booty compliment each other nicely. Kyle Wootton has turned into a no-brainer up front and Enzio, given solidity around him, always gives you that feeling he can pull something out of the bag.

Three months ago, everyone said it might take time to get used to the conference. Two months in, do they look like they’re getting to grips with it? Absolutely. We don’t need to peak now. We need to keep accumulating points, ticking over, grinding it out when we need too and getting it to feet when we can. If we do that, we’ll win more than we lose. We do that, we’ll be alright.

COYP x

 

The Collective Soul.

Gutting. Absolutely gutting. There are a million different words you can choose, but that sums it up.

Let’s face it. It’s been an absolute shit show of a season. A non-existent pre-season. A scattergun transfer policy. Another three managers to add to the list. 40+ players. A lack of quality. One appendage. The list, unlike the appendage, goes on and on. The enquiry will take place soon enough, if it hasn’t begun already, but tonight it’s raw.

Today has been tricky to call all week. We knew we needed something to really go our way and we knew we needed to do our own job. One win. One loss. It was never, ever miracle territory though. This is football…

In the end, two of things that have underpinned our failings this season were to be the death of us; a lack of quality going forward and more importantly, a complete inability to defend properly. Swindon’s second goal really summed up our season. The moment Rose and Milsom jumped for the same ball should be used as the image on the Season 2018/19 DVD case.

There was of course a time today when the stars aligned and the celebrations in the away end when it filtered around that Cambridge had scored were noisy. But, as we know all too well, it’s the hope that kills you.

For whatever reason, when well placed to get a result, we completely self destructed. One surging run. One mistake and that was that. Between times, Macclesfield had equalised too. The air had been kicked out of everyone. Gone.

Then, with 10 minutes left, 2,000+ Notts fans clicked into life as one. Total unison. A collective soul. It was stunning to be a part of. What made it even more remarkable was the fact Swindon got a third during that time but you’d never have known. “We’re all Notts aren’t we?” rang around the County Ground above the home cheers. As Notts played out their season, the fans stole the show. It was a privilege to be a part of. After all that’s been this season, that was the moment.

As the final whistle went, the collective soul only sang louder. It certainly wasn’t for the players. It was for the club. Our club.

I am so proud to support this grand old football club. Today is a dark day, probably the darkest and it hurts. It hurts like hell. But it’s good it hurts, because it means you care. We care. We always have. We always will.

This club isn’t about the players who’ve underachieved this season. It’s not about the management team(s). It certainly isn’t about that cretinous, odious prick Alan Hardy who obviously doesn’t have a clue the damage he’s done to the club. It’s about us. The faithful. The black and white army. The collective soul.

If you’re feeling low, you won’t be the only one. But come August, that glint of optimism will be back. It’s time to rebuild, we can all see that but with a foundation consisting of the collective soul, we can comeback from this. The sun will shine on us again.

COYP x

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.

#ThisIsOurLane10

Name
Rob Holland
How long have I supported Notts County?
Forever
What Notts County means to me.

I’ve been a Notts fan all of my life and so have most of my family. My Dad started taking me to games when he was a Main Stand steward in the 80s, but I’ve also sold match day programmes and recently I was a Supporter Liaison Officer.

Notts have brought me so many happy memories over the years. Beginning as a child watching the late, great Jimmy Sirrel’s team, through to us becoming almost permanent residents at Wembley (back when an appearance there meant something). But often it was just about being able to see my late Uncle who did so much for my family.

Family is all about what Notts means to me. Not just my flesh and blood, but the same hardy strangers you see every week or so, regardless of the weather or our form, that make you feel at home. We’ve survived all of our many low points because of how the family has come together and only by uniting again will we be able to do this time.

We also have a great opportunity to add to our very proud heritage, one that would surely already be the envy of most clubs, and that is because we still have time to complete what would be the greatest escape of all. There is little glory in avoiding relegation, everyone knows that, but the camaraderie and team spirit needed to fight back can create a springboard for future success – only if we unite together.

This season is far from over. 17 games and 51 points remain to be fought for. What’s been has passed. We can’t change where we are, but we can fight (like Notts have done so many times before) to ensure that our fate has not yet been set. No more criticism. No more fear. Now is the time for the Notts County family to come together again.

Nottinghamshire, the county we call home
Only the oldest football league club in the world
There is no other club quite like us
There have been many ups and downs
Still we’ll always be here, come what may

Can we retain our place in the football league?
Of course we can, our fate is not set
Unity, bravery and determination will see us through
Nobody else can do this for us
The time is now for us to rise to the challenge
You Pies!

#ThisIsOurLane9

Name
Jonno
How long have I supported Notts County?
20 years
What Notts County means to me.

Being a Notts county fan has never been, and never will be, about being successful. We learn that from a young age in the playground, swamped by forest, United, Chelsea shirts and the like. Being a Notts county fan, although cliché is about far more than that. It’s a sense of pride, and belonging.
Although the first game my dad took me to see was against Man City in 1998, it wasn’t until much later that I caught the fever of travelling home and away. It has been a privilege for me, since 2011 to have hardly missed a game on terraces up and down the country. I have countless memories that will last a lifetime, and, like many other fans up and down the country, wouldn’t know what to do with myself on a cold winter Saturday if I wasn’t spending over the odds to watch terrible football.
What strikes me most about Notts County, on the home and away terraces though, is the importance of a sense of belonging to a community of likeminded people. We are a small and proud fan base that are largely together through thick and a lot of very thin. The same 250 faces are there in the away ends whether or not we’ve sold 3500 tickets to Oldham or 250 to Exeter on a Tuesday night. And there’s a sense of pride in that. It’s our club, and we’d do anything for it.
I get the feeling that those 250 people are in many ways friends. I’m sure I could share a beer with anyone of them and likewise them with me, at times of need, or at times when Notts have lost again. And that’s what makes me proud to be a Notts fan.
Alongside this is the pride and the sense of history, watching 11 players in black and white shirts that have so indelibly left their mark on both local and global football. A sense of history listening to famous moments spoken by the wonderfully soothing Colin slater, a sense of history of our connection with Juventus, a sense of history in the formation of the wonderful game that so many around the world enjoy. Notts are a huge part of that, despite our decline and lowly position. And I feel that opposition fans get that sense too in many ways.
Notts are a club that have been in steady decline since I began watching them in the late 90s, so seeing them struggle this year is nothing new. It doesn’t hurt at the moment quite as much as it perhaps should. But despite our flaws and recent patchy relationships with other clubs, the staffroom at my workplace seems to me to sum up the mood of football fans regarding Notts’ plight. ‘I really hope you don’t go out of the league, it’d be a huge loss’ is a theme that I’m hearing every Monday as we dissect our teams’ weekend performances. And that makes me happy.
Notts are a club, that overall, are well liked by the wider football community. In the main, our fans are a loyal, welcoming and hardy bunch (no pun intended). The history of the club is recognised and cherished by the community much wider than our hard-core fan base.
So, for these reasons and many more, no matter what, Notts will be my team. And the last 17 games are some of the most important in the club’s history. I, as many others, will be there on every terrace between now and the end of the season, supporting the boys and club as much as possible, and hoping against hope that the current situation, and the current regime might simply blow over, so that proud Notts County can continue their stay in their rightful home: the English Football League.

#ThisIsOurLane8

Name
James Spring
How long have I supported Notts County?
14 years
What Notts County means to me.

Probably more than it should! My Dad took me to my first ever match in April 2005 when I got tickets through school.

We lost 1-0 to Bury, but in an instant, I fell completely in love with Notts. The atmosphere in County Road was fantastic, and I sensed the family feel to the club. The togetherness, the passion was unbelievable. And I knew instantly that this club was where I belonged.

Sadly, my Dad was to pass away just a few months later, and so that first game would be the first and last one I attended with him, but in a way I feel like this club was the last thing he gave to me. It was going to Meadow Lane that kept me going in some very dark times. It was the unbridled joy I felt when we won that gave me a reason to carry on.

Even when I moved 220 miles away to Weymouth, my Saturday’s were spent glued to soccer Saturday waiting for the goals to flash up and going to all the games close by.

These days I spend probably two thirds of my wages on this club. I travel to most home games from Weymouth and as many away games as I can. For a home game, I spend 11 hours on the road. I wouldn’t do that if it didn’t mean the world to me. When we win, it brings me more joy than anything else in my life, and I skip on air for days after.

That’s why our current position causes me so much heartache, and I want nothing more than for us to somehow battle our way out of this.

I never started supporting this club for the glory. I support Notts because of family. Because of the amazing friends, I’ve made through it. But most of all, because it’s my hometown club, and as sad as it is, I’ve not got much else!