It was May 2nd 1962 when a Notts County team having ended their season two days earlier with a two nil loss at Peterborough then took to the field to take on an England XI at Meadow Lane to celebrate 100 years of the Magnificent Magpies. The oldest club in the football league.
Notts finished 13th in the Third Division. Tony Hateley the talisman up front, he lived in Woodthorpe you know. My Dad used to go for kickabouts with his son years later… Some player he turned out to be… No, not my Dad.
Welsh winger Keith Fry down one side, Bulwell born Alan Withers down the other. Notts had John Sheridan (no not that one), Alex Gibson & Gerry Carver as half backs.. Roy Horobin and Bobby Forrest the inside forwards. Full backs Richard Edwards and John Butler with Peter Butler in goal an able deputy for the ‘rested’ legend that was George Smith… A young Jeff Astle was also on the fringe that day with big things yet to come from him.
The England side was Managed by no other than Walter Winterbottom. The President of FIFA, Sir Stanley Rous was in attendance as was both the President and Secretary of the Football League. The after-match dinner hosted at the Sherwood Rooms. England were about to Jet off to Chile to play in the World Cup that summer, Ipswich managed by Alf Ramsay were champions of England, Spurs and Burnley contesting the FA Cup Final just three days later so the best players in the country weren’t all there to see.
Middlesbrough striker Alan Peacock was centre forward for England. West Brom goal-getter Derek Kevan number ten. Preston winger Peter Thompson who went on to play for Liverpool also played. As did Don Howe in the prime of his career at the Baggies in defence and Sunderland legend Stan Anderson too.
The England side eventually won 3-1. Thompson, Birmingham City’s Mike Hellawell and Forest’s Jim Iley netted before Tony Hateley notched a consolation for Notts… Only just over 11,000 in attendance, nothing like the 38,000 plus that saw Tommy Lawton make his home debut against Bristol Rovers some 15 years earlier. Perhaps the disappointment of finishing below Bradford Park Avenue in the table and drawing goalless at home to Halifax a few days earlier had kept some away?
To be a Notts fan it’s hard not to be a pessimist. Whilst you must embrace the best moments, they are few and far between. Celebrating a big signing or a huge win like its your last is always a must, because you never know if it will be the last of its sort.
Last night I chatted to Kimbo ‘Ratbag’ Walster on Facebook. She hasn’t missed a game since 2002. But she also hasn’t experienced the highs that many others have whilst supporting Notts. That Tommy Lawton goal against Forest for those old enough to remember. The Les Bradd years of the 60’s and 70’s… The team that Jimmy built which went all the way to the top… Warnock’s way and Charlie Palmer day. Devon White at Wembley. It all seems so far away.
Kimbo has walked from Meadow Lane to Mansfield on three occasions to raise money for the club, but she usually takes to away games on the original supporters bus ran by the lovely Iris Smith. Home matches she picks up her niece and nephew and has a pre-match drink in the sports bar. Post-match it’s a drink in the Navvy with friends win lose or draw..
She sits in the Kop and ‘blames her parents’ for her love for Notts. Her favourite past players are Lee Hughes or as she calls him… ‘God’ and ‘Mr Notts’ Mike Edwards… Her favourite match was at Anfield singing ‘Gerrard, Gerrard, what’s the score’ as the League Cup tie in 2013 went into extra time, but she holds the last game of the 2013/14 campaign at Oldham closer to her heart… A point needed that would secure League One status for another year… A point gained and oh how she partied in Blackpool that night.
I asked more ‘fans’ of Notts on why the club is so special and I get a very obvious answer along with one quite touching and reflective of why being a County fan is so great. “the fans remain loyal but so do the players” with “many ex-players still close to the club”. Tina Tutin reminisces the time she “met a fabulous chap called Tommy Deans in the Sherwood Club”. Tina said “He told me so many stories and even though he came from Scotland he never went back as he was made to feel so welcome here (in Nottingham). He said he “had no family” and tried to give me a football medal from 1949/50 (the Div3 South winning season) but I refused. He said he was so proud to have been in Nottingham and the best time of his life was when he played for Notts.”
Of his love for all things black and white, another fan Dave Woolley said “Notts are in my genes. My grandad was a supporter way back before WW1 and his father introduced him to Notts, my dad followed what had then become a tradition and I followed in 1956 as a 4-year-old. Yes 62 years for me and it still spoils my weekend if we lose!”
If only it was always as simple as Keith Waters story… He said “My dad took me to see Notts v Newport in 1949 and we won 11-1…What more would you want to become a Notts supporter?”
Others like Keith Page stated upon his first journeys to Meadow Lane in the late fifties that “the atmosphere was magic, and once that infects you it never goes away” whilst touchingly Kim Helm stated “I had breast cancer 3 years ago and going to the games helped me through some sorts of normality”.
Samantha Webster is 29 soon and her favourite past player amongst others is Richard Liburd, when asked ‘why’ it was a simple response from Samantha ‘because’ she said “he wore the no13 shirt which was also my birth-date”…
Phil ‘Sussex Pie’ Johnson has been one of those fortunate to see Notts at their best… “Winning at Chelsea to win promotion back to the top flight in early eighties and beating reigning champions Aston Villa in the clubs first game back in top flight three months later” are memorable moments for him. “Two play-off final wins at Wembley and an Anglo Italian cup final win, winning the 4th division title in 98 by a record margin under Sam Allardyce and setting so many records on the way, 2006(?) last game of season against Bury…. Jimmy Sirrel’s emotional speech before the game and coming back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in injury time to stay up, the Munto season, Playing Juve and finally relegation to the national league…. Not a boring forty years!”
Not always fun, not always happy, plenty of tears along the way but some of joy shared with those in the stands and our nearest and dearest when trudging back home from the game ‘in a mood’. From Tommy Lawton to Kyle Wootton, playing England at Meadow Lane to drawing Juventus in Turin, to facing Hagi at Wembley to signing Sol Campbell all be it for one game only. To Jimmy & to Neal midst a dash of Hans, Sven & his mystery romance… From Derek Pavis to Alan Who?
It seems whatever the story, whatever the era, whatever your reasons for holding the club, the staff, the fellow fans and its players past and present close to your heart… Once you get the Notts bug you get it for life.
*Article provided by Daniel Peacock (Editor).
*Main image @PON_NCC Jimmy Sirrel the man fondly remembered as the GOAT.