The most famous triangle in the world – in popular culture at least – is probably the Bermuda Triangle. It’s an Atlantic ocean area where ships and aircraft have disappeared without trace, where signals have suddenly ceased, where lives have been lost and remain unaccounted for.
The Trent Triangle would not match Bermuda for turning maritime mysteries into myths of global renown but there are reasons enough to mark it out for special mention and they are rooted in reality more than speculation.
By the time the Trent flows through Nottingham, it’s become a wide and meandering river, sometimes flooding, mostly contained. These days, water traffic is usually small cabin cruisers, hired-out rowing boats and serious-intent rowers and canoeists. And lots of swans. Embankment strollers and statue-like fishing folk idly watch a river at play.
Stand on Trent Bridge and you can see the Triangle and it makes for an impressive sight. All three points sit close by the river. Meadow Lane, home to Notts County FC, is sited on the north – city-side – bank.
Nottingham Forest’s City Ground and the county cricket club’s Trent Bridge ground are south of the river. No corporate name-tag stadiums here of airlines or sponsors or anything or anyone else. They are ‘grounds’ first and foremost and they have been there for a long time. So embedded in city life have they become, there’s something organic about them and their location. This is where they were planted and grew.
Familiarity might not always breed contempt but it can lead to taking things for granted. We shouldn’t. At least the Nottingham public shouldn’t. Wrapped up within this triangle is a significant part of the city’s life, its sense of community spirit, its sense of joy (and, yes, some disappointments!) and its sense of history and identity. It’s a heartbeat that pulses beyond the bounds of sport.
Notts CCC’s home never fails to enter the top ten of best cricket grounds in the world and it’s easy to see why. Gracefully designed stands, old and new, blend together in bright white to completely encircle the pitch which has been the site of their games since 1838. Meanwhile, Meadow Lane is host to the oldest professional football club, Notts County, in the world. Whilst it’s been a long time since top-division fixtures were played there, (though we don’t have to go back to the Magpies’ formation in 1862 or their move to the Lane in 1910!) it’s a ground befitting a return to the higher leagues.
The City Ground all but sits in the Trent! Flooding aside, it’s always been prone to river fog rolling in and settling for the day. (I recall a Boxing Day fixture which began with the childhood excitement of Christmas and a Forest match treat and ended with abject disappointment when hand-held loudspeakers crackled through stubborn fog outside the ground to tell us the game was postponed.) Though far from being one of the larger stadiums in the game, it’s the setting that impresses and it’s where the club’s been settled since 1898 (when the Reds first won the FA Cup), 33 years after their formation.
Of course, a place, for all its sense of power to evoke memories, (and myths!) is not the whole story of a club. As the Trent sometimes casts a brooding, melancholic atmosphere on a grey winter’s day or reflects the blue brilliance of the sky on a bright spring day, there have been contrasting great and grim times for these teams and their supporters on the performance front. The Magpies strutted their stripes in Division One as late as 1991, then got relegated the year before it became the Premiership. The Outlaws have enjoyed T20 success in recent years. They won the county cricket championship in 2010 but Notts have also tasted relegation of late. The Reds – as if we need reminding (though it is a lovely memory!) – were European Champions in 1979 and in 1980. They’ve also now been out of the Premiership for 23 years. Generations of their fans have never seen them play top-flight football!
So, where are we now? We currently live in more modest times on the Nottingham sporting front but there is something of a force-field in the Trent Triangle this season. Notts County might make it back into League Two, Notts CCC are favourites to return to Division One (and have made a promising start) and Forest are set for the lottery of the play-offs and a return to we all know where. A bit of cross-pollination success in the city this spring (and I say that as a serious hay fever sufferer) would not go amiss.
If the possible promotion for the other two clubs is not entirely a surprise, for Forest it’s a circumstance that would have seemed unimaginable last September. Any success in sport is contagious and there’s nothing quite like a stadium atmosphere for a celebration. Finishing fourth in the Championship was something to celebrate. Now, Sheffield United stand between the Reds and a Wembley final and, as Steve Cooper has said: ‘We go into the play-offs feeling really good about ourselves.’ And so do we all. The capacity of sport to lift collective spirits never ceases to surprise me. The Bermuda Triangle might generate intrigue and conspiracy theories but the Trent Triangle is always a potential source of inspiration. Long may it flow through the heart of this city!
*Article provided by Stephen Parker (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).
*Main image @westbridgfordwire the three old sporting grounds standing side by side over 100 years.