In November 2021, Notts County Football Club broke the Vanarama National League attendance record with an incredible 12,843 supporters in attendance. Now, in November 2022, the club prepares for 16,500 supporters inside Meadow Lane to clear their previous record attendance by almost 4,000.
However, as we are all aware, these times seemed a very, very long time away when we were relegated into the Vanarama National League so I felt it would be a good opportunity to reflect on the changes at the Football Club that have led to this quite special and historically significant occasion transpiring.
So then, here we go…
A successful takeover
Sounds pretty obvious, yet, when beginning to speak about the rebuild our Club has seen over the past three years, you can only really ever start here. For me, what makes the success of this takeover even more special is the fact that it was last chance for all parties before the Club had no choice to wind-up and fall under, where we would have been joining the likes of Macclesfield FC and Bury AFC. Once the takeover was complete, we can all remember the following day of madness where we went on to announce the signing of nine new players just a week before our first outing in the division away to Eastleigh. At this point, it was felt that whatever happened in this season, we were just happy to still have a Club to support. Yet, in the same season, we were led out at the new Wembley Stadium for the first time ever, but unfortunately and obviously, fell to defeat.
However, I speak of this season in particular because whilst we were finding good success with a squad that was so quickly assembled, behind the scenes a lot of off-field work was going on to prepare the Club for the future, some of which is still being carried out now of course. The one thing that both Christopher and Alexander Reedtz made crystal clear once completing the takeover was that their best interests will always be club-based and that they will not at any point join Social Media. Sounds like pretty straightforward expectations but as we are all aware previous owners did not follow in that same mindset.
One huge benefit of the takeover that has set-up for an occasion like this is the generosity of the board. To offer match tickets where for example both parents and all kids can attend for a total price under a single regular matchday adult ticket is top class regardless of whatever level of football the fixture is played within, but it certainly brings a huge element of pride and proudness when it is our Club making the offer. As well as this, it is no secret to anybody that we are currently in the middle of a serious economical living crisis, where many families across not only the Country but the City of Nottingham are struggling to afford the essentials. So, for the board to offer prices like they have in light of all the financial struggles is a fantastic initiative and clearly a heavily appreciated one given the fact that it is a full home sell-out this Saturday. The donation of tickets that were so kindly purchased by supporters to help others out and ensure they can come to Meadow Lane this weekend typifies for me what this Football Club is about. Passionate, loving supporters but the loving branches out from just our own and that again leaves a huge element of pride within the Club.
But, without the takeover falling to the right pair of brothers, these occasions may have not been ones in which we would have had the opportunity to enjoy here at Notts County. So, that is why I had no other option but to start by recognising the current Owners in place and tipping my hat off to them for their generosity in achieving the sales we have for this special game now.
To be in a position to be able to place such offers on the table, financial stability has to be present within the club so the price slashes will not impact the Club in future endeavours when it comes to the likes of transfers.
It feels almost crazy to even be sat in a position where I can comfortably say this Club is now financially stable because I struggle to recall a time we ever have been. This comes down to how we are structured now I personally believe. In our final season in the Sky Bet League Two, the money we spent on the players we recruited was evidently way over what the Club could afford but that was dealt with by the fact the board were confident that high investment meant high results, but we all know that sometimes is not the case. Our current board evidently have a well thought of, strategical plan with our finances and although the first two seasons working under the strategy were not as successful as we all wished, when we reflect on the season, we have had so far this time round it is difficult to say it was not a case of trusting the process. It took until this summer for the Owners to spend a high sum of money on a player, that player being Macaulay Langstaff. A transfer that was once seen as a risk now looks like some of the best business the Club has acted upon in their recent transfer history as the eventual sell-on fee for Macca will comfortably multiply the £50,000 originally spent by ten minimum quite comfortably.
Another huge factor in our recent positive surge in financial stability was the drastic increase in season ticket sales. When the club is yearly smashing the previous campaign’s season ticket sales, it allows us the opportunity to offer these incentives more regularly due to the profits already made prior to the beginning of the season. When speaking on the season ticket sales, it always reoccurs to me that this year’s sales were close to the 5,000 mark, which is 1,000 more alone than the amount of home supporters we averaged in our time as a Football League Club and it goes to show how the fortunes really have changed for this Club despite dropping down a division into the lowest tier the Club has played in during its full rich history.
As I conclude on this section and all-in-all, without financial stability the Club would not be able to afford a game where we can offer such good pricing for tickets. However, you cannot make a profit out of an empty seat, and this is a job well done from the Board.
The growing interest in Notts County Football Club
I touched on it briefly previously but left it brief so that I could really dive into it in this section, but it is no secret that the interest in Notts County has increased significantly over the past few years. With increased attendances, season ticket sales, away followings and the overseas supporters, all factors really come into one and into a factor that has helped the Club grow in a number of different ways.
Personally, I completely understand the pull factor of being invited to the one-off game and then being sucked in and becoming a supporter of this fantastic Club because that was my route into a succession of years and years now at Meadow Lane and it appears many thousands of new supporters have been discovered, some maybe in the same way. It staggers me to see the number in attendance has increased so significantly since dropping down a division because it was always felt from an outside perspective that it would go in the opposite directions. Not within the stands of the Lane however, as it was always crystal clear that the great, loyal thousands were always going to come back for their Football Club.
This fixture allows the same opportunity to reoccur. With the way we play football currently nice, free-flowing attacking football it is always going to appeal to many neutrals and urge them to come along again and that is one of the key factors in these occasions. It gives the Club the opportunity to continue the growth of their fanbase and the opportunity to generate more income as well as the urge to host more occasions like this as if they go down as a big success, with all profits already made, it would be wrong to not do this again and I am confident that we will do just that.
The fact that we are set to break the record again by a comfortable 4,000 will not only attract the fans within the stadium but will certainly attract the attention from other Club’s supporters online. All publicity is good publicity, but this goes beyond good into great as all eyes are on Notts County now this weekend and that is exactly what we were looking for. From going from no coverage to a full two weeks of nothing but coverage, the Club has closed that gap with this offer and occasion.
The Club continuing its growth sets us up nicely for a successful future, the future a Club of our size needs and craves and I for one am more than excited for what the future has in-store for this great Football Club.
The increase in the quality of football on display at Meadow Lane
For me, this is one of the biggest pull-in factors of them all. Everybody associated with this Football Club can remember the days we used to hit the ball long and hope that Jon Stead and Shola Ameobi could hold the ball and allow us to get up the pitch, we have come on a long way since then. I believe you would personally struggle to find a similar quality of football like the one that is played weekly at the Lane in the league above our current division and that is the best praise you can give the current squad of players for the way they have adapted to the demands.
The adaptation to these demands began last season and the season prior under Ian Burchnall, of course. As much as his departure still leaves a sour taste in the mouths of many supporters, you can only give credit where it is due, and it is certainly due here. However, one thing that is certain is that Luke Williams has taken the quality to the next level and that is evident by the one defeat in nineteen Vanarama National League fixtures and sitting pretty at the top of the table.
This is a huge pull-factor in our ability to successfully sell-out our home as a neutral who is attending knows exactly what they are going to see. More often than not, we trend online courtesy of a passage of play that has led to a wonderful team goal and when you put that in front of any neutral for just five pounds, they are going to purchase a ticket. This same quality of football is the exact reason as to why most of the 16,500 will return in the future. It sounds obvious but if we still resulted into playing the same ‘hoof ball,’ would we have still sold the 16,500? You would certainly think not. But this of course works in our favour as again this is exactly why we run these sorts of fixtures to begin with. Smart, strategic business from our Board that gives us a head start in meeting our financial targets for the season.
I am not sure about you, but all I see is a constant running theme of positives for our Club going forward. Not a bad position to be in, is it?
Now, as it is quite a special occasion at the Lane with glamorous history being made, I felt it would only be right if I reached out and got some insight as to how others connected, associated, and emotionally invested in the Club are feeling about the day we insert our name into history… again!
Firstly, beginning with Oliver King, the man who had the baton handed over to him by Leigh Curtis prior to the beginning of the campaign. Oliver produces fine weekly and matchday content for the Nottingham Post and whilst settling expertly into his new role, he is very much looking forward to being amongst the press box for his biggest crowd yet:
“Starting a new job in a new environment can be a quite daunting prospect, but the staff, players and fans at Notts County have made me feel so welcome in the first three months of covering the Club.
“The Club has been so open and accommodating to interview players, managers, and the owners, allowing me to create original and creative content for the fans but this weekend’s ‘Football for a Fiver offers a difficult challenge on a matchday, and my full focus will be ensuring the fans are provided with a variety of content.
“To be able to cover such an important event for the community and the fans brings me great pride, and I hope the fans have enjoyed my work leading up to the fixture, and the content that follows. COYP!”
Up next, Tom Williams. A lot of you will already be familiar with Tom but if you are not, Tom spends a lot of time putting hard work into analysing each and every Notts County performance and has seen great success by doing so with his social media following rocketing. Growing up as ‘Pie, Tom is very much relishing witnessing a sold-out Meadow Lane:
“As a young lad from Nottingham, I understand how football mad the City is so it is no surprise to me that we had the potential to sell-out Meadow Lane. However, this weekend is not purely about the footballing spectacle but also about the good feeling around the Club that has led to this gesture of goodwill, with hundreds of tickets being donated to families who are struggling due to the cost-of-living crisis. To be a part of this makes me immensely proud.
“Whilst not my first season as ‘Pie, it is my first season covering the Club in any sort of capacity and the fact I have been welcomed with open arms is amazing from a personal point of view. This weekend is only the beginning, and the belief we have in our manager and players can only continue to grow.”
Rich from the great Notts County Stats website was also kind enough to offer his thoughts ahead of the history beckoned Weekend. Rich has been diving into the stats of all Notts games for as long as I can remember and likewise Oliver’s and Tom’s content, the work produced by Rich is just as appreciated:
“Having attended my first Notts game some forty-five years ago, I like many of Magpies of my generation, have been lucky enough to live through some wonderfully exciting times at Meadow Lane. From the heady heights of three consecutive seasons in the topflight under Jimmy and Jack to double play-off final joy under Neil Warnock, there has been much to be thankful for.
“Unfortunately, anyone half my age or younger has had very little to shout about over the last twenty years or so and my biggest concern has always been that as a Club, we have an ageing fanbase. However, the last few seasons under the new stewardship have seen an increase in attendances generally, and it seems to me that there are many more young faces in the Meadow Lane crowds these days.
“Saturday sees us looking forward to a stadium sell-out thanks to the Club’s generous initiative and you can only give credit to everyone involved at Notts County, who under the new ownership have done a fantastic job in bringing the feel-good factor back that has been missing for such a long time. I am excited to see Meadow Lane full of fans, who have not been able to attend as much as they would have liked recently so they can join in with the joy the Club is currently providing us, both on and off the pitch.”
Magpie for over fifty years David Greenwood up next. David has been a regular around Meadow Lane for the past five decades and like Rich, has seen many of the Clubs glory days as well as the not so enjoyable times:
“In my fifty-five years supporting Notts, I have seen some great times and some great players at this Football Club.
“Now, for the first time in a long time, I am really enjoying the football with a team, manager and owners who all seem to be working to the same ends. A full house Saturday shows that the magnificent support is there also, so what could possibly go wrong?”
Richard Cooper, another Notts fan for almost as long as he can remember, is also really relishing a jam-packed Meadow Lane Stadium this weekend:
“The initiative put in place by the Club was fantastic.
“I have been supporting Notts since 1969 aged just five and our image as a Football Club has never been better and we are in the Vanarama National League, the fifth tier of English Football. All Notts aren’t we?!”
Up next was Will Greasley, who unfortunately will not be in attendance this weekend to see the sights of a full Lane, but as the huge ‘Pie that he continues to be, is still just as excited for the game whilst also reflecting on his personal history supporting the Club:
“I started supporting the Club in 1976 and my first game was a 0-4 defeat to Luton Town and my forty-sixth anniversary coincides with the now postponed Barnet game.
“My first season ticket was in the topflight 1981-82 after the promotion the previous year but I was at most of the games that year at the Lane. The 1981-82 side remains the greatest Notts side for me.
“A full capacity is the reward for a terrific initiative. My youngest, who as you know like my eldest is an indoctrinated Notts supporter is at a University Open Day in Newcastle and I am driving him up, therefore missing the game. However, I hope the only outcome for Notts is more old supporters who perhaps have not been recently come back along with our new supporters, particularly youngsters like mine who walked into Meadow Lane all those years ago and fell in love.”
Claire Platt, yet another ‘Pie for the vast majority of her life, is another regular at the Lane who has been very impressed with the Owners’ generosity:
“I have been a Notts fan for over thirty years, since my father began to take me at the age of four and I have been a season ticket holder on and off but one for the past five consecutive seasons.
“I think the initiative is great to get fans from all across the City in and it feels better that there has been an option to buy and donate. Not only should it be a great atmosphere, but it will also allow Owners to see what needs to be resolved round the ground, with the likes of mass queuing through turnstiles and at half time. It has been a great season so far and the amount of people that want to come and watch us play is brilliant. COYP!”
Both Tyler White and Josh Brown rounded off with a joint similar opinion on the fact that the changes within the Club have led to these events transpiring.
Tyler: “I am a season ticket holder in the Derek Pavis Stand and I think Saturday has the potential to be one of the best home atmospheres I have felt in the past ten or so years, I am also happy to die on the hill that Saturday would not happen if Luke Williams was not in charge, the guy has changed the fortunes here so much around the club without actually changing a lot!”
Josh: “Cheaper tickets or not, it is a massive achievement by the Club. If you offered this deal towards the end of the Trews era, we would have not even got ten thousand, never mind a sell-out.”
A huge thank you from myself goes out to the great and helpful Notts fans who were all so quick to get in touch to help out!
Whilst all the attention is rightly on Notts County again this weekend, the attendance as whole is a great reflection on the growth of interest within the Vanarama National League and who would know that better than William Bewsey and Max Passantino.
Beginning with William. William is a supporter of Woking Football Club, and whilst creating content for his chosen Club he also works as part of the Media Team at Wealdstone Football Club. Here is what William had to say:
“The sell-out at Meadow Lane this weekend just goes to show Notts County are truly on their way back to the Football League and I am sure that this will not be the final ten thousand plus attendance they get this season.
“It is massive for ‘non-league.’ People do not even see this as non-league football anymore. It is a level now befitting of the crowds it receives, and these crowds will only increase year-on year.”
As for Max, a long-serving member of the Leamington Football Club Media Team and social media admin for the club. During his time with the Club within the Vanarama National League set-up, he has taken the Club to new heights of being the most followed Club in the North on TikTok, whilst increasing their other followings by thirteen thousand. Max is no stranger to the knowledge of how good the sell-out at the Lane is for the Vanarama National League as a whole:
“It’s fantastic to see the growing interest in the National League, and a club as prestigious as Notts County leading the way with the offers that has allowed them to smash through the attendance record.
“Ourselves at Leamington have seen growth in number at the ground and on social media due to us connecting more with the community, so to see it replicated at the biggest club in non-league is fantastic and should only encourage more clubs to engage with their communities. It’s also good to see BT extending their coverage to include the North, so hopefully the selections will be varied, and clubs will get airtime to help their, and the league’s profile.”
Likewise with all the fantastic Notts fans, a huge thank you goes out to the reliable pair of William and Max for their input on our great occasion!
Now then, that will be all from me as I am sure now you are all more than ready to get down the Lane. This is our occasion to enjoy, and nobody can take that away from us. We have earned this and deserved this for so long and finally it has been delivered. Here is to a successful day, a great result and remaining top of the Vanarama National League!
COME ON YOU HIGH-FLYING PIES!
*Article provided by K-Ci Rennicks (Notts County Correspondent).
*Main image @Official_NCFC Meadow Lane will house a National League record over 16,500.