Vic Crescit is an Arsenal fanzine writer and blogger. Here he breaks down recent events at Meadow Lane, the home of the world’s oldest professional football club.
Notts County might not be a name that sets the pulses of football fans around the world racing. It doesn’t even do that for most of the city of Nottingham, never mind the rest of planet football. In recent decades County has been comprehensively outshone by its near rivals just across the River Trent at Nottingham Forest.
Any football fan who has visited Nottingham will know that Notts County’s Meadow Lane stadium is a VERY short walk from Nottingham Forest’s City Ground. They’re literally opposite each other on either bank of the River Trent in a “sports triangle” that includes Trent Bridge, home of Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club and a regular venue for international cricket matches. One of English football’s classic trivia quiz questions is, “What is the only major professional football ground in Nottingham?” The answer is Meadow Lane. The political boundary of Nottingham City Council runs along the middle of the River Trent. The City Ground isn’t in fact in the city of Nottingham. It’s in the neighbouring Borough of Rushcliffe.
Notts County was established in 1862, a full 24 years before my beloved Arsenal first saw the light of day in 1886 as Dial Square FC, a team of munitions workers at the Dial Square Factory, part of the state owned Woolwich Arsenal armaments complex in south-east London. Notts County is even older than the Football Association, the world’s first national football governing body, which wasn’t formed until 1863. The club was also a founder member of the Football League, the world’s first professional football league in 1888. Arsenal didn’t join the League until five seasons later in 1893, having turned professional in 1891.
Despite its long history, County has never been a member of the football elite. It has never been in the Premier League formed by a breakaway of the top clubs from the Football League in 1993, although it has had spells its immediate predecessor, Football League Division One, including a three season spell from 1981-84. This appearance in the limelight immediately followed the high water mark of local rivals Forest who, having won promotion from the old Football League Division Two in 1977 had an amazing assent to the summit of the game, becoming champions of England and Wales in 1978 and going on to win back to back European Champion Clubs’ Cups (the predecessor of the UEFA Champions League) against Malmö FF of Sweden in Munich in 1979 and Hamburger SV of West Germany in Madrid in 1980.
Forest subsequently fell upon hard times and were relegated as low as Football League One (the third tier) 2005. They’re now challenging for promotion to the top flight Premier League from the Football League Championship once again, although sill a pale shadow of their 1970s/1980s selves under the great Brian Clough.
County on the other hand haven’t won one of the game’s top prizes since their last FA Cup win in, er, 1894. Their most recent silverware was the old Football League Division Four (now Football League Two) winners’ trophy in 1998.