Tuktuk Day 89

Photo © Hans Henrik Appel 2024.

Notts County

Every football fan anywhere on the planet will know one thing about today’s team. “Notts County Football Club is a football club in Nottingham, England, and also the oldest professional association football club in the world.” Many will recite that it was founded in 1862 and a few continue that it should be Nottingham County and Notts Forest as County is based in Nottingham City and Forest yards (literally) over the boundary in Nottinghamshire. Whatever. It is a club with a LOT of history behind it yet currently languishing in the level four. Indeed, in 2019 they suffered the ignominy of being relegated to non-league football and there they stayed for four seasons. The official Notts County Database notes, ” With a total of 15 promotions and 17 relegations, no club has moved between the divisions of the Football League and National League on more occasions than Notts County. Promotion years – 1897 1914 1923 1931 1950 1960 1971 1973 1981 1990 1991 1998 2010 2023 Relegation years – 1893 1913 1920 1926 1930 1935 1958 1959 1964 1984 1985 1992 1995 1997 2004 2015 2019.” Something of a yo-yo club, you could say!

Anyway, what’s all this about? Well, today I met a very interesting Dane on Facebook Hans Henrik Appel, who like Christian and Darren delights in visiting the English grounds and writing about them. We chatted and he kindly offered to share an exceptional blog about Notts County. Meadow Lane was the very first professional ground I visited way back in 1962 or 63 for a schoolboy game between Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire. I can assure you that it was VERY different to what Hans Henrik saw. What has not changed is that County definitely consider themselves a community club and that is something both Hans Henrik and I applaud.

He writes, ” It is about time I get to see a match at Notts County. They are the oldest league club – from 1862. They were the first league club to become a limited company in 1890 (Small Heath, now Birmingham City, had done it in 1888, but they were not a league club at the time). And they are one of the inaugural 12 football league clubs. And probably the main reason for being chosen among the 12, was their football ground.

The league was set up by the leading professional clubs from the Birmingham FA and the Lancashire FA. When you look at the teams invited to join them – Everton, Stoke, Derby County and Notts County – they had all hosted FA Cup semi-finals in the preceding couple of seasons. And the league needed teams that could attract as well as accomodate large crowds.

Notts County were playing at the Trent Bridge cricket ground. It had been chosen as venue for a succesfull 1884 FA cup semifinal, and was therefore chosen again the following season, although this time the Notts County Cricket Club decided to block the planned semi-final between Blackburn Rovers and the Old Carthusians to protect the pitch. This semi-final was moved to the Castle Ground in Nottingham instead, but in 1887 Trent Bridge was chosen again.

In the next couple of years, Trent Bridge saw major developments after the Cricket Club purchased the ground in 1884. A new boundary wall on Gainston Road side with a permanent stand in 1884, a new Trent Bridge Inn in 1885, a new pavilion (in the ”Queen Anne’s style”) in 1886. Also in 1886, the Notts County Football Club erected a covered stand along the eastern boundary wall for their matches. And in this way the ground had developed into a state-of-the-art ground in 1888, when the founding fathers of the league assessed potential new members. Therefore, I find it appropriate to begin my visit at the Trent Bridge. I start with a walk around the ground. The football pitch bordered up to Fox Road and Hound Road, and I recognize a lot of the houses in these streets from the background in old photos of football at the Bridge. I take a walk around the Forest ground – or rather as much of it as I can, because the car park behind the Brian Clough Stand is locked off. Well, if they have to lock off one side of the ground, they have chosen the right one. It is almost brutalist in style. From the outside it does not have many redeeming features. But the Trent End with the river giving it a beautiful setting, and the Bridgford stand and main stand surrounded by terraced housing, look really good. It is probably my last sight of the old main stand, as it is about to be replaced – although only the previous day, I heard something on the news about the negotiations between club and council having stalled, with the possibility of a ground move lurking.”

Photo © Hans Henrik Appel 2024.

Hans Henrik has chose a game against Salford City …. a club as new to league football as County are old and he describes his day and the stadium. It finishes with an unexpected turn of events. He meets Ryan Giggs!

Three grounds in one shot. City Ground in the middle. Floodlights of Meadow Lane can be seen on the left, floodlights of Trent Bridge Cricket Ground on the right. Photo © Hans Henrik Appel 2024.

“I stay behind after the final whistle, while the stewards check all the seats. The supervisor takes me to the main stand. He goes inside and asks if I can be allowed a look around. I don’t know if he had hoped to take me upstairs, but I am just allowed inside the reception to see a trophy and the blue plaque commemorating County being an inaugural member of the league. As I leave the reception, there is a small crowd outside waiting for autographs. I just have time to think that maybe there is a reason why the matchday programme is matte, writable paper, and why the supervisor has taken me to the main stand. I turn around – and there is Ryan Giggs leaving just behind me. After all those years waiting for him in vain after matches at Old Trafford, of course I had to get his autograph here in Nottingham – in the triangle of historic sports grounds.”

Ryan Giggs Photo © Hans Henrik Appel 2024.

Thanks! What a terrific read, Hans Henrik. I hope you will allow me to showcase some of your other articles. I particularly enjoyed your articles about Stockport County and Welford Rd so I may well squeeze your arm over the coming weeks!

To read the blog of his trip to Nottingham in its entirety, please jump over to his website and if you like it, do feel free to subscribe at no cost. Please also note that all his photos are copyrighted.

Now a plea:

Kindly remember that the purpose of this 90 day challenge is to raise funds for my local club and an equal amount for Prostate Cancer. As always, I HOPE you are all enjoying the tour of the UK and that you will consider a donation to support FC Deportivo Galicia and/or Prostate Cancer UK If everybody chipped in with just £1 I would easily hit my target of £10,000 and life would be easier in West London whilst the charity could continue their great work. A HEARTFELT thanks, if you can.


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