COLIN SLATER MBE
Inducted 21 February 2014
Colin Slater fell in love with football as a nine-year-old when his father first took him to watch his local team Bradford City at Valley Parade. From this point onwards, he was hooked and watched the Bantams and Bradford Park Avenue on alternating Saturdays throughout his childhood.
After graduating from Belle Vue Boys' Grammar School, which was situated opposite Valley Parade, Slater worked on Bradford’s local newspapers, where his first sporting breaks arrived in speedway and water polo. This paved the way for his progression into football, as he covered Bradford City until 1959, when he booked a one-way ticket to Nottingham for the next stage of his career.
Slater was appointed as the chief municipal correspondent at the Nottingham Evening News, which later merged with the Nottingham Post, but also reported on Notts County. The Magpies had been relegated to the Fourth Division for the first time in 1958.59 but his first season as reporter saw the club bounce back with a second-placed finish.
Reporting on Notts was more than just a job to Slater and this was highlighted when, in December 1965, the club’s directors were on the brink of winding up the club’s affairs. Mid-meeting, Slater was invited to the West Bridgford home of chairman Fred Williamson and later agreed to ask his good friend, former Scotland and Nottingham Forest manager Andy Beattie, if he would be willing to join the club as an advisor on an unpaid basis.
Beattie not only took on the role, he brought along former Northern Ireland boss Peter Doherty and the duo formed such an impressive team that Bill Hopcroft, a local car dealer, pumped £10,000 into the club - a significant figure at the time - and later became chairman. Notts were saved and Slater’s involvement cannot be underestimated.
In 1969, Slater left newspapers behind when he was appointed Nottinghamshire County Council's first public relations officer, charged with the task of establishing the department. The transition coincided with his switch to broadcast journalism, after he was approached by BBC Radio Nottingham’s first station manager Gerald Nethercott to take up the post as on-air Notts County correspondent.
With no full commentary service at the time, Slater, via a telephone, was responsible for providing score flashes. There was plenty to update on his radio debut, as Notts were thumped 5-0 by Lincoln City.
Since that day, Slater has been ‘The Voice of Notts County’ and has been ever-present on the airwaves, reporting on the club’s biggest moments, including every promotion of the Magpies’ climb from the basement division to the top-flight under Jimmy Sirrel and Neil Warnock’s back-to-back Play-Off successes at Wembley. Inspired by legendary commentators of yesteryear, such as Raymond Glendennin, Alan Clarke and Brian Johnston, Slater has encapsulated so many magic moments in a unique style that remains special to generations of Notts supporters.
In 2001, Slater was recognised ‘for service to radio and the community in Nottinghamshire’ with an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours, not only for his contribution to radio but also for his work with the Football Association and his role as the deputy chairman of the Nottingham Bench of Magistrates. Further accolades have included a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Sony Radio Academy (2010), the Freedom of the Borough of Broxtowe (2010) and a Certificate of Achievement by the Nottinghamshire Football Association (2011).
Slater remains the only original voice of BBC Radio Nottingham still broadcasting on the air and covered his 2,000th Notts County match for Radio Nottingham when the Magpies face Macclesfield Town on 17 November 2007. At the time of induction into the Hall of Fame, Slater was in his 55th season - 46th on the airwaves – and had covered around 2,700 games overall and approximately 2,200 on the radio.
Away from commentary, Slater is a regular contributor to the club’s matchday magazine and released his own book for the club’s 150th anniversary, Tied Up With Notts, which covered his 50-plus years reporting on the Magpies. He is also the president of the Notts County Former Players’ Association, part of the Lifeline committee and is deservedly the first non-footballing inductee into the Hall of Fame.
Inducted 11 January 2014
Jackie Sewell officially began his career at Meadow Lane in 1946 but had ‘guested’ for the club in more than 20 wartime fixtures. The striker is one of the finest players to have ever represented Notts County and is ranked third in the club’s all-time goal-scoring chart behind Les Bradd and Tony Hateley.
The ex-England international striker scored in impressive 104 goals in 193 appearances across all competitions during a five-year stay. The first of these arrived on his Football League debut - a finish in a home victory over Norwich City.
Sewell netted an impressive five hat-tricks during his time with the club - all of them at Meadow Lane. He also bagged four in the club record 11-1 victory over Newport County and, again, in a 9-0 thumping of Exeter City, which helped him to claim the top-scorer award in his first two seasons.
League positions did not reflect Sewell’s contributions until the 1949.50 promotion to Division Two, which was secured with a historic home victory over Nottingham Forest. The number eight scored the first of two goals to allow the County faithful to begin their celebrations.
Sewell proved that he was destined for the top by continuing to score regularly in the second tier and, in March 1951, against the wishes of the Notts fans, a bid of £34,500 from Sheffield Wednesday was accepted. Even though the British transfer record was shattered to take the striker to Hillsborough, there was plenty of unrest amongst the Magpies supporters, highlighting just how highly regarded he was at Meadow Lane.
For the Owls, Sewell continued his impressive strike rate by scoring 92 goals in 172 matches. In 1951.52, Wednesday gained promotion to the First Division largely thanks to his strikes and went on to establish themselves in the top flight.
Just eight months after leaving Notts, Sewell was called up for the England squad, which saw him go on to gain six caps and score three goals. He also netted the first goal in the historic 6-3 home defeat to Hungary’s ‘Magnificent Magyars’, who became the first international side to beat England on home soil.
Before hanging up his boots, Sewell won the FA Cup with Aston Villa and represented Hull City. He later accepted an offer to go to Zambia, where he coached Lusaka City before taking over a similar role with the national side.
Pulling on the boots again, Sewell became one of few footballers to have gained caps for more than one country. He captained the Zambia national team when the country gained its independence from Britain in 1964 and made 10 appearances between 1964 and 1965, scoring seven goals.
Sewell returned to Nottingham and became a car salesman and never lost his affection for the Magpies. He was present to accept his Hall of Fame certificate on 11 January 2014.
Inducted 11 January 2014
When Notts County signed Tommy Lawton for a British record fee of £20,000 (£15,000 and £5,000 valued wing-half Bill Dickson) the footballing world stood in shock. After all, the England number nine had left the top flight to join the Division Three (South) Magpies - much like Wayne Rooney doing the same nowadays.
An astonishing coup, Lawton was a superstar of his generation, who, despite having to wear orthotics due to having flat feet, achieved fame for his pace, heading ability and two-footed ruthlessness in front of goal. Even more remarkable was that the striker agreed to make the switch from Chelsea to Nottingham at the peak of his career.
In 1946.47, Lawton had scored 26 goals in 34 league games, but had struggled to settle in London and came into conflict with Chelsea manager Billy Birrell. This led to a transfer request and a move to Meadow Lane, where he was lured by Notts boss Arther Stollery, who had previously held the position of physiotherapist at Stamford Bridge.
At the time of his arrival in 1947, County were seen as an unfashionable lower-league outfit but that image was transformed as soon as Lawton walked through the gates. Prior to his November debut, home gates had hovered around the 20,000 mark but soon swelled into 30,000 and even 40,000-plus crowds.
The Nottingham public were not disappointed as the icon scored 103 goals in 166 appearances for the club over five seasons, during which time Notts were promoted to Division Two in 1950. By this time, Lawton had lost his place in the England team, despite netting 22 goals in 23 appearances, due to the electors unwilling to persist with a player out of touch with top-flight football.
Fans of the ‘Lawton Era’ are united in their choice of their favourite finish - a bullet header against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground, which helped to secure a 2-1 league victory in 1949. Supporters will also remember his four goals in the club’s record victory - an 11-1 triumph over Newport County.
Although linked with a transfer back to the top flight, Lawton moved to Brentford of the Second Division and later became player-boss at Griffin Park. However, he finished his professional playing career at First Division Arsenal, before switching to Kettering Town as player-manager.
It was as a manager that Lawton returned to Meadow Lane, after leading Kettering to the Southern League championship. He spent a season in charge of the Magpies but later spent time running the Magna Carta pub in Lowdham, Nottingham, as well as taking on further roles as coach, chief scout and, during the 1980s, took on a popular football column in the Nottingham Post.
Lawton sadly passed away in 1996 but his ashes remain on display at the National Football Museum. His son, Tommy Junior, was present to accept his father’s place in the Hall of Fame on 11 January 2014.
Inducted 28 November 2012
19 November 1969 was the start of something special for Notts County Football Club - something very special indeed. On this date a wiry Scotsman strolled calmly through the Meadow Lane gates with his sights set on impeding the doom and gloom that had settled at the club.
County were down in the dumps, painfully slugging it out in the basement division of the Football League. Three consecutive bottom-half finishes of 20th, 17th and 19th, had been followed by a distinctly average opening to the 1969.70 campaign.
Notts were no doubt underachieving, especially when the squad contained the likes of Don Masson, Brian Stubbs, Les Bradd, Bob Worthington and David Needham. They were lacking the belief, the passion and the hunger, but the former Brentford boss had these in abundance and wasted no time instilling the same characteristics into his players.
He turned them into winners. Don Masson's tribute to the Scot emphasises this impact, with the former County play-maker stating: "I owe everything in my football career to Jimmy - he was fantastic."
No more struggling, no more worries, no more woes. The one and only Jimmy Sirrel had Notts on the up.Workington, Scunthorpe United and Chester City were all beaten convincingly in his first three games, and fans could sense that this was the turning point.
It was time for the Magpies to fly. Vastly improving on the past three years, Sirrel guided Notts to a comfortable seventh placed finish.
This was just the warm up, as County topped the table on 69 points the following year - nine points clear of second placed Bournemouth - to claim the Division Four championship without losing once on home soil. A meagre three points denied Sirrel repeating this success in the Third Division the following season.
However, there would be no tears the year after, because Notts finished runners-up to Bolton Wanderers and a second promotion in three years was secured. Two mid-table placements later, Sirrel announced that he was leaving to join Sheffield United's bid to avoid the drop from the First Division. The saviour was gone… for now.
Unfortunately for Sirrel, his only accomplishment at the Blades was in designing their new badge, because he was unable to steer them clear of relegation. Another struggle the season after paved his way back to Nottingham, where he helped Notts fend off relegation to the Third Division.
Sirrel led his team to 15th position and comfortably avoided the drop by 11 points.It was three more years in the second tier before the former Aldershot coach completed the set, this time with the help of innovative coach Howard Wilkinson.
Notts, despite being massive long-shots for promotion, secured the runners-up spot in 1981 and returned to the top flight for the first time in 55 years. Finishing 15th in his first season, Sirrel inspired his team to emphatic wins over Aston Villa, Arsenal, Nottingham Forest and Leeds United.
In 1982, he became general manager, with Wilkinson taking over as boss, but he was back in the hot-seat in 1985 with Notts on the brink of back-to-back relegations under Larry Lloyd. Unfortunately, he was unable to prevent the drop, but did manage to halt the free-fall that County were in by consolidating in the Third Division for two more seasons, before retiring as a true club hero.
Sirrel was a regular spectator at Meadow Lane beyond his retirement and deservedly had the County Road Stand named after him. He was actually called back into the dressing room and onto the pitch to boost spirits when Notts nearly slipped out of the Football League in 2005.
Chants of 'there's only one Jimmy Sirrel' bellowed throughout the stadium, demonstrating how much he meant to every single County fan. Sirrel sadly passed away in 2008 but he will never, ever be forgotten by those that populate the terraces at Meadow Lane.