'The opening of the Nottingham Football Club commenced on Tuesday last at Cremorne Gardens. A aide was chosen by W. Arkwright and Chas. Deakin. A very spirited game resulted in the latter scoring two goals and two rouges against one and one.' - The Nottingham Guardian from 28 November 1862
Notts County Football Club, now universally recognised as the world's oldest Football League club, was formed in 1862. Official formation followed two years later as the 'Notts. Foot Ball Club'.
Pre-dating The Football Association, the club initially played matches of its own devising at Park Hollow, inside the grounds of the old Nottingham Castle. In 1864, the decision was made to take on outside opposition from both England and Scotland, which led to a move away from the club's initial home to allow for larger crowds.
The following years saw the club appear at numerous locations, including Castle Cricket Ground (1894), and Nottingham Forest's Town Ground (1895 and 1896) and City Ground (1899 to 1909). However, the club's main home, from 1883 onwards, was Trent Bridge, until the permanent switch across the river to Meadow Lane was completed in 1910.
In 1888, Notts became one of 12 founder members of The Football League and ended the first season in 11th place, above Stoke City. A highest ever league finish of third was achieved in 1890-91 – a feat that was replicated in 1900.
Notts had representation in the first ever international match as full-back Ernest Greenhalgh played for England against Scotland in November 1872, thereby becoming the club's first international player.
DID YOU KNOW? Notts have not always played in Black and White stripes, having started out in black and amber hoops. This style was replaced by a chocolate and blue combination before adopting the trademark design. The club has moved away from the stripes from time-to-time, including a white jersey with a single black chevron, plain white with black cuffs, pin-stripes, 'V'-style stripes and the classic 'Barcode' design. Yellow and, more recently, gold have been added as a complimentary trim in recent years.
In 1890-91, Notts reached the FA Cup Final for the first time, only to be defeated 3-1 by Blackburn Rovers at The Oval, despite thumping the trophy winners 7-1 only a week prior. The club made amends on 31 March 1894, with Jimmy Logan netting a hat-trick in a 4-1 triumph over Bolton Wanderers at Goodison Park.
The fixture is also memorable for another reason, as Notts became first team outside the top flight to win the tournament, having been relegated to the Second Division in 1893. Promotion back to the top tier was confirmed in 1896-97, after a series of 'test matches' – meetings between the bottom sides in the First Division and the top teams in the Second Division to determine which clubs would play in each league the following season.
DID YOU KNOW? Harry Cursham is the current top-scorer in the FA Cup and has held the record since 1887. The striker scored 49 goals – all of them in a Notts shirt.
In 1912-13 Notts were again relegated but returned the following season as champions of the Second Division. 1919-20 saw another demotion, though another Second Division championship was added to the trophy cabinet in 1922-23.
Despite a ninth-position finish in 1924-25, Notts dropped back down to the Second Division the following campaign. Then, in 1929-30, the club fell to the Third Division South, only to bounce back at the first time of asking – as champions.
After 16th, 15th and 18th placed finishes respectively, Notts ended the 1934-35 season at the foot of the Second Division. Prior to the Second World War, Notts narrowly missed out on promotion, as they finished 1936-37 second in the Third Division (South) – two points adrift of the champions, Luton Town.
DID YOU KNOW? Between 1905 and 1925, goalkeeper Albert Iremonger played 564 league and 37 cup games for the Magpies. He remains the club’s highest appearance holder and is unlikely to be beaten. The eccentric giant also has a road named after him, which runs behind the back of the Derek Pavis Stand.
The leagues took an extended break, as football was suspended between 1939 and 1946, due to the Second World War. Only regional matches and cup competitions, which allowed clubs to field guest players, were played.
On the night of 8 May 1941, bomb damage produced craters at Meadow Lane and the ground was subsequently closed. This meant that 1941-42 was the only season when no football was played by the Magpies.
In November 1947, Notts stunned the footballing world with the recruitment of England international Tommy Lawton. The England number nine had left top-flight Chelsea to join the Third Division South Magpies - much like Wayne Rooney dropping down to League 1 nowadays.
Lawton's signing was for a British record fee but his arrival added around 10,000 to the gates at Meadow Lane. The average home crowds for the next eight seasons remain the highest in the club's history.
An example of the bolstered attendances was a Boxing Day encounter with Swansea that saw 45,000 pack into Meadow Lane, with an estimated 10,000 locked outside. A number of attendances were over 30,000 and 40,000, and, in 1949-50, with an average of over 34,000, Notts gained promotion to the Second Division.
The passing of then club captain Leon Leuty sparked the rapid break-up of the side that had transformed Notts from an unfashionable lower-league outfit into a steady Second Division club. Just two seasons after his death - 1957-58 - Notts suffered relegation to the Third Division and again into the basement tier in 1958-59.
Despite a quick return to the Third Division, following a second-placed finish in 1959-60, it was not long before Notts were back in the Fourth Division. Between 1963-64 and 1970-71, Notts fought it out in the doldrums of the Football League and, on 21 September 1968, the club slumped to its lowest point at the bottom of the table, but luckily found form and moved clear.
It was tough times but, when the most successful manager in the club's history walked through the Meadow Lane gates, fortunes took a turn for the better. Jimmy Sirrel took over with the aim of lifting the doom and gloom – and he did just that by guiding the Magpies to the Fourth Division championship in his first full season in charge.
Sirrel's players became legends, such as the club's all-time leading scorer Les Bradd, central defensive colossuses Dave Needham and Brian Stubbs, who experienced a solid eight-year partnership, and, of course, the Scottish midfield maestro Don Masson – deemed the greatest player to ever pull on the Black and White Stripes. Not forgetting the likes of Tony Hateley, Kevin Randall and Arthur Mann, who made up the spine of a team that would eventually complete Sirrel's complete set of promotions from the gutter to English football's elite division.
The next promotion arrived in 1972-73, as Notts finished Third Division runners-up, which preceded an eight-year stay in the Second Division. So many promotions had usually been followed by relegation but not on this occasion, as Sirrel – helped by innovative coach Howard Wilkinson - led Notts to the First Division via a historic victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Against the odds, Notts spent three consecutive seasons in the top-flight, which were kicked off with a historic 1-0 triumph over champions Aston Villa on the opening day of the 1981-82 season. This proved to be just one of many unforgettable days for the fans of this era, as the Magpies recorded emphatic wins over Arsenal, Nottingham Forest and Leeds United.
Off the pitch, Notts faced a battle to stay afloat and a crisis meeting on 15 September 1986 drew 1,500 supporters to the Astoria Night Club, with many more locked outside. Debts of £2million had forced directors to consider liquidating the club but it was agreed that business would resume thanks to the financial support of the fans.
This came in the shape of a friendly match with Forest, where a crowd of 3,299 added £14,000 to the survival funds, and the formation Notts County Lifeline, which involved supporters paying £2 each week to enter into a prize draw. Since that meeting, the scheme has gone from strength-to-strength and has continued to pump over £100,000 into the club every year.
Notts' true revival came from an unlikely source in 1989, when, following a run of poor results, boss John Barnwell was dismissed and replaced by the youthful figure of Neil Warnock, who had guided Scarborough into the Football League as champions of the Conference. The signings of goalkeeper Steve Cherry and skipper Phil Turner boosted the squad and, in Warnock's first full season, 1989-90, the club achieved a third-placed finish and a spot in the Play-Offs.
Unlike two years prior, Notts flourished in the end-of-season knock-out and overcame Bolton Wanderers over two legs – a 1-1 draw on away soil and a 2-0 win back at Meadow Lane. This kicked off the Wembley Years and, on an unforgettable day under the Twin Towers, the Magpies overcame Tranmere Rovers in front of 29,252 spectators thanks to goals from Tommy Johnson and Craig Short.
Away from the league success, Notts reached the Quarter Final of the FA Cup thanks to a famous 1-0 win against Manchester City – a day where Cherry performed heroics in goal and Gary Lund secured his side's progression with a solitary strike. This set up a controversial encounter with Tottenham Hotspur that saw Don O'Riordan score a wonder goal in front of the packed out away end at White Hart Lane, before Paul Gascoigne, who should have been dismissed due to an elbow on Paul Harding, set up the equaliser and scored an 83rd minute winner to end the Magpies' hopes of a second FA Cup crown.
Warnock kept the faith in a large part of the squad that gained promotion, but Notts' stay in the top tier was short-lived and lasted only one campaign, as the club finished the season ranked 21st. The relegation meant that the club missed out becoming an inaugural member of the Premier League.
Regardless of the drop to the newly named Football League Division One, the Magpies' season in the top flight was eventful and provided trips to the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. The club also cashed in on strikers Paul Rideout – sold to Rangers for £500,000 just four months after he was signed from Everton for half that amount – and Johnson, who raked in almost £2m, which was pumped into the £5m redevelopment of Meadow Lane.
Warnock was succeeded by Mick Walker, who kept Notts in Division One and introduced a passing style of play to the appreciation of the supporters. The following year, the Magpies narrowly missed out on the play-offs with a seventh-placed finish but the season is most fondly remembered for the 2-1 triumph over local rivals Nottingham Forest, when Charlie Palmer scored the winning goal with just four minutes remaining on the clock.
Allardyce had the players in for regular sessions over the summer break in an attempt to halt the Notts' freefall and the hard work paid off - massively. 1997-98 was a remarkable and unique season in the club's history, as the Magpies smashed a number of national and club records to clinch the Division Three championship.
Notts became the first club to pass the 4,000 league games landmark and clinched a league championship at the earliest ever date (28 March) by the largest number of points (19). With Allardyce at the helm and the likes of Darren Ward, Gary Jones, Sean Farrell, Mark Robson, Ian Richardson and Steve Finnan, among others, populating the squad, things were really looking up.
By October 1999, Allardyce had guided Notts to the top of Division Two but, out of the blue, he resigned to take up a post at Bolton Wanderers. Without ‘Big Sam’, the Magpies slipped to an eighth-placed finish and rockier times were on the way - both on and off the pitch.
In 2001-02, Notts were nailed on for another relegation but, with just 11 games remaining, something incredible began – The Great Escape – a campaign driven by the iconic Steve McQueen film that included posters, music and the full backing of the County faithful. Kicked off by a 1-1 draw at home to Colchester United, the Magpies accumulated an astonishing 23 points from a possible 33 and clinched safety on the final day in front of a 15,618 home crowd.
Danny Allsopp played a massive role in getting the club to the 50-point mark with 12 goals in the conclusive run-in, including the opener in the decisive 2-1 victory over Huddersfield Town, which saw Kevin Nicholson net the winning goal in full view of the Jimmy Sirrel Stand Z-Block. Emotions spilled over onto the pitch after the impossible was confirmed but this magic moment was one of very few highlights in the coming years.
Troubles off the pitch took their toll on the field and Notts were relegated to the bottom tier, League 2, in 2004. Aside from securing the club's future, the season's highlight was the League Cup clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge – an encounter between Roman Abramovich's millionaires and the penniless Magpies.
A big turnover in players followed, as Gary Mills attempted to bring the good times back to Meadow Lane, though Notts fought it out at the bottom end of the table and Ian Richardson took over as player-manager to guide the club to safety. More difficult times followed under Gudjon Thordarson in 2005-06, when Notts came within a whisker of dropping out of the Football League, only to stay up on the final day thanks to a 2-2 draw with Bury, where the Magpies came back from two goals down through Dan Martin and Julian Baudet strikes to spark mass celebrations between both relegation threatened sides.
Off the pitch, the club was moving in the right direction and this was highlighted by the return of the club’s Academy in 2008. The previous youth set-up, which had produced the likes of Tommy Johnson, Mark Draper, Michael Johnson and Craig Short had been controversially shut down as a cost-cutting exercise two years prior.
In the summer of 2009, Notts moved into a new and exciting era when it was revealed that an ambitious consortium wanted to gain control and invest significant – ridiculous some might say - sums of cash into the club. A media circus unraveled at Meadow Lane, after the Supporters' Trust voted overwhelmingly to gift their shares to Munto Finance.
Peter Trembling became executive chairman with immediate effect and, less than two weeks later, the arrival of former England and Mexico manager Sven-Goran Eriksson as director of football had Notts fans pinching themselves. More big names followed, with the addition of Kasper Schmeichel, son of Manchester United legend Peter, and, former Arsenal and England international Sol Campbell, all eyes were on the Magpies.
A return to a sensible business approach was welcomed by the County faithful, as was the appointment of new manager Steve Cotterill. Cotterill's message to the players was "we're going to win the league"... Nobody argued, despite being 14 points adrift of the league leaders at the time.
Under the new gaffer, Notts embarked on an incredible run to make up significant ground and confirmed promotion with a 4-1 win over Morcambe in front of 8,500 supporters at Meadow Lane. Even more rewarding was the 1-0 triumph over championship rivals Rochdale, who were beaten by a solitary Hughes finish, which put one hand on the League 2 title.
The job was complete just a week later on an unforgettable night in Darlington, as Notts ran away as 5-0 winners and crowned champions to set up a joyous day back in Nottingham, where 11,331 witnessed the Magpies lift the trophy. It was a rollercoaster journey but one that no Notts fan will ever forget.
Based on the club's history, it would be safe to say that there is rarely a quiet moment and there were no surprises when this remained the case beyond the whole Munto façade. Cotterill departed at the end of the championship campaign and Notts' first season in League 1 saw the revolving door pick up speed.
Into the New Year, Notts’ fortunes took a bad turn and seven losses in eight games made relegation a serious possibility. A swift change behind the scenes resulted in Martin Allen lifting the club on and off the field with his unique personality and the Magpies avoided the drop on the final day of the season with a 1-1 draw against Brighton & Hove Albion, who had already been crowned League 1 Champions.
In 2011-12, Notts were invited to take on Juventus in a friendly fixture that marked the opening of the Italian giants' new stadium in Turin. A historic trip, Notts had been expected to make up the numbers but it was not the case as Lee Hughes struck late on to earn a 1-1 draw in front of a passionate Juventus Stadium crowd and millions watching live on ESPN.
The campaign brought more changes to the Notts backroom staff, as Allen and his coaching team were relieved on their duties and replaced by Keith Curle, but, despite initial unrest at the decision, the appointment sparked an incredible run that saw the Magpies climb the League 1 table with 10 wins and three draws in the remaining 16 games, including a dramatic 4-3 thriller away at Wycombe, which had seen the Magpies behind in the dying stages, before two late goals took the Play-Off race to the final day. Still, another win against Colchester United was not enough to secure a top-six finish and the club missed out on the Play-Offs on goal difference.
2012 marked Notts County Football Club's 150th anniversary and the milestone was celebrated with a variety of events. Initiated by a Civic Reception, the event welcomed former chairman and now honorary president of the League Lord Mawhinney, Sir David Bernstein, and a host of club legends and personalities.
With the high hopes that stemmed from the season prior, Notts added further quality to the squad but languished in mid-table. Curle was removed from his position and development squad coach Chris Kiwomya was promoted to first team duties.
A poor opening to the 2013-14 campaign saw Kiwomya leave the club by mutual consent in November 2013. His replacement, Shaun Derry, along with his assistant Greg Abbott, was tasked with steering the Magpies to League 1 safety.
With just nine games remaining, Notts appeared certain for the drop as the team was nine points adrift of safety and had played more games than the other club's fighting against relegation. Still, six wins and a draw in the final run-in saw the Magpies secure safety thanks to an emotional 1-1 draw with Oldham Athletic, which guaranteed the club's place in League 1 for the 2014-15 campaign.
The hugely impressive run was labelled The Great Escape - again - and really pulled the club together at what had been a difficult time. Posters and the iconic theme song will certainly remain with the fans that played such a big part in the turnaround forever.
Unfortunately the momentum from the Great Escape could not be maintained into 2014-15 and Derry was dismissed in March 2015 as the Magpies slid towards the relegation zone once more after occupying a play-off spot in the early part of the season.
Derry's replacement, Ricardo Moniz, was unable to keep the club in League One as a 3-1 defeat at Gillingham on the final day of the season confirmed relegation back to the basement division of the Football League.
Flanked by Notts legend Dean Yates and Dave Kevan, Moniz could not oversee an immediate return to the third tier and was sacked in December 2015. His replacement, Jamie Fullarton, lasted little over two months before Mark Cooper saw out the remainder of the season, whic County finish 17th.
Hopes were high at the start of 2016-17 with the appointment of John Sheridan as manager to go with a raft of experienced signings. However, a run of ten straight league defeats saw the former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder lose his job at the start of January, a month of significant change at Meadow Lane.
With the club up for sale and perilously close to going out of existence, local businessman Alan Hardy stepped in to take control of the club on Thursday 12 January. Hardy's first move was to appoint the former Bolton and Newcastle United midfielder Kevin Nolan as the club's manager in a bid to secure its EFL status.
The chairman wasted little time in bringing back a feel-good factor to the club, reducing ticket prices and setting out his stall to have the Magpies in the Championship within five years.
Aided by signings such as Nottingham Forest loanee Jorge Grant and iconic former Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi, Notts comfortably secured their Sky Bet League Two status.
The end of the season was not to be without drama, however, as Portsmouth secured promotion at Meadow Lane before Newport County completed an incredible great escape by scoring a last-minute winner against the Magpies, sending Hartlepool down on the final day.
The start of the 2017-18 campaign was tinged with sadness as former chairman Derek Pavis passed away on Friday 26 May at the age of 87.
Determined to have the club challenging for promotion from League Two, Nolan, with the financial help of Hardy, began to reshape his squad with the arrivals of Terry Hawkridge and Lewis Alessandra from Lincoln City and Hartlepool United respectively.
The 2017-18 campaign saw Notts in the promotion hunt right up until the end of the season and beyond - a fifth-placed finish brought all the excitement of the League Two Playoffs to Meadow Lane.
Notts played Coventry City in the semi-finals and looked to be bringing a 1-0 lead back to Meadow Lane for the second leg. That was until less than five minutes from time, when the referee awarded a penalty that even surprised the home fans and Coventry levelled the tie.
The setback seemed to carry over in to the second leg, and Notts fell behind within the first 10 minutes at the Lane. Trailing 2-1 at half-time, Notts had to take more risks as the game wore on but couldn't find another route to goal and Coventry extended their lead, winning 4-1 on the night and 5-2 on aggregate.
Despite the ending, Kevin Nolan's first full season in charge showed remarkable progress and the following summer saw a host of new players through the door as he looked to go one step further in 2018-19.
Strikers Kane Hemmings and Kristian Dennis were brought in to add more fire power, with Nathan Thomas, Enzio Boldewijn and David Vaughan amongst those signed with the intention of creating chances.