We talked to Robert Nieri on his new book about a forgotten Nottingham hero, and hidden Notts County gems.
They say everyone has a book inside them and Robert Nieri knew which one was his as soon as he’d picked up a Saturday edition of the Evening Post in the summer of 2008. The front page carried an article about Herbert Kilpin, a Nottingham lad from Mansfield Road, who emigrated to Italy and ended up founding AC Milan in 1899, one of the most successful club sides in the world.
Half-Italian, a Nottingham resident and mad about football, Robert had found his subject. It’s only taken another 8 years to finish the book but finally The Lord of Milan, a book based on Kilpin’s early life in Nottingham and his adventures in Italy, is about to see the light of day, on 22 October - the centenary of Kilpin’s death.
Kilpin was a friend of John Savage, another expat, who is said to have brought the black and white strip of County back to his mates in Turin in 1903 to replace their pink shirts. Savage’s team had been formed six years earlier by a group of students sat on a bench on the street outside their school. The team was called “Youth” in Latin - “Juventus” - and the rest is history.
In researching the early days of football in Nottingham Robert has come across some interesting little gems about Notts County.
Did you know County was founded in the Lion Inn on Clumber Street - pictured - now the Sun Valley Amusements Arcade?
Or that the first game against Forest - billed as “The Lambs” (Notts) against “The Garibaldi” - took place at the Forest Recreation Ground in 1866 in front of 4,000 spectators.
County may have lost that game 1-0 but they beat Forest to lifting the FA Cup when, in 1894, they defeated Bolton Wanderers Bolton 4-1 at Goodison Park. That day Jimmy Logan scored a hat-trick for County and the streets from the Midland Station to the Lion Hotel in the town centre were packed with crowds awaiting their returning heroes.
But Logan’s fate was a sad one. After leaving County he played for Loughborough and one day his team mislaid their kit for an away game against Newton Heath (now known, more famously, as Manchester United). Loughborough had to play in the rain in their everyday clothes. They returned home soaked to the bone and Logan contracted pneumonia, died and was buried in a pauper’s grave, less than two years after lifting the Cup.
It just goes to show how fleeting fame can be.
Check out Robert Nieri's website at www.lordofmilan.com.
You can also follow him on Twitter: @lordofmilan