Ahead of the club's annual Lifeline Day, Colin Slater MBE has paid tribute to the popular membership.
After very nearly 60 years’ association with Notts County I’m awash with memories of matches, triumphs, crises and a whole host of off-the-field events.
It will be 33 years in September since Lifeline was launched amid the most incredible scenes of enthusiasm and on the back of a surprise statement by chairman Jack Dunnett that he would be stepping down at the end of the season as the club’s long-serving chairman.
His had been the guiding hand as the Magpies steadily progressed from the fourth tier to the first, the summit of the English game, and after many occasions when his money had come to the club’s rescue it was felt necessary to prepare a Blueprint for Survival.
Notts had noted the great success of the Lifeline fundraising scheme at Bolton Wanderers and secured permission to replicate it. Its founder was Bolton’s commercial manager, Alf Davies, and on the afternoon of Tuesday 16 September 1986, he came to Meadow Lane to explain the scheme to a small group of us over tea and sandwiches in the boardroom.
It was vital I should be there, having accepted Dunnett’s invitation to act as Master of Ceremonies later that evening at the Astoria Ballroom (formerly the Sherwood Rooms) in the city centre. There was much speculation about how many supporters would attend, including various estimates being exchanged between Dunnett and I as we travelled together to the venue.
We were originally refused entry by a uniformed commissionaire but, when Dunnett introduced the pair of us (“I’m the chairman of Notts County and he’s with me”), we were allowed through to find a full-capacity 1,500 already packed in with another 300 outside.
Before the end of the night most of those present had readily signed up to make a weekly payment in return for the chance of winning prizes. Success was assured and over the years the scheme has been to Notts County what it says on the packet – a Lifeline. It continues to be so.
One outstanding personal memory from the launch was the moment when I simultaneously introduced two truly iconic figures to join me on the stage, Tommy Lawton and Jimmy Sirrel, the only time I ever did so. Their joint presence brought the house down on a great night.
For more information about Lifeline and to sign up, click here.