We go from the sublime to the ridiculous back to the sublime. Last week we hosted Sheffield Wednesday for just the second time in our history. Next week we face Fleetwood Town for the first time ever in a lip-smacking FA Cup First Round tie. This weekend we visit Meadow Lane, the ground we have visited the most times since our glorious rise to the Football League over 18 years ago.
Fourteen times we have visited Nottingham to face the Magpies, the oldest professional league club in the world. They were formed in 1862 and played a game of its own devising, rather than what we all know as association football. They were also a “gentleman-only” club like many others of the times when women were viewed with suspicion and intrigue.
They started playing in the grounds of the old Nottingham Castle before moving to the Trent Bridge Cricket Ground. The finally found a permanent home at Meadow Lane in 1910. County were founder members of the Football League in 1888. Their greatest achievement came in 1894 when they won the FA Cup for the one and only time in their history.
The club holds the record for the most movement between divisions having enjoyed thirteen promotions and endured fifteen relegations. They also are famous for providing Juventus with their first ever set of black and white striped shirts in 1903. What you may not know however is they started playing in amber and black hoops and also briefly wore chocolate and blue halves.
Notts County have had the misfortune to have been led by some of the more odious managers of recent times. Neil Warnock took over in 1989 and guided them to the top flight. Sam Allardyce became boss in 1997 where he cultivated his unique brand of one-eyed hoofball and media darling Martin Allen can currently be found performing his circus act in the Meadow Lane dugout.
Despite the two clubs not meeting for the first time until 1995 there have been several players to have represented both clubs and they include Martin O`Neill; Jim Wicks, Brian Parkin, Wayne Henderson; Julian Kelly, Michael Forsyth, Gary Silk, Guy Branston; George Harris, Reg Boreham, Chris Palmer, Mark Robson, Matt Richards, Michael Simpson, Stefan Oakes, Delroy Facey, John Williams and Mark Stallard.
I covered the history of the City of Nottingham in my pre-ramble for the Forest League Cup tie back in August however I did fail to mention that it does have the distinction of being the home to the finest metal band ever to have existed. I am of course referring to Earthtone9 and I thoroughly recommend you search them out and give your ears the best time of their lives.
As for famous followers of the Magpies I have found just two, the first is rotund Tory Europhile Kenneth Clarke and the second is notorious serial killer Harold Shipman! As mentioned above our first ever clash came in August 1995 under the embryonic reign of Alan Smith. Of course we soon discovered to our horror that it was to turn into some kind of Species-esque alien but instead of Natasha Henstridge we got Mark Foran and a sweaty 2-0 defeat.
The following season saw us make the trip in April 1997 in search of just our second away win of the campaign. We were fighting relegation under John Gregory and Steve Brown lofted the ball over stranded goalkeeper Darren Ward to give us a second minute lead. Cue a reprise of his bizarre ‘flapping birds` celebration first witnessed at Doncaster. Steve McGavin restored our lead in the first half and we held on to claim a 2-1 victory to complete the great escape.
Our next visit was again in the midst of a relegation battle under Lawrie Sanchez and came after the famous 2-1 win at Manchester City. Jamie Bates conceded a penalty shortly after half-time and we were beaten 1-0 and staring down the barrel of a gun. Of course what followed was something of a footballing miracle and it saw the two sides spend the next eleven seasons in the same division.
We were beaten 2-1 in October 1999 when we let slip an early lead given to us by striker Sean Devine and finished with ten men when Matt Lawrence was sent for an early bath. We recorded a 2-0 win in April 2001 on a Thursday evening after the game was re-arranged from the previous evening. That match had lasted just six minutes due to a torrential downpour that left the pitch flooded and unplayable.
The Blues were playing catch-up after our incredible FA Cup run and Dave Carroll gave us a first-half lead to notch his 99th Wanderers goal. Dannie Bulman then wrapped up the three points with a late second goal. In October 2001 an Andy Rammell volley midway through the second half gave the orange-shirted visitors a 1-0 victory and their first away win of the season.
The 2002/03 season didn`t start promisingly and on the opening day of the campaign the Chairboys were a goal down with the game into the final minute. However Darren Currie conjured up a cross from the left and debutant Craig Faulconbridge headed home at the far stick to seal a 1-1 draw and send the away fans bonkers. Cue a small pitch invasion which left the flask and blanket brigade steaming into their cup-a-soup at the sight of such abandoned joy.
There was a rather dull 1-1 draw in November 2003 under Tony Adams which saw Michael Simpson notch against his former club. Almost exactly a year later Ian Stonebridge grabbed the winner just before half-time to record a 1-0 victory under John Gorman. He was to return the following season to head home the winner with his very first touch.
On a Tuesday February evening the man with the conventional hair had just come off the bench with the game level at 1-1. Dean Bowditch had given the Blues a first half-lead with his first goal for the club and it was from the ever-improving Clint Easton free-kick that Stonebridge found the net to seal the three points.
There were two meetings at Meadow Lane during the 2006/07 season. The first came in August and ended in a 1-0 defeat with Anthony Grant sent for an early bath. We gained our revenge three months later in a League Cup tie which was won 1-0 courtesy of a Jermaine Easter goal. We were rewarded with a quarter-final tie away at then-Premier League Charlton Athletic.
Our last away game of the regular 2007/08 season saw manager Paul Lambert select a much-changed squad which was beaten 1-0 by the relegation-threatened hosts. It was however notable for the debut of a certain Matt Phillips. Our last visit to the place of caves came on a cold Tuesday evening in November and was notable for goals from Matt Harrold and Lewwwwis Spence which earned a comfortable 2-0 victory.
“All that`s left are memories”