Question of the Week
Do you support Cleethorpes Town?
Tied Up In Notts
By: Andrew Doherty
ITâ€™S that period of the season when teams battle for promotion or against relegation, or concentrate on languishing in mid-table. It ends in happiness, sadness or indifference but for the moment itâ€™s confusion. Happiness in any case is just temporary.
Our Mariners prove this on a life long basis, but after the January slump and the February euphoria, last weekâ€™s performance against Peterborough was paranoia-inducing. There are those who called it bad luck, while some blame the tactics. I think thereâ€™s something in the fact that flogging Danny North at home up front on his own isn't a good idea, but basically we were dire. So without hesitation I set off for Nottingham for the next instalment, partly in hope that the 4-5-1 works better away as home teams are forced to open out more, partly in fear that our season will drain away ignominiously and worse if we're not careful. Most of all itâ€™s insanity and the importance of being there because Town are playing.
Most railway stations have been refurbished in the last thirty years, but not Nottingham. Dilapidated and colourless austerity greet the traveller. A few weeks ago I had the misfortune of having an hour here, and turned right to explore the city, only to find run down decaying anonymity. Today I turned left towards Meadow Lane stadium and it was no better. Nottingham is known for something though ... shootings and crime. I doubt however this would secure its place on the Holiday programme somehow. A murder mystery weekend in Nottingham could be interesting. Nottingham is not a technicolour modern city. It is a grim, monochrome city of the 60s, just like a TV with the fuzzy screen and line going through it. Writers like Alan Silitoe could be inspired by the inconsolable despondency and bleakness of the place. And it is the home of Notts County.
I have seen Notts play a number of times over the years. I can remember us beating them 3-1 in a League Cup game in 1979 when they were on the up and a respected team. No "European Nights" at Blundell Park, just the glamour of beating Notts County on a cold Tuesday night. But it was Blundellian magic nevertheless. The last time I saw us play them, we lost 2-1 at Meadow Lane in 1993/4. This was a season when Notts were challenging for promotion to the premiership. They failed. We all failed, and we now find ourselves scrapping it out in League 2.
Meadow Lane is just 5 minutes from the station, a short walk past the run down factories and a large sign telling us that Hyundai "have moved to Derby". I reflected that this is hardly a positive advert for the monochrome city. Swanny, who I met a short while afterwards, suggested it was more like a Death Notice. Only enthusiasts for barbed wire and iron fencing could be content in this place.
The sun was somewhere else, the sky was grey, the wind blew chip papers down the street. All that was missing was the tumbleweed. Even the cars parked on the street were dismal and grey. Only the stewards and programme sellers were in bright colours, incongruous as if an avant-garde film maker had superimposed them on the overall vision of dullness. The rest of us were wrapped up as protection against the biting Nottinghamian mistral. Many wore black and white in honour of their teams. Notts drew 0-0 in their last home match. We lost 0-2. Thereâ€™s nothing to play for. We are here. Once through the turnstile, sixteen quid handed over, there was no going back.
"Itâ€™ll be fun. I don't come very often", I overheard someone behind me say innocently. Even my 12 year old daughter would never describe this ritual as fun. Itâ€™s the house of pain, more like.
In spite of everything around it, Meadow Lane is a pleasant ground. Here we entered the zone of colour as black, white grey and a splash of yellow decorated the seats. The wind continued to howl, but the sun had made a reluctant appearance, so maybe it wasn't going to be so bad after all. On the other hand ...
The report continues in Part 2
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