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Nottingham Castle

The Fifteen Year Itch

1 August 09 words: Jared Wilson

"All we want as Notts fans is not be patronised any more by the team we still see as our biggest rivals"

It’s been a decade and a half since Forest and County last played each other in a competitive football match. Since then, aside from the odd pre-season friendly, the only local decent local football ‘derby’ has been Forest against, erm, Derby.

The last time both Nottingham teams played each other in a league match was on 12 February 1994 in the English second tier. As Magpies fans are quick to point out the points that day went to them, courtesy of a late winner from Notts right back Charlie Palmer. It was one of only seven goals he scored during a six-year stint at Meadow Lane, but as he freely admits it was ‘the sweetest of my whole career’.

The tenure of Brian Clough (1975-1993) led to the best years of footballing success ever seen at the City Ground and, in turn, years of decline for Notts. I was born in the year that they first became kings of Europe and I suppose by rights I should have supported them - certainly most of my friends at school did. Indeed Clough’s success over those years was so great that, in the public eye at least, he managed to totally eclipse his counterpart and Notts County’s greatest ever manager Jimmy Sirrel. Here was a man who took Notts from the bottom division to the top one, a man who Sir Alex Ferguson has cited as a major managerial inspiration. Yet the truth is that most Nottingham kids nowadays will have never heard of him. They’ll know who Brian Clough was though.

However, if you look back even further through the two clubs history ,it’s not always been as one-sided - there has, on occasion, been a healthy rivalry between them. Indeed, before Old Big ‘Ead's reign, County had regularly assumed the position as the larger club in the city. For example when, 62 years ago, England’s first-choice centre forward Tommy Lawton decided to leave top division Chelsea in his prime to go to then third division Magpies, it set in motion a course of events that would see them grabbing the upper hand in the city for the best part of a decade. It wasn’t just the local TV coverage that was black and white back then!

Until this summer, Magpies fans assumed a moment like that would never be eclipsed in the modern game (the equivalent nowadays would be Wayne Rooney joining us). However, July’s appointment of former England Manager Sven Goran Eriksson as Director of Football at the club must at the very least run a close second.

So what do we need to really kick-start our local footballing rivalry and put the Sheep-shaggers back in the shadow where they belong? Well, both clubs need to be in the same division first - and realistically that’s not likely to happen for at least another two or three seasons. However with Forest’s previously unassailable financial wealth now apparently overtaken, Notts have the resources to do it and with a bit of good management (and let’s face it, Sven knows what he’s doing) they shouldn’t reside in the footballing wilderness for too much longer.

Screw the Premiership and sod the Champions League. All we want as Notts fans is not be patronised anymore by the team we still see as our biggest rivals. Nothing is more infuriating to a Notts fan than the thought of a dyed-in-the-wool Forest fan turning up to Meadow Lane to ‘cheer us on’. How patronising is that? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I look forward to a day when Forest fans once again stand united in singing hateful songs about us like we have done to them over the last decade. And if nothing else it ought to mean that less kids in the city grow up wearing Chelsea and Man U shirts. That in itself can only be a good thing all round!

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