Notts Outlaws shirt - illustration by Adam Poole
What happens to Notts CCC’s cricketers when the summer wanes and winter reclaims the hallowed Trent Bridge outfield? Well, a couple of the squad’s local stars – Bulwell behemoth Luke Fletcher and Giltbrook-raised Samit Patel – often make the 1,742-pace journey from the dressing rooms (that’s right, they hibernate in there during the winter), along past the Trent Bridge Inn, over Radcliffe Road, down Pavilion Road, then right to the City Ground, their Mecca. I intercepted Fletcher and Patel along this Pilgrim’s Way and asked them about their love of Forest and the Notts lads’ footballing skills.
How long have you been Forest supporters?
LUKE FLETCHER: Since the day I was born, I think. 22 years.
SAMIT PATEL: 26 years.
What’s your first Forest memory?
FLETCH: First memory was losing to Man Utd, 8-0 or 8-1 or something. Ole Solskjaer came on as sub and scored four [this is still the record home Premier League defeat]. I probably went before that but can’t remember it.
SAMIT: They lost to Southampton at the City Ground, 3-1 I think, and all I remember is just running for safety.
Ever been tempted, during the hard times, to ditch them for one of the big clubs – Liverpool, Man Utd, Arsenal, etc?
FLETCH: No, not at all, not at all. I’m not a glory boy.
SAMIT: No [However, Samit admitted that, if he did, he’d choose Man Utd – Ed.].
How many times per season do you get down to the City Ground?
FLETCH: Well, I’ve been away the last three winters to play cricket in Australia but I’ve managed to squeeze a few games in here and there. I was there against Blackpool a couple of years ago in the playoffs when they lost. I try and get down a couple of times a year but this winter maybe I’ll be able to make it every other week.
SAMIT: Probably about 10 or 12 times, I’d say.
What’s the best Forest game you’ve been to?
FLETCH: Sheffield United at home, 4 or 5 years ago, when Johno [David Johnson] was playing. Semi-final of the play-offs. We won 1-0, I think [research suggests this must be the (poorly remembered) 1-1 draw in 2003 – Ed.].
Beating Leicester 5-1
a couple of seasons back.
Who is your favourite current player?
FLETCH: Big Wes Morgan. Solid as a rock.
SAMIT: Luke Chambers. He waited patiently for his chance but is now the first name on the team sheet, for me.
Who is your all-time favourite Forest player?
FLETCH: Stuart Pearce.
SAMIT: Brian Roy.
What do you want from Steve Cotterill?
FLETCH: I don’t know. If he gets us to the Premier League then he’s a legend, but if he doesn’t then he’s no different from the others, I guess.
SAMIT: Same as everyone else: I want him to make some good signings that’ll take the club to the next level – the Premier League.
Having watched a few of the squad’s morning warm-ups – proper ref with a whistle, two linesmen, Champions League theme tune playing over the PA – it’s obvious you guys like your footie. Who is the best footballer in the Notts CCC squad?
FLETCH: This is a tough one… We run a Power League side and we’ve got a few good players there, but I’d probably say the best out-and-out footballer would be Scott Elstone. He’s pretty sharp. He’s got good skills, good passing, tackles well, finishes well… But let’s be honest, I’m the best goalkeeper on show at the minute.
SAMIT: Chris Read. Natural athlete. Good engine. Always has time on the ball.
Which famous footballer would you say you’re most alike?
FLETCH: Neville Southall.
SAMIT: Jan Molby.
If you were captain of a game of football among the squad – picking teams alternately, like in the school playground – who would be the last player to be chosen?
FLETCH: I’m going to go for David Hussey when he’s around: he’s clumsy, he’s Australian, he’s not really got a clue what he’s doing.
SAMIT: Luke Fletcher. He’s terrible.
Which current Premier League manager is Mick Newell most like? He reckons Arsène Wenger, because he’s “philosophical” and has “a good accent”.
FLETCH: I’m going to go for Sir Alex Ferguson. He gets the best out of players, Mick; he’s got a lot of experience and has won two County Championships, which is a good achievement.
SAMIT: Erm… I’d say Owen Coyle. [Libel laws and our desire to see Samit remain on the staff at Notts prevent us from publishing his reason for this comparison – Ed.].
Have the European Cup-winning goals ever popped into your head at an inappropriate moment, as Archie Gemmill’s World Cup wonder goal does for Ewan McGregor’s character in Trainspotting?
I can’t say they have to be honest. I have seen the goals
, but they’ve not popped in my mind at a, um, random moment.
SAMIT: Er, no.
Prior to the League Cup game with County, you both thought it’d be a “walk in the park”, “nice to give the kids a run”, and said “you won’t even bother going”. Given that the epic 3-3 encounter might have given you some new-found respect for the neighbours, I was wondering: if getting a Notts County tattoo somewhere on your body would guarantee Forest going up this year, then winning the Prem next year, and the Champions League the year after that, would you do it?
FLETCH: No, not at all. I’m a fan of tattoos but I’m not a fan of Notts County’s badge. I wouldn’t do it even if it meant Forest winning the European Cup for the next 10 years!
SAMIT: No. Couldn’t do that. Sorry.
Have you ever walked through town at night, hugged the Brian Clough statue, and said “thank you”? If not, have you ever thought about doing it?
FLETCH: I’ve definitely stood and had a picture there with Cloughie…er, and I probably have hugged him, too, to be honest. But I don’t think I’ve said “thank you”.
SAMIT: Not thought about it, no, but I’d definitely do that if it got Forest promoted.
If you had a statue built for yourself in town, like Cloughie, where would you have it and what pose would it be making?
FLETCH: I’d be in a wicket-taking pose, or appealing for an LBW, and I’d like it to be next to Cloughie [yes, we’re all surprised he didn’t say on Fletcher Gate in the Lace Market… The Notts supporters certainly think Fletcher’s gate is wide enough to get a tram through – Ed.]
SAMIT: Outside The Living Room in the Lace Market, holding a beer.