TRCH The Merry Widow

Herbert Kilpin Special: Andy Black on Notts County

17 October 17 interview: Chris Underwood

First and foremost, Andy Black is a Notts County supporter, but he’s also one of those people with an uncanny knack of making good things happen. Alongside his wife, Lisa, he was pivotal in raising over £100k for the Jimmy and Jack statue in Meadow Lane, which is the iceberg tip of their community endeavours. Most recently, they’ve helped to uncover a 120-year-old secret about the man who started a friendship between Notts County and Juventus…

Firstly, how did you meet your trusty muse, Lisa?
It was through the eighties version of Facebook, CB radio. She was the “Koala Bear” to my “Puma.” She set me the challenge of finding her house by a single clue; it had a silver dipole antenna. Needless to say, I succeeded, and we’ve been together ever since.

Tell us about the Jimmy and Jack Statue Campaign...
It was started by five Notts County supporters in May 2010, who wanted to build a statue to commemorate Jimmy Sirrel and Jack Wheeler; the best managerial duo Notts County has ever seen. Lisa and I got involved in early 2011, willing to shake buckets and share ideas. Little did we know it would occupy the next five years of our spare time.

How hard was it to raise the £100,000 needed to get it built?
It was a real slog. Week in, week out, we were chasing the pounds and trying to think of new ways to engage with people. At times, it felt like we’d never get there, but we had some great support from small local businesses, Sir Alex Ferguson, Nottingham City Council and the great Nottinghamshire public. Watching the statue being unveiled in front of hundreds of fans and the two men’s families in May 2016 was one of the best moments of my life.

Who was James Logan, and why was it important to you to get him a gravestone?
James was a Scottish international who scored a hat trick to help Notts County win the 1894 FA Cup Final; the only time we’ve ever won it. He died of pneumonia aged 25 after getting wet through playing an away match. He was lost to history in an unmarked grave in Loughborough; myself and another Notts fan, Jimmy Willan, thought it was sad.

We contacted the council to locate the exact plot that he was laid to rest, and found a local stonemason who offered to provide the headstone at cost. We had a bit of history with fundraising, and £1000 didn’t seem too daunting, especially when Jimmy secured the support of a local company who agreed to pay half. In addition to the headstone, another Notts fan helped to create a new road sign for James Logan Way, the road that leads to Loughborough FC. These two memorials were unveiled on 25 May 2016, exactly 120 years to the day that James passed away. It was a wrong put right by Notts fans.

Tell us about your research on the Notts County and Juventus links?
I was interested in the connection between Notts County and Juventus, and was aware from my visits to the Juventus Museum that there was a piece about a man called “John” Savage. I wanted to learn more about him and how the two clubs became connected through the black and white stripes.

I’m friends with the husband of Herbert Kilpin’s great niece, a chap called Roger Stirland. He loves genealogy and I set him the task of helping me trace “John” Savage, but we could only locate someone called Tom Savage, who had two sons in Turin. We eventually realised he was the right man, and for all these years people had got his name wrong. From here, we managed to trace Tom’s granddaughter, Athalie, who’s 91, her son Alastair, who had flown in from South Africa, and her daughter, Anna. They knew of the story and were absolutely delighted that we were doing something to correct the history books.

How did Juventus react?
They were fantastic and determined to correct the error.  We planned a trip to see them play Genoa on the anniversary of Tom’s death, and they invited myself and Alastair to join them as the guests of Andrea Agnelli [the Juventus chairman]. They broadcast the unveiling of the corrected name from the museum with Tom’s family present, and we shared the day with other Notts supporters and Italian Magpies. It was another proud day in our black and white history.  

Tell us about the friendships that’ve been forged between Notts County and Juventus fans...
The Italian Magpies is a group that was started by my friend, Giorgio Zunino; a Juventus fan who decided he wanted to create something to provide other Juventus supporters with the opportunity to share the connection we’d made. We share a passion for our football clubs and our connection through history. It started out as online conversations in 2009, and our first meeting was at the opening ceremony of the Juventus Stadium in September 2011. Since then, the friendships have flourished and the connections have grown, and we visit each other’s clubs once a year. We’ve become family. If they’re over here, we make sure we take them to some local landmarks and for a few drinks before and after the game. They do the same when we’re in Italy and help to get us tickets for the games, which can be hard to come by.

Are there any more awesome community things that you do?
We’re currently trying to get a plaque on the Mercure Hotel [formerly the George Hotel] in George Street, to acknowledge the formation of Notts County there. We’re also planning to raise funds to renovate the derelict chapel in Basford cemetery, to protect the grade two listed building, create a community space and a little museum for our local regiments, the Sherwood Foresters. On a personal note, I want to add another 7,000 lights to the tree in my front garden to spread a little joy at Christmas. When that happens, I’ll have 14,000 lights in total.

Find out more about the Italian Magpies in the LeftLion short film, Two Hearts, One Soul available on leftlion.co.uk and YouTube.

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