Notts County - Club History

Last updated : 12 April 2024 By Notts County Mad
Notts County, the oldest football league club in the world, were formed on 28th November 1862, and officially in 1864 when they became known as 'Notts. Foot Ball Club'.

During the early 1880s, County became one of the finest teams in England, as they played friendly matches againshat clubs from across England and Scotland, before the formation of the Football League in 1888. One of 12 founder members of the league, Notts have remained there to this day. They were immediately successful, and in 1891 had one of their finest ever seasons as they finished third in the league and reached the FA Cup final, losing 3-1 to Blackburn Rovers at the Kensington Oval.

It wasn't a long wait for the club's one and only FA Cup win, however, as in 1894 they lifted the trophy as a Second Division team, the first side to achieve this feat, with a famous 4-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers. One of the club's first heroes was immortalised, with striker Jimmy Logan banging a hat-trick in the final to ensure the trophy came back to Nottingham.

Notts returned to the top division by winning Division Two in 1897, and in 1900 equalled their best ever league finish by coming 3rd in the top division. However, they were once again relegated in 1913, but bounced straight back by claiming their second Division Two title the following season.

After relegation in 1926, it would be a 55 year wait for the Magpies before they were able to return to the top division. In 1930 Notts were, for the first time, relegated to the third tier, but bounced straight back the following season as champions of Division Three South, but unfortunately relegation would once again follow in 1935.

As the World War saw football take a six year break between 1939 and 1946, Notts continued to reside in the third tier, but were able to play friendly and exhibition matches with guest players against local sides such as Nottingham Forest and Derby County.

In 1947, Notts saw the arrival of one of their most famous ever players, England international striker Tommy Lawton. The world of football was shocked when Lawton, then of the fashionable London club Chelsea, decided to leave to move to third division Notts County, for a then world record transfer fee. His arrival at Meadow Lane saw a huge rise in the club's attendances, with over 40,000 turning up at Meadow Lane on a number of occasions during the era of Lawton, and other greats such as Jackie Sewell.

Notts finally returned to Division Two after a long wait in 1950, and by 1955 the club were recording their record attendance of 47,000 for an FA Cup Sixth Round tie at Meadow Lane against York City. Unfortunately, the Magpies were soon relegated to Division Three, and after another disastrous season, were instantly relegated to the Fourth Tier of English football for the first time. In 1968 the club hit rock bottom of the whole Football League, a position that wasn't to be occupied again until the Gary Mills era at Meadow Lane.

The club's most successful era ever was, however, on the horizon with the arrival of now legendary Scottish manager Jimmy Sirrel, universally regarded as the club's greatest ever. Throughout the 1970's Sirrel masterminded a rise through the division, and in 1981 the club were promoted back to Division One thanks to a memorable victory away at Chelsea. Sirrel's era saw many of County's greatest ever players, the likes of Don Masson, Brian Stubbs, Dave Needham and the club's record goalscorer, Les Bradd, who struck 124 goals in County colours.

On the opening days of the season in 1981, in their first season in the top flight, Notts stunned the football world by winning 1-0 at Villa Park, the home of the newly crowned champions, defeating a side who would go on to life the European Cup that season. More great games were experienced in the 1981/82 season, including a memorable 2-0 win at the City Ground over arch rivals Nottingham Forest, while new signings John Chiedozie and Rachid Harkouk continued to get fans excited, as Notts ended the season in 15th place, booking another year in the top flight.

The following season Notts finished in mid-table again, and to fans' dismay Sirrel was to leave the club, and the next season Notts were relegated, before going down again back to the third tier the following campaign.

In 1987, Derek Pavis was to buy the club, and embark upon a new era at Meadow Lane, ending the financial strife that had nearly forced the club into liquidation over the previous years. Pavis splashed out on famous names such as Gary Mills, Andy Gray and Gary Birtles, but the club failed to earn promotion as they were defeated in the play-off semis by Walsall.

It was 1989 when the good times to return, with Pavis shocking many by opting to appoint rookie Scarborough boss Neil Warnock as the club's new manager. Warnock galvanised the squad and the side finished 3rd, narrowly missing out on automatic promotion, but this was not to matter as Notts beat Tranmere Rovers 2-0 in their first ever visit to Wembley, thanks to goals from Tommy Johnson and Craig Short.

The next season saw more Warnock magic at Meadow Lane, with the club earning stunning back-to-back promotions, again through the play-offs as a semi-final win over Middlesbrough and a 3-1 victory over Brighton at Wembley saw Notts promoted back to the top flight. It was also to be a memorable season in the FA Cup, with a late Gary Lund goal ensuring a stunning 5th round victory over Manchester City at a snowy Meadow Lane. The BBC cameras were at White Hart Lane for the 6th round tie at Spurs, but despite a Don O'Riordan wondergoal giving the Magpies the lead, they were eventually beaten 2-1 by a Paul Gascoigne-inspired Tottenham.

In the top flight, the club battled for survival, but despite spending £750,000 on the club's record signing Tony Agana, the club were narrowly relegated from the top flight, missing out on the newly found Premiership riches that would've come with survival. 

In 1995, the club lifted the Anglo-Italian Cup at Wembley thanks to victory over Ascoli, and also recorded a Coca-Cola Cup victory over Premiership side Tottenham Hotspur at Meadow Lane, inflicting a humiliating 3-0 defeat on the giants, but despite this the club were relegated in the summer. In 1996 the club came close to an instant return, but after leading the division at one point the club went into the play-offs in a bad run, and Colin Murphy and Steve Thompson saw their side defeated at Wembley by Bradford City, before they left the club the next season, deserting a sinking ship that was to capsize into Division Three, under the guidance of new manager Sam Allardyce who failed to lead the club to a victory in the final 20 games of the season.

Pavis stuck by Allardyce though, and it was to be a shrewd division as 'Big Sam' and his side smashed all records the next season as they were crowned Division Three champions, by a monumental 19 points. Allardyce left in 1999 under a cloud to join Bolton Wanderers, and the Championship winning side was broken up, with Jermaine Pennant leaving for Arsenal for a then world record transfer fee for a teenager.

Billy Dearden arrived at the club from Mansfield Town in 2002, but knew little of the job he had just walked into, with administration looming over the club after the expensive signings of the likes of Tony Hackworth and Steve Mildenhall, thanks to the lavish spending of Albert Scardino and Peter Storrie. The club was saved from administration after a record 18 months, but the club was set to be relegated back to the fourth tier and Dearden was to leave to be replaced by former player Gary Mills, who was unable to save the club from relegation.

Mills endured a disastrous reign at the club, and had lead the Magpies to the bottom of the Football League before he finally left the club in 2004 after a 5-1 defeat at Rushden & Diamonds, to be replaced by player-manager Ian Richardson. He was replaced at the end of the season by Icelander Gudjon Thordarson, but he also endured a troubled time at the club, and left after only guiding the Magpies to League Two safety on the final day of the season with a late draw against Bury at Meadow Lane. Steve Thompson was to return for a second spell at the club, but he failed to win over the fans who remembered his poor first spell during the 1990's, and he was sacked after a 3-1 home defeat to Bury, to be replaced by Ian McParland who remains the club's manager today.