Football / Fan's Eye View: County's eccentric appeal: No 68 - Notts County

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ONE of the basic insights of Buddhism is that life is often painful. I am beginning to see a connection between a quite profound resonance with this teaching and my lifelong love of Notts County.

I well remember my first visit to Meadow Lane in, I think, 1962. We played Halifax, drew 0-0 in an awful game and I was besotted. Ducklings, when they emerge from the egg fixate on the first object they see. I have followed Notts ever since.

Love is blind and it is certainly not rational. I have visited the 'other place' as an admirer and seen some wonderful football played there but going to Forest has been like going to an art gallery. I go to Meadow Lane to worship.

Is it entirely irrational though? What did so attract me? The answer lies I think with the crowd. The people of Nottingham are lovely people. They are uncomplicated and amiable. These are two qualities which are positive assets as a Notts fan.

There has almost never been any aggressive, foul-mouthed chanting and posturing from fans on the terrace. An element tried it a few years ago but the regulars sent them packing. I think also that there has been an element of fortune in it, in that when yobbishness was coming into vogue Notts were so bad that they all went to Forest. So there we all stand (or rather sit now), a bunch of amiable eccentrics watching what has often seemed to be a bunch of, well, amiable eccentrics.

But not always. I swell with pride as I sit here and recall some great games, players and characters.

Above all the beloved Jimmy Sirrel. This little gnome of a man loved and was loved in return by the people of Nottingham. As straightforward as another local manager was otherwise, as friendly and approachable as the other was not. I admit I cried when he left Notts briefly to go to Sheffield United and I cried again on his return.

Like the fans he was uncomplicated and amiable but he also was rooted in the game and wise and wily. He produced teams that thrilled. Rebuilt them around what must be the greatest player ever to pull on a Notts County shirt, Don Masson.

He was one of those players who make the game a thing of beauty. A magician, a puppet master and a visionary. Promotions followed and I wept tears of joy. The moments listening to Radio Trent as the final whistle went at Chelsea and we were back in the First Division are a dream of unblemished happiness.

I still remember with awe a performance by Ian McCulloch on a Boxing Day when we beat Stoke 4-0. He absolutely took them to bits and when brought off after 70 minutes the whole ground just stood and applauded and roared its appreciation.

The time Les Bradd, a truly nice man, scored the goal that made him the club's leading scorer ever was similar. We just stood and clapped, and kept clapping in a show of gratitude for the pleasure he had given us.

I am an expat now, living in London, so I rarely see them but

always go to Wembley when they play there. Two play-off wins - wonderful.

What struck me on both occasions was that the fans and the players still have a wonderful rapport and that the good-natured eccentricity is alive and well. Who else would burst into a song about a wheelbarrow, for goodness sake?

At West Ham I sat amongst them again as we went out to a late, late winner from Lee Chapman in the cup.

This brings me back to pain. A minute of gut-wrenching disappointment followed by a rapturous salute of the team. No animosity to West Ham, a quick chorus of the wheelbarrow song, a shrug of the shoulders and the banter begins again.

Lovely people. Lovely club.

David Gilmour, Member of Eastern Buddhist Order