Welcome to week three of this WordPress.com weekly special where we are tracking the origins of British football. So far we have seen the formation of the oldest club in the world, Sheffield FC and the establishment of the national governing body, the Football Association. Today we’re going to switch our focus back to clubs and look at the oldest of the professional clubs in the world.

Notts County Football Club was formed in 1862 and is globally recognised as the oldest professional team out of all of the full time clubs in the world.

On the 28th November 1862, the Nottingham Guardian reported: “The opening of the Nottingham Football Club commenced on Tuesday last at Cremorne Gardens. A side was chosen by W.Arkwright and Chas. Deakin. A very spirited game resulted in the latter scoring two goals and two rouges against one and one.” This shows that Notts County predated the Football Association, therefore devising their own rules before joining the FA at the first opportunity and playing under the standardised national rules.

The club’s first home was in the grounds of Nottingham Castle at Park Hollow but having made the decision to play games against outside teams in December 1864 they realised they were going to need a bigger venue. After a long search a various temporary venue the club eventually decided that Trent Bridge Cricket Ground was the place where they wanted to settle and moved there in 1883. Soon after Trent Bridge became a full time cricket venue which meant that Notts County had to make another move.

Searching for a home was difficult and for a period The Magpies ending up back at the Castle Grounds as they waited for a venue which suited them. They also went through a period where they shared the Town Ground and City Ground with city rivals Nottingham Forest. Finally, in 1910, Meadow Lane became available and Notts County moved in and have stayed right up to the present day.

 In 1888 Notts County became one of the twelve founding members of the Football League. This brought structure to national football and the league system was well and truly established and began to grow at quite a rate. The club had to wait six year after the formation of the Football League for their first silverware, when in front of 37,000 supporters at Goodison Park, Everton, they lifted the FA Cup for the first and so far only time in their history. The 4-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers made County the first ever second division side to win the trophy.

The club had to wait even longer for their team to have a good run and make a real mark in the Football League. The start of the 1970’s is considered to have been their best period so far with Jimmy Sirrel at the helm. Having taken over at the start of the decade when Notts County laid in Division Four, Sirrel took the team and made a real impact and the decade proved to be the most successful of the club’s history, starting the 1980’s in Division One and recording a famous victory over Chelsea FC.

 After that win, three consecutive seasons in the top flight of British football followed but when the wage bills began to rise and commercialism to full hold of football, The Magpies were unable to keep up and the decline begun. Survival was to become difficult for the oldest professional football club in the world and various public pleas to fans and investors alike for money were often the case.

Through the turbulent periods where money was hard to come by for the club, support never dwindled and attendances at Meadow Lane have always stayed up. Supporters Trusts and many more officially affiliated organisations were set up in order to keep the club alive and there was a constant search for money and investment.

In 2009 it seemed that all of Notts County’s problems could have been solved when the business Munto Finance stepped in and bought the club, signalling their intentions straight away with the appointment of former England manager, Sven Goran-Eriksson as their number one. Money was flooding into the club and dreams began to reignite and the club had a special vibe of excitement around it once again.

However, as 2010 dawned, Munto Finance lost money, and the amount of support available for the club was minimal and the accountancy business was forced to sell up after a £500,000 winding up order was served by HM Revenue & Customs. The situation was so dire for Notts County that the club was eventually bought by Ray Trew for the lowly sum of £1. That one pound gave him the majority shareholding and overall control of the club; once the takeover was complete both Eriksson and all involved in Munto Finance resigned from the club and stepped down.

Trew managed to gain the services of former England international, Paul Ince as the manager and the club are starting to gain some momentum. Currently playing in the Npower Football League One, The Magpies are hovering around the mid-table mark and are starting to build a strong squad which they believe could eventually be able to challenge for promotion. The ultimate goal of the club at the moment is to try and restore pride to the oldest professional football club in the world.

Thank you very much once again for reading this series of football history.

Feel free to leave any comments; any feedback would be much appreciated.

Look forward to seeing you for next Friday’s instalment when we take a look at the formation of the Football League.

Have a great weekend, Notts County are away at Tranmere in a there o’clock kick off, keep your eye out for the score from the oldest professional football team in the world.

B H

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