Al Needham observes the turbulence at Meadow Lane from the other side of the river
When it was announced in the summer that Notts County’s Supporters Trust had given their stripy monochrome cow of a club away to Munto Finance in exchange for a fistful of magic beans, the immediate reaction on the south side of the Trent was genuinely positive. If ever any club needed a sugar daddy, it was them. The thought of a proper cross-town rivalry was an exceedingly tempting one. And as a friend of mine said: “So what if they ended up in the Premier League while we fell out of the League? We’d still be patting them on the heads and saying ‘Are you in Europe, then? Good on yer, duck’ while we were playing Ilkeston Town.”
Although there were a sizable amount of County fans who felt decidedly dodgy about the new dawn (and have been proven right all the way down the line), the vast majority of Forest supporters shall recall the summer of 2009 as time spent at barbeques and in beer gardens, being harangued by freshly-minted (in wealth and number) County brethren. They seemed to view the prospect of becoming one of the dominant clubs in England as nothing more than a pleasant by-product of grinding Forest under their heels.
Of all the rumours that were bandied about Nottingham at the time (and there were hundreds of them), the one that appeared to sum up the mood went something like this, “Peter Trembling’s son came home one time wearing a Forest shirt, and he ripped it off his back and set fire to it”. As Jared Wilson wrote in local magazine LeftLion: “Screw the Premier League and sod the Champions League. All we want as Notts fans is not be patronised any more by the team we still see as our biggest rivals. Nothing is more infuriating to a Notts fan than the thought of a dyed-in-the-wool Forest fan turning up to Meadow Lane to ‘cheer us on’. I look forward to a day when Forest fans once again stand united in singing hateful songs about us like we have done to them over the last decade.”
And then, as the season started, the strangest thing happened: Notts County started to behave like Happy Shopper Chelsea. You know all about the attempted screwing over of the rugby club who shared a ground with them, the drafting in of a man who has proven time and again that he would accept a job sitting behind me and pointing at the laptop while I played Football Manager if the money was right, and the club badge with the logo of Swiss Commodity Holding slap in the middle. But the one thing that summed up the disgusting tonguing of corporate arse was created by Jimmy Willan – the unofficial songwriter of the club whose County’s The Team For Me was described as the worst single ever by none other that Noel Edmonds – a new song called Come On Munto, Make Our Day, a positively Shuttleworthian blast of Calypso hubris.
County fans of a more delusional hue stated time and again that the future was going to be a rollercoaster ride. If so, then the majority of Forest supporters have been standing by the hot dog stand, trying to scream at them that much of the track had been constructed with a tissue of lies, only for the riders to flick V-signs back and shout “Jealous?”
The general legacy of the Munto era is that there has never been more needle between the two clubs, but with the real possibility that they will never meet on a level playing field again. While Forest have taken the rare opportunity of being the underreported club to quietly ensconce themselves in the Championship play-off zone, Notts are casting round for another saviour and fretting about point deductions. Last time they were on the verge of oblivion, many Forest fans were only too happy to fill a collection bucket and even buy into the Supporters Trust. Now, the general attitude is “You’ll not get a penny from me”. So Munto came through on at least one of their promises – being patronised by Forest supporters is now the least of County’s worries.
From WSC 276 February 2010