The Meadow Lane rumour mill was once again in full swing on Saturday afternoon.
Word had spread that the following afternoon, a huge announcement was to be made by the club. It was described by Ray Trew as “momentous”. If you were quiet long enough, you could just about hear the collective cogs of over 6,000 minds turning trying to figure out what the surprise was.
Had we secured the marquee striker? Was new investment on it’s way? The most common suggestion though was just maybe the club had clinched the friendly with Juventus next Summer to mark Notts County’s 150th centenary celebrations.
Staff at the club were giving nothing away. Not even the slightest of hints, much to my frustration.
Come early Sunday afternoon, and a text comes through on my phone asking if i’d seen the news – that we were playing Juventus. Really good news I thought, the club had succeeded in getting Juventus to come to Meadow Lane in a few month’s time, what a day that could be! The next message simply said “Sept 8, to open their new stadium”.
Surely some mistake? Notts County would be travelling to Turin for the opening of Juventus’ new 41,000-seater stadium? What of Manchester United? Barcelona? Real Madrid? Chelsea?
NOTTS COUNTY?! Just seemed so bizarre!
The Italians acknowledge the impact our club has on their history, they after all did adopt our very own black and white stripes. Putting tradition ahead of guaranteed revenue is something you scarcely get from the world’s elite clubs in the modern age – credit to Juve for this.
The Notts Facebook page was immediately inundanted with messages of goodwill from Juve fans, all brimming with excitement and sincerity that our little outfit would be gracing their new home. These messages continue to be posted nearly 48 hours since the news broke.
In stark contrast, the first reply from a County fan was simply: “Is this the big news?”
Seems being invited to the house warming party of one of the biggest clubs in the world isn’t enough for some. But then certainly, there are reasons to be concerned.
The match will be played out just 43 hours before an nPower League One game with Walsall at Meadow Lane – which itself is mere days before an eight hour roundtrip away to Exeter City in midweek. For a club that many thought were hampered by a congested schedule at the tail of last season – the club aren’t making things easy at the beginning of this one!
Irrelevant as it is, i’d still back a heavily-reinforced Notts side to topple Walsall anyway – just saying.
We’d all put league points ahead of a friendly match. That’s a given. But look at the situation. We’re a tiny third division side, who let’s face it will never be pushing for a European place. When will Notts County FC, it’s board, it’s players, it’s backroom staff and it’s supporters ever see an opportunity like this again?
There are no words that come close to describing how privileged Notts and it’s fans should feel that their club have been approached to take part in such a special event in a massive club’s history.
Can you picture Manchester United fans jumping for joy at the prospect of opening a new stadium playing host to a third tier side? Obviously you can’t – yet that’s the greeting we have been afforded thus far. The Italians are genuinely excited to see Notts County play. That’s incredible in itself.
Of course there’s the question about distractions. There are still four fixtures in the league between now and Turin – starting tonight with Tranmere Rovers. Days since the epic announcement, we’ll get our first chance to see if minds might wander elsewhere.
Saturday it’s a trip to Sheffield Wednesday, followed a week later being back on the road to Preston North End. Two of the trickier away ties we’ll face this year. Bournemouth come to Meadow Lane for the last game before the European excursion – it’s certainly not a time for players to have their minds in mainland Europe right now.
Obviously Martin Allen isn’t stupid, he’ll know this and will be on his guard constantly to ensure this isn’t the case.
Of course, in agreeing to play the game, it leaves us every chance that Juventus could still come to Meadow Lane in the Summer for those centenary celebrations. A win/win situation then?
Either way, it certainly makes a mockery of the notion that Nottingham Forest last week were our cup final!