Nottingham Football Clubs and Stadiums

Meadow Lane & City Ground From Above
Meadow Lane & City Ground From Above

Here’s a fact that will blow your mind if you didn’t already know it: despite boasting the likes of Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea, London as a city has less European Cups to its name than Nottingham. A city that has a population of over eight million and boasts thirteen top-level football clubs has won Europe’s premier competition one time less than a city with a population of less than one million and only two football clubs of note within its boundary. You’ve got to love that sort of thing.

The interesting thing about Nottingham as a city is that the two clubs are based a stone’s throw away from each other, yet the rivalry isn’t really that strong or noteworthy. That’s not to suggest that the two clubs like each other, they definitely don’t. Just that the dislike isn’t as strong as that between, for example, Nottingham Forest and Derby County or Leicester City. That in spite of the fact that Derby is fourteen miles away, Leicester more than double that and Notts County around half a mile away.

Adding markers to the map ...

Football Stadiums in Nottingham

Stadium Capacity Team League
Meadow Lane 19,841 Notts County National League
The City Ground 30,445 Nottingham Forest Championship

Nottingham Forest - City Ground (1.32 Miles to Theatre Royal Concert Hall)

City Ground
By The original uploader was Nffcchris at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Forest as a club was established in 1865, they were founding members of both the Football Alliance in 1889 and the Football League just three years later. You’d have been forgiven for thinking that they’d have a bright future in front of them when they won the FA Cup in 1898 and to some extent you’d have been right. Yet they only won that particular trophy one more time, in 1959, and have only managed to pick up one top-flight championship so far in their existence, something that they achieved in 1978. That was during the renowned management of Brian Clough, the man who also helped the Reds to lift those two European Cups mentioned before.

That success sets Forest apart from Notts County, their city rivals, with the Magpies only having won a solitary FA Cup during their existence. Mutual success breeds mutual dislike, with each club seen as a threat to the other. For Forest, there’s never really been anything to fear in Notts County, with the two sides having been in different divisions to each other since 1995. As is so often the case, the rivalry between the clubs has become quite bad-blooded in recent years as younger supporters feel that they’re perhaps 'supposed' to dislike each other. Violence erupted after a friendly match between the sides back in 2007 and fans from each team took part in a 'brawl' that was pre-arranged in 2017. This doesn’t reflect the history of the rivalry, which is quite odd.

A far more fierce rivalry has long existed between Nottingham Forest and Derby County, based at least partly around the fact that Brian Clough managed both teams. In fact, since 2007 the 'Brian Clough Trophy' has been awarded to the side that has won the East Midlands Derby between the two sides. Though the two sides are located reasonably close to each other, it is the sense of 'ownership' over Clough’s loyalty that made the rivalry so intense back in the 1970s. In more recent times it hasn’t been helped by Billy Davies, a former Derby County manager, being appointed as Forest boss and Nigel Clough, Brian’s son, taking over as the manager of the Rams.

A similar rivalry exists between Nottingham and another East Midlands side, Leicester City. In 1909 Leicester lost 12-0 to Forest and the performance was that bad that the Football League decided to investigate matters. The investigation was abandoned, however, when it turned out that one of the Leicester players had got married the day before the game and most of other members of the squad were hungover from the celebrations! History could have been different between the two sides had Forest been able to hold on when the two clubs went head-to-head for a place in the Championship play-offs in 2013. It was 2-2 until late into injury time when Leicester scored, making the play-offs. They didn’t gain promotion but the following season they used their experience to win the league outright and gain promotion to the Premier League. Two years after that the Foxes made history by winning the top-flight against all expectations.

Notts County - Meadow Lane (1.02 Miles to Theatre Royal Concert Hall)

During its existence, Notts County Football Club has spent thirty years in total in the top-flight of the Football League system. Not bad, to be fair, but still less than they’ve spent in both the second division (37 years) and the third level (33 years). That should give you some indication as to where about in the grand scheme of things Notts County is seen when it comes to footballing ability. They’re not a bad club, they’re just not a particularly good one either. In fact, they have gained promotion between leagues thirteen times and suffered relegation on sixteen occasions, meaning that they have changed divisions more times than any other club.

That changing of divisions is, as mentioned before, a big part of the reason why there’s not much of a rivalry between the Rams and Nottingham Forest. A lack of success combined with not often playing against each other has meant that any bitterness between the two clubs has ebbed away. That’s the sort of thing that now amount of physical proximity can change. Instead the club has developed a rivalry during its time in the lower divisions of the Football League with nearby Mansfield Town. They’ve also similar enmity towards Derby County and Leicester City, the same as Forest, plus local teams Lincoln City and Chesterfield.

Though County don’t boast the same success as their neighbours in terms of trophies, they do have a claim to fame that is worth a mention. Their kit was originally amber and black in a hooped style before they changed to black and white stripes in 1890. Italian club Juventus, meanwhile, used to play in a pink top that would fade wish washing. They asked their player, John Savage, if he knew of any way to get shirts in bulk from his native England. A friend of his lived in Nottingham and was a Notts County supporter, so he sent through a load of Rams shirts and Juve have played in black and white ever since. In fact, the Italian giants invited Derby County to play a friendly game when they opened their new stadium in 2011.