The day a journalist had to change his trousers - Carl Marston's Travels with Town

PUBLISHED: 17:17 21 July 2019 | UPDATED: 08:24 23 July 2019

Meadow Lane, the home of Notts County, the oldest professional football club in the world. Picture: PA

Meadow Lane, the home of Notts County, the oldest professional football club in the world. Picture: PA

PA Archive/PA Images

Football writer Carl Marston has visited 120 Football League grounds over the last 30 years, many of them reporting on Ipswich. Here he puts on his best clothes for trips to Meadow Lane

Pablo Counago equalises from the penalty spot in Ipswich Town's 2-1 defeat at Notts County in 2003. Picture: PAGEPIXPablo Counago equalises from the penalty spot in Ipswich Town's 2-1 defeat at Notts County in 2003. Picture: PAGEPIX

There was one press box in particular, from up and down the country, where I would always ensure I wore my best trousers, and sometimes even a tie.

Where was that, I hear you ask?

Perhaps the posh surroundings of Old Trafford, Anfield, Stamford Bridge or the Emirates? Sensible guesses, all of them.

Or maybe the Etihad, Villa Park or Craven Cottage? Again, plausible answers.

Pablo Counago rues another missed chance during Town's 2-1 defeat at Notts County in the League Cup, from 16 years ago. Picture: JASON CAIRNDUFFPablo Counago rues another missed chance during Town's 2-1 defeat at Notts County in the League Cup, from 16 years ago. Picture: JASON CAIRNDUFF

And yet the press box in question, where I used to make sure I donned at least a decent shirt (with collar) and trousers, will not even be hosting Football League action this coming season.

Meadow Lane, the home of Notts County, is a place steeped in history and , more to the point, the destination of Ipswich Town for their next pre-season friendly, on Tuesday evening (7pm).

I have always been acutely aware of this famous club's distinguished past, on my many visits to this particular bank (north bank) of the River Trent, situated just 300 yards away from Nottingham Forest's City Ground, which lies south of the river.

Founded in 1862, Notts County is the oldest professional football club in the world, predating even the Football Association, that most popular of institutions.

Sam Morrow, in what was his one and only appearance for Town, heads wide with a great chance to level things up at Meadow Lane, in 2003.Sam Morrow, in what was his one and only appearance for Town, heads wide with a great chance to level things up at Meadow Lane, in 2003.

- Penalties, glorious defeat and a long night at Anfield - Carl Marston's Travels with Town

The Magpies went on to become founder members of the Football League, in 1888, finished as high as third in the top flight in 1890-91 (that remains their highest finish) and won the FA Cup in 1894, when they beat Bolton in the final.

The final result at Meadow Lane in the Carling Cup match of 16 years ago.The final result at Meadow Lane in the Carling Cup match of 16 years ago.

With the exception of one year, they were ever-present in the First Division from 1897 to 1920, and again spent three seasons in the top flight in the early 1980s.

Neil Warnock, the football equivalent of a magician, guided County to successive play-off promotions in 1990 and '91 to propel the famous old club back into the top tier. Alas, they were relegated the next year, and so missed out on playing in the first Premier League season (1992-93).

All well and good, but what were all the worries with my wardrobe?

All will be revealed, or rather kept fully-clothed, at the end of this column.

The low-down

Ground: Meadow Lane

Club: Notts County

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Town's first visit: 2-1 defeat on Oct 22, 1938 (Division Three South)

Town's last visit: 2-1 defeat on Sept 23, 2003 (Carling Cup)

Town's overall record at Meadow Lane: P12 W 6 D0 L6

Quirky fact: When County moved to Meadow Lane in 1910, a temporary stand was used from their old home at Trent Bridge, the structure being literally floated across the river!

Carl's visit

September 23, 2003: Town bowed out of the League Cup in the second round, with all the main action squeezed into the first 10 minutes of a 2-1 defeat, played out in front of a crowd of just 4,059.

After Simon Baldry had put the Magpies in front on two minutes, fans' favourite Pablo Counago seemed to have got Town back on track with a cool penalty in the sixth minute, only for the hosts to win the game just four minutes later through a penalty of their own, netted by Mark Stallard.

If nothing else, the match highlighted the importance of arriving on time!

Carl's experience

Smart casual dress - that's my policy whenever I head for Meadow Lane. It doesn't really apply now, but back in the 1990s I recall a fellow journalist being refused entry to the press lounge, because he was wearing a pair of tracksuit bottoms.

Journalists occupied the same area of the stadium frequented by the club's directors, board members and VIP guests, so that's why I suppose there was the measure of a dress-code.

- Snagged sweater and a terrible record at Layer Road - Carl Marston's Travels with Town

I passed the 'dress test,' because more by luck rather than judgement I had chosen to wear a smart pair of strides that day.

My fellow hack was not so fortunate, and in the end he had to borrow a pair of trousers for the duration of the match, supplied to him by the club.

So that from day, I have always made sure I have respectable trousers, and even a tie, whenever I roll up at Notts County.

But there is a footnote to this tale.

On one of my later visits, I bumped into the imposing figure of Brian Kilcline, a former Notts County centre-half renowned for his long hair and moustache. He had retired from professional football and was working for the media - he still had his long hair, and he was wearing tracksuit bottoms. Yet no on bat an eyelid.

I guess it was one rule for one, and one rule for ..... a powerfully-built local football legend.

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