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Monday, 12 September 2011

The View Outside The Premier League: Notts County's Great Week

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It's been a long time since Notts County were in the top flight but anyone who understands the history of football knows the place the Magpies have in the game's tradition. That's why the squad were playing Juventus in midweek.

Juve play in black and white shirts because their original coloured ones ran in the wash and always ended up shabby. A contact in England got hold of some County shirts and the Turin giants have been black and white ever since.

When Juve were looking for opposition to inaugurate their new stadium, Notts County received the call and the Magpies didn't let themselves down - a late Lee Hughes goal gave them a 1-1 result and the perfect boost for this weekend's encounter with Walsall.

Inevitably, Hughes was on the scoresheet in County's 2-1 win - a satisfying goal for an ex-West Bromwich Albion player who was born in Birmingham. In his spell in Nottingham the veteran striker has 46 goals in 77 League games - a tremendous record.

Hughes has scored at nearly a goal every other game in his career - one that was curtailed by a period in prison for a motoring incident which took the life of a passenger in another vehicle. The striker compounded the offence by leaving the scene of the accident.

After serving his sentence, Oldham offered Hughes a way back to professional soccer; now he appears settled at County and with on loan Christian Montano, the Magpies have a real goal threat.

The atmosphere at Meadow Lane is far more settled after the soap opera that brought Sven-Goran Eriksson, Sol Campbell (briefly) and sundry other characters to this corner of the East Midlands. After promotion in 2010 the Magpies just held on to a League One berth last season but they have started this campaign much more brightly.


Easy to identify the surprise result of the weekend; Crawley Town had taken to League Two football with aplomb, so their 6-0 drubbing at Morecambe came out of the blue. The home side are now up at the top after spending last season hovering perilously close to relegation.

Now there's renewed energy under Jim Bentley and the manager's signings have pepped the club up, especially Danny Carlton from Bury. Like so many clubs, a move to a new stadium seemed to deflate the Shrimps - Christie Park saw some great games over the years but this stellar result will hopefully be a turning point in the history of  the Globe Arena.


Worrying times for Burnley fans as Middlesbrough took all three points from Turf Moor; that leaves Eddie Howe's team without a home win in three games and even home victories in the Carling Cup over lower league opposition have been less than convincing.

Fortress Turf Moor was the bedrock of the Clarets' sterling effort during their Premiership season but teams are no longer so frightened of a trip to that part of East Lancashire. The fans are still passionate but the squad has definitely thinned in quality since relegation. The losses of Chris Eagles and Wade Elliott were especially felt over the summer. It's a tough baptism at this level for Howe, but he did wonders with little money at Bournemouth and still has time to make his mark at Burnley.


Birmingham City have made a slow start to the season but a 3-0 win over Millwall should kick start their campaign. Even more than most relegated sides, the Blues have suffered a huge hangover from 2010/11 simply because the drop was unexpected and came after winning the Carling Cup.

The team sleepwalked into the drop zone and then manager Alex McLeish jumped ship to Aston Villa. Nine of the 14 players on duty at Wembley in February when Arsenal were beaten have also departed. The rebuilding job has been considerable, but Blues still have a decent squad at their disposal and Chris Hughton knows what it takes to get out of the Championship.

One of Hughton's big concerns is how much attention to give to the Europa League. Back in March it looked like a great reward for cup success but it now has the potential to derail a promotion campaign. Hughton's balancing act begins again in midweek against Sporting Braga.

Remember to read Hugh's latest views on life outside of the Premier League every Monday at

Related Articles:

MK Dons' title challenge is looking strong

Middlesbrough make statement of intent

Yeovil are up for the fight

Blackpool's Super Kevin Phillips has still got it


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Hugh Larkin



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