Notts County finally get back to where they belong

It would have been a sporting disgrace if Notts County had not won promotion… the oldest club in the Football League are back where they belong

  • County won a dramatic penalty shootout against Chesterfield on Saturday
  • Chesterfield manager Paul Cook echoed views that they should have gone up
  • County had a framed picture of Jason Turner, who died in March, with them

It was perhaps the words of devastated Chesterfield manager Paul Cook which summed up the situation best. ‘To get 107 points and not be promoted would have been a sporting disgrace,’ said the Spireites boss.

He was talking with a fair dose of frustration following his side’s play-off final penalty shootout loss and his sentiment was politically charged, suggesting that only one automatic promotion place from the National League is the bigger football world ‘looking after themselves’.

Cook is quite right. It would have been a sporting disgrace if a Notts County team who amassed 107 points, suffered just three losses all season and boasted a 42-goal striker did not win promotion. But they of all sides know better than most that justice is not always served in football.

With a proud history of being the oldest club in the Football League — a status now restored after promotion — County have had their fair share of disappointment. The previous five seasons, as an example, served up one relegation and four play-off disappointments. What goes around comes around, they say — but clearly not for Notts. Until now.

Luck is earned in football and, after the last five years, Luke Williams’ side clearly deserved theirs. Against Boreham Wood in the semi-final, they needed a 97th-minute equaliser and 120th-minute winner.

Notts County achieved promotion back to the Football League on Saturday afternoon

They beat Chesterfield on penalties after amassing 107 points in the regular league season

Even Chesterfield manager Paul Cook admitted it would have been a ‘disgrace’ if the side had not been promoted

Across the whole play-offs, the only time they led a game was those final seconds at Meadow Lane against Boreham Wood.

So with their record-breaking season facing another brutal ending, what did Williams and his players do for inspiration? While opposition manager Cook spent the penalty shootout in the dressing room due to nerves, County brought out their emotional motivation.

As players and staff stood arm-in-arm on Wembley’s touchline, County’s entourage had a framed picture of Jason Turner with them, an image which also filled a banner in the top tier. The much-loved CEO, who died suddenly in March, was quite literally looking down on his team.

‘When you meet someone like Jason who was just like constant support, and a great person who helped me to transition and left a massive mark on me, there’s no question we all bonded by the way we felt about the man,’ said Williams, who had a picture of Turner on his T-shirt.

The fine margins of winning could have era-defining consequences. If they lost, their best players might have left this summer.

On the possibility of keeping the likes of ‘non-League Haaland’ Macaulay Langstaff and Ruben Rodrigues, Williams said: ‘Now we can fend off opponents who aren’t offering a life-changing contract. We can survive those offers.’

And Williams added: ‘It feels like a club that is building momentum and trying to improve year on year. Now we can see if we can climb the Football League.’

County had a photo of Jason Turner – their much-loved CEO who died in March – with them

Manager Luke Williams (right), who had a picture of Turner on his T-short, said he ‘left a massive mark’ on him

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