In the empty, soulless Northern Echo arena that is home to Darlington football club, a pocket of supporters behind the goal are celebrating with the chant “Championes, Championes, ole, ole, ole”. The travelling Notts County fans have just seen their side brush aside the Quakers by five goals to nil, and with it the League Two trophy is coming back with them to Meadow Lane.
As manager Steve Cotterill joins in the celebrations with the fans and players, Colin Slater, the legendary Magpies commentator for BBC Radio Nottingham, is in the press box describing the scenes to the listeners back home in Nottingham and afar. Slater goes on record to praise the staff, and most importantly the man who has taken Notts over the finish line and into League One with just the one defeat in his eight games in charge.
“I think the results speak for themselves,” said Slater, “I don’t think anyone should have the slightest doubt that Steve Cotterill’s appointment was a masterstroke by the board of directors, headed by Ray Trew.
“He has proved by his results, in a results business, that he is the man for the job.”
And if you’re to believe anyone, than it has to be Colin Slater who has become known as ‘Mr Notts County’ after covering the Magpies for the last 50 years. After covering his first County game in 1959, even Slater who has seen Notts rise and plummet through the leagues, was for once left speechless, as Notts grabbed the headlines in all the newspapers in the country when it emerged that former England manager Sven Goran-Eriksson was joining the Munto Finance revolution at Meadow Lane at the start of this season.
However, Slater remained professional as he broke the news to the world.
“I vividly remember the Monday morning when I received a call from somebody telling me that Sven would be coming in as Director of Football the following day.
“I trusted the person who rang me and I knew he wouldn’t be misleading me, so I was the only journalist in town who knew that Sven would be joining. I then had the rather curious situation of going onto Radio 5 Live and Sky Sports News to answer the questions no one knew the answers to.”
The day Eriksson arrived in Nottingham rocked the footballing world. And the man with the microphone at Meadow Lane has admitted the press conference that announced the arrival of the Swede at the club is an experience he will never forget.
Said Slater: “I have never seen a press conference like it in all my 50 years of experience. The 1862 suite was packed out with journalists from every part of the UK as well as reporters from overseas.
“There were also Television crew’s, photographers and other writers there and anyone who was a part of that press conference will never ever forget that day.
“When Sven was actually there sitting down at Meadow Lane, it put Notts County back on the map.”
The Munto dream was in full swing when the Magpies signed Sol Campbell, but that dream turned sour when the former England defender left after just one appearance and shortly after that Munto Finance severed ties with the club, leaving Notts with huge debts.
Slater has praised the work of the Chairman Ray Trew and his Board of Directors, since joining the club in February. The former Lincoln City owner has admitted the club are working under the League Two wage cap, and is looking for the club to progress, something that Slater believes is key for the future of Notts County.
“It was Ray Trew’s personal decision that the club would not go into administration. They have certainly brought stability in the short period that they have been at the helm of the club and they are working slowly but surely to satisfy the creditors and keep Notts County on an even keel.
“The challenge will be to keep the club on this even keel, and perhaps investing in the squad so that there is more success on the field of play for the fans to look forward to.”
Before working at BBC Radio Nottingham, Slater had worked as a journalist at covering the Magpies for the Nottingham Evening Post. Throughout that time it has been mainly city rivals Nottingham Forest who have had the majority of the media coverage in the city, but Slater admits it has been refreshing to see County with a lot of coverage after having what he describes as ‘one of the most exciting seasons in the club’s history’.
Slater said: “It has been one of the most exciting seasons since I have been reporting on Notts. In my first full season in 1959/60 we won promotion so that was a good start to my career in Nottingham, and the promotions under Jimmy Sirrel and Howard Wilkinson are up there too.
“The two seasons under Neil Warnock via the Wembley play-offs were memorable, and working at Wembley is an experience you would give your high teeth for really. There have been other exciting seasons, but this one is as exciting as ever.”
The rollercoaster ride that has occurred this season at Meadow Lane has at least had a happy ending, for a man who more than deserves it. Let’s just hope that as Colin Slater takes his place in the press box next season, he is describing scenes similar to those witnessed at the Northern Echo Darlington Arena last week.
Written By Jonathon Ogle