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Notts Alumni: Mark Draper

Joe Jones

As a football fan, it’s always a pleasure when a born-and-bred local lad is nurtured at your club, before making it to the upper echelons of the game.

It’s all the better when said player supports and loves that team too, and continues to give to the club and the community even after their playing career is over.

Mark Draper fits in this category one hundred per cent.

Born on the 11th November 1970 in Long Eaton, Draper was scouted by the Notts County academy as a youngster and progressed through the system, carving his name as a major talent throughout. During this time, he also studied at Wilsthorpe College in Long Eaton.

On Saturday 17th September 1988, the 17-year-old Draper made his debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers. He signed a professional contract three months later.

He quickly settled into the first team, becoming a regular in the Notts side during the 1988-89 season, and under Neil Warnock, thrived as the Magpies went on to achieve back to back promotions and make it to the hallowed top flight of English football. 1991 in particular was a great season for the midfielder, as he bagged nine goals to help him side reach the promised land.

Once in the top flight, perhaps it was a case of too much too soon for the young prodigy, as he couldn’t prevent Notts from being relegated in a tough First Division season, but in the 1992-93 edition, his 11 league goals helped the Magpies avoid back to back relegations and keep the club in the second tier.

Draper was a great passer of the ball and his forward runs were top class. It would only be a matter of time before the bigger clubs started sniffing around, particularly those who made up the nouveau riche Premier League.

After missing out on the play-offs in 1993-94, nobody could begrudge the talented youngster for wanting to ply his trade in the Premier League, and so he joined Leicester City in the close season for £1.25m – a record fee for the club at the time.

Draper spent the entire 1994–95 season at Filbert Street, playing 39 times in the top flight and scoring five goals, though it was not enough to prevent relegation for a side who were never out of the drop zone after November.

Fortunately for him, his performances for Leicester caught the eye of Aston Villa, who offered him a Premier League reprieve.

For the price of £3.25m, the Villans bagged themselves the talented midfielder, who would go on to star for the Birmingham outfit for the next four years, earning rave reviews and even being considered for the England team.

Sadly, he fell out of favour during the 1999-2000 season, appearing in just one game, and so decided to become one of a miniscule number of Englishmen to play in Spain, hooking up with Rayo Vallecano on loan.

In the close season, Southampton snapped him up for £1.5m, and remained with the Saints for three seasons before calling time on his career at the age of 33.

Draper’s love of football took him to play for several local non-league sides over the years, and in 2009, his love for Notts County led to him taking up a role at Meadow Lane at the club kitman. Just a year later, he told the Nottingham Evening Post: "Notts will always be my club because of the times we had here when I played. I grew up at the club. I was here from nine or ten years old so it's been a big part of my life."

Draper then took up a post with Stoke City Football Club as their Academy coach, and together with fellow ex-footballer David Norton, he runs Draper Norton Football, a football coaching enterprise for children based in Nottingham.

Put simply, Mark Draper is Notts County through and through, and will always be remembered as one of the greatest players to don the black and white stripes.

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One of the players I wished I had seen whilst wearing the Black & White shirt - Heard many good things about him, sometimes he seemed he was silent in games but he went on to show how good of a player he was.

Another ex player I've met a few times, great guy. :D

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My hero, with the rest of that generation. I was between 9 & 12 when we we're on the march to the 1st Div. and of course back down.

Good memories :D

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Pride of Nottingham is an independent fansite devoted to Notts County, the world’s oldest professional football club. Created in 2013, it has served as a source of Magpie news, features, match previews, reports, analysis and interviews for more than three years.

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