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Recognising Notts County's role in Tottenham Hotspur history

Joe Jones

As the oldest Football League club in existence, Notts County have not only created history of their own, but they've also played a part in the history of other clubs.

By now all Notts fans will be well aware of the connection between the Magpies and Juventus, thanks to Nottingham man Tom Gordon Savage's procurement of shirts with black and white vertical stripes when he lived in Turin back in 1903.

But with Tottenham Hotspur saying goodbye to White Hart Lane this season as they prepare to move - via Wembley - to a brand new stadium, the focus has very much been on the now-dismantled ground's history.

And sure enough, Notts crop up there too, as they were the very first team to play against Spurs at White Hart Lane in the final year of the 19th century.

Logan Holmes of Spurs fansite Hotspur HQ writes: "On 4 September 1899, Tottenham played a friendly game against Notts County to mark the opening of their new ground. They have continued to play there ever since.

"The First Division club were the first visitors and 5,000 spectators were present. Notts took the lead through an own goal. Spurs inside right, Tom Pratt, brought them level by half-time and after the interval centre forward David Copeland completed a hat-trick, although for the last two goals County had been reduced to ten men as their goalkeeper was injured. County’s centre half, Walter Bull, who went in to goal, was to join Tottenham five years later.

"At that time the ground wasn’t known as White Hart Lane. It was only after the 1st World War that it took on that name. Before then it had been called ‘The High Road Ground’, although the club had favoured ‘Percy Park’ after Sir Henry Percy – Harry Hotspur.

"Prior to 1899 Tottenham had played at their Northumberland Park ground, having moved there in 1888 after originally playing their matches on Tottenham Marshes."

118 years later, White Hart Lane would host its final game as Spurs clinched a 2-1 win over the mighty Manchester United on 14 May 2017, dominating from start to finish.

And with the history of the ground the main focus of the day, Spurs had created special corner flags which boasted information of the first and last game at the Lane - one saying "14th May 2017" and featuring the Spurs and Man United badges, and the other saying "4th September 1899" and featuring the Spurs and Notts badges, with "To Dare Is To Do" written at the bottom of both.


Another historic White Hart Lane clash between the two teams took place on 10 March 1991, when Spurs hosted Notts in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

The Magpies put their opponents to the sword, Don O'Riordan putting the visitors ahead with a sensational rocket from outside the box and Mark Draper bossing the midfield to the point that he was upstaging a certain England international by the name of Paul Gascoigne - you may have heard of him.

However, Spurs came out invigorated in the second half as Craig Short deflected Nayim's effort into his own net, before Gascoigne - who should have been sent off after elbowing Paul Harding in the face, leaving him with a black eye - struck a clinical shot into the far corner with just seven minutes left in the game.

O'Riordan, scorer of County's superb first goal in that tie, paid a visit to White Hart Lane on the Monday to reminisce about his memories of the stadium.

He wrote: "Wonderful memories visiting White Hart Lane. Sadly couldn't get on the pitch to take a photo of the goal I scored in during the quarter final in 1991.

"Met two Spurs fans who supported the club for 35+ years and they remembered the goal which was amazing and agreed Gazza should have been red carded lol.

"Has to be one of the biggest highlights of my career. Funny the lads even knew the first Tottenham game in their history (at White Hart Lane) was against Notts."

He then talked about what happened the day after the match: "After we lost at Spurs, Neil (Warnock) had us in next day that was normally a rest day but he told the YTS lads to tell us to make sure we had our kit and trainers on.

"This normally would mean a running session but we ended up in the sponsors lounge and Neil and Mick Jones brought 2 cases of beer for us to consume and he said we can make Wembley again win promotion and sample the Spurs atmosphere every week in the 1st Division.

"We looked at each other and had another drink and wondered what he was on about but how could we doubt this guy. Sure enough we beat Brighton (in the playoffs) and the rest as we all know is history."

As Spurs wave goodbye to their home for 118 years and prepare to create new history, it's nice to know that Notts have played a part in some of it - and that clubs continue to pay tribute to us.

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Very good goal from a Notts squad full of true character.

I found this to quite emotional, It's a shame Don wasn't able to get his wish but the moment will live on in the minds of us fans forever and the history is something that can't be replaced. White Hart Lane is a fantastic venue, one which will be missed in the modern game but to see Notts feature proudly with the first game (the friendly) and the various other visits we have made.

Great feature this JJ.

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Maybe Don could have taken the goal home with him? He could have put it up in his garden.

It's good that Spurs are only moving next door so their fans will be able to keep their pre-match rituals. That's a big part of a matchday. On the other hand, I'm very uncomfortable with a club side using Wembley for home games. Wembley should be for special occasions only.

I never knew that Notts were the first visitors to WHL. So to my knowledge we played in the opening matches at White Hart Lane, the Nou Camp and the Juventus Stadium (and didn't win any of them). Any more? Possibly that place on the other side of the Trent too?

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What also connects us is that both clubs enjoy success when the year ends in one. Chas and Dave sang a song about it for Spurs. Notts were promoted in 1931, 1971, 1981 and 1991, our best-ever position (3rd in division 1) came in 1891 and 1901 and we reached the FA Cup final in 1891. Shame Munto didn't come a year later, as we could have added 2011 to the list too. Who's having a flutter on promotion in 2021?

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