‘The Premier League is a different planet’: There’s something going on in non-League football – The Athletic

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In teeming rain, with wind buffeting the trees around The Shay as the temperature drops on an increasingly wintry Pennine Tuesday night, a white coach pulls up on Hunger Hill, Halifax. You half expected Heathcliff to disembark. But, no, here were the doughty followers of Notts County, who left Meadow Lane three hours ago and who will complete the 200-mile round trip about midnight.

There were 447 of them in all, travelling through a storm on buses, cars and trains.

This is commitment. This is the National League, the fifth division of English football and Notts County have not been a success story for some time. Though they did win the FA Cup. In 1894.

“Oh, we missed it, absolutely,” says Winston, 28, of the absence of fan travel when COVID-19 shut football’s doors to supporters. “Midweek games are my favourite. I prefer it to weekends. This is massive.”

It was half-time, County were winning 1-0 and the fans were singing that mad ‘Wheelbarrow’ chant of theirs: “I had a wheelbarrow, the wheel fell off, I had a wheelbarrow, the wheel fell off, County, County, County.”

“It’s better when there’s wind and rain,” says Winston’s mate, Ashley. “On the motorway, you could hardly see. It’s better!”

It got even better when County went 2-0 up and Halifax had a man sent off. But then the home side fought back, scored two and, in the tenth minute of added time, got a third. County’s wheel had fallen off.

“Embarrassing,” was now the repeated comment from the 447, some of whom may have been questioning their life choices.

Bernard Chambers was one not of them. Chambers was 10 years old when he went to his first County match in season 1945-46. He has seen it all. Dismay is nothing new. Would he be going to Yeovil Town on Saturday? “Oh, yes.

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