The beautiful game: generations




I’ve been to some big games: Wembley playoffs, promotions, and championship-clinching matches and – being a Notts County fan – more relegation nail-biters than I care to remember, but this match eclipsed the lot.

It was the debut of my best friend, partner in crime, and – by reason of osmosis – a committed Magpie, Arthur Ellis taking to the pitch in the home game against AFC Wimbledon on 9th March. He may only be four years old, but he looked Herculean as he took to the field in front of over 10,000 fans with a courage far greater than the crescendo of the crowd’s eruption as the teams appeared from the tunnel.

I knew I’d cry that day, and thought I’d grasped the reason why. Notts are part of my DNA, and my association with the oldest professional football club in the world has shaped me and has been steadfastly there during the good times and the bad. In loss, the terraces gave me sanctuary, and in joy, Meadow Lane has given me the opportunity to collect the most vital of human possessions: memories.

But as Arthur strode out onto the hallowed turf, with my son Adam looking on as a dad-in-waiting, along with other key members of the family, I knew that I’d discovered the missing element to my emotional conundrum: legacy. My late dad had passed the baton of belonging to me, and here I was doing the same for my partner’s grandson. I’ve held him since his arrival into this often crazy world where change is constant; often causing chaos and confusion. And maybe that’s why I love the club where I’m connected with 162 years of heartfelt heritage.

I managed to keep it together, until captain Kyle Cameron lifted Arthur up,and in almost Rafiki style, held my little Simba up for the Notts faithful to welcome him into the Pride Lands.Then I totally lost it and blubbed like a baby.

The scoreline was irrelevant, as my mate Arthur had come of age, and I’d done my duty in the face of fierce competition; his generous dad, Ruairi, is a massive West Ham fan…

Thanks to the staff at Notts County for arranging the most beautiful of experiences, and especially Charlie Roach, Les Bradd and Harry Dalzell who choreographed the occasion with such care and compassion. In the immortal words of Bill Shankly: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.”

© Ian Kirke 2024. Title image reproduced by kind permission of John Sumpter @JMS Photography. Other images by kind permission of Emma Ellis.

Ian Kirke

As a kid, and latterly a dad and police officer, I realised that I have an almost endless list of things I want to make sense of. I suspect I am not alone. Hopefully, as a law graduate and post-graduate criminologist, my life observations reflect a degree of authenticity and balance – but I’ll allow you to judge that for yourself. Synthesising humour, grief, horror and hedonism, I think I’m an all-rounder! I am also a frustrated speedway promoter, passionate Notts County fan and part-time philosopher.

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