Juventus open doors to new home with Notts County as starstruck guests

The Old Lady's invitation to the League One club to inaugurate their new stadium is one of sport's most elegant gestures

Juventus begin life in their new stadium
Juventus began life in their new stadium with a lavish opening ceremony where Notts County were the guests of honour. Photograph: Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

They could have invited Barcelona, Real Madrid or Manchester United to inaugurate their fine new stadium. Instead a great Italian institution summoned the club standing 12th in the third tier of English football to join Thursday's opening ceremony and, if there has been a more elegant gesture in the history of football, it would be good to hear of it.

For it was Notts County, in 1903, who answered the call of a Juventus member, an Englishman named John Savage, to send a set of the club's black and white striped shirts to replace the pink numbers worn by the players of the Italian club since their founding by a group of students six years earlier. Thus did Notts, who were then midway through a spell in the old First Division, save Juventus from a century of being confused with pink-shirted Palermo.

Themselves founded in 1862, Notts are the world's oldest football club who are currently professional and, when their chief executive, Jim Rodwell, contacted Juventus with a tentative invitation to visit Nottingham for a match to celebrate next year's 150th anniversary, the response was more than he could have imagined. Juventus's young president, Andrea Agnelli, immediately called Ray Trew, Notts' owner, to suggest that they might become the first visitors to the new ground, which is built on the site of the unloved Stadio delle Alpi in Turin's northern suburbs. Notts have a league match against Walsall on Saturday but could hardly turn down such a request.

This was the night when their 200 travelling fans in the 41,000 crowd could watch Neal Bishop, Lee Hughes and Ricky Ravenhill rubbing shoulders with Alessandro Del Piero, Gigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo – not to mention Dino Zoff, Giampiero Boniperti, Luis Del Sol, Fabio Capello, Marcello Lippi, Claudio Gentile, Roberto Bettega, Ciro Ferrara, Angelo Di Livio, Edgar Davids, Paolo Montero and Fabrizio Ravanelli, who joined the pre-match parade to represent earlier generations. The future embraced its history, and vice versa, in a marvellous football occasion hosted by Agnelli, the fourth member of his family to hold the presidency.

Two and a half hours before kick-off the Notts squad made their way on to the pitch. They had been flown to Turin on a plane chartered by their hosts and been put up at a five-star hotel, receiving a police escort to and from Juventus's training ground. They looked around in awe, taking photographs of the stadium, which is steep-sided, with no running track, rather like a half-size Camp Nou in black and white.

The brilliantly staged gala featured a brass band, speeches, fireworks, a diva on stilts, film clips of Omar Sivori and John Charles on giant screens, the mass singing of Juve, Storia Di Un Grande Amore, huge replicas of the club's trophies, Agnelli cutting a ribbon with golden scissors handed to him by a Monica Bellucci lookalike, dancers dressed as zebras – Notts may be the Magpies, but Juve are Le Zebre – and a quietly devastating parade of 39 white-clad children representing the Heysel dead. And, eventually, a decent game of football.

Could Del Piero, in his 678th game, score his 285th goal and Juve's first in their new home? A Nottingham bookmaker was taking bets on Hughes beating him to it, after the veteran striker became the first Notts player to amass 30 goals in a season since Tommy Lawton. But Notts' manager, Martin Allen, withheld his top scorer until the second half, probably with an eye on the Walsall match rather than out of a desire not to steal the Juve captain's thunder.

The nearest Del Piero came in his 45 minutes on the pitch was with a shot over the bar from the edge of the area. Robert Burch, the Notts goalkeeper, made a couple of fine blocks in the first half, and eight minutes after the interval he saved a penalty from Fabio Quagliarella after Ravenhill had handled the ball but Luca Toni slid the rebound home, putting an end to the only real suspense of a genial occasion.

Three minutes from time Hughes had the satisfaction of becoming the first man to score a goal for a visiting side when he rammed the ball home from two yards after a free-kick had squirmed out of the hands of Alex Manninger, Juve's second substitute goalkeeper. Notts had been good value for their 1-1. Now back to Meadow Lane.


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Comments in chronological order (Total 162 comments)

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  • TheCosmicHobo

    8 September 2011 10:57PM

    When are Arsenal going to do the same to Forest, who also gave them their kit?

    It is their 150th anniversary after all.

  • JWAJWA11

    8 September 2011 11:05PM

    They didn't look starstruck on the pitch!!! Well played Notts.

  • Butterfinger550

    8 September 2011 11:33PM

    When are Arsenal going to do the same to Forest, who also gave them their kit?

    Likewise, when are Leeds going to do the same-- ah forget it, too little time.

  • ADJWilson

    9 September 2011 12:07AM

    What a wonderful story. For one brief moment, reading this made me fall back in love with football.

  • aethyrsprite

    9 September 2011 12:13AM

    That was sheer class by the young Agnoli. Thoroughly well done. Even more so, when you contrast this gesture with the utter vulgarity that envelops the game today. Hope it wins Juve a lot of new friends in England.

  • VincenzoScifoDieci

    9 September 2011 12:15AM

    Great stuff! Notts County and Juve- together at last!

    The new stadium looks fantastic, a far cry from the despised Stadio delle Alpe.

    Richard, you could have told us the final score. I heard it was 1-1.

  • NOTTS90

    9 September 2011 12:17AM

    by the way we are at home at meadow lane on saturday you pies

  • tomek154

    9 September 2011 12:18AM

    @thecosmichobo

    well, its 125 years anyway, 150 would make us the oldest club ever, but hey ho.

  • Pateau

    9 September 2011 12:18AM

    Classy move by Juve through and through.

    The new stadium is a very big step in the right direction both for Juventus and Italian football as a whole. More Italian clubs need to follow suit.

  • VincenzoScifoDieci

    9 September 2011 12:18AM

    Yep. 1-1. The big lug himself, Luca Toni for Juve.

    Lee Hughes equalising for County in the 87th minute. That's a scenario you dont hear every day. Well done County!

  • holdingonfortomorrow

    9 September 2011 12:21AM

    Finally the Youth have a stadium fit for their stature. Hopefully it will set the standard now in Italy, and help inspire investment that will drag Serie A out of the gutter.

  • VincenzoScifoDieci

    9 September 2011 12:23AM

    Don't know what happened there. The last part of the article has told me the score now. My apologies Richard.

    Don't mind me.

  • dlongb

    9 September 2011 12:26AM

    Notts arent at the Bescot on Saturday Richard !!

  • Butterfinger550

    9 September 2011 12:28AM

    VincenzoScifoDieci

    Lee Hughes equalising for County in the 87th minute. That's a scenario you dont hear every day.

    What's Italian for 'That wasn't in the script!'?

    ADJWilson

    For one brief moment, reading this made me fall back in love with football.

    What about now?

  • lordhawking

    9 September 2011 12:28AM

    what a lovely, lovely gesture and judging by the above account, done very tastefully too.

    says the juve ground is on the site of the stadio delle alpi, so have torino also built a new stadium?

  • VincenzoScifoDieci

    9 September 2011 12:33AM

    says the juve ground is on the site of the stadio delle alpi, so have torino also built a new stadium?

    As far as I know, Torino play in what was the old Comunale. It's called the Olimpico di Torino now.

  • AdamMAli

    9 September 2011 12:51AM

    The Devil just returned a part of Football's soul.

    This is why we should NEVER have a European league as it would kill teams like Notts County.

    And it should encourage the "big" clubs to appreciate the "small" historically relevant clubs.

  • ravenouscartoon

    9 September 2011 12:52AM

    As far as I know, Torino play in what was the old Comunale. It's called the Olimpico di Torino now

    Yep, Juve have been playing there too, since 2006 i think.

    New stadium looks very nice, am I correct in thinking that only 1 tier is visible above ground from the outside, with the rest below ground level?

    As far as running tracks go, when Spurs (or West ham) move to the olympic stadium are they leaving it as is, or doing something similar to Man City at Eastlands?

  • Pateau

    9 September 2011 12:54AM

    Pateau

    Yann Tiersen

    Lovely.

    Indeed, one of my favorites

  • miffster

    9 September 2011 12:59AM

    Looks like a proper imposing stadium. And a lovely gesture.

  • ColinMay

    9 September 2011 1:07AM

    Another piece of football history :
    http://www.journallive.co.uk:80/north-east-news/todays-news/2011/09/03/nufc-fan-finds-one-of-rarest-football-medals-61634-29354979/

  • venhar

    9 September 2011 1:18AM

    An elegant gesture, what tosh...its to do with the fact Juventus dont have any money and Notts County is as much as they could stretch to.

    Pfffffff, fancy that, suggesting sentiment has any place in modern football.

  • BrasilBranch

    9 September 2011 1:18AM

    Despite everything that has happened in the last few years, Calciopoli and steroid scandals, Juve still are capable of class.

    It helps having class acts like Del Piero of course. When they were demoted and talk was of him leaving, his 'A gentleman never leaves an Old Lady' reply is one of my favourite football quotes.

    One player I would have loved to have seen playing for United.

    Stadium looks ok... but.... What the fuck is it called? Did they name it?

  • bozboz

    9 September 2011 1:21AM

    TheCosmicHobo
    When are Arsenal going to do the same to Forest, who also gave them their kit?
    It is their 150th anniversary after all.

    It's not forgotton, but I doubt Forest would want to be thanked for the theft of their kit ;-)

  • Maajid

    9 September 2011 1:49AM

    That is the kind of class that stumbling upon a cashmere suit and false pretenses cannot guarantee. Take note, City.

  • Enduroman

    9 September 2011 1:54AM

    Away goals count double. Who are we playing in the next round?

  • sam0412

    9 September 2011 1:54AM

    @venhar


    Honestly? Juve are the richest side in Italy (might not be their money exactly but how and ever)

  • tdc5013

    9 September 2011 2:08AM

    It's always good to see Football taking note of the nice side of it's roots. And for Notts County, against Juve, 1-1 isn't a result to be sniffed at - even if it was against a load of subs.

    1-1? Kind of a nice way to end it, I think.

  • macman37

    9 September 2011 2:13AM

    As a previous poster said that Signor Agnelli has class. It is indefinable but you know it when you see it.

  • zzeb

    9 September 2011 2:22AM

    An unequivocally beautiful episode, and only one grouchy idiot on the thread so far (you know who you are).

  • toriello

    9 September 2011 2:27AM

    Not sure any heart-warming story can feature Lee Hughes.

  • glapots

    9 September 2011 2:56AM

    That is the kind of class that stumbling upon a cashmere suit and false pretenses cannot guarantee. Take note, City.

    FFS any opportunity to take a swipe at City. Look mate there's no difference between United and City when it comes to class

  • charliewarren4zola

    9 September 2011 3:10AM

    That is the kind of class that stumbling upon a cashmere suit and false pretenses cannot guarantee. Take note, City.

    What? This has NOTHING to do with City whatsoever! The reference is ridiculous!

    Typical United. This comments section is about commending an all-too-rare gesture of goodwill and class in modern day football, and some scummy Surrey Manc has to hijack it to take a childish swipe at Man City.

    Someone feels threatened!

    PS For the record, the rest of England finds Man City infinitely classier than you.

  • arsecandle

    9 September 2011 3:16AM

    Italian football. Fuck yeah. I grew up with Serie A as THE premier league in all of Europe. It always seemed so glamorous, so it's a shame to see it lose a great deal of its lustre in recent years.

    Fuck a Sergio Biscuits. Dino Baggio is where it's at.

  • arsecandle

    9 September 2011 3:21AM

    It helps having class acts like Del Piero of course. When they were demoted and talk was of him leaving, his 'A gentleman never leaves an Old Lady' reply is one of my favourite football quotes.

    One player I would have loved to have seen playing for United.

    Ferguson did seem to have a stonk on for some of those Italian players of the era. He wanted to buy Maldini, and of course there was that time that we were linked with Roberto Baggio, and every kid in my school was beside themselves with excitement. Never happened, though. He's certainly not got the same sort of lust for the best of La Liga. He seems to like Xavi and Iniesta a lot, but more as a distant admirer. He had a proper frisson for Serie A in the '90s, though.

  • AdamMAli

    9 September 2011 3:30AM

    charliewarren4zola

    "some scummy Surrey Manc"

    Is that not a "childish swipe"?

    PS For the record, the rest of England finds Man City infinitely classier than you.

    Because you speak for England?

    Meh.

  • daikonattack

    9 September 2011 3:54AM

    TheCosmicHobo

    8 September 2011 10:57PM

    When are Arsenal going to do the same to Forest, who also gave them their kit?

    It is their 150th anniversary after all.

    too busy taking legal action against hat shops

  • Chaps

    9 September 2011 5:12AM

    Fantastic story. Lovely gesture from La Vecchia Signora.

    Does any hacker out there have the email address of one Garry 'G' Cook? I'd like to forward this story to him as an example of why some football clubs have 'soul' (and I'm including Notts County) while others are doomed to be merely 'projects'.

  • trinder19

    9 September 2011 5:14AM

    'Elegant' - that's le mot juste for a fine gesture. A good story, very well told.

  • trinder19

    9 September 2011 5:34AM

    Chaps, let's not allow this to descend into a squabble about who's got class and soul and who hasn't. just note that City under Sheikh Mansour (and Cook's direction) have made some very generous and charitable gestures, not all for cynical commercial reasons. And I'm not talking about Santa Cruz's contract.

  • Jamozki

    9 September 2011 5:43AM

    Only 41,000.00 capacity at Juve's new ground? I find that surprising, given their immense support in Italy I would have thought their new stadium would be at least 60,000.00 or so. Still, classy gesture. They may not currently be the force in European Football that they once were but Juventus remain one of the world's great Football clubs.

  • Glovidge

    9 September 2011 5:54AM

    Fantastic gesture and whilst not a fan of the Old Lady you've got to give credit where its due.

    And fairytales do come true. Even for Lee Hughes

  • forzaps

    9 September 2011 5:58AM

    I didn't know who Lee Hughes was until I stumbled across a quote last week from a 35 year old footballer that involved telling his grand kids about sticking it to (ok one past) Buffon. As a Juventus fan for most of my adult life all I can say is thank you Notts County for making the trip. 1-1 was perfect.

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