Notts County boss Neal Ardley has told his players not to think about the magnitude of the situation as the oldest Football League club prepare for arguably the biggest game in their history.
The Magpies have contested FA Cup finals, play-off finals, won league titles and staved off relegation numerous times during their long and illustrious existence since their formation in 1862.
But they will lose their proud status as the oldest Football League club on Saturday if they fail to win at Swindon. Even victory would not be enough for them to stay up if Macclesfield, who have a far superior goal difference, get a point at home against Cambridge.
Ardley, who became Notts County’s third manager of the season when he succeeded Harry Kewell in November, insists he and his team cannot afford to think about what is at stake and must simply play the match.
“This is as big a game as Notts have ever had but you don’t try to think about that because it is never going to help you,” he said.
“If you think about the history and everything else and take that into the game, it will make it a lot tougher. We have to think about just trying to win a game of football.
“We have to remain positive, and that’s the message I’ve been trying to get across all week. We’ve managed to claw back a nine-point deficit and take it down to the final game.
“We’ve got to give it one more big effort and then hope for a little bit of luck and a favour from elsewhere. If that turns out to be enough, then great. If it doesn’t, then… but we can’t have any regrets on Saturday.”
Notts County were formed in 1862 and became one of 12 founder members of the Football League in 1888.
Ardley’s side are 23rd in League Two and two points behind Macclesfield with an inferior goal difference of eight.
“I think relegation would emotionally hurt the fans,” said Ardley. “They have something that they’re very proud of here, being the oldest Football League club. It would hurt me too, but good things can come from adversity though.”
Matt Tootle is the only new concern for the Magpies ahead of the game at Swindon. The defender has missed some training sessions this week through illness and he will continue to be assessed.