🕵️‍♂️ Football League Focus: Nottingham Forest

Logo: OneFootball


Alex Mott

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Welcome to our latest series here at OneFootball where we’ll be shining a light on one Football League club each week.

It’s our chance to go in-depth on sides that don’t normally attract our attention and hold up a magnifying glass to the plethora of brilliant stories outside the Premier League.

So far we have looked at:

This week it’s the turn of former European champions, Nottingham Forest.

Can you tell me a bit about the club?

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As with most good things, it all started in a pub. The Clinton Arms on Shakespeare Street, to be precise. A group of shinty players – essentially a Scottish version of hurling – fancied trying their hand at some organised association football and over one evening in 1865, formed Nottingham Forest.

On that same night, the players agreed to buy 12 caps in Garibaldi Red, named after the Italian republican, and so, Forest and their colours were born.

Those same 12 players were also known for their benevolence in the late 19th century, with kits being donated to Arsenal and Argentine club Independiente, both of whom still wear red to this day.

Forest would play their first ever League game a year later, against city rivals Notts County, in what is believed to be the oldest recognised league fixture ever.

A mere 31 years later, Forest would win their first trophy, the 1898 FA Cup final against east Midlands rivals Derby County.

It’s been a truly wild ride since then, with over a 100 years of triumph and heartbreak, with Forest perhaps the perfect encapsulation of how high you can reach as an English football league club and the depths to which you can fall.

Any great moments from their history?

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The 1898 FA Cup was Forest’s first taste of trophy success and that was quickly followed by the Second Division title in 1906/07, beating Chelsea by three points, and Stoke by the same margin in 1921/22.

The inter and post-War periods were relatively barren at the City Ground with a slide down to the Third Division for the first time in their history in the late 40s.

However the appointment of Billy Walker as manager revitalised this Midlands giant and they won their second – and so far last – FA Cup in 1959.

Luton were the opponents at Wembley that day which produced some brilliant pieces of football trivia.

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Elton John’s cousin, Roy Dwight, scored the opening goal for Forest but was stretchered off after half an hour after breaking his leg. There were still no substitutes allowed back in those days, and Forest actually played the last 20 minutes with nine men, after Bill Whare came off injured.

Thankfully, Forest managed to hold out for a 2-1 win but the inherent unfairness to proceedings eventually forced a rule change that allowed substitutes for the first time in 1963.

That Cup win became something of a catalyst for the club, who then charged up the division and sustained a serious challenge for the 1966/67 title, only to be beaten by Manchester United in the dying weeks of the campaign.

As has been Forest’s wont throughout their history, success was followed by a dramatic fall but the appointment of Brian Clough in 1975 took the team to heights previously unseen by any British club.

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Sitting in 13th place in the Second Division when he took over, Clough, with his assistant Peter Taylor, took Forest to the First Division in 1977, claiming third place on the final day.

It was an auspicious way to kickstart their top level return but it ushered in a new era of dominance of European football.

That very next season, Forest won the First Division title, finishing seven points clear of Liverpool with Clough becoming only the second man in history to have won the First Division with two separate clubs.

Losing just three games all season, Forest play some truly sensational stuff with Kenny Burns – a summer signing from Birmingham who was a striker that Clough converted to a centre-back – winning Player of the Season.

That earned Forest a place in the European Cup for the first time in their history, and which wild, exciting, exotic side should they get in the first round? Liverpool.

As winner’s the previous year, the Anfield outfit were given a place in the competition and were duly dispatched by Clough’s men over two legs.

It was the start of a remarkable run to the final, which saw AEK Athens, Grasshopper Zurich and German champions Köln all fail to deal with the English title winners.

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Munich was the venue for the final and Swedish side Malmo the opponents. On a balmy night in Bavaria it was Trevor Francis – the first million pound footballer – who scored the only goal of the game to create history in the east Midlands.

But it was history they would go on to repeat itself just 12 months later though with Forest joining clubs like Real Madrid, Benfica, Inter and Ajax in retaining the European Cup.

German giants Hamburg, at that point the biggest club in the Bundesliga and boasting European Football of the Year in Kevin Keegan, were beaten 1-0 at Santiago Bernabéu.

John Robertson, perhaps the single greatest player in the club’s history, netted a brilliant winning goal to cap a three-year period in which Nottingham was the single-most important city in the European football landscape.

And surely there must be some lows as well?

The end of the Clough era was a pretty dark one for fans at the City Ground.

Despite an FA Cup final in 1991, Forest were relegated from the Premier League in 1993 – it was Clough’s final game in charge – with the manager breaking down in tears post-game to reporter Barry Davies.

The 90s started well for Forest but the decline was rapid and ominous. Despite getting back into the Premier League and finishing third in 1994/95, they were relegated soon after and have not since been back in the top flight since.

The club hit a new low in 2005 when they became the first European Cup winners to play in their domestic third division. They stayed there for three seasons.

It’s been the Championship ever since for Forest, with some play-off heartbreak along the way.

Who are the club legends?

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John Robertson was the genius at the heart of Forest’s European Cup triumphs and arguably the best winger in world football at the time.

Peter Shilton transformed Forest when he arrived in 1977 and was voted the club’s best goalkeeper in 2000.

Brian Clough guided Forest to heights unseen during his time at the club and was honoured with a statue in Nottingham city centre.

What about the current squad? Any players to look out for?

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It’s not exactly a classic Forest squad this time around but there are a few notable players in amongst the ranks.

Joe Lolley may not be the most spectacular in the division but he arguably is the most socially-conscious, having come out against the Tory Government and helping in local food banks.

They’ve also signed a Portuguese youth international called Cafú and, well, that’s just brilliant.

Is the manager any good?

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Just this week Sabri Lamouchi was relieved of his duties after just over. year in charge, with his successor announced almost immediately.

Chris Hughton is the man who will try and relight Forest’s fire and it looks like a very sensible appointment.

Eddie Howe was the bookmakers’ favourites for the job, but Hughton the club have a sensible, pragmatic coach who has previously got Norwich, Brighton and Newcastle promoted.

Finally, how are things looking this season?

Not great.

Forest’s collapse during Project Restart has bled into this latest campaign and the natives are getting restless.

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