Friday, 11 March 2011
My Team & I: Nottingham Forest
When I was younger, like many teenagers I wanted to make the big time as a professional footballer - football represented the picture-perfect career for me. That of course never quite materialised. However if there was one team I would have wanted to play for, forget Manchester United, Arsenal or even Real Madrid – it was always Nottingham Forest, but why?
Being born and bred in Nottinghamshire, if I was following the agreements of close proximity, then I would be a Nottingham Forest fan anyway. But, confusingly, that is not why I follow the reds.
Conventional rationale had made me a Forest fan in a way; my dad had always supported Forest. Although he never pushed me to support them, he simply raved about them on a regular basis to me and my brother. I was only 6 or 7 at the time, a European Cup or even two meant nothing to me. ‘Pearce’, ‘Chettle’ and ‘McGovern’ were all stars I recall him speaking of, although I can never quite remember what he said about them.
Then in 2003 my world collapsed when he passed away and all of a sudden Nottingham Forest became much more than a football team to me. They stood as a way for me to always remember my dad. The club, and everything embodied within it was now of emotional significance to me. And it always has been ever since. When I don the red and white strip of Nottingham Forest, when I watch the tricky trees win, lose or draw, I do so with every passion I can conjure. The great Brian Clough summed up the way I feel about Nottingham Forest perfectly when he said: 'The River Trent is lovely, I know because I have walked on it for 18 years.'
As a young forest fan I am not fortunate enough to be blessed with the memories of the sights of greats such as John McGovern, Archie Gemmill and Trevor Francis. But I am old enough to remember the legend that was Stuart Pearce. For me, he is the greatest player to ever pull on the Forest jersey and an ultimate icon for club and country throughout his illustrious career.
Affectionately known to Forest fans as ‘Psycho’, a name which brings connotations of his performances on the pitch directly to mind. Heart and soul behind every tackle, sheer determination and fist-clenching stamina, in 12 years at Forest, most served as club captain, Pearce epitomised what Brian Clough wanted this Nottingham Forest side to be all about. His passion and hunger were always second to none, and his no-nonsense style of play led many strikers to fear him.
His ‘welcome to the City Ground tackle’ is often reminisced by forest fans and other football fans alike. But Psycho was much more than just a great tackler, he was a dead-ball and goal scoring man too. Forest may have lost the 1991 FA Cup final against Spurs but Stuart Pearce’s free kick will live long in the memory of many a football enthusiast.
Winning numerous trophies with the reds and scoring many vital goals Psycho’s trademark clenched fist salute will always be welcome at The City Ground. If any footballer as given more to his club than this man gave to Nottingham Forest then I for one would like to meet them.
NB: If I had to choose a favourite from the current crop, it would probably be Chris Cohen. A player that has always given his everything since his first match back in League One. When heads fall Chris is always on call to give the team a lift, whether that be with a rigid tackle or a pin-point cross. His growing maturity rubs off on the youngsters, and as he has shown, he can take a knock in the eye for the team when necessary too. He is a player that can only improve, his work rate is tremendous and it is not surprising he has been tipped for the top.
My favourite game was unquestionably when we secured promotion back to the Championship in May 2008. The pitch invasion, ecstatic celebrations and relief to be back in the 2nd tier of English football all made for a brilliant day to remember – not to mention McGugan’s fine free-kick.
It wasn’t just the promotion though, it was much deeper than that, League One is such a hard league to get out of and you can only really appreciate that once you are in it. The long and grovelling away trips were often hard, especially when a defeat came out of them so promotion made it all worthwhile.
Of course though, Cheltenham Town will always have a place in the heart of every forest fan. The Robins (Now in League Two) grabbed a late winner which secured our automatic place ahead of Doncaster. Cue merriments and champagne in the City Ground dressing room.
Not only is this shirt one of the best renderings of the famous Garibaldi, it is also the shirt that Nottingham Forest lifted two European Cups wearing. The vintage v neck shirt would not look out of place in today’s fast moving football fashion world. And no big sponsor splashed across the front to deflate it either. Top kit.
Worst thing about being a Nottingham Forest fan?
The worst thing about being a forest fan has to be the elusive Premier League return that we are waiting upon. Ever since the relegation from the top-flight in 1993 and again in 1997 that is the aim in the mind of everyone associated with the club, and the road there is proving to be a treacherous one. Obviously the Megson failures and David Platt’s era also come to mind, if I could go back and change things that would be where I would start.
I’m going to have to cheat on this one and tell you about two of my favourite moments, both pretty recent coincidently.
The first was seeing the mighty reds put 5 past Derby at home this season and the ominous chants towards ex forest player Kris Commons, who was surely swayed to leave Derby after the mauling he got from the forest fans that day. Bragging rights aside, we ripped them apart on the pitch that day and thoroughly deserved to win.
Secondly, no apologies to Derby fans I have to say, was seeing Nathan Tyson adorn a corner flag and wave it in front of 4,000 travelling Derby fans following a 3-2 win. Ill-timed I admit, but he definitely wrote himself into forest folk law with that brace. And Billy Davies was even on hand to claim Tyson did nothing wrong pushing blame on to the Derby players… classic moment.
Moments change games, and every one of them on the road to greatness will be a favourite for me. I hope Forest create a new favourite moment for me very soon, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out what I would like that to be.