The 2011-12 season has proved to be an emotional one for the Reds both on and off the pitch, and although it ultimately led to Forest securing their Championship safety, it was far from a walk in the park for both players and supporters.
The season may fail to rank high in the memory of most Reds fans, and understandably from a campaign that was marred with stumbling blocks and left the club looking all but relegated at one stage. Furthermore it was often hard to hide from the fact that failures on the field of play did at times lead to some hostility amongst the supporters.
In addition, the heartache on the pitch was coupled with the sad passing of Chairman Nigel Doughty in February, leaving a huge void at the City Ground and bringing the financial future of the club into question.
However, spirits did improve at the back end of the season and in turn the squad united under manager Steve Cotterill, who helped the Reds to secure another opportunity at Championship football next season.
A season that began with a play-off semi-final defeat to Swansea still fresh in the minds of many Forest fans was eased slightly with the appointment of Steve McClaren, yielding fresh hope following the departure of Billy Davies.
However, things failed to go quite to plan for the former England boss who managed only two wins during his 111 day stint in the hot seat. McClaren eventually resigned in October with the Reds dangling just a point above the relegation trap-door. And in turn Nigel Doughty stepped down as Chairman after ten years in charge at the City Ground.
Although McClaren made five signings during his time at the club he was criticised for some of the players he decided to bring Trent side, and his most memorable match during his short spell at the helm was the League Cup win over Notts County. McClaren’s best work behind the scenes was acquiring the services of former Reds legend Andy Reid from Blackpool, who later proved a vital cog in the midfield engine.
Former Reds player and manager Frank Clark was appointed the new Chairman by Nigel Doughty and his first job was to appoint Steve Cotterill as boss. Things began brightly for the former Portsmouth manager, not only did he solve the long running left back crisis by bringing in Greg Cunningham on loan from Manchester City, but he also won his first game in charge against Middlesbrough.
Cotterill’s men then went on to move clear of the drop-zone winning three of their next five games. Frontman Marcus Tudgay finding good form at a time when it was vital he did so. But the success failed to be maintained and the Reds soon found themselves victims to a string of seven games without a win or even a goal.
Forest’s New Year began well at the start of 2012 when they ended their dreadful streak with a win at Ipswich, but this proved a blip of good form as they went on to lose to both West Ham and Southampton before a crushing defeat to local rivals Leicester in the FA Cup.
In January it was time for the transfer revolving door to swing into action with Wes Morgan leaving for Leicester and youngster Patrick Bamford securing a dream switch to Chelsea. In the other direction Cotterill secured four loanees; Danny Higginbotham, Adlene Guedioura, George Elokobi and Scott Wootton.
On the 4th February the Reds were shocked by the tragic news of the death of Nigel Doughty, a man who had provided huge financial support to the club saving it from the claws of administration. Tributes were left outside the City Ground and the squad united promising to remain in the division to honour Nigel.
Although the Reds only managed a draw against Watford in a game dedicated to Nigel Doughty, they did grab all three points a week later against Coventry, a match which began the goal-scoring prevalence of a man who would go on to win player of the season – Garath McCleary.
Cotterill’s men then went on to beat Birmingham against the odds with Dexter Blackstock back in goal-scoring form. However, the Reds had what looked to be a hiccup when they were defeated by Doncaster at home before securing a win at Millwall the following week. But fans were left deflated again after the Reds were beaten by a single goal at Pride Park against Derby, despite a closely contested match.
The game that followed was not only the game of the season for the Reds, but also contained the goal of the season, a 7-3 victory away to Leeds at Elland Road finished with McCleary finding himself on the score sheet four times. And the winger did indeed score a couple of great goals, but none quite as sweet as the 30-yard drive from Adlene Guedioura that sailed straight into the top corner, eventually winning the supporters goal of the season award.
Two draws then followed against Brighton at home and at Leicester before a trip to Selhurst Park which led to Radi Majewski having his chance to shine - the Polish midfielder scoring a hat-trick in the 3-0 drubbing. However, the Reds were left with a difficult end to the season after defeat at home to Bristol City left them only four points clear of relegation with five games remaining.
A vital three points away at Peterborough along with a point at home against Blackpool was enough to leave Forest to face a trip to Reading with the chance of being able to secure their league survival. Although they lost the game the Reds put on a fantastic performance and results elsewhere left them mathematically safe.
And the season came to a climax with a poignant game at the City Ground for Steve Cotterill against his former side, the already relegated Portsmouth. Forest ran out 2-0 winners with two Blackstock strikes and the players ended a disappointing season with some fleeting comfort of staying in the Championship.