Football / Fan's Eye View: No. 17 Nottingham Forest

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The Independent Online
IN HIS excellent article on our dear friends and neighbours Notts County (Fan's Eye View, 6 April) David Gilmour writes, accurately I think, that Nottingham folk are uncomplicated and amiable. To these attributes I would add those of steadiness, dependability and a sense of fair play.

I have been struck, quite literally in fact, with an appreciation of the latter quality during my police duties at the City Ground when patrolling the cinder track in front of the Trent End.

When engaged in the time-honoured tradition of throwing coins at the policeman's helmet, the Trent-Enders would invariably play fair by throwing the said items gently into the air, with a looping mortar-bomb trajectory, to descend harmlessly but satisfyingly (for them anyway) on to the hardened top of the helmet to great cheers on a hit.

The reward for the policeman's stoicism in the face of this good-humoured sport would be a post-match collection of coins usually sufficient to pay for a well-earned pint. This was unlike certain other fans from some well-known visiting teams who invariably threw flat, hard, fast deliveries, with the coins' edges specially honed to a sharp edge. This practice, of course, led to all-seeing closed circuit television cameras and the end of the tradition.

In similar vein Forest fans, like myself have always appreciated teams who play fair. While applauding the beauty, indeed the poetry of the football played by the Manchester United of today and the Liverpool of the Eighties, we shuddered aghast at the squabbling brutality and paranoia of Cantona and Hughes, Case and Souness.

Like the West Ham of Moore and Peters, in an earlier era of glory, Forest have, throughout their history, turned out teams who, in their day, could and did beat anyone by playing fluid and attractive football, but somehow lacking the consistency, week in and week out, to grind out a First Division championship.

That was until the arrival of the double earthquake called Clough and Taylor. To the steady and stolid people of Nottingham they were a force who shook us and Forest to the foundations. Yet they built a series of teams based on the traditions of good football and fair play already inculcated over the generations.

We found ourselves on a magic carpet ride from the nether regions of the old Second Division to the top of the First in a season, winning the championship which had eluded us throughout our history, at a canter by seven points (when a win was worth only two points, remember).

As for consistency we lost only three games all season and then went on to go 42 games without defeat over two seasons. Fondly remembered highlights on our flight of dreams, from which we thought we would never wake, were numerous League Cup appearances at Wembley (including our fighting victory over Liverpool by what was virtually our second team, in 1978), two European Cups, an FA Cup final and, best of all, the admiration of the football world for the style and panache of Clough's teams.

Yet, after 18 years of wonder and adventure our magic carpet crash-landed last year with the tragic fall of the Great One and the ignomy of relegation. But what a time we had had and what stories to tell our grandchildren.

We paused, shook ourselves and began to look about us and take stock. Frank Clark, a steady, down-to-earth man, was appointed. Thankfully, the football remains of high quality and is consistent enough to take us within sight of promotion to the top flight this season. I feel that we won't be flying as high as before just yet, but, as the new Trent End becomes all seated in the near future and is renamed, we hope, the Brian Clough Stand, perhaps our football will continue to attract admiration for its colour and vitality amid the grey world of the Arsenals and Wimbledons.

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