Football Fan's eye view Nottingham Forest: In the wake of omnipotent Brian
Saturday 20 February 1999
Although I recognised the new culture as close to my own, there was a fundamental difference in the belief system of the new species. The ubiquitous red and white scarves to stave off the cold( it is colder up north). A seven-year-old "Kenny Burns" tackling an eight-year-old "Tony Woodcock" in the playground. And then there was that higher being they worshipped in this new land, who was always on the television, in the papers, everywhere. This deity was easily recognisable - he was omnipotent after all - and his name was Brian Clough.
I remained nominally, thanks to avuncular influences, an Aston Villa supporter in my first few months in Nottingham, but after returning to Hounslow for a weekend visit my conversion finally took place, and when it came, it overpowered me. I was sitting in London, watching the League Cup final of 1978 and suddenly I was watching my city beat Liverpool, thanks to the determination of a very young Chris Woods deputising for Peter Shilton. When we won the championship that season, my indoctrination was complete. Anyone for a nostalgic rendition of We've got the whole world in our hands?
Brian Clough was the greatest - no question. During his reign at Forest, except for the final year in charge (the relegation year, I tend to think of it now as a Dallas-esque dream sequence which should be erased from the history books in respect to the man), Liverpool and Forest were the only two teams to finish in the top half of the table every single year -- every single year! That's consistency for you. That's 15 years on a budget that wouldn't pay for Duncan Ferguson's left toenail.
He made bad players mediocre, mediocre players good, good players very good, and very good players world-beaters. The list of players who "failed" after leaving Forest is monumental, and most of them went to Manchester United (ha!) - Davenport, Birtles, Webb et al. Pundits talk of Roy Keane as the complete midfielder but anyone who saw him at the City Ground realises he isn't half the player now that he was when playing for us.
Every civilisation has to come to an end, but why did the destruction have to happen so suddenly at Forest? Forest, the jokey acronym (Fighting Off Relegation Every Saturday Teatime), Forest the yo-yo specialists. What's become of us? Ron Atkinson? Please! I suppose we'll have to wait another hundred (thousand) years for a similar civilisation to emerge in Nottingham. I suspect we might never see its like again and we will have to be content with worshipping a deity that has long since gone. I have my "Cloughie" prayer mat out already.
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