Nottingham Forest 2 Ipswich Town 1
Saturday 14 April 2018
John hadn’t been here before. I had, but not for a few years and it was a pleasure to go back. Kieran had already been this very season, but he’s just hardcore.
My first trip to the City Ground was on 31 March 1990. Brian Clough’s Forest side were 3 weeks away from the League Cup Final (where they beat Oldham 1-0). They were clearly lacking focus in the League, though, as they went down 1-0 to Wimbledon in a dreadful match watched by just 16,821. There are some decent shots of the game in the YouTube video here (please support Adam Smith’s channel):
Check out the scenes of Nottingham town centre at the end too! Some great forest chants on the video also
You can probably see us on 4.03, standing at the Bridgeford End next to the Wimbledon fans. The Bridgeford was a nice terrace but still spoiled by penning even a year after Hillsborough. The corner enclosure was particularly nasty for away supports bigger than a few hundred: starting big at the top, where you entered via steps at the back, it then funnelled down to a narrow, fenced point. This, and a particularly unsympathetic constabulary, nearly caused serious injuries on many occasions. (One of them, the Celtic game in 1983, is covered elsewhere on this site.)
Those with voice and vision tend to dominate their times, and for this reason it’s easy to bundle the history of Nottingham Forest with the legend of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor. Forgivable, too, as in the outspoken one’s first six years at the City Ground the Reds won the League once and the European Cup twice, with a couple of League Cups and a losing final thrown in for good measure. This was an unheard of level of achievement for a modest provincial club. They remained a force in the top flight for the next decade, adding three more League Cup finals and an FA Cup Final to the haul.
But there’s infinitely more to Forest than this. For a start they’re very old indeed, formed way back in 1865 (with a first competitive game in 1866 against the equally hoary Notts County). There’s also a great deal of romance in their early story. To start with they were identified not by their shirts, but by tasselled caps in a colour known as Garibaldi Red after the celebrated Italian freedom fighter of that time. The early club were an altruistic bunch, donating kits to help Arsenal and Everton in their early days and helping Brighton find their first pitch.
Pre-Clough they generally yo-yoed between First and Second Divisions, the modern highlight being the 1959 Cup win over Luton. This was an archetypal 50s Final in that someone got gruesomely injured – but unlike 1956 and 1957, when one team battled on with a hobbling passenger, there was no chance of Roy Dwight staying on the pitch with a broken leg. Forest played for an hour with ten men, saw a 2-0 lead halved, and by the end were grimly hanging on as various players succumbed to the famously heavy Wembley turf. Dwight’s professional career was ended by the injury. Despite scoring the opener he’s now mainly remembered for being Elton John’s cousin.
As at Derby in the same era, Clough’s galvanising presence led to ground improvements. And here too that meant replacing the most run down part of a moribund venue with a smart new stand and half-heartedly tarting up the rest. The 1980 Executive Stand was similar to others built at that time for Wolves and Spurs. It incorporated executive boxes, and was the first stand in Britain to feature a snazzy message picked out in differently coloured seats. And its glossy newness distracted attention from a Main Stand built in 1957 and little altered since.
Both end terraces were far from ideal vantage points, particularly once Forest’s success led to radial and perimeter fences blossoming all over them. The 70s Trent End was an archetypal small town End – think the Ponty at Barnsley, or the Brummie Road at West Brom – a gathering-place for (among others) the raucous, the violent, the passionate and the downright insane. Its sheer sweaty claustrophobia in the glory days had to be seen to be believed, and it had a reputation few visiting barmies cared to test. (This was not least because the turnstiles opened straight onto a riverbank and February is a cold time to take a swim.)
Using the tried and tested “dump one car and go in the other” approach, we’d sorted out a likely-looking suburban street near Keele services. Unfortunately two carloads of men arriving in their neighbourhood was clearly the most exciting thing its elderly residents had seen in years, so we were forced to make alternative arrangements before they called the police. Other than this the trip was routine enough. We drove over Trent Bridge good and early and parked for a reasonable fee on Nott’s County’s car park, where the stewards were friendly and even tolerated us wandering into the deserted ground. There was also the chance for us to pay our respects to Jimmy, in the shape of Andrew Edwards’ excellent new(ish) statue of him and Jack Wheeler on Meadow Lane.
The City Ground has a timeless quality. Partly that’s due to its “iconic” location on the banks (how can something be on more than one bank?) of the Trent. And partly it’s because two of the stands have been there for as long as many of us can remember. The oldest is the Main Stand, aka the Peter Taylor Stand. A fire broke out in it during a game against Leeds in 1968, which made for an eventful afternoon but fortunately caused no harm to life or limb. The stand was rebuilt without much changing its appearance, and has been modernised a few times since. The side farthest from the Trent, where we were, seems to attract the liveliest clientele.
The Brian Clough stand opposite – which used to be grandly titled the Executive Stand – is from the same stable as the Steve Bull/John Ireland stand at Wolves, and the old West Stand at Spurs. At the arse-end of the 70s, executive boxes were what every ambitious club dreamed of. Smoked glass was good for keeping out the riff-raff and you could turn the sound down if the language got too industrial.
Back then, winning European Cups under Clough and Taylor, Forest had a whiff of glamour about them. Now, “we shall meet again soon to march to new triumphs” reads the sign on the modern Bridgeford Stand, quoting their patriarch Giuseppe Garibaldi. As they conclude a 19th season away from the top flight it all seems a very long time ago.
Flesh and wine
Honestly, where to begin? The area around the City Ground is like the Aya Napia of fast food. You could go to every home game for a season and eat something different each time. Sit down places, takeaways, food vans, hot dog sellers, you name it. The problem wasn’t what to eat but rather what not to eat. As it happened, fate took us past a Cypriot place doing a nice line in lamb kebabs, and when I was still hungry (due in part to dropping half my lamb meat on the pavement outside the “renowned” Trent Bridge Inn) there was an impressive pie selection in the ground itself.
The aforementioned pub was one of a number dotted about, including the popular fan magnet of Hooters (Ipswich fans could be seen converging on this from all directions). You could put together a decent crawl here without wearing out your Trim-Trabbs, and drink till ten to three without missing the kick off. Being sensible types, of course, we did neither.
For all that this game was the deadest of dead rubbers, featuring a McCarthy-less Ipswich (the hook-nosed one having been purged the week before) and a Forest side that hadn’t scored since February, the old place wasn’t far below capacity. A gloriously sunny day may have helped. Ipswich scuffed the lead just before half-time, and proceedings were only marginally better than turgid until the 89th minute, at which point some mule fouled Ben Brereton in the box when it looked easier not to. Brereton picked himself up and converted the spot-kick, Forest began to believe, and in the final few seconds Lolley popped up (sorry) to volley a winner that caused euphoric celebrations among the surprised home crowd. It only takes a second to score a goal, as someone round here once said.
Teams and goals
Forest: Pantilimon, Darikwa, Pereira Figuiredo, Fox, Osborn, Guedioura (Cash 59), Colback, Watson (Bridcutt 78), Lolley, Brereton, Tomlin (Vellios 78). Unused subs: Lichaj, Mancienne, Dowell, Capino.
Ipswich: Bialkowski, Spence, Carter-Vickers, Knudsen, Ward, Hyam (Gleeson 84), Skuse, Nydam (Connolly 57), Kenlock, Morris (Carayol 56), Waghorn. Unused subs: Sears, Crowe, Folami, Cotter.
Goals: Forest: Brereton 89 (pen), Lolley 95. Ipswich: Ward 38