Nottingham Forest, A Brief History…

The club known as “The Tricky Trees” were first formed in 1865, therefore making them one of the oldest football clubs in the world.  The founding of the club came about when a group of Bandy players in Nottingham decided to form a football club; by the way Bandy is similar to hockey and is primarily played on ice.  It was a venture first put forward by a gentleman by the name of J.S.Scrimshaw, the initial meeting took place at the Clifton Arms on Shakespeare Street, which is only a couple of miles or so north from where Forest’s stadium the City Ground, is today.  Of course, there is more than one football club in the city of Nottingham.  Those bandy players surely must have been influenced by what they had seen at Notts County, the world’s oldest football club, formed in 1862.  These were the earliest days of association football in England, the formation of the football league was still more than twenty years in the future, however the game was quickly growing in popularity and football clubs were to be founded left, right and centre for years to come. 

Nottingham Forest, late 1880’s.

So, along with Mr Scrimshaw the history books tell us the founding members of Nottingham Forest Football Club were J.Tomlinson, W.I. Hussey, C.F. Daft, J. Milford, W. Brown, T.G. Howitt, J.G. Richardson, T. Gamble, W.P. Brown, W.R. Lymberry, W.H. Revis, A. Barks, J.H. Rastall and R.P. Hawkesley.  Forest’s colours are red and white, yes?  Well, the particular shade of red of the Forest home shirt is known as “Garibaldi red”.  During that meeting at the Clifton Arms it was decided to purchase twelve red caps, Garibaldi red to be exact, the clubs colour had been decided.  It was named “Garibaldi red” due to the Italian freedom fighters that were known as the red shirts, they were extremely popular in England during the latter part of the 19th century.  Forest played their first ever game on Thursday 22nd March 1866, at the Forest Recreation Ground against city neighbours Notts County, the match ended 0 – 0. 

Advertisement for Charles Daft’s cricket company, Daft became a founder of Nottingham Forest.

About three weeks later the two teams played each other again, and again the final score was 0 – 0.   1889 saw Forest join the short lived Football Alliance. The Football Alliance would only run for three seasons, and happily for Forest they managed to finish the final season of the Alliance as champions. Over a twenty two game season Forest finished top with thirty three points, two points ahead of Newton Heath L.Y.R., the team that would soon become Manchester United.  During the clubs early days they played their home fixtures at quite a few venues, they began at the Racecourse Ground then moving to the Castle Ground around 1879.   Those years between 1873 and 1885 they played their home fixtures at the Parkside Ground, Trent Bridge and The Gregory Ground.  During 1890 and up until 1895, Forest’s home games were played at The Town Ground.  It was in 1898 that they moved into The City Ground after raising £3,000 for the move.  Following that season the Football Alliance was merged with the Football League, the League itself only established a few years before in 1888.

Cup winner’s, 1898.

In the minor upheaval of the Football League Forest were joined in the First Division by Newton Heath L.Y.R, and The Wednesday. The rest of the teams which included Sheffield United and Northwich Victoria, went into Division Two.  Forest had proved a point to a large extent in winning the Football Alliance as their initial application to join the Football League in 1888, was declined.  That wasn’t the only reason that Forest could feel justified in joining the big boys in the Football League. As a club they were a generous outfit, always willing to help out other clubs.  Nottingham Forest is the reason that the predominant colour of the Liverpool and Arsenal home shirt is red.  In 1886 when Woolwich Arsenal was being founded Forest sent them a load of football shirts, from their own kit locker so to speak.  A few years later, they did the same for Liverpool. When Brighton & Hove Albion was being established Forest helped them acquire land for the south coast team’s first pitch. 

The 1897 – 1898 season was a significant one for Forest, it was the season that they won their first F.A. Cup.  They had come close before, they had reached the semifinal on no less than four times previously.  Forest arrived for the cup final at Crystal Palace after wins over Grimsby Town, Gainsborough Trinity, West Bromwich Albion and a semifinal victory over Southampton.  Harry Haslam’s Forest side needed a replay to get past Southampton and claim a place in the final.  The first semifinal was played at Bramall Lane in Sheffield, the game finished 1 – 1, the replay was played five days later at Crystal Palace in London, the final score was 2 – 0 in Forest’s favour.  The final took place at the same venue on Saturday the 16th of April. Forests opponents that day were Derby County, a club that would have a strong rivalry with Forest for decades to come.  Forest took the lead in the final about twenty minutes into the game, thanks to a goal from Arthur Capes.  About eleven minutes later Derby gained parity, courtesy of a goal from Stephen Bloomer.  With half time only minutes away, Capes scored another for Forest.  With only four minutes left of the final John McPherson made it 3 – 1 to Forest, the cup belonged to Nottingham Forest.  It was the Forest team captain Frank Forman, a former Derby County player himself, who raised the cup in front of over 60,000 fans.

Arthur Capes.

Forest have a number of firsts in its history, in 1874 they were the first team to wear shin guards.  In 1878 their game against Sheffield Norfolk was the first time in British football where the referee used a whistle for the first time.  Sam Weller Widdowson is a stand out figure from the history of Nottingham Forest.  Sam was quite the sportsman, he played county cricket for Nottinghamshire and football for Forest.  He was born in Hucknall, south west Nottinghamshire, in 1851.  Widdowson represented his county at international level in football too, and it was Sam who invented shin guards. It was Widdowson who came up with the much used “classical” formation of the day. This formation consisted of two full backs, a three man midfield and five forwards.  It was a formation that caught on and endured for decades, the much used 4 – 4 – 2 formation of today didn’t emerge until the early 1960’s succeeding Widdowson’s “classical” formation.  As mentioned earlier, Forest moved into the brand new City Ground in 1878. The city of Nottingham had been granted city status in 1897, so calling it the City Ground made sense, a fitting name for the stadium. 

Sam Weller Widdowson.

When you hear the name Nottingham Forest, one name springs to mind immediately. Brian Clough.  Clough was more than just a football manager.  He was a force of nature, a great leader and as outspoken as it’s humanly possible to be.  Of course it goes without saying you can’t talk about Forest’s glory days without talking about Peter Taylor, not as much of a number two but as a sidekick in all things football.  Whilst Clough was born and raised in Middlesbrough, Taylor was a Nottingham boy through and through. Taylor was a bit of journeyman during his twenty one year playing career. Peter Taylor played for Forest, Coventry City, Middlesbrough, Port Vale and Burton Albion. Aged 37 Taylor first got together with Clough, at Hartlepool United in Division Four in 1965.  Taylor had impressed at Burton Albion, leading them to the Southern League Cup in 1964.  A year later Clough brought Taylor to Hartlepool and British footballs greatest double act was in place, Clough and Taylor together were about to go on a fantastic football adventure.

The one and only, Brian Clough.

After Hartlepool United, Clough and Taylor would manage Brighton & Hove Albion and Derby County.  Their time at Derby County can be seen in the film “The Damned United”.  Although Clough and Taylor had a somewhat strained relationship with the Derby County chairman Sam Longson, they managed to guide Derby County to the Division Two championship in 1969. Eventually, the Division One title would follow three years later.  Clough and Taylor rebuilt Derby from the ground up acquiring some class players along the way such as John O’ Hare, John McGovern and Roy McFarland.  As I’ve said, Clough and Taylor’s relationship with Derby Chairman Sam Longson was often a strained one.  They would often incur the anger of Longson by signing players without Longson knowing anything about it, like they did when they bought David Nish from Leicester City during the summer of 1972.  Not that all the strong words and ill feeling in the Derby board room really mattered, Clough and Taylor were winning games, winning titles and keeping the Derby fans very happy, they were having a laugh!  However, the controversy would go on for a bit longer for Clough and Taylor. 

Clough and Taylor, a very successful management team.

In 1973 Clough’s outspokenness got him into trouble during the semifinal of the European Cup against Italy’s Juventus, who were then managed by Cestmir Vycpalek.  Derby lost the semifinal on aggregate 3 – 1, but the score line isn’t even half the story of that semifinal. Clough accused the Italian team of cheating labeling them “cheating bastards” and to be fair, Clough had a point.   There were smoking guns galore to back up Clough’s claims such as dubious refereeing decisions during the game, Juventus players barracking the ref. The Juventus players were even accused of accompanying Clough to his dressing room. There was also the very dubious bookings of Derby County players that left a bad taste in the mouth for Clough, Taylor and the Derby fans.  During the latter half of 1973 both Clough and Taylor resigned from their positions at Derby County, they were at the end of their tether having to deal with a hostile boardroom that had feeling like they were managing the club with both arms tied behind their backs. 

Derby County take on Juventus in Turin, 1973.

“I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one.”  Brian Clough.

“If we had stayed, Derby County would have won the European Cup long before Nottingham Forest and would still be among the premier clubs of England.  They are back in the Second Division today because a few interfering directors imagined they could run the show.”   Peter Taylor, speaking in 1980.

“Derby was the wild making of Brian Clough.  He went there a young and urgent manager who had done impressive work deep in his own little corner of the world at Hartlepool.  He left surrounded by fascination and great celebrity: abrasive, infuriating, but plugged, immovably, into a vein of the nation.”  James Lawton, Journalist.

After leaving Derby, Clough and Taylor had a brief spell at Brighton & Hove Albion.  After a year on the south coast Clough was installed as the new team manager of Leeds United whilst Taylor remained at Brighton.  It was a well-documented bumpy ride for Clough at Leeds with a mutinous dressing room filled with disgruntled players.  Clough was only at Leeds for forty four days.  With hindsight Cloughie shouldn’t have been bothered, he was about to build a brilliant legacy at Nottingham Forest.  Clough was named Forest manager on the 6th of January 1975, and about eighteen months later he was joined at the City Ground by Peter Taylor.  When Clough took over Forest they were a mid table Division Two club going nowhere, however when Clough and Taylor got to work it didn’t take long for the magic to take hold.  Only two years into the job, Clough took the struggling Forest to a third place finish at the end of the 1976 – 1977 season, guaranteeing promotion to Division One.  1977 saw Forest lift the Anglo Scottish cup following a 5 – 1 victory over Leyton Orient. 

John McGovern with the Anglo Scottish Cup, 1977.

The Anglo Scottish Cup was a short lived cup tournament consisting of English and Scottish teams; it ran from 1975 to 1981.  The following season Forest romped to the title with four games to spare, the 1977 – 1978 season was all about Nottingham Forest.  Not only did they win the Division One title but they also won the League Cup, beating Liverpool after a replay at Old Trafford thanks to a well struck penalty by Scottish international John Robertson.  Clough and Taylor were working their special kind of magic again, Clough was all about the dressing room and training pitch, Taylor was the master scout cherry picking some absolute superb players to come and play for Nottingham Forest, just as he has done at Derby County. Those players brought in by Clough and Taylor include some of the best players in the modern history of Nottingham Forest, some of those players would go on to manage clubs themselves later in their careers, such as Frank Clark and Martin O’ Neil.

English champions, 1978.

Clough brought in Peter Shilton from Stoke City, for a fee said to be around £250,000. Shilton would spend well over a decade as England goalkeeper.  David Needham was brought in from Queens Park Rangers for a fee of £140,000, Needham began his professional career at Notts County; he would only play a few games for Q.P.R. before being snapped up by Forest.  Larry Lloyd was transferred from Coventry City for £60,000.  John McGovern was one of Clough’s first buys at Forest.  McGovern had been a Clough player since the early days at Hartlepool and was with Clough at Derby and the stormy days at Elland Road.  McGovern was a player well trusted by Clough; John McGovern would prove an excellent club captain and servant to Forest.  Another player brought in by Clough early doors was Frank Clark; years later Clark would later take the Forest hot seat himself. 

David Needham.

Garry Birtles was acquired from Long Eaton United in 1976, Birtles would score many goals for Forest. However, he would later be transferred to Manchester United, a move that would prove very disappointing for all concerned.  Archie Gemmell was brought in from Derby County for a fee of around £25,000.  During the February of 1979 broke the British transfer record when they spent a million quid on Trevor Francis of Birmingham City who at the time was on loan in America’s N.A.S.L. at Detroit Express.  Of course there were players already at Forest before Clough arrived that would do their manager proud at the City Ground, such as Ian Bowyer, Martin O’ Neil, Tony Woodcock and John Robertson.  The trophies continued to arrive in the Forest cabinet.  They picked up the 1978 Charity shield after hammering F.A. Cup winners Ipswich Town 5 – 0.  Sadly for Forest they failed to retain the Division One title the following year, eventually finishing as runners up to Liverpool although Forest did manage to go through the season unbeaten at home as they had done the season before. 

Garry Birtles.

The ’78 – ’79 season delivered to Forest their first European Cup, now at Forest for four years the Clough football train was well and truly steaming ahead.  In the first round Forest swept aside European Cup holders Liverpool 2 – 0 on aggregate, thanks to goals from Garry Birtles and Colin Barret.  In the second round they hammered A.E.K. Athens 7 – 2 on aggregate.  That meant they had earned themselves a place in the quarter finals and a meeting with Swiss champions Grasshoppers of Zürich.  Once again Forest were in no mood to mess about.  Their place in the semi’s was virtually rubber stamped after the first leg following a 4 – 1 demolition of the Swiss Champions at the City Ground. That game saw Birtles, Gemmell, Lloyd and Robertson getting themselves on the score sheet.  A fortnight later, a 1 – 1 draw in Switzerland meant Forest progressed in fine style.  Awaiting them in the semifinal was FC Köln of West Germany who were then managed by Hennes Weisweiler, a former Köln player himself.

Kenny Burns.

“The ugliest player I ever signed was Kenny Burns.”  Brian Clough.

The Germans would give Forest much more of a game.  The first leg for Forest was played at home, the game finished 3 – 3.  It was in fact Köln who drew first blood in the first leg at the City Ground, thanks to a goal from Belgian Roger van Gool.  About a quarter of an hour later Dieter Müller made it 2 – 0 to the West German side, giving the Forest something to worry about.  Thankfully for Forest fans, eight minutes later Garry Birtles pulled one back for the home side and a few minutes into the second half Ian Bowyer gained parity for Forest, it was 2 – 2.  Ten minutes after Bowyer had drew Forest level. John Robertson made it 3 – 2, things were looking much better for the home team, but with only five minutes left of the match Japanese midfielder Yasuhiko Okudera popped up with a goal to make it 3 – 3 on the night. 

European Cup Semi Final 1st Leg match at the City Ground. Archie Gemmill on the ball, April 1979.

With three away goals the bookies were making FC Köln the favourites to make the final.  However, Forest had other ideas.  The game over in West Germany was just as closely fought as it was in Nottingham. There was only one goal in it, thankfully it came in Nottingham Forest’s favour courtesy of an Ian Bowyer in the 65th minute.  Forest were in the European Cup final.  In the final they would meet Swedish champions, Malmö.  The final was played at Munich’s Olympic Stadium, in front of over 57,000 fans.  It was a close game, not the best final I’ve ever seen but thankfully for Forest they won the game.. They won the final thanks to a single headed goal, from only yards out by record buy Trevor Francis getting on the end of a John Robertson cross.  Forest’s European exploits were not over, back in those days the winners were automatically entered into the competition for the following season. 

European glory for Forest, Munich 1979.

So there was another major trophy on the Forest mantelpiece, to go with the League Cup they had retained by defeating Southampton 3 – 2 at Wembley a couple of months before.  That European Cup win meant they would contest the Super Cup; they met the European Cup Winners Cup winners Barcelona of Spain.  Back in those days the Super Cup was contested over two legs, the first leg took place at the City Ground with Forest just nicking game thanks to a single goal from Charlie George, who was actually at Forest on loan from Southampton. 

League Cup final, 1979, Forest beat Southampton.

A week later the two teams reconvened at the Nou Campe, the final score 1 – 1, the Super Cup belonged to Nottingham Forest.  The following season Forest retained the European Cup.  After victories against Östers I.F. of Sweden, Argeș Pitești of Romania, Dynamo Berlin of East Germany and a semifinal win against Ajax Amsterdam, they were once again the European Cup final.

Kevin Keegan of Hamburg takes on Martin O’ Neil of Nottingham Forest, Madrid 1980.

This time they faced S.V. Hamburg of West Germany.  Again it was a low scoring final after a match that saw both teams go having plenty of chances on their opponent’s goals.  However it was Forest who lifted the cup after John Robertson put a well struck shot into the Hamburg net from just outside the eighteen yard box.  Unfortunately for Forest they were quickly dumped out of the following seasons European Cup in the first round by Bulgaria’s C.S.K.A. Sofia, losing 1 – 0 at home and by the same score in Sofia. 

Forest retain the European Cup in Madrid, 1980.

“The revolution took place on the field, that’s where it all happens, not in board rooms, always on the field.  With good players signed, with average players playing better than they thought they could play and a little bit of management came into it.”  Brian Clough.

1982 saw Forest become the only British side to lift the Trofeo Colombino Cup following victory over Mexico’s Club América, it was minor European trophy win, they wouldn’t pick up another trophy until 1988 when they won the Football League Centenary Tournament when they beat Sheffield Wednesday in the final albeit needing penalties to do so.  Before retiring in 1993, Clough would deliver another two League Cups to the City Ground, as well as a couple of Full Members Cups. 

Brian Clough with the European Cup.

Forest fans won’t thank me for reminding them but the early 1980’s saw the exodus of that great side Clough and Taylor had assembled at the City Ground.  Archie Gemmell had already left for Birmingham City a couple of years before, Martin O Neil was about to leave for Norwich City, Larry Lloyd was sold to Wigan Athletic, John McGovern would soon to be sold to Bolton Wanderers, Frank Clark was about to hang his boots up for good. John Robertson would soon be sold to Derby County, although he would return to the City Ground in 1985. Tony Woodcock was about to be sold to FC Köln and Ian Bowyer was also soon to leave for Sunderland in 1981. 

“He should guide Posh in the direction of a singing coach because she’s nowhere near as good at her job as her husband.”   Brian Clough offering advice to David Beckham.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day. But I wasn’t on that particular job.”  Brian Clough.

The ’80 – ’81 season didn’t begin well for Forest after a 2 – 0 defeat at White Hart Lane.  Happily they recorded a 2 – 1 win at home over Birmingham City, thanks to goals from Garry Birtles and Raimondo Ponte.  Early on that season they enjoyed a great home victory over Stoke City, the final score 5 – 0.  Just over a fortnight later they handed out another 5 – 0 drubbing to Leicester City.   It was a season of ups and downs for Forest. They would record some satisfying home wins in the league but silverware would elude them.  Forest would finish that season in 7th place, two points ahead of Manchester United and one place behind Southampton purely on goal difference. Like I said, they didn’t see any silverware that season; they bowed out of the F.A. Cup at the quarter final stage after defeat to Ipswich Town.  In the League Cup they lost to Watford in the last sixteen. 

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