Nottingham Forest

Forest were founded in 1865 (by a group of shinty players)[1] three years after their neighbours Notts County, the world's oldest surviving professional football club. Forest joined the Football Alliance in 1888, and became champions in 1892, which allowed them entry to the Football League.

Forest's charitable approach to the sport helped teams such as Liverpool, Arsenal and Brighton to come into existence. In 1886, Forest donated a set of football kits to help Arsenal establish themselves - the North London team still wears red to this day. Forest also donated shirts to Liverpool and helped secure Brighton secure a ground to play at.

In 1874 Forest captain Sam Weller Widdowson was credited for wearing the first shinpads, after cutting down some cricket pads and wearing them on the outside of his stockings. It would be some 100 years before the FA were to make shinpads a compulsory piece of equipment for professional footballers. After solid crossbars were introduced, it was again at Forest that nets were first attached to goals to catch the ball after a goal was scored. Amazingly the referee on the day was Sam Widdowson, who gave his approval to the FA.

Forest also employed the first brothers to play for the same club, Frank and Fred Foreman, who later became the first brothers to represent England in 1899. They also became the first brothers to both score in an International game - scoring in a game against Ireland.

In 1898 Forest clinched their first major honour when they won the FA Cup, defeating bitter rivals Derby County. However, for much of the first half of the 20th century the club spent life in the Second Division, having to seek re-election in 1914 after finishing bottom. In 1949 the club were relegated to the Third Division, but bounced back two years later as champions of the South division. A brief period of glory followed at the end of the 1950s, as they regained First Division status in 1957 and won the FA Cup for a second time in 1959. This was despite losing Roy Dwight, uncle of pop icon Elton John, to a broken leg.

By now Forest had become the biggest team in Nottingham, ahead of rivals Notts County. In 1967 they finished as runners-up in the First Division, and also the semi-finals of the FA Cup. However after reaching this peak, Forest were relegated in 1972.

The glory years
Nottingham Forest was considered a small club by English league standards until the mid 1970s, when Brian Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor took the helm at the club. Clough arrived on 6 January 1975, after a 0-2 home defeat by local rivals Notts County, on Boxing Day, prompted the committee to sack the previous manager Allan Brown.

Clough went on to become the most successful manager in the history of Nottingham Forest football club. He had previously won the league title with Forest's deadly rivals Derby County in 1972. He led Forest to promotion to at the end of the 1976-77 season after finishing third in the Second Division, but no-one could have predicted how successful Clough's team would be over the next three seasons.

The 1977-78 season saw Forest become one of the few teams to win the First Division Championship a year after winning promotion from the Second Division. They are the last team to date to complete this feat. They also won the Football League Cup which they would also retain the following season. In 1978-79, Forest went on to win the European Cup by beating Malmö FF [1-0] in Munich's Olympic Stadium, while finishing as runners-up in the First Division.

They then retained the European Cup in 1979-80, beating Hamburger SV 1-0 in Madrid thanks to an outstanding performance by goalkeeper Peter Shilton. The European Super Cup was also added to the haul of silverware won by the team, which included key players such as right-back Viv Anderson (the first black player to wear the England jersey); midfielder Martin O'Neill; striker Trevor Francis, who was the first £1 million footballer; and a trio of Scottish International stars: winger John Robertson, midfielder Archie Gemmill and defender Kenny Burns.

After winning seven trophies in three season, Forest's next significant trophy did not come until 1989 when they beat Luton Town in the League Cup Final. For most of the season they had been hopeful of completing a unique domestic treble, but were beaten into third place in the League by champions Arsenal and runners-up Liverpool. They also lost to Liverpool in the replay of the FA Cup Semi-Final, originally held at Hillsborough where 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death; the match was abandoned after 6 minutes. Clough's side retained the League Cup in 1990 when they beat Oldham Athletic. In doing so they became the first team to retain the League Cup on two separate occasions.

In 1991 Forest reached the FA Cup Final for the first and only time under Brian Clough, where they played Tottenham Hotspur. They took an early lead with a Stuart Pearce free kick, but ended up losing 2-1 in extra time after an own goal by Des Walker. Forest reached their third League Cup final in four seasons in 1992, losing to Manchester United, and also won the Full Members Cup twice in 1989 and 1992.

Forest were founder members of the Premier League but only lasted one more season. Brian Clough's 18-year reign as manager ended in May 1993 when Forest were relegated, after 16 illustrious years of top flight football. Under Clough, the club had won one league title, two European Cups and four League Cups. Since his departure, Forest have had eight managers and spent just four out of 12 seasons in the Premiership.

Brian Clough is considered one of the greatest managers in English football history by fans of all clubs.[citation needed] There is said to be a consensus amongst many English football fans[attribution needed] that the biggest mistake the FA ever made was not appointing Clough as England manager, often the term 'the best manager England never had' is used. He died in 2004 after a long battle with stomach cancer.

Life after Clough
Frank Clark, who had been a left-back in Nottingham Forest's 1979 European Cup winning team, returned to the club in May 1993 to succeed Brian Clough as manager. Having inherited most of the players from the Clough era, Clark was able to achieve an instant return to the Premiership when the club finished Division One runners-up at the end of the 1993-94 season. Clark looked to be well on the way to re-establishing Forest as a top team.

Forest's return to the Premiership was impressive as they finished third in 1994-95 and qualified for the UEFA Cup - their first entry to European competition in the post-Heysel era. One of the many highlights of the 1994-95 season was a memorable victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford, with Stan Collymore and Stuart Pearce scoring the goals, a game fondly remembered by Forest fans of that era. But Collymore was sold to Liverpool in June 1995 for a then English record fee of £8.4 million, and his £2 million Italian successor Andrea Silenzi was considered to be a disappointing signing. Forest's goals dried up in the Premiership during 1995-96 and they finished ninth - although they did reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup, making them the only English team to reach the last eight of any European competition that season.

Forest started the 1996-97 season badly and were dragged into the relegation battle. With no signs of that battle being won, Clark was sacked in December and 34-year-old captain Stuart Pearce was installed as player-manager on a temporary basis. Pearce inspired a brief revival in Forest's fortunes, and he was voted Premiership manager for the month for January 1997 after a turn around in form lifted the club off the bottom of the table. He was tipped to become manager on a permanent basis, but the Forest directors wanted someone more experienced so in March 1997 they turned to Crystal Palace manager Dave Bassett.

Despite the addition of Celtic's Dutch striker Pierre van Hooijdonk, Forest were unable to avoid relegation and finished the season in bottom place. They won promotion back to the Premiership at the first attempt, being crowned Division One champions in 1997-98. But the prolific strike-partnership of Kevin Campbell and Pierre van Hooijdonk was soon broken up: Campbell was sold to Turkish side Trabzonspor and van Hooijdonk refused to play, because his strike partner was sold. Van Hooijdonk later returned to the club but it was too late to save Bassett, who was sacked in January 1999 after a terrible start to the Premiership campaign and elimination from the FA Cup at the hands of Division One side Portsmouth.

Ron Atkinson was brought in on the promise of an alleged million pound bonus if he kept Forest up. He did little to endear himself to the Forest faithful by climbing into the wrong dugout at the start of his first game in charge against Arsenal. He was unable to keep Forest up, and for the third time in seven seasons they were relegated as the Premiership's bottom club. His contract was not renewed and several high profile names were mentioned for the vacant manager's job. including Glenn Hoddle,Roy Evans and Brian Little. The club's eventual choice was 33-year-old former England captain David Platt, whose brief spell as head coach of Italian Serie A side Sampdoria had just ended in relegation.

Platt made several expensive signings (including the Trio Of Italians) during his two-year reign at the helm, but these acquisitions were unproductive[citation needed] and Forest could only manage a mid-table finish. The aforementioned signings led to financial problems and a constant need to sell players to pay off debts. Platt left to become England U-21 coach in July 2001 and he handed over the reins to youth team manager Paul Hart. By now, Forest's days as a top club were now very much a distant memory and no players remained from their successful days in the top flight. Forest arguably still haven't recovered from Platt's management of the club.

Financial problems
The club's financial problems escalated at the end of the 2001-02 season when the ITV Digital collapse almost bankrupted them.[citation needed] Hart's first season at the helm had been unremarkable as a squad made up mostly of young players achieved a 16th place finish in Division One. There were fears that Nottingham Forest could go into liquidation during the summer of 2002,[citation needed] but with the sale of players like Jermaine Jenas the financial situation was quickly brought under control and Forest improved in 2002-03, finishing sixth and qualifying for the playoffs. However, they lost to Sheffield United in the semi finals after a 1-1 draw at the City Ground, and a 4-3 extra time defeat at Bramall Lane. Forest's failure to gain promotion led to many of their finest assets being sold, and the departures took their toll on the club's fortunes in 2003-04. Hart was sacked in February as Forest hovered near the foot of Division One.

Joe Kinnear, appointed in 2004, revitalised Forest by bringing out the best in key players such Michael Dawson and Andy Reid. Kinnear was hoping to push for promotion from the newly-named Coca-Cola Championship in 2004-05 but the team's form went downhill, as did the league position. Kinnear walked away from the club in December, after a 3-0 defeat by arch-rivals Derby County at Pride Park, with Forest struggling at the foot of the Championship. His assistant Mick Harford had only been recruited a few weeks before, but was put in charge of first-team duties on a temporary basis, until a permanent successor could be found.

In January 2005, Gary Megson was named as Nottingham Forest's new manager but couldn't prevent relegation to League One, when Forest finished second from bottom in the Coca-Cola Championship. This made them the first former winners of the European Cup to suffer relegation to the third tier of their domestic league. Megson subsequently transfer listed the players at the club who he felt were not performing to the standards he demanded. In the summer of 2005, Megson became one of most active managers in the transfer market, signing many new players including Gary Holt, Ian Breckin, Nathan Tyson, Grant Holt and Sammy Clingan.

Life in League One
Initially in League One under Gary Megson, progress had been steady but many Forest fans[attribution needed] might have hoped for a better run of form. Forest were strong at home but struggled with form in away matches. The quality of the football on display was generally regarded (by Forest fans and experts alike)[citation needed] as the worst from Forest in living memory and the abject performances and results away from home started to appear at the City Ground. Megson departed 'by mutual consent' on 16 February, 2006 with Forest in 13th place, just four points above the relegation zone, having won just once in the last ten games. Megson's departure apparently cost himself one million pounds.[citation needed]

After Megson's departure, assistant manager Frank Barlow and reserve team coach Ian McParland took over on a caretaker basis. Barlow and McParland won their first game in charge with a 2-0 away victory at Port Vale, Forest's first away win since August 27 2005. Their second game ended with an outstanding 7-1 home win against Swindon Town F.C, the first time Forest scored more than 6 goals in a League game for over a decade.

Barlow and McParland were named joint Managers Of The Month for March 2006 due to Forest being the only team in the Football League to go unbeaten in that month. Forest just missed out on the play-offs after a draw at Bradford City on the final day of the season.

In May 2006, former player Colin Calderwood was appointed as manager, at the time he was the 12th Forest manager in 13 years. His reign started successfully, with the team winning their first four matches, and he was named Manager of the Month for August.

Forest enjoyed a good start to the season with a run of seven consecutive wins, before a dip in form saw them lose their lead at the top of League One, notably a 5-0 defeat away at Oldham saw both Sammy Clingan and Danny Cullip receive red cards. In recent weeks they have hovered between the automatic promotion and playoff positions.

Forest suffered an early exit in the Carling Cup, losing to Accrington Stanley, and progressed to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup where they met Chelsea, losing 3-0 at Stamford Bridge with 6,000 Forest fans in attendance.

Forest played their biggest game in years when they travelled to 2nd place Bristol City last Saturday with momentum gathering after picking up 7 points from their previous 3 games, performing well in every game and stopping ridiculous criticisms at Colin Calderwood. It was a 1-1 finish. Forest are currently 3rd in the table and 4 points off Bristol City with Scunthorpe United the pace setters 6 points ahead of the Reds, but with only 7 games to go, can Forest really launch an incredible assault for maybe even the title when it looked like they had thrown it completely? Only time will tell but on the banks of the Trent, belief has been restored and more importantly, the fans have responded to Forest's current momentum building for this crucial match which will be remembered for years, whether it will be for the right or wrong reasons. James Perch will also make his 100th league appearance for the club this weekend, becoming the second longest serving player at the club behind Wes Morgan.

Nottingham Forest has a large fanbase and, despite playing in the 3rd tier of English football, they still manage to attract crowds bigger than some Premiership fixtures. When Forest faced Yeovil Town FC on 17 April 2006, only 3 teams in England had a higher attendance than Forest (28,197), which were Chelsea, Tottenham, and Sunderland.

Also, when Forest faced Cheltenham, on 24 March 2007, no team in England had a higher attendance than Forest. (22,640)

Forest's largest home attendance of the 2005-2006 season was 28,242, almost 10,000 more than any other League One club's highest attendance.

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