Ever wondered what sets apart your experience of following the Tricky Trees? What’s the good, bad and ugly? Andrew Brookes lists 25 reasons you know you’re a Forest fan. It’s not exhaustive, but these are all little things peculiar to following the trials and tribulations of life on the Red side of the Trent
1. David Pla**
The massive-foreheaded clown’s name is an expletive to any Forest fan. The rest of the footballing world sees him as a cultured midfielder who made the move to Serie A and scored important goals for England – we see him as the managerial moron who played one-dimensional football and consigned us to a long (still ongoing) struggle to return to the top flight. He squandered countless millions – including the infamous three Italians – played abysmal football and then arrogantly claimed he’d have got us up given another season when he buggered off to the England Under-21s leaving a club that looked destined for administration rather than promotion. Yes, I still think he was worse than Megson. It’s close though.
2. D***y County
Every club has a bitter enemy and ours is that lot from down the A52. Forget Notts or Lestah – the Sh**p are our sworn rivals. I couldn’t bring myself to sup a pint of Marston’s while their name was emblazoned on the shirts, it’s a fan thing right? It’s the one game a season we are desperate to win. It makes heroes – Ben Osborn and Rob Earnshaw the most recent – and leaves scars – the Barry Roche coffee cup, the demise of Davies and Kinnear.
3. Born too late
If you’re a Forest fan of about my age (I’m 30) you can be forgiven for thinking you missed the boat. Most clubs probably dream of one day going on a run, toppling the big boys and maybe even making it to the top in Europe. We’ve been there and done it and us young ‘uns were too late to see it. It’s great to watch footage of the glory days but it’s also a bit sad to think we weren’t around to see it especially given the fact that, let’s be honest, we’ll never get there again.
‘We’re serious about promotion, are you?’. Plenty has been written about this so I won’t go on – safe to say though that Forest fans learnt how not to carry out a marketing campaign from that disastrous effort.
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While the rest of the footballing world regularly votes our away kit circa 1995-97 as one of the worst ever, as a fan you’re secretly rather fond of it, if not only because it reminds you of Steve Chettle scoring away at Bayern Munich.
Which reminds me, as a Forest fan you’re probably more likely to have a fondness for a certain Canadian lager – and wish for its return to mainstream UK sale. For a similar reason, you were delighted by the return of Shipstone’s.
7. The Righteous Brothers
There’s probably a corner of your CD collection/iPod/Spotify playlist that contains a certain Righteous Brothers song. It wouldn’t ordinarily be the sort of thing that suits your tastes but since it’s sung at the City Ground you have a little fondness for You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’. Oh, and you’ll probably have been ‘that person’ who carries on singing after the rest of the crowd, belting out ‘Baby, baby, I get down on my knees for you’ – before realising where you are.
Every club has them – those pesky players who always pop up with a goal or two. I remember Alan Shearer always seeming to score (and dive) against us but in recent times Forest fans will consider Tommy Smith to be a bogeyman. He’s played for the Sh**p, Watford, QPR and others and always seems to thrive against us. With five goals and four assists, including setting up the equaliser on Monday at Brentford, Smith’s record against Forest is better than any other club he’s played against. Stephen Dobbie deserves an ‘honourable mention’ in this category too.
9. Bogey clubs
While we’re on this subject, it’s not just seemingly random players who regularly haunt us. Every fan of the post-top flight era would shudder at the thought of facing Walsall. Why? Who knows. Yeovil and Blackpool have also had their peculiar hold over us but the boys from the Bescott are the original and worst bogey club. Since beating the Saddlers home and away in the 1999/2000 season, Forest have failed to win any of the last 11 encounters, with 4 draws and 7 defeats.
10. Away days
You’re always in good company as a Forest fan on the road – the club regularly takes followings above those with higher home gates and often sells out its allocations. I often feel you find plenty of people among the away crowd who live elsewhere in the country and jump at the chance to see their beloved Reds closer to home whenever they can. I’m not sure why that is, but we’re lucky to have pockets of fans up and down the country.
Most of the football world knows Stanley Victor Collymore as the man who ‘gets a bit feisty’ on Twitter these days. That or for, well, you know, other things. As a Forest fan you remember the fact he was a wonderful striker with incredible talent. He’s the most naturally gifted player I’ve had the fortune to see turn out in the Garibaldi Red and should, really, have gone on to have a long career with the national team (or should have shunned the Scousers and carried on scoring a shed load of goals for us).
12. Gareth Bale
The Welsh wing-wizard turned Galactico is ‘the one that got away’ – having come within a whisker of joining Billy Davies’ side on loan before he made it big. As it happened Bale, then seen as a curse as Spurs never won when he played, was called on to cover for the injured Benoit Assou-Ekotto and never made the switch. When the goals rained in for Spurs, the big money move came to Real Madrid and now when he almost single-handedly drags Wales to the Euros, Forest fans ruefully think about what might’ve been. Although, in truth, we’d have stuck him at left-back, bemoaned him getting beaten in the air at the far post and killed his career. He probably sees it as a lucky escape.
13. Badge of dishonour
Every Forest fan has their ‘I was there when’ moment – sadly for this generation those are the ‘I was there when it was so bad’ moments. For me, Woking away in the LDV Vans Trophy (a 3-2 defeat) is up there – as is MK Dons away at the National Hockey Stadium. It was a bleak 1-0 defeat in bleak surrounds in the dying days of the dismal Megson era. The side that day? Gerrard, Eaden (Dobie 45), Morgan, Breckin, Gardner (Bopp 72), Lester, Perch, Thompson, Cullip, Grant Holt (Vickerton 87), Clingan. Attacking and dynamic are not really two words I’d use to describe the outlook.
14. Cloughie anecdote
Quite a few Forest fans have their own personal Cloughie anecdote. I was lucky enough to catch the very tail end of his reign and had the fortune of meeting Old Big ‘Ead at a match. As a child I went to many reserve games with our next-door neighbour – a shareholder who got us into the shareholder’s lounge for such occasions. We sat near to the directors box but on one occasion Cloughie popped up and sat right behind us. It was a bitterly cold evening and Brian leant forward and offered me some encouragement on how to stay warm. It was a small exchange, but a small insight into the charisma of the great man. If they’re lucky enough, lots of Forest fans have their ‘Cloughie moment’ – it’s not just in the famous quotes and oft-repeated TV footage that he shone – he was like that face-to-face too.
15. Zenith Data Systems Cup
Forest fans can rejoice in being the current holders of a national trophy. Yep, we were the last ever winners of the Zenith Data Systems (Full Members) Cup in 1992. Scoff if you like but the 3-2 final win over Southampton after extra-time gave me the chance to see the Tricky Trees win at Wembley. Sadly, we couldn’t follow it up in the League Cup Final shortly afterwards.
16. It is what it is
Whenever a Forest fan hears this cliché trotted out on the telly they’ll be transported back into the period of Shakespearean demise for Billy Davies, The Second Coming. So infamous it became an ironic chant, this line was often trotted out by Davies in his filmed post-match press conferences which were a pretty baffling experience.
17. Financial Fair Play
This is one of those terms often bandied about, held up as being key to reigning in the spending of the big boys and getting a fairer football for all. So far, us, Leeds and Blackburn – three failed Premier League clubs who have struggled in vain to return to the Promised Land – have been hit with transfer embargoes while the top clubs seemingly carry on as they were. Most football fans may be forgiven for thinking it’s a load of empty jargon, for Forest fans it’s the grim reality and will shape the future of the club for the next couple of years.
18. Stuart Pearce
It’s rare that your most recent sacked manager remains a hero. That’s true for Psycho though. It didn’t work for him in the dugout – despite assembling a half-decent side and repairing much of the club’s PR damage – but Pearce remains a club legend. Other fans may see him as someone defined by two England penalties – Italia 90 and Euro 96 – but we got to see the best of him at domestic level, and what a treat it was. A marauding full-back who scored goals – and not just free kicks and penalties – Pearce was the ultimate leader. A fist-pumping, tough-tackling passionate force to be reckoned with. Collymore may be the most gifted player I’ve seen but Pearce was the very best.
19. Cult heroes
All clubs have cult hero players they love in a way that opposition fans often don’t understand. For Forest fans, our most recent one is probably Marlon Harewood – derided by some Premier League snobs despite actually doing alright in the top flight under Alan Pardew’s FA Cup runners up – Marlon’s hard-working displays earned him cult status. He linked up superbly with David Johnson as part of the much-loved Paul Hart side and very nearly got us back to the Premier League. On-loan George Elokobi (he’ll eat you alive) and Jason ‘he’s got a pineapple on his head’ Lee (who was better than his Fantasy Football-fuelled reputation) also belong in this category.
20. Born Slippy
For years the Underworld track was used to indicate that the teams were in the tunnel waiting for action. It become linked so closely to the football in Forest fans’ heads that I’ve heard a spontaneous ‘Youuuu Reds’ break out in Nottingham before when the song comes on in a pub/club.
21. John Aldridge
It’s a Forest fan’s mission to remind the world that Aldridge is not a ‘cheeky chappie’ but, in fact, the classless moron who ruffled Brian Laws’ hair after an own goal in the 1989 FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool. Folklore has it that Tony Adams said ‘that’s for Brian Laws’ to ‘Aldo’ after Arsenal pipped Liverpool to the title in revenge for the act. Nice one Tony. In recent times it has become a sport for some Forest fans to become blocked by Aldridge on Twitter for sending him a picture of the Laws moment. Well worth a try if you’re in the mood.
Whether it’s the Pierre Van Hooijdonk strike, the entire squad up for sale under Paul Hart or Billy Davies’ bizarre second reign, Forest fans have had their fair share of dramas over the years. Add to that list: the fans delivering a dressing room ‘dressing down’ after a defeat at Yeovil under Megson, Big Ron’s infamous moment when he went to the wrong dugout on his managerial debut and the moment Marlon Harewood punched a linesman inadvertently while celebrating a goal. The club certainly keeps you on your toes.
The casual fan might see the play-offs as an exciting end-of-season decider but for Forest fans they’ve bought nothing but misery. Heartbreak against Sheffield United, Yeovil, Blackpool and Swansea has meant the play-offs have been a thorughly miserable experience.
24. Happy at home
Travelling Trickies may well enjoy trips away but they love being at home too. Fans feel lucky to have such a ground in a picturesque setting and have no desire for a soulless out of town identikit bowl. In the summer, Forest fans get pride when their beloved City Ground appears in those aerial shots above the Trent Bridge test.
Stat-happy fans can trot out the fact Forest was the first club to wear shinpads, played the first game with a referee’s whistle and had the first ground to use goal nets and a cross bar. We were also involved in the first live televised league match and the first televised Premier League match and, give or take the quid knocked off by Cloughie, were involved in the first million pound transfer.