Crossing Trent Bridge to the City Ground invokes more nostalgia than hope these days. Will tonight’s Supporters Trust meeting inspire better days? Peter Blackburn thinks so

It was Sunday 1 March 1998 when I really fell head over heels in love with football.

To this day I’m not completely sure what the tipping point was.

It could have been the lanky but purposeful stride of Pierre van Hooijdonk as he galloped toward the ball and struck it so sweetly past a helpless Andy Dibble in the Middlesbrough goal.


Or perhaps it was that the planets had truly aligned – my Nottingham Forest side had beaten my favourite teacher’s beloved ‘Boro and I would take the bragging rights to my Year Four class.

One way or another Nottingham Forest had given the North-East side a really good, old-fashioned hammering – as we used to once upon a time – courtesy of two goals from Van Hooijdonk and added efforts from two other stalwarts, Colin Cooper and Kevin Campbell.

I probably hadn’t ever been happier.

It is that feeling, the uprising of that childish joy, the curiosity, the expectation and the dreaded hope that keeps us going back to the City Ground – just as Proust’s memories danced and glittered at the thought of that madeleine cake. Following the football news at should be a thing of joy.

But the truth is that, for me at least, those childish feelings aren’t what they were. I appreciate the view across the Trent to our famous old ground more as one would enjoy a Van Gogh cooped up in a sterile gallery rather than looking upon a place of worship, or real, raucous joy.

I haven’t grown old and weary. I’m as idealistic as I ever was, as passionate, as full of hope and expectation from friends, family and life.

It is football that has let me down; it is Nottingham Forest that has let me down.

Think of that.

The club whose dazzling efforts sing from the silver screen in Jonny Owen’s I Believe in Miracles – the men who conquered the world and spoke for everyone in this provincial city.

That club is rotten now. Those stars in red watch on as their legacy is tainted; some ignored by the club, some treated even worse.

For too many years now Nottingham Forest has been allowed to become at best an average football club struggling to keep up with less well-endowed competition and at worst a laughing stock incapable of paying bills, letting down hard-working staff and turning its nose up at the community.

Manager has followed manager, chief executives have left in concerning circumstances and other clubs left with no option but to publically criticise Forest when left out of pocket.

And the fans have been treated to similar contempt – from threats to leave if disaffection isn’t stifled to ‘we’re serious about promotion, are you?’.

But the one constant during this mess and malaise has been those supporters; they’ve been at the City Ground watching another disappointing performance, with semi-interested stars taking to the field and transient managers patrolling the touchline; they’ve been in the club shop hoping to catch a glimpse of their often unworthy heroes and putting another £50 into the pockets of owners who don’t need the cash; and they’ve been spending money they haven’t got buying another round to discuss the club’s fortunes with their mates.

But the winds of change are blowing. And it is these fantastic fans who can turn that wind into a gale.

A group of fans will meet tonight at the Albert Hall in Nottingham to begin the process of making their voices heard once again.

A fully established supporters trust can force the voice of the fans upon the club – and an owner who may have good intentions but has failed to match those with a plan, or indeed any sign of progress.

This club needs stability, it needs structure and it needs to find its roots back in the community which gives it real power.

Chief executives, technical directors, commercial staff, recruitment teams and administrators are not difficult positions to hire to – especially given the name of this football club – and filling those roles would be a start.

But these people must be charged to bring an identity, a long-term strategy and a sense of direction and purpose without fear that an axe will fall in seven weeks or a personal vendetta might challenge their position.

There are thousands of people, both those who have worn the famous Garibaldi and those who have sat in the stands and emptied their wallets in NG2, who would walk across the Trent to achieve these aims.

It really isn’t asking too much to feel part of the club and believe in the future we share.

It’s time to walk across Trent Bridge and feel like a child again; to smell the greasy burgers and burnt onions and think of Van Hooijdonk terrorising defenders and Kevin Campbell sliding the ball home.

Make your voice heard.

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The Nottingham Forest Supporters’ Trust meeting will take place on Thursday 7 April: 19.30 – 21.30 (bar open from 19.00) at The Albert Hall (Osborne Suite).

The meeting is open to all fans to discuss the formation of a Supporters’ Trust. Admission is free.

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