Nottingham Forest have enjoyed an array of legends at the City Ground during the Reds’ rich and enduring history. Icons have emerged from the tough times and the glory days at one of England’s oldest football clubs with the two-time European Cup champions founded in 1865.
Legends from on and off the City Ground pitch live long in the hearts of Nottingham Forest’s loyal fanbase. So, Nottingham Forest News has looked into the top 10 legends of this historic club. From their renowned coach Brian Clough to their European conqueror John Robertson.
|Years at Nottingham Forest:||1975-1993|
It is impossible to consider the legends of Nottingham Forest without leading with the Reds’ iconic manager, Clough. The tactician spent 18 years at the City Ground and guided the club to their most triumphant feats. He also struck a fabled bond with his assistant, Peter Taylor.
Clough masterminded the two European Cups and sole top-flight title that now sit proudly in Nottingham Forest’s trophy cabinet. The Reds hired the Middlesbrough-born boss in January 1975 whilst mired in the second-tier. Yet Clough would grab promotion in his first full season.
Nottingham Forest needed no time to readapt to the top-flight as Clough cemented his place as a club legend. He orchestrated the Reds’ first, and so far only, top-flight title in their debut campaign back in the old First Division during 1977/78 and only endured three defeats, too.
A maiden top-flight title would also see the Reds return to Europe for the first time since the 1967/68 term. Yet Nottingham Forest also made their mark on their inaugural European Cup tour by winning the title. Trevor Francis scored their only goal to beat Malmo 1-0 in the final.
Clough continued to write his legend as Nottingham Forest lifted the European Super Cup in 1979, too. The Reds then retained their European Cup title with a 1-0 win against Hamburg with Robertson – who delivered the cross to Francis a year earlier – scoring their only effort.
|Managers:||Matt Gillies (1970-72), Dave MacKay (1972-73), Allan Brown (1973-75), Brian Clough (1975-83, 1985-86)|
|Years at Nottingham Forest:||1970-1983, 1985-1986|
Clough called Robertson the ‘Picasso of our game’ in his autobiography with the Nottingham Forest legend an artist on grass. The midfielder would work wonders with a yard of space on the left-hand side of the City Ground. While his crosses could cause havoc in the penalty box.
Looks were more than deceiving when it came to Robertson, who played every game in four straight seasons – including their European Cup titles. His cross into Francis in the 1979 final was also a perfect example of the winger’s ability after darting clear of three Malmo players.
Robertson was to be a star of the show in the 1980 final, as well. He cut inside from the left wing and rifled the ball into the net after a one-two with Gary Birtles. While the Lanarkshire native was the only one from Nottingham Forest’s top-flight title in the PFA Team of the Year.
Such was the skill and grace that Robertson displayed on some horrible pitches to become a legend that Nottingham Forest’s fans twice voted him as their greatest-ever player. His talent with either foot repaid the faith that Clough and Taylor showed in the Scot after taking over.
|Managers:||Brian Clough (1985-93), Frank Clark (1993-96)|
|Years at Nottingham Forest:||1985-1997|
When Clough signed Stuart Pearce after two seasons at Coventry City in 1985, the defender was hardly expected to become a legend at Nottingham Forest. Yet the next 12 years would see ‘Psycho’ cement his place in City Ground folklore and spend most of them as the captain.
Pearce would also captain the Reds to an immediate return to the top-flight in 1993/94 after Clough retired upon relegation. While the England cult hero also became the club’s caretaker manager-player in 1996/97 when Frank Clark resigned but he could not stop their relegation.
Nottingham Forest later brought Pearce back to the City Ground in 2014 as their head coach. Yet while he would only spend a season at their helm, Pearce’s legacy with the Reds remains untarnished. His career at the club also featured League Cup titles in 1988/89 and 1989/90.
Pearce wrote his name in the pages of Nottingham Forest’s history books with a free-kick in the 1991 FA Cup final, as well. While fans bestowed the full-back the nickname ‘Psycho’ for his intensity and tough tackling. Goals were not all too rare for Pearce, either, having scored 88.
|Managers:||Frank Clark (1993-95)|
|Years at Nottingham Forest:||1993-1995|
While he may have only spent two seasons at the City Ground, Stan Collymore left his mark as a Nottingham Forest legend. The Staffordshire-born striker particularly etched his name in the records books with his last-minute winner to beat Peterborough United on 30 April 1994.
Collymore was a prolific finisher in his heyday and led Nottingham Forest’s promotion charge in 1993/94 with 19 goals. He would then repeat the haul in the forward’s first top-flight term at the City Ground to finish in third. It also secured the striker an £8.5m transfer to Liverpool.
The deal was a British record transfer fee at the time and also marked a profit on the £3.5m that Nottingham Forest had paid Southend United. Collymore had also arrived at the club to replace another Nottingham Forest legend, Nigel Clough, who the Reds sold upon relegation.
Sheer numbers also do not reflect the quality of the goals that Collymore hit during his spell at Nottingham Forest. The forward would flash around the field and he left Peter Schmeichel helpless with a stunning hit from the edge of the box to open their 1994/95 home campaign.
|Managers:||Brian Clough (1984-93), Frank Clark (1996), Stuart Pearce (1997)|
|Years at Nottingham Forest:||1984-1993, 1996-1997|
Clough first joined Nottingham Forest as an apprentice upon finishing school but briefly left for Heanor Town between 1983 and 1984. His father, Brian, would bring the forward back as a first-team player, though. And thus began the career of another Nottingham Forest legend.
The forward cemented his place in the squad during the 1985/86 campaign and also ended it as their top scorer. Clough scored 18 goals across all competitions and he would end five of the following seven years atop the scoring charts at the City Ground before joining Liverpool.
Only Grenville Morris, Nottingham Forest’s all-time top scorer with 217 goals, has ever found the net more often than Clough. He hit home a huge 130 in 400 matches during his first spell at the club. But the attacker would only score once in 13 appearances during his brief return.
Clough later returned to the Reds on loan from Manchester City in 1996/67 but Nottingham Forest opted against buying their club legend back. Liverpool had shipped the forward off to the Citizens in 1996 as he had failed to replicate his form at the City Ground while at Anfield.
|Managers:||Brian Clough (1990-93)|
|Years at Nottingham Forest:||1990-1993|
Roy Keane began his career with Cobh Ramblers before Clough saw the potential in the Cork-born midfielder for Nottingham Forest. His work at the City Ground over the following three years would see Manchester United break the bank for a British record £4m transfer in 1993.
The Reds’ relegation from the top-flight and Clough’s retirement saw Keane go but he left as a Nottingham Forest legend. He had also proven himself to be a frequent threat from inside the engine room at the City Ground. Keane never scored fewer than eight goals in a season.
Yet homesickness saw Keane struggle to settle after arriving at the Reds. Clough would give the midfielder the time to adapt and reaped the rewards when Keane made his professional debut against Liverpool in 1990. His trust in the Irishman only built and built from there on.
Keane’s importance at the City Ground would reach its peak in the 1992/93 season. The 21-year-old was also one of the hottest properties in the game. But his demands for a £6.5k-a-week wage saw Clough brand Keane ‘a greedy child’ and he could not stop their relegation.
|Managers:||Brian Clough (1977-82)|
|Years at Nottingham Forest:||1977-1982|
While Clough was the mastermind behind the greatest achievements in Nottingham Forest’s club history, he built their triumphs on the rock-solid foundations of Peter Shilton in the goal. The stocky shot-stopper was the world-class star the Reds needed to conquer the continent.
Shilton’s lightning-fast reactions more than justified the £270k that Clough spent to sign him from Stoke City in 1977. His five years at the City Ground also saw the keeper be the captain of England. While his first year delivered the top-flight trophy having only conceded 18 goals.
Cologne and Hamburg would bear witness to his brilliance in the European Cup, as well. The Three Lions legend was vital in Nottingham Forest beating Cologne in the second leg of their 1979 semi-final. While he was at his best to stop Hamburg from equalising in the 1980 final.
|Managers:||Brian Clough (1984-92), Paul Hart (2002-04), Joe Kinnear (2004), Gary Megson (2005)|
|Years at Nottingham Forest:||1984-1992, 2002-2005|
Nottingham Forest found a young Des Walker plying his trade as a youth in London in 1980. He had previously been on the books at Tottenham Hotspur as a kid. But Clough would give the defender his breakthrough aged 18 as the coach sought to rebuild the Reds come 1984.
Walker’s nine terms at the City Ground would see Nottingham Forest finish three top-flight campaigns in third. The defender also secured the Reds’ Player of the Year award in 1987. While he played a vital role in their runs to the FA Cup semi-finals in 1987/88 and 1988/89.
But League Cup success would arrive at Walker’s door in 1988/89 and again the season after. Nottingham Forest had not added any major silverware to their trophy cabinet since lifting their second European Cup. Walker’s role would also yield their 1990 Player of the Year title.
Walker would even lift his third Player of the Year award in 1992. But his form peaked petrol tycoon Paolo Mantovani’s attention and Sampdoria sealed a £1.5m transfer after Euro 1992. The defender had earlier been a target of Juventus after shining during the 1990 World Cup.
Sampdoria would only keep Walker for a season before he left Serie A to return to England at Sheffield Wednesday. Nottingham Forest then brought the legend back home in 2002 for the last three years of the pacey and tough-tackling enforcer’s career which featured one goal.
|Managers:||Allan Brown (1974-75), Brian Clough (1975-84)|
|Years at Nottingham Forest:||1974-1984|
Viv Anderson was a footballing pioneer in a career that saw the full-back become a legend at Nottingham Forest and for England. The defender broke down barriers to be the Three Lions’ first full international black player. He would earn 30 caps and played 425 times for the Reds.
The Nottingham native’s spell at his hometown team also featured their two European Cups. While Anderson went on to join Arsenal and Manchester United with his flamboyant charms from full-back. The leggy defender’s swashbuckling style would stun the masses for decades.
Anderson had great pace and power despite his awkward figure to cement his place among Clough’s many Nottingham Forest legends. The Reds’ season ticket holders also named their iconic former defender in the club’s greatest-ever XI in 2016 along with Shilton and Walker.
|Managers:||David Platt (2000-01), Paul Hart (2001-04), Joe Kinnear (2004), Gary Megson (2005), Steve McClaren (2011), Steve Cotterill (2011-12), Sean O’Driscoll (2012), Alex McLeish (2012-13), Billy Davies (2013-14), Stuart Pearce (2014-15), Dougie Freedman (2015-16)|
|Years at Nottingham Forest:||2000-2005, 2011-2016|
The academy at Nottingham Forest has produced a host of future first-team stars and also a legend in Andy Reid. He broke through from the Reds’ youth fold under David Platt in 2000 and amassed 160 appearances. While the winger added another 130 after returning in 2011.
Reid enjoyed four seasons at the City Ground before sealing a move to Tottenham in January 2005. He went to north London for a joint £8m with Michael Dawson on deadline day. Stints at Charlton Athletic, Sunderland and Blackpool would follow before he returned to the Reds.
His first spell at the City Ground started in style as Reid scored on his debut against Sheffield United. The Dublin-born talent would go on to hone his trade and ended the 2003/04 term as Nottingham Forest’s top scorer. Reid scored 13 goals across all competitions over the season.
Steve McClaren later lured Reid back to the City Ground as a free agent following his release by the Seasiders. The next five seasons would see Reid cement his claim to be a Nottingham Forest legend. Reid also hit double-digits for goals again for only his second time in 2013/14.
Reid continued to play a pivotal role and featured in most of Nottingham Forest’s matches in 2013/14. But injuries ruined his final two seasons at the City Ground before moving into the dugout. Paul Williams afforded Reid his first taste of coaching as an assistant in March 2016.
The winger was yet to hang up his boots when he joined Williams’ crew. But Reid called time on his career that summer and went on to coach the Republic of Ireland’s Under-18s and the Reds’ U21 squad. Steve Cooper also added him to Nottingham Forest’s coaching staff in 2022.