Nottingham Forest: When success has a first and last name

In the history of football, there are a lot cases of clubs and national teams that have a time of success or a golden age that sometimes it is hard to believe that it happened, mainly when seeing the present that they live. In the case of Nottingham Forest, their golden era took them from the hell of England's lower leagues to the pinnacle of European football.

The City Ground - Nottingham Forest home stadium
The City Ground - Nottingham Forest home stadium
Nottingham Forest is a football club founded in 1865 from a group of Shinty players who decided to play football and it is due to that origin that at the beginning the club had a multiple of sports disciplines. The time between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century did not leave many successes in the club's trophy cabinet, reaching the point of having been rejected to be part of the group of founding teams of the Football League at its birth in 1888 and so, in 1889, they joined the Football Alliance, a league of excluded clubs that operated in parallel to the Football League. Since the decade 1910, Forest wandered in the lower leagues of England.

In the late 1970s, there was clearly one club that was the benchmark for English football and to some extent European football and that was Nottingham Forest. In its more than 150 years of existence, Forest have never experienced such a successful and glorious era than under the leadership of Brian Clough, more specifically, the beginning of that era that saw them become champions of England in the 1977- 78 and later, in Europe, by winning two consecutive editions of the old European Cup, in the two years following the local success.

For those who don't know much about Clough, there are those who have called him Mourinho before Mourinho and there are some phrases by Clough himself that suggest that statement is true, such as as "I wouldn't say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one" while reviewing his career or "Rome wasn't built in a day. But I wasn't on that particular job".

The most impressive thing about Clough's success at the club was the fact that when he arrived in 1975, Nottingham Forest were in the Second Division, but a year later they achieved promotion and Clough's ambition did not stopped there by simply settling with wanting to be in the First Division as a goal for the coming season. That is why he identified defense as the area to improve to make Nottingham Forest a competitive club even in the first tier of English football and thus secured the signings of goalkeeper Peter Shilton and defenders Kenny Burns and Archie Gemmill.

The mixture of an efficient attack and a solid defense was rewarded by the club achieving a streak of 42 games without losing within a period of one year that guaranteed them the league title, in their season back at the elite level. As champions of England, they won the right to play in the European Cup the following season, where far from shrinking, they managed to reach the final, leaving clubs like Liverpool, AEK Athens or Köln on the wayside.

In the final, Swedish champions Malmö FF awaited in what was one of the most unexpected finals in the history of the competition. Trevor Francis' solitary goal was the difference that made Forest's Cinderella story a reality, making them European champions for the first time. "It was not a great game, they were a boring team. In fact, Sweden is a boring nation. But we won" Clough said after the match ended.

A year later, against any odds that would dare to go against Nottingham Forest, the club reached the European Cup final again, this time against Hamburg SV who featured English star Kevin Keegan. In this case, the difference would also be one goal, although it would be marked by the moment of inspiration of Scotsman John Robertson who left several rivals on the way to then take advantage of a rebound to score. With that trophy, the club achieved its eighth trophy in 4 years and equaled Liverpool as the English club with the most European Cups.

Forest remained as one of the most competitive teams in England until the end of the First Division era which, in a certain way, also marked the end of an era for the club as they were one of the founders of the Premier League but also it was the team that finished in last place and was the first to be mathematically relegated in the history of the new competition. At the end of that season, Clough would end an 18-year relationship with the institution and said "We're not good enough, simple as that".

Stuart Pearce
Stuart Pearce, today a manager, was part of the successful team in 94-95
That relegation also led to the departure of one of the team's figures, Roy Keane, to Manchester United. Former club player Frank Clark took over from Clough and it only took one season to bring them back to the Premier League. In the 1994-95 season, as one of the newly promoted sides, Nottingham Forest had a brilliant season that saw them finish in third place, behind only champions Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United, earning them qualification for the UEFA Cup. Forest had an outstanding performance by Stan Collymore, the team's top scorer, Brian Roy and Stuart Pearce, in a squad that, as a curiosity, had a young Norwegian player named Alfie Haaland.

The club would later move away from the lights of the Premier League for more than two decades in which it would even play in League One (third tier of English football), leaving the successes achieved by Clough and his team in oblivion, which is why that, for the newer generations, Nottingham Forest is just another English club, but for those who were able to live that moment and, especially for the club's fans, the miracles of Clough's Forest will live on forever.
Nathan Annan is from South Africa and loves to write, and above all about his favorite sport, football. Nathan's interest in football was sparked late but after watching a few matches in his hometown of Johannesburg during the 2010 South Africa World Cup, he was hooked.