Result: Nottingham Forest 1-0 Bolton Wanderers (EFL Championship)
Venue: City Ground (Sunday 5th May 2019, 12.30pm)
The final weekend of the EFL’s season “proper” saw a chance to get in a ground that had been a long-term target, both because of its ease of access transport-wise and because, well, I’ve always wanted to go! Dan had also had the City Ground on his ‘to-do’ list for some time as well and so when the chance came around to watch them entertain a Bolton Wanderers side that had been decimated by all the things that have been rather well covered over all kinds of media, it wasn’t going to be passed off. To Nottingham!!
Grabbing a train during the early(ish) morning, we arrived in the East Midlands city for around 11am and swiftly made use of our plus-bus tickets to get over to the ground and collect our tickets. With time of the essence due to the early kick-off, Dan opted to get to his seat early as to allow me a bit of extra time over a pre-match drink in the Southside Bar just at the head of the road and across from the Trent Bridge. Tickets collected and with mine safely tucked away in the programme (£3), I made my way to the pub which I felt deserved custom as they trusted all with actual glasses and not like a group of people who were about to attack each other at any moment! The Amstel wasn’t all that cheap, coming in at a smart £5.20, but that didn’t matter – it would have done if the glass was plastic!
Nottingham is a city and unitary authority area in the East Midlands of England and has legendary links to Robin Hood and the Sherwood Forest area. The settlement itself may pre-date the Anglo-Saxons with Welsh traditions stating a place known as the Brythonic “Tig Guocobauc” meaning “Place of Caves” though under the Saxon chieftain with the attractive name of Snot, the area became Snotingaham (the homestead of Snot’s people).
The city’s castle was constructed in 1068 with the area around the Lace Market being largely the only place confined to inhabitation by the Anglo-Saxons before the Norman Conquest saw it expand outwards to become the Borough of Nottingham. On the hill opposite the castle stood a French settlement supporting those Normans in the castle, though the space between the two was built upon eventually and more defences created, some of which are still visible. As Richard the Lionheart returned from the Crusades, the castle was inhabited by supporters of Prince John – including the Sherriff of Nottingham though Richard soon besieged and captured it.
During the 15th century, Nottingham became a trading centre for locally made religious sculpture and became a “county corporate” in 1449 giving it self-governance, though both the castle and Shire Hall remained parishes of the wider Nottinghamshire county itself. The industrial revolution saw the city grow into a textile stronghold – especially in the form of lace making (with the Reform Act championed by the Duke of Newcastle leading to his residence at Nottingham Castle being torched) – though this declined by the end of WWII with little remaining. The municipal borough formed in 1835 was expanded to take in nearby areas such as Carlton, Basford and West Bridgford (Forest’s home) and then in 1889, Nottingham was awarded county borough status and 1897 saw it become a city as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria. Trams were used in the city in 1901 until 1936 and were reintroduced in 2004.
Finding a place in the packed-out pub, I supped away at the pint in my hand whilst watching the Soccer Special build-up around the country taking place before returning back to the City Ground for a couple of exterior pictures prior to heading inside and up to the rear of the dominant Brian Clough Stand. For some reason, everyone was packed into the rows all around me despite there being two perfectly good (and empty) rows directly behind. Of course, I wasn’t passing up that opportunity and so I took my newly self-designated seat with a nice bit of room to relax into as the teams entered the pitch – Bolton’s younger squad taking on members making up most of the side today, though some first-teamers were back in after an agreement was found for them to end their “strike”.
The City Ground is quite an interesting ground to my eye and is, of course, an all-seater affair that sees the large two-tiered Brian Clough Stand tower above the other constructions around it. At both ends are fairly similar sized stands opposite each other, with the one housing the away fans being a smaller two-tiered affair, whilst the other end features a “Kop”-style stand. The older Main Stand is located along the opposite touchline from the Brian Clough. That side also hosts the dugouts, boxes etc. and all the other needed facilities. That’s the City Ground in short and this is the story of Nottingham Forest….
Nottingham Forest Football Club was founded in 1865 by a few ‘shinty’ players at the city’s Clinton Arms pub, where it was agreed the players would wear twelve red tasselled caps which were then titled the ‘Garibaldi Reds’ – after the leader of the Italian ‘Redshirts’ fighters and thus the club colours came into being. They played their first game against local rivals Notts County in 1866 and began a multi-sporting existence whilst also donating kit to Arsenal to allow them to play and started their own red and white existence as well as embarking on a tour to South America which saw Argentine side Independiente take on the colours and become “Red Devils” (as Forest were called out there). Forest entered the FA Cup for the first time in 1869 and beat County at the Beeston Cricket Ground before going out in the semi-finals to Old Etonians.
Their application to join the newly-formed Football League in 1888 was rejected, with Forest instead joining the Football Alliance from 1899 and this was won in 1892 thus giving the club the platform to enter the league that time around, which led to Forest’s first FA Cup triumph as they took the 1898 title with victory over Derby County. They remained in the First Division until 1906 when they were relegated after a steady slide down the table over the years, though would return after just a season away after winning the Second Division. Despite this, a second relegation would be suffered in 1911 and the club had to seek re=election in 1914 ahead of WWI and the cessation of the League.
Upon the end of the war, Forest missed out on a place in the newly-expanded First Division and took up a place in the second tier where they were again promoted as champions from in 1922. A three-year stay in Division 1 followed though they would be again relegated after finishing up bottom this time around with the club remaining in the Second Division through to 1949 when they dropped into the third-tier. Promoted back to Division 2 after two years, Forest reached the First Division once more in 1957 and 1959 saw them lift their second FA Cup via victory over Luton Town. A title challenge in 1967 saw Forest just fall short as runners-up to Manchester United but a swift decline followed which again resulted in relegation from the top-flight in 1972. Forest’s legendary manager Brian Clough took over at the start of 1975 and after a rather inconspicuous start went on to turn around the club’s fortunes, beginning with a comfortable defeat of Leyton Orient to win the 1977 Anglo-Scottish Cup and going on to feature promotion back to Division 1 come the season’s end.
This promotion led to Forest immediately winning their first Football League title in 1978 (becoming the most recent team to achieve the feat in their first season post-promotion) and then made this a double by defeating closest league rival Liverpool after a replay in the Football League Cup Final. The next year began with the Charity Shield being won via a 5-0 thrashing of Ipswich Town and their unbeaten 42-game run was eventually ended in December of 1978 as Liverpool in European Cup competition. This record was only eventually broken by Arsenal in 2004 just prior to Clough’s passing, though Forest did, of course, go on to win the Cup with a 1-0 victory in the Munich final over Malmö and then beat Southampton to lift the League Cup for a second consecutive time, though Liverpool did gain revenge in the league as Forest had to settle for 2nd.
They successfully defended their European title the next year by overcoming Hamburg in Madrid having already defeated FC Barcelona in the European Super Cup at the start of the season. A third League Cup final ended in a narrow defeat at the hands of Wolves, whilst a disappointing 1980-’81 Euro campaign saw an early exit to CSKA Sofia and defeat in the Super Cup to Valencia and in the Intercontinental Cup, Forest were bested by Uruguayan outfit Nacional. 1984 saw the club beaten in the UEFA Cup semi-finals by Anderlecht though 1988 did see Forest win the Football League Centenary Tournament by beating Sheffield Wednesday on penalties, with the decade ending with the 1989 Full Member’s Cup won against Everton and the League Cup Final against Luton Town was won 3-1, though the FA Cup run to secure a cup treble that year was marred by the Hillsborough disaster. Liverpool went on to win the re-arranged game 3-1.
The 1990’s began with Forest retaining the League Cup with a 1-0 win over Oldham Athletic and the following year saw Clough reach his one and only FA Cup final, but would suffer an extra-time defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. 1992 saw the Full Members Cup won again and despite missing out in that year’s League Cup Final to Manchester United, Forest finished 8th in the table and therefore qualified for a spot in the new Premier League for the following campaign. However, Forest would be relegated at the close of the first Prem season, with Clough duly leaving Forest – though, fittingly, his son Nigel netted the last Forest goal under his tenure.
An immediate return was secured the next year by a returning member of the 1979 European Cup winning side Frank Clark who led Forest to 2nd in Division One and after finishing third at the end of their first season back, qualified for the UEFA Cup and reached the quarter-finals but things turned sour soon after and the club were relegated in 1997 but again bounced back at the first go, this time by winning the Division One title but their yo-yo existence continued with relegation in 1999. They would remain in the second-tier through its name change to the Championship and finished 6th in 2003, losing in the semis to Sheffield United. However, their struggles outside this season continued and the club were relegated to League One in 2005, becoming the first European Cup winners from England to drop into the third-tier.
2007 saw a healthy lead at the top squandered before a defeat in the play-off semi-final to Yeovil Town consigned Forest to another season there, but this one was successful as Forest achieved automatic promotion. After an initial struggle upon their Championship return, they reached the 2010 & 2011 play-offs (losing out to Blackpool and Swansea City in the semis respectively) though a change in ownership began a managerial merry-go-round and instability therein with nine managers (not including temps) being installed over around a 6-year period before a further ownership change saw little change in this vein with a further three coming and going over the most recent two-year-or-so period ending with current incumbent Martin O’Neill taking over from Aitor Karanka at the beginning of 2019. Forest had been continuing their mid-table existence after ending up 17th last season.
The game got underway with Forest quickly asserting themselves, though they never really got going as it seemed they reckoned Bolton were there for the taking. Indeed it would be Wanderers who would have the first true sight of goal, when Josh Magennis forced home ‘keeper Luke Steele into a low stop. This early mini-scare seemed to spur Forest into action and after Joe Lolley had an attempt kept out around the 20 minute mark, his second just before the half-hour resulted in the opener, a low drive fizzing past Bolton stopper Remi Matthews to give the home fans something to cheer.
Unfortunately that was pretty much that in terms of action for the first half and the break featured a host of young players from around the area (especially Arnold Town’s kids) showing off their talents before the players returned to the field – with Bolton’s being given a very sporting welcome by the home support, I guess in recognition of their struggles this season. A nice touch.
Anyway onto the second half and as per the first period, very, very little of note happened for the best part of half-an-hour as Bolton fans amused themselves by unveiling an anti-Ken Anderson banner for a very short time and a number of inflatables – including a giant penis which went up and down like….well, you can probably guess what the rest of that sentence would be. Back on the pitch, we finally had an attempt on goal with about fifteen minutes left on the clock, Forest’s Adlène Guédioura forcing Matthews (who had a pretty good game between the sticks when called upon) into a stop low to his right.
As the game entered the final few minutes, the chances began to increase a little and Bolton’s Magennis again went close, guiding a header straight at Luke Steele, whilst substitute Daryl Murphy nearly sealed the home side’s win minutes afterwards, but headed wastefully wide before then shooting off-target moments later. As it was, that would be that and the misses weren’t to be punished as Forest held on to seal a top-ten finish in the table, courtesy of other results going for them – not that it will be particularly celebrated, I’d assume. Bolton, meanwhile, will be surely happy to just see the end of the season finally come around….and hope they have another to come. Fingers crossed all works out for them.
Dan and I’s post-match plans included a visit to the “World Famous” Trent Bridge Inn – which had become a Wetherspoons in a move I’d missed somehow and so I opted for a Punk IPA here whilst Dan stuck with his disgustingly trusty Carling. I’d also spotted that the original Trent Bridge crossing was still standing in the midst of the dual carriageway opposite and, always one for culture(!), I wanted to have a quick peruse of said bridge before heading back into the city centre to sample a few more of its historic hostelries. By looks, the bridge really was only lacking the troll under it!
Catching a bus from outside the nearby cricket ground, we were soon back in Nottingham and just around the corner from the Bell Inn – though I didn’t realise just how historic the place was when I picked it out back in the Bridge. The site has been a pub since medieval times and still looks to date from the 1600’s or so in the smaller bar area, whilst the rear was more grandeur and showing the football – Huddersfield-Manchester United, just to punish us. Dan opted for the 2x£5 Budweiser bottle offer here whilst I went back on the Amstel (£3.80) once again, before we continued onwards on our route back to the station via the short walk over to another historic pub – the Old Salutation Inn.
When you look at it from outside, you think of a quaint, little old place full of nooks and crannies within and, whilst this is true for the most part, what you don’t really expect from the outside is that within it is a house of hard rock and the like. Really crazy and it shouldn’t work but, weirdly in some way, it does! Anyhow, I went for a pint of Red Stripe (£4) in there (Dan was on something starting with ‘C’ that I bet you don’t know(!)) though time began to go against us and he decided to leave a first visit to the superb Trip to Jerusalem until another time. A shame, but we still had just enough time to pay a visit to the Canalhouse which is actually what it says – it houses a bit of canal (and boats) within it. Not too different….
As I finished my Amstel in the beer garden here, Dan had gained a bit of a head start back to the station for the train back and I quickly caught him up though somehow and somewhere we’d lost a few minutes of time and so arrived on the platform with a couple of minutes in hand. Good timing? NO! The bloody thing was right down the far end and despite getting there just in time and asking the guy to hold the train for no more than 30-40 seconds, he sneered “The train’s got to go.” and signalled it on its way – despite the fact that Dan was hobbling down the platform in full view, bad feet and all. Nice one, dickhead.
As it was, “dickhead” wasn’t going to get too much of a triumph as I quickly set about a contingency plan which would see us going out-of-the-way down to East Midlands Parkway and going back up to Sheffield via Derby. Despite this unplanned diversion, we actually got back into Manchester just twenty-minutes later than planned, meaning our jobsworth friend hadn’t cost us too much…..and me nothing at all as I still caught the train I reckoned I was more likely to get home. Nice.
So apart from our friend there, the day hadn’t been all that bad. The game was your typical end of season snoozefest in truth with next to nothing happening and 1-0 flattered the contest as a whole – the blow up cock was the other highlight! It’s always nice to visit Nottingham though and to do a bit of an explore around the areas of the city I hadn’t been to before was decent to do too. All the other sundries were all ok too so there’s another week ticked off towards the end of the season – just the two left and a couple of slightly different length of trips to come….
Value For Money: 5