Nottingham Forest is another English club that I’ve wanted to visit for some time now. Twice before, I have had plans to go but not made it so I was rather keen to make every post a winner this time around. After all, as a child, I had heard all about that Robin Hood fella and a footy club who had conquered Europe not once, but twice over consecutive years (around the same time when Villa were champions of Europe too!) with a manager called Brian Clough, one of my heroes!
I’d plucked a nice bed & breakfast just outside the city centre, managed to secure a match ticket after some correspondence with the club so I was all set for the East Midlands derby which, I can assure you, lived up to the hype. But first things first, how does one get to Nottingham? Well, for some strange reason, both the coach and the train took pretty much the same time so I saved a few bob and got the National Express from Victoria. It took around 3.5 hours and I spend most of that time with my head down for a kip. Arriving ahead of schedule, I made a bee line to Aldi and bosses some cheap food (a staple for a budget traveller like myself) and filled me boots for the first time in around 5 days since picking up food poisoning in Dortmund last week. Food equals bliss so I was happy to be eating again.
Following a quick check in to my B&B, I made the 30 minute stroll down to the City Ground with other supporters along the way conversing about tactics required to nick all three points. Some interesting ideas were floating about although, the legitimacy of some left a bit to be desired but hey, that’s footy fans for you ain’t it? The stroll down London Road is a pleasant one by the canal which leads to the Trent Bridge that covers, you guessed it, the River Trent which explains why the cricket ground next to the City Ground is called Trent Bridge also. Part of me feels like bringing a picnic blanket (weather permitting) and having a feed by the river outside the City Ground next time I visit.
The process for collecting my match ticket and getting inside was all too easy and once seated in the lower reaches of the Brian Clough Stand, I could feel the energy and atmosphere smacking me hard in the face from all corners of the ground. Being derby day, it was all a little hostile which is what I enjoy most about the English game. Also, being seated a matter of meters from the away supporters was a big plus! The banter between both sets of supporters was first class all day despite the match finishing goalless.
What I embraced most about the day was the distinct lack of selfie sticks and tour groups from far flung reaches such as America and Japan (common practice at Anfield, Stanford Bridge, Old Trafford and The Emirates) which allowed the locals to get stuck in. It’s a reminder of how British football was before Rupert Murdoch got his grubby mitts on the beautiful game in 1992. You could feel hard and crunching tackles, feel the deep rooted passion within the players and bounce of the energy from the crowd. Around me, there were plenty of dads and their lads which is always great to see at games. Fathers passing the batten onto their sons is an integral part of going the match which is being lost on the English game as clubs in the top flight price local supporters out of the game. Thankfully, the practise is alive and well at Forest and long may it continue.
There wasn’t much time to see a great deal of Nottingham which gives me an excuse to head back in the not too distant future. What I did see though, I very much liked. If you make the journey to Nottingham, ensure you visit the Brian Clough statue in the city and pay your respects to the greatest manager England never had! Now, what about that Robin Hood lad?