Story Teams


Nottingham Forest, once a European powerhouse, now a regular face in the EFL Championship. What was their journey like?

Nottingham Forest Football Club is an English football team based in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire. With 11 major trophies including two European Cups, European Super Cup, and one league title, the club has one of the greatest club histories in England. Despite their rich history, the club lived up to a downfall and league relegation in season 1998/99 when Forest’s form dropped. The club now competes in the 2nd tier of English football, the EFL Championship.

Nottingham Forest’s official stadium is City Ground built in 1898 with a capacity of 30,602. Some of the club nicknames are Forest, The Reds, and Tricky Trees. The club’s biggest rivalries are Derby County and Notts County.


Formation of a club and early years

The club’s history begins back in 1865 when the club was formed at a meeting of shinty players. At that same meeting, there was an agreement that the club would purchase twelve tasseled caps colored ‘Garibaldi Red’ which established red as their official club color. Their first official football match was a 0-0 draw against Notts County taking place on 22 March in 1866. In early years the club was not only a football club, but a multi-sports club having its roots in bandy, shinty, and baseball. The charitable approach of Nottingham Forest helped clubs such as Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton, and Brighton to form.

First major trophy

The first historic competition won by Nottingham Forest is the FA Cup in season 1897/98. Forest secured their first FA Cup final against Derby County after beating Southampton 2-0 in a replay of 1-1 draw in the first match. Just five days before the final Forest was beaten 5-0 by Derby County in a league match where Forest rested 6 out of 11 starting players. In front of 62,000 fans at Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest put a great performance and won 3-1 against Derby County securing their first major trophy in club history. After which they lost two FA Cup finals in 1900 and 1902.


Second FA Cup Trophy

In season 1958/59, The Reds won their 2nd major and 2nd FA Cup trophy. In the semi-final, they beat Aston Villa with Johnny Quigley’s goal and qualified for the final against Luton Town. Like their first FA Cup win, Forest lost heavily to their opponents only weeks earlier. An amazing start of the match in the final brought Forest up to 2-0 only after 14 minutes with Roy Dwight’s and Tommy Wilson’s goals. In a later stage of the match, Forest conceded one goal but still managed to win the match 2-1 and their 2nd FA Cup Trophy.

Years in glory (1975 – 1982)

Nottingham’s best years came with Brian Clough as their manager. Clough became the manager on the 6th of January in 1975 after his 44-day tenure as Leeds United manager. He brought Jimmy Gordon who was with him at Derby County and Leeds United to be his club trainer. When Clough joined the club, Forest was 13th in English 2nd tier and finished that season in 16th place. Despite finishing 16th, Clough had some talented players.


Clough signed Scottish duo McGovern and John O’Hare which he managed in Derby and his brief reign at Leeds. McGovern captained the Forest side in the upcoming season after the injuries of Bob Chapman and Liam O’Kane. After the full season in charge, Clough’s Forest finished 8th in the Second Division. In July 1976, Clough brought his assistant from Hartlepools, Peter Taylor, who told Clough, “That was a feat by you to finish 8th in the Second Division because some of them are only Third Division players”.

Taylor became the club’s talent spotter and one of the people responsible for Forest’s results in the future. Taylor did an amazing job, he berated John Robertson (LM) for allowing himself to become overweight and got him on a diet, turned Woodcock from a reserve midfielder into a 42 cap England striker, brought Garry Birtles (ST) which he had scouted playing for non-league Long Eaton United and he advised Clough to sign Larry Lloyd (CB) from Coventry for £60,000. The first trophy under Clough and Taylor was the Anglo-Scottish Cup in 1976/77. Clough said, “Those who said it was a nothing trophy were absolutely crackers. We’d won something, and it made all the difference.” That season, Forest was promoted to 1st tier of English football after finishing 3rd in the final standings.

Incredible Achievement – Winning First Division (1977/78)In their first season after promotion, they signed Kenny Burns from Birmingham City who was converted from striker to center-back and Peter Shilton (GK) from Stoke for £275,000. Both had an amazing season at Forest with Shilton conceding only 18 league goals and now holds the record for the most competitive appearances in world football (1,390). Nottingham Forest gave the football world a sensational season in 1977/78 winning their first-ever First Division title being 7 points ahead of Liverpool. That made Clough the third of four managers to win the English league with two different clubs. They also won League Cup by beating Liverpool in the final. The fact that makes this story much more incredible is that Liverpool was a European Champion in the previous two seasons! Such a great season resulted in Kenny Burns winning the FWA Footballer of the Year and Shilton winning the PFA Player of the Year award. What a season!


European Glory

Forest started the upcoming season by beating Ipswich Town 5-0 in their FA Charity Shield win which is a record win in the competition. On the 9th of December in 1978 Liverpool ended Forest’s 42 matches unbeaten league run which passed the previous record held by Burnley in 1920/21. This season the “Tricky Trees” defended the League Cup trophy, but finished 2nd in the league, 8 points behind Liverpool. They broke the game’s first £1 million transfer by signing Trevor Francis (RM) from Birmingham City. They made a historic run in European Cup, they knocked out Liverpool (European Champions for the 2 previous seasons), AEK AthensGrasshopper Zurich, and FC Köln (German Champions) in the semi-finals where McGovern scored the only goal putting Forest in the European Cup finals! After the match, Günter Netzer asked, “Who is this McGovern? I have never heard of him, yet he ran the game.” In a historic final in Munich, Nottingham Forest won against Malmo with Francis scoring the only goal of the match. Nottingham Forest was crowned the Champions of Europe!


Back to back Champions!

In the next season, Forest didn’t have such a good run in First Division, where they finished 5th. They reached their third successive final in League Cup and sadly lost to Wolves 1-0. However, they had an amazing season in European Cup and the Supercup. In the Supercup, they faced Barcelona and won 2-1 on aggregate and secured their only European Supercup. In the European Cup, they defended the title in Madrid after beating Dynamo Berlin, Ajax in the semi-finals, and Hamburg 1-0 in the European Cup final to retain their 2nd ever and 2nd in a row European Cup trophy!

Living up to a downfall

The years of glory for Nottingham Forest were slowly coming to an end as the club was heavily in debt, the European Cup-winning squad was broken up to capitalize on player sales. Clough and Taylor both said this was a mistake. Almost all of the club’s European Cup-winning players left the club by 1982, including Francis, Shilton, Bowyer, O’Neil, McGovern, and Burns. Some players returned including Birtles and Bowyer. The club spent their money on youngsters and big money signings like Ian Wallace, Peter Ward, and Justin Fashanu, but it didn’t pay off.

At the end of the season, Peter Taylor announced his retirement saying, “For many weeks now I don’t believe I’ve been doing justice to the partnership and I certainly haven’t been doing justice to Nottingham Forest the way I felt. And consequently, after a great deal of thought, there was no option. I wanted to take early retirement. That’s exactly what I’ve done.” Jimmy Gordon also retired in the same close season.

Clough managed Nottingham Forest till 1993 having won League Cup in 1988/89 and 1989/90, but he didn’t have as much success in the league as before finishing 3rd in 1988/89 and having a downfall in 1992/93 finishing 22nd and being relegated to 2nd tier of English football. Nottingham Forest era was slowly coming to an end and once big titans of Europe are now competing in EFL Championship. Clough retired after being relegated and left an impressive managerial record of 418 wins, 256 draws, and 234 losses in 908 matches behind him. Such a big manager! After his retirement, former Forest player Frank Clark was named as the new manager, but he couldn’t reach the success of Brian Clough.

Since Clough’s era, the club has changed many managers, but no one can make such a story as he did! As the club now competes in the EFL Championship, we hope this fallen giant wakes up and reaches European glory once again. As this is the end of the story, we will leave this picture in honor of Brian Clough (on the left) and Peter Taylor (on the right).

Make sure to leave your feedback in the comments and if you enjoyed this story be sure to check out the Nottingham Forest Challenge we created for you. Any suggestions for a story, make sure to click on the request button and submit a team that we should write about!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: