Supporting Nottingham Forest is never easy. I guess if you’re of a certain generation that was lucky enough to be going to games during the first or second waves of Brian Clough’s successes, or even prior to that the great teams of the 1950’s and 1960’s (well done to you if you fall into that category) then you’ve enjoyed some level of success and enjoyment out of following the Tricky Trees either to Wembley, to multiple trophies and successes and even across Europe as part of the age that for right or wrong reasons, will continue to define our club for many years to come.
For most, the closest they get to hairs standing up on the back of the neck, is recalling Colin Fray’s immortal words on Radio Nottingham, stating excitedly that Cheltenham has scored and were now winning (against Doncaster), edging us one step closer to escaping the pit of despair that was the 3 seasons we spent in League One. Lewis McGugan’s free kick v Ipswich, Man City away in the cup, Hobbs / Osborn / Oliveria / Yohan vs Derby, Arsenal at home in the cup….. I’m already struggling for anything else that even comes close to 6 trips to Wembley in the late 1980’s / early 1990’s, Frank Clark taking us back to Europe and the majesty that it was to witness Stan Collymore shine brightly yet so briefly in the Garibaldi or baring witness to league titles and European Cups. Like I say, for a generation or two, it hasn’t exactly been cupcakes and roses.
So where am I going with this? I was reminded recently of an old post I’d made on Facebook, a few months after I’d made the move with my family to live and work in the United States of America. Quietly reflecting on the times before the move, I read…..
In another life, I’d be parking up on George Rd and making my way to TBI for a pre match pint. It’s strange knowing I won’t experience that again for a while. Try and enjoy it yeah? Win, lose or draw, some of us just wish we could be there with you #NFFC #FTID #USAFacebook, August 2018
To draw on an overused cliche, sometimes, you don’t really know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
Sure, that can speak to many things and at the end of the day football is and should always be something we can enjoy. Bill Shankly may have patriotically cried that Football is more than life and death to some people, but the reality is it probably shouldn’t be. There are levels that we can enjoy and by all accounts, they can quite regularly be dialed up to 11, but at the end of the day, it’s just 90 minutes on a Saturday, its just 22 blokes kicking a ball around a rectangular section of grass while a bunch of punters watch on hoping to be entertained and maybe see the team they are rooting for secure a victory. It can just be that, but it doesn’t mean even at that level that you don’t miss it when its not there.
People often ask me whats the one thing you miss the most from home. Depending on my mood it often flirts between food (sausages, kebabs, chip shop chips and food that isn’t baked in sugar) or, in the least surprising declaration of the piece so far, Football. I miss Forest. I miss spending the time with my Dad. I miss going to the chippy on Radcliffe Road and scoffing a battered sausage before heading to TBI to watch the lunchtime game on a Saturday. I miss catching up with the people sat around with me, sharing updates on how my son Tyler is developing and revelling in pride that people associated with Nottingham Forest (fans, players and staff alike) actually know who he – and by association me – is.
There’s something about being there. Being able to feel the wind as it creeps through the corners of the exposed corners of the Trent End. Feeling that tingle of excitement and emotion as the PA cuts out for the 2nd chorus of Mull of Kintyre. Feeling that rush of adrenaline when the net bulges and the City Ground erupts in a cacophony of noise. Only football does that to you and the intimate relationship between fans and the club you support just elevates it to a whole other level.
So how is it different? What are the big changes you notice being 4000 miles away?
Aside from the obvious distance and time zone, mostly its just a feeling of disconnect from whats happening. If transfer news breaks in the morning in the UK, I won’t see it until I wake up several hours later. Lunchtime kick offs or midweek fixtures? Forget it, either too early or during work hours. Sure you can try and catch some by carefully tilting your phone in the right direction in your cube at the office but whatever way you want to frame it as a whole, its disconnected. Its different. Its over there and I’m over here.
By this point we’re so far down the rabbit hole we’re almost touching Wonderland but fear not because although I’ve painted what no doubt feels like a very melancholy picture, its not all been bad. Not by a long shot.
Once you accept that things are going to be different, something I had come to terms with long before we boarded the one way flight to Chicago at Heathrow, you start to look at how you can make it work. Sure you can’t go to games but the internet has made the world a lot smaller place and now, via the magic of the internet and iFollow, I can watch home AND away games live. Midweek games take place while I’m at work and for the ones I can’t make alternate arrangements for, I can catch some by carefully tilting your phone in the right direction in your cube at the office! It’s all about perspective, figuratively and quite literally!
And that allows me to segway nicely into what has quite quickly and easily become far and away the most positive aspect of the move and the ongoing relationship I have with Nottingham Forest.
The summer 2018 issue of Bandy & Shinty ran a feature called “Forest All Over the World”, the first entrant in that section was a gentleman called Adrian Walters from Chicago. Some quick Twitter stalking and a follow / follow back later and something magical has been set in motion. I wasn’t the only one, a few others followed the same pursuit and within a few weeks NFFCCHI was born. Once social accounts had been set up and an internal communication channels established, we agreed to a collective blind date. On August 25th, the first (at least for a while and definitely the first in a more formal setting) NFFCCHI match day took place at the Globe Pub just north of Chicago.
We had a good turnout. Better than expected in fact. I recall a few conversations during the game as new friendships were forged where there was a genuine and pleasant sense of surprise as we looked round and counted 9 randoms all connected by this silly little thing called Nottingham Forest. (We expected around 5 or 6 at most if I remember correctly).
The game was what it was. Birmingham City jumped out to a 2 goal lead and after some inspired substitutions by Aitor Karanka (one may in retrospect question why Carvalho and Lolley were on the bench in the first place) we clawed it back grabbing an equalizer 3 minutes from time. It was glorious. It might not have been quite the same as being there in T10 jumping around and hugging random strangers as Murphy calmly slotted in the equalizer in front of a jubilant Bridgford Stand, but it felt good. Like we were all in it together and we’d found some way of beating the odds that 4,000 miles put in front of you and finding a way to feel part of something.
The game finished. I hung around for a while and chatted with some of the guys. Then when the time was right, drove the 50 something miles north into Wisconsin and back home.
There’s a lot more to cover so stick around. Part 2 will be written and published eventually, maybe on a Saturday morning while I’m waiting for iFollow to connect or maybe from some of our fellow NFFCNA friends. Here’s hoping that you enjoy the ride!
Far Have I Travelled. Much have I Seen. AC