Across the Pond Part #1

What it’s like to be 4,000 miles away

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.

European Cup Final

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 #USA

Facebook, 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.

The last picture I took at the City Ground before leaving for the USA 3 days later.

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.

Sorry not sorry! Any excuse to show this picture of Tyler as mascot!

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).

NFFCCHI Est. 2018

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.

Daryl Murphy equalizing in the 87th Minute vs Birmingham City, August 2018

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

2019 Meet Up @ The Globe Pub, Chicago

Wooahhhhhh Chicago’s on fiiiirreeeeeee!


For most people who attended the 2019 Annual NFFC North America meet up in Chicago, there are probably 2 residing memories. The first being that Nottingham Forest North America was legitimate, that it had grown into something really unique and special and that now it genuinely allowed fans from all over the USA and Canada to connect and that despite the distance, unite as one.

The second being weather in the mid west in April is bonkers and that next time, we should probably aim for somewhere a bit warmer or at the very least, predictable!!!

At some point in 2018, Chicago was chosen as the host. Riding off the success of the Chicago groups engagement and relationship with The Globe, a popular sports bar just up the road from Wrigleyville and home to large supporters groups from Arsenal and Aston Villa, it was a good spot to accommodate a large group of people – so long as Arsenal weren’t at home that day, we’ll get to that!!!

An expression of interest was created and numbers looked good. A WhatsApp group started, an email chain grew into something unfathomably big. Suddenly, a few weeks before the big day, we all realized this thing had a bit of momentum.

Taking in the whole weekend, people were looking to fly in on the Friday, catch the game (vs Blackburn) on the Saturday and then do as they pleased for the rest of the time. So lets start with the Friday, because we’re here right, we should probably do something!

On a clear but bitterly cold evening, a group of just over a dozen ventured out to Bridgeview, IL to the Seat Geek Stadium to watch the Chicago Fire play the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The evening began with most of us tailgating with the Section 8 group. Plenty of time for introductions, re-introductions and a few beers prior to the game.

Once inside, we took up our spot behind the goal and watched as the Fire went a goal down early in the 2nd half only to claw back a point with an 84th Minute Penalty. If you watch the highlights and keep an eye out behind the goal to the left, you might see some glimpses of the Red and White Army!

Some didn’t make it to the end… The cold and wind was just too bad but overall it was a fun start to the weekend. Afterwards everybody went back to their hotels and straight to sleep…… right?

Saturday was an early start as it always is when watching the Saturday 3pm kick offs. Central Standard Time had the game kicking off at 9am local and of course, the desire to get there early and claim a spot, meet some more people and take in the event as it built up to kick off…. Saturday was an early start!

The game itself was typical of Forest at that stage in the season. With little to play for and a lack of confidence on the pitch, we wound up on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat, but the overriding feeling in the pub was that today was about more than just the result. There were new friendships being created, new locations / groups being identified, competitions / raffle prize draws, shots (lots of shots), lots of singing, some great banter with the Chicago Villains (Aston Villa’s Chicago Supporters Group) including the now legendary chant “We’re only here for the cake!”

A year prior, the first annual meet up was held in Atlanta. There were 18 people – still a great number and more than enough to make that event great. On April 13th 2019, in a pub in Chicago, we had 62 people.

The classic alley way photograph from The Globe Pub, Chicago.

After that, groups splintered off and went their separate ways. Some chose to take in the city, some chose to stay and drink at The Globe, some went elsewhere and continued to drink! A small group went to Wrigley Field to watch a Cubs game, some went back to their hotel or in a few cases even, went back to the other reason they were in Chicago that weekend – we had at least one person from Nottingham in town for the Star Wars Celebration being held in Chicago that weekend! A red sun shone down on the city that day in more ways than one. It was a very very good day!

Sunday….. Now that was a different story.

You can tell very quickly when things are starting to go a bit pear shaped. A few messages on the WhatsApp group early on indicating that flights out of town were being impacted by the weather…. Wait, weather? But wasn’t it Sunny on Saturday?

Welcome to the mid west.

A few lucky ones got out early before the delays started to heavily impact flights. Others weren’t so lucky. Flights were delayed and even cancelled in some cases. People made alternative arrangements where possible. But all in all, it was a bit of a bummer and not the way anyone wanted the weekend to end.

By lunchtime on Monday, everything was resolved and the last of the stragglers announced they were home allowing the curtain to finally fall on the 2nd annual NFFC North America Meet Up.

Obviously, this is a subjective account of the weekend from someone who had a very positive experience. The weather on the Sunday did cause some issues and stress no doubt but hopefully for the majority, the overall feeling was that the weekend was a success and that we had taken huge strides forward as we continue to build a strong foundation for NFFC North America to exist on.

There have been discussions internally on where to go next and what form the meet ups should take. Some great ideas on the WhatsApp group on location and frequency. All we can say is we’re all very excited to see where we can take the annual meet up. As the signature, most visible thing we at NFFC North America do, we want these to be a success. Chicago was most definitely a success and the credit for that success belongs to everyone who attended and made it what it was.

See you all again next time. But somewhere a bit warmer right?

We’ll meet again!

“Somebody call 9-1-1, Chicago Cubs are playing at the ball park, oh woaaaaaa ohhhhh”

Also, check out this video produced by Karl of NFFCNYC featuring some of the highlights of the weekend!