Across the Pond Part 2 – The Life and Times of a Forest Supporter

by Paul Hardman

First of all, I am really glad to have found the lost souls of NFFC North America and to now be 25% of the Houston chapter. I am sure it will grow as Forest return to the glories of the past, or maybe creep up the Championship table and the elusive top 6. I am also looking forward to the day when I can watch a Forest match on TV with like-minded people and share a beer or two.

My odyssey started with my father taking me to the Old Market Square in 1959 to see Forest return from Wembley with the FA Cup. I was 4 years old. I can remember sitting on his shoulder to watch the victorious team parade the cup through the City and from the balcony of the Council House. Then again, I can also recall standing in the rain watching the team battle through the mud against Carlisle United in the third division. That was the real low point, just 6,000 spectators and a dismal display of football from all concerned.

FA Cup winners 1959

I moved away in 1974 to launch my career as an engineer. In 1980 I joined the oil industry, moved even further away and travelled the world. Except for the Carlisle game I didn’t see any further matches until returning in 2017 to enjoy the hospitality of the VIP Club and a seat near the Director’s box. Since then I have managed an annual trip from Houston to Nottingham to meet a hero from the past, but not this year. To be honest, I am not surprised the start to the new season has been so bad. Lack of fans does not make for an uplifting atmosphere for the players, just ask Liverpool. Then there is the complete lack of pace, but that’s another story.

As we all know, life as a Forest fan is one of constant disappointment with a few highs thrown in, oh and a new Manager/ Coach every couple of months. That said, we do benefit from one of the largest squads ever established by a soccer club, leading to strength in depth (so the theory goes). Which brings me to the good old days.

After 1959, I started to go to the games with my father on a regular basis. We were denizens of the Bridgford End and die hard in terms of position, standing just to the left of the goal about halfway back. To be honest, I don’t recall much of the early 60’s, probably because I was too small to see all the game, but I did get to sit on a crush barrier and I had my red and white scarf and a rattle (youngsters may need to look that one up). My first real recollection of Forest came in 1967 when we finished second in the First Division. I remember that season for the football that Forest played and the star of the show, Joe Baker. Although, Peter Grummitt in goal always put on a spectacle. Then there was Bob McKinlay and Peter ‘Tank’ Hindley, who made Norman Hunter and Kenny Burns look like schoolboys.

Joe Baker at Anfield

Of course, Forest are a club that likes to self-destruct every so often, so what better way to celebrate than to cash in on Johnny Carey’s team and return the club to a middle of the road side. I still think the squad of 1966/67 was the best one ever to grace the garibaldi and the best for free-flowing football. Anyone remember the FA Cup quarter final against Everton? I do, because the Everton fans were in the Bridgford End lobbing bottles at us Forest fans. It has to go down as probably the best match I have ever witnessed.

The next major memory (and yes, I am writing this as ideas flow into my consciousness) came in 1968 and the fire in the main stand. Fortunately, it wasn’t as bad as Bradford’s, but it still was a site to behold, especially with a packed ground to watch Leeds. On the day Forest returned to play in front of the now charred stand against Arsenal, I witnessed the greatest goal ever seen. Ian Storey-Moore collected the ball in his own half, dribbled around the entire Arsenal team (anyone recall Terry Neill getting turned inside out) and scored an unbelievable goal. I can recall shouting for him to pass it and not be greedy, before screaming my head off. Happy days. I can’t find a video, but this should tell you all there is to know:

After that things get a bit hazy as I went through the sixth form and Forest lost their way. I went off to the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne in 1974, with every Saturday afternoon spent at St. James Park. Fantastic time for football – MacDonald and Tudor scoring freely. Sadly, my love affair with Forest waned for a few years until 1978 came along. Still living in Newcastle, I travelled back to Nottingham for the European Cup games and was present in Munich for the final. Not a memorable game, but what a goal from Trevor Francis and inevitably made by John Robertson. The game that stands out in my mind was the semi-final at home to Cologne, a 3-3 draw with some amazing football on a muddy pitch (weren’t they all in those days). Of course, Forest went away to Germany and won 1-0!

And there’s Francis!!!!!

The following year it was European glory again, only this time I didn’t get to see many games and watched the final in a pub in Leeds of all places. I did win the prize draw by picking John Robertson, a sure bet for a goal. The work as an engineer came along and I was on my travels, with Forest consigned to a quick look on Saturday to see the results, taking in the occasional game if I was in Nottingham to see my parents. Since 2016 I have managed to see one game a year courtesy of the VIP Club. A pleasant way to spend an afternoon, or evening, reminiscing over past glories and wondering why the display on the pitch is so bad. Fortunately, they do keep you topped up with alcohol, before and after, as well as half time.

Yes, the achievements of the late 1970s will stand out for all concerned and the team is rightly revered for the magic Clough and Taylor sprinkled on them. For me, the late 1960’s was the time of great football, standing in record crowds of 47,000 every week. It was an intimate experience, since you were crammed up against the people either side, front and back and then there was my ten-foot red and white scarf, but no rattle by then. I wish Chris Hughton the best of luck with what is a rag tag squad. If he can’t motivate them back to the Premier League, then no one will. I hope 2021 will allow for a game in the flesh and something to cheer about. In the meantime……COYR!

by Paul Hardman

Paul is a lifelong Forest fan with the occasional lapse in loyalty. Happy to be living in Houston with his partner Susan and their dog Duke.

The Ballad of Ian Bowyer

by Adrian Walters

Songwriter & NFFC Chicago member, Adrian Walters, has just digitally released a single called ‘The Ballad of Ian Bowyer’.

Yes, that Ian Bowyer. We asked Adrian to explain further.

“I’ve just finished recording an album called Starting Somewhere that is scheduled for release later in 2020. Produced, arranged, and recorded by Midwest music legend Steve Dawson (Dolly Varden, Funeral Bonsai Wedding) at the Kernel Sound Emporium in Chicago, the album as a whole represents my attempt to capture something of the England that I left behind when I moved to the United States in 2011.  It’s a kind of meditation, I guess, on people, places, situations, relationships, and memories of what now feels like a former life.

Playing the local music scene in Chicago, IL

I suspect that most of my folky musings will be of little interest to denizens of the City Ground –or, for that matter, to fellow members of the NFFC diaspora here in the US and elsewhere. But there’s one track on Starting Somewhere, the title of which –‘The Ballad of Ian Bowyer’ – betrays an obvious Forest connection. In the context of the album as a whole ‘Bowyer’ is a bit of an outlier – both musically and in terms of its subject matter – so I decided to package it separately and push it out as a single ahead of the full album release.

I honestly didn’t set out to write a song about Forest. I had an archetype in mind that I did want to write about: the sturdy, dependable member of any organization or team who makes things tick but who never quite gets the recognition they deserve. In his two spells at Forest (1973-81 and 1982-87) Ian Bowyer, for me, was the epitome of all of that. Hardworking, versatile, not flash, not especially eye-catching. But rock solid, with a heart of oak – a player who knew exactly what his job was, who kept to the script, and could always be relied upon. And so I talked myself into the idea of putting ‘Bomber’ into a song.

The song’s narrative is built around the two legs of the European Cup semi-final against Cologne in April 1979. People tend to forget that Bowyer started the first leg of the Cologne tie at left back. Viv Anderson was suspended, Forza Garibaldi favourite, Colin Barrett was switched to right back in place of Anderson, and Bowyer was selected to play on the left side of a rather makeshift defence. It was only when Archie Gemmill got injured during the first half of the first leg that he moved into central midfield, where he was to remain for the rest of the tournament.

Immortality beckons…..

The song’s lyrics pull on threads of the television coverage – Hugh Johns’ commentary on Bowyer’s first leg equalizer (‘this man of all parts, man of all seasons’), Clough’s famous post-match ‘I hope no-one is stupid enough to write us off’ which I admittedly bastardize somewhat – and the whole thing culminates, of course, in the winning goal in the Müngersdorfer Stadion.

The theme, I suppose, is that dependability is underrated, underappreciated. Every João Carvalho needs a Ben Watson or a Samba Sow. Every John Robertson needs a John McGovern, a Frank Clark, a Colin Barrett, an Ian Bowyer. 

You can guess which side of the Ben Osborn argument I was on.

To be honest, I’ve been quite reluctant to promote the song and push it out into the NFFC ecosystem.  Martin O’Neill’s brief and unhappy return last season brought the generational divide among Forest supporters bubbling right up to the surface. I understand the uneasy relationship that younger fans, in particular, have with the club’s history and the frustration that some feel when old timers bang on about the ‘glory days’ and the ‘miracle men’ (and when one or two of those ‘miracle men’ make unhelpful observations about today’s team in the media).

All I can say is that I’m very lucky to have lived through and experienced first hand the most successful period of the club’s history. And, as the writer’s cliché goes, you write what you know.”

You can purchase a download of ‘The Ballad of Ian Bowyer’ for a buck on Bandcamp:

Adrian Walters is on Twitter @walters_adrian and Instagram @adrianjwaltersmusic


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!

Spring 2019 Statement

Over the last few years, The Official Nottingham Forest Supporters Club in the United States has grown into something rather special.

The recent decision made by Shaun to step down from the lead role of looking after NFFCUSA to spend more time with his family and on his own branch in St Louis is admirable and fully supported by everyone involved with NFFCUSA. While we know Shaun will still be around, we do want to fully extend our appreciation for the time, effort and care he has given to growing the Supporters Club. We are here in no small part because of the work that has been done over the last few years. Thank You!

So what next?

First of all, given the growing fanbase in both the USA and Canada, we are rebranding as NFFC North America. Our new NFFCNA team is spread out across North America and will work together with existing and new local groups to make watching matches accessible to as many Trickies in North America as we can. We also have some exciting plans for the coming season so watch this space.

Then. Now. Forever.


Dan, Andy, Jordan, Karl, Nigel