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.
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.
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!
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.