Monty and Keano. Joe Baker. Slim Jim Baxter in his less Slim days. Not forgetting Darren Ward, Andy Cole and, of course, the mighty Clough.
The links between Nottingham Forest, our Carling Cup opponents on Wednesday, and Sunderland are strong indeed (though not, thank heavens, so strong that we ever employed Lee Bowyer, as one Forest fan we came a cross thought).
We found Mark Collar* at a livewire Forest fans’ forum Lost That Loving Feeling, where a request for a volunteer to write at Salut! Sunderland has been read, at the last count, almost 700 times (and produced a few candidates). But Mark was first. He’s an English teacher and, commendably, was willing to toil late into the night preparing not only this lovely essay combining nostalgia, despair and hope rekindled but also, we’re sure, a spot of Shakespeare for 5A and some basic work on colons and apostrophes for first formers…..
I grew up in a family that was so Forest it might as well had been a stick of rock with NFFC written through. We had Forest apprentices living in our attic until about 1975, the most famous of whom were Jimmy McIntosh and Terry Cochrane who went on to play for Middlesbrough and Northern Ireland.
My overwhelming memory of Sunderland at that time was the 1973 FA Cup side. An underdog team we all loved – Bob Stokoe, Bobby Kerr, Ian Porterfield. I think this might still be my favourite FA Cup final of all time; seeing as how we only made it once under Cloughie and that did not go well at all.
Anyway. our apprentices moved out in 1975 and Mr Clough moved into the City Ground. It was relatively quiet until we won a trophy called the Anglo-Scottish Cup. Then suddenly we were promoted, League Champions, European Cup winners (twice) and League cup winners about five times.
It was an amazing time to be a Forest fan. John Robertson, who scored the winner in the European Cup Final, used to stand in our front garden to smoke his fag before going out drinking with our lot. Cloughie described him as our “little fat bloke” or something similar. For me he shows what Cloughie could do: a nothing player who suddenly became the best in the world.
We had 18 years of life with Brian before the drink took hold and destroyed him. He built some great sides. I always felt that the 1991 FA Cup Final with Gazza’s terrible lunging tackle and Spurs fight back was his undoing. He chatted with the police rather than the players at the beginning of extra time. He wanted it more than he could show and losing it hurt too much.
Then there were rumours about Cloughie lying in ditches drunk on the way to work. Then there was Cloughie looking terrible and Forest being relegated. For a while, we bounced up and down into the premiership, then we settled into years of Championship football.
Somewhere along the way, there was a game that became my favourite of all time. We went to Peterborough, needing a win to secure promotion. Stuart “Psycho” Pearce was our captain and Stan Collymore was our leading goal scorer. We went two nil down and then Collymore scored an incredible hat-trick to take us up to the Premiership. It was an amazing day.
Then a succession of underachieving managers with poorer and poorer sides conspired to put us down into League 1. Suddenly, for me, five-hour drives to Nottingham would conclude with defeats to teams like Macclesfield or Chester. We had a succession of awful managers and clueless sides. I remember my older brother looking up at me in one game and saying very simply: “We’re not very good anymore.”
Then Colin Calderwood came to the club. At first, most fans felt that he was tactically inept. He was not particularly popular until May last year when, in spite of ourselves, we were promoted automatically. It was a shock to most Forest fans who had thought the club had already died. In the close season, we began signing players the fans had heard of before – Robert Earnshaw and Andy Cole, whom even you may have heard of.
We have had a torrid time with injuries recently and I suspect you will meet us with half the squad missing. The fans have stayed loyal though and even though the City Ground these days looks like a 1980s monument to our former glory, we’ll still give you a good game.
Now for your questions:
What went wrong at Forest? Great club and tradition but terrible underachievement?
Remembering the pre-Clough era, I am sure the question should be what went right. We were a pretty average Division Two side then something absurd happened. I know we invented shinpads and goalposts and all sorts of things- like giving Arsenal their kit- but apart from winning the 1959 cup final, before Brian we permanently underachieved.
Once Brian left we bounced around the Premiership and League one. We have had Ron Atkinson , David Platt, Gary Megson and Roy Kinnear as managers. The last three years have been truly dreadful. We could not get beyond round one of the Johnstone’s paint trophy.
Yet you still have a decent level of support. Explain.
Nottingham is a big city and Notts County are woeful. Forest fans grumble but are loyal.
What do you think of our respective clubs’ prospects for the new season?
You have one of my favourite Forest players of all time as manager. Roy Keane was simply glorious for us. Cloughie signed him for 50p or something. He has worked for two incredible managers. I suspect he will do something incredible for you.
When did you last see a SAFC v Notts Forest game home or away, and what happened? Any other memorable games between us?
You beat us 1-0 in a pre-season friendly. Keiran Richardson scored. My concern would be that Roy relies too much on ex-Man Utd contacts. We took Jim Montgomery off you after his performance in the 73 cup final, but that was about 10 years later.
Have you been to the Stadium of Light? If so what did you make of it? What do you think of Sunderland itself? Or if not, had you ever been to Roker Park?
No. I visited Roker Park in the late 80s. Why on earth did you leave it?
What about the signings each club has made?
We have Andy Cole, Robert Earnshaw, A superb Frenchman named Moussi who you will come to fear, Paul Anderson on loan from Liverpool and Lee Martin on loan from Man Utd.
Your predictions for both clubs for this season
We will both stay up.
Do you regard Notts County much as we regard Newcastle? Or are you more grown-up about such things?
Our rivals are Derby. We are vitriolic in our hate for them. Notts County are like our little brothers.
Memories of players and/or management linked to both clubs? Keane and Clough make this all too easy for you
Club vs country. Who wins for you?
Who will win? Score? Will you be there. If not how will you keep tabs on the game?
I suspect you will. I will watch on Sky and get very drunk.
* Mark Collar on Mark Collar
Born in sight of the City Ground but living in the wilds of Norfolk these days and following the team intently over the Internet and for special games about half a dozen times a season. (Norwich and Ipswich away and a few home games.)
Favourite Sunderland player was Gary Rowell – late 70’s early 80s.
The last two games I went to both involved one team being promoted: Forest v Yeovil then the Hull v Bristol City Playoff final at Wembley.