Nottingham Forest v Yeovil
City Ground / Championship /2nd February 2014
So here I was in Nottingham. For those who didn’t read my blog about my trip to Cammell Laird, you’ll be unaware that I hadn’t exactly planned to be in Nottingham on this Sunday at all. Lack of sleep plus consuming beer throughout my Saturday afternoon on Merseyside had led to me falling asleep on the train from Liverpool, missing my Manchester stop and waking up just before 11:30pm before the train’s arrival at its final destination, Nottingham. With no trains back to Manchester at that late night hour, I was forced into staying in Nottingham for the night. I’d found myself a fairly decent (and cheap-ish) hotel and saved myself the indignity of roaming the streets of Nottingham until the 9.47am train back to Manchester the next morning.
I was up nice and early and ready to make my way back through the city to the train station and head home to Manchester. As I walked through the city on this pleasant Sunday morning, I thought to myself what a beautiful city Nottingham actually is. I was literally about 5 minutes away from the train station when I opted to call in Starbucks for a wake up cappuccino. It was in here whilst waiting for my drink that I wandered onto Twitter to check out what was going on in the world. And that’s when I saw a tweet that instantly grabbed my eyes: betting odds for today’s fixture between Nottingham Forest and Yeovil. Forest were at home on this Sunday afternoon. Originally, I tried to ignore the thoughts going through my head, but it was too late – the idea of spending the afternoon at the City Ground had already entered my head and I settled for the inevitably that I was going to the game. I thought I may as well make the most of last night’s cock-up.
With my train tickets purchased to head back to Manchester later that evening, I headed back towards the city centre for some breakfast. I played it safe (and cheap) and headed to the Joseph Else Wetherspoons to set myself up for the today – it was still a bit too early for alcohol for my liking though.
With food in my belly, I decided to go for a bit of a wander of the city and of course to visit the Brian Clough statue. For those that don’t know, I’m a fan of all things Clough-related having read pretty much all of the books there are about him; Duncan Hamilton’s Provided You Don’t Kiss Me is one of my all time favourite football books, whilst The Damned United is probably just one of my favourite books ever.
As the time ticked past midday, I headed back to Old Market Square and into The Bank pub, where I was able to catch up on yesterday’s football due to Goals On Sunday adorning the several TV screens. I spent a good half hour or so in the confines of the Spoons-style Bank, before deciding to head a bit closer to the ground to see what I could find around there.
I had received tweets off people, generally laughing at my impromptu journey to Nottingham, but some of the tweets were useful in giving pub recommendations. The Stratford Haven had been highly recommended to me, so I was going to see if I could find there for an early afternoon pub visit.
The City Ground is about a 20-25 minute walk from the city centre and having past the train station, it soon came into view behind Notts County’s Meadow Lane ground. The grounds are incredibly close together with each ground being on opposite banks of the River Trent; in fact, they are the two closest grounds to each other in England and the second closest in the whole of the UK (the closest are Dundee and Dundee United – a classic bit of trivia for pub quizzers).
My quest to find a pub was cut short, as I got sidetracked by another establishment: Hooters! I had been so stupid! How could I forget that Nottingham is famous for its branch of Hooters. Of course I had to visit, having missed out on the opportunity on my last visit to Nottingham.
On entering I was greeted with a friendly smile and greeting from the ‘Hoot girl’ on the door. The place was already rather full with a mix of home and away fans already enjoying the beer, the large portions of food unhealthy food and the famous ‘Hoot girls’. Some people were even already in their American football attire ready for the Superbowl that evening. I bought myself a beer (£3.79) and went in search of somewhere to put my phone on charge as it was very much on its last legs after I had forgotten to charge it overnight (there was a lot of forgetfulness this weekend it seemed). I eventually tracked down a plug socket near a table of lads in the corner who were kind enough to let me charge my phone by them. One of the lads then picked up on my Welsh accent and asked where I was from – it turned out that he was a Caerphilly boy and he was up here with a couple of other Welsh lads, as well as their mates from across the country.
The next hour was spent chatting to my new Caerphilly pal Chris, who along with his brother George, were very good to me and good company as I spent the early afternoon with them. It also turned out that they were friends with the owner of the place (hence why they were visiting) and that they were hanging around for the whole day. I did suggest that they should come along to the game, but they seemed happier in the beer-fuelled environment surrounded by pretty women than going to watch some Championship football. They had a point in fairness.
I said my goodbyes to the lads (and the ‘Hoot Girls’) and headed back out onto the main road that runs down the side of the Trent. On my way I passed Notts County FC, before eventually arriving at a bridge that turned left over the Trent. And there it was. The City Ground in all its magnificent glory perched majestically directly on the banks of the Trent. It has to be one of the most beautifully located and scenic grounds in the league. There was some talk of the ground being relocated in the future so that it would be fit to host World Cup fixtures, but with Russia earning the rights to host the 2018 World Cup, those proposals have been shelved and I hope they’re never brought up again, as it would be such a shame to see the City Ground move.
Forest moved to the City Ground in 1898, 6 years after their election to the Football League. For the 33 years of their existence before, the club had played at several homes such as the Forest Recreation Ground . It is from this ground that the name ‘Nottingham Forest’ derives with Forest’ s original home being located a mile north of the city, where Sherwood Forest was once located.
After 14 years, the club moved to Meadows Cricket Ground, before then locating to the better-equipped Trent Bridge Cricket Ground. However, Forest lost their tenancy at Trent Bridge and ended up playing games at places such as the Parkside Ground and the Gregory Ground, before they found a more permanent abode at the Town Ground near the River Trent. As success began to hit Forest at the end of the 19th century, they made one final move: over the river to their newly built City Ground (named after Nottingham earning city status a year before the ground’s 1898 opening).
Despite the ground undergoing several stages of redevelopment throughout its history, particularly during the 1990s, there is a definite sense of history and magic as you walk along the banks of the Trent and under the structure of the Trent End. I was making way around the ground in search of the ticket office, which I found alongside the entrance to the Brian Clough Executive Suite. It was here that one of the most generous acts I’ve experienced on my travels occurred.
I was sifting through my wallet to get together the £28 I had read it cost for a ticket on matchday, when the lad in front of me turned to me.
“You going to the game mate?” he asked. I thought it was a strange question to ask someone queuing for a ticket office, but I was polite enough to respond in the affirmative.
My fellow queue-dweller, who I had now noticed was adorned in a think black Forest coat and a hat also adorned with the famous tree/river combination of the Forest badge, then asked, “Do you want a ticket?”
“For nothing. I’ll get you in for free,” he replied casually.
Of course, instantly I was trying to suss out the catch, but on noticing my sceptical expression he insisted that he had two tickets waiting behind the ticket office and that one of them was going to waste as a spare. I was convinced and I happily accepted.
Moments later, I had a ticket for the home end in my hand for nothing, as I lavished multiple thanks on my new friend. As we entered through the turnstiles and into the Brian Clough Stand, he began to tell me that he worked as an Academy Coach for Forest. Noticing a foreign accent, I asked where he came from and it turned out that my new favourite person in the world at that point in time was Radek Mozyrko, a Polish coach. As I quizzed him on his career, it turned out he had had stints coaching youth football in Poland, as well as stints working for the New York Red Bulls Academy and for Manchester United Soccer Schools. Impressive!
Radek snubbed my offer of beer, as he headed up to his seat and I went for one last prematch drink – predictably, a bottle of Carlsberg, the football ground bottled lager of choice, which I was always moan about, but seem to purchase and consume anyway.
With 5 minutes to go until kick-off, I headed up into my seat in the upper tier of the Brian Clough Stand, where I found Radek. And what a seat he had got me as well. My only ever visit to the City Ground before had been to watch Swansea get rather battered 3-1 by a rampant Forest in September 2010 (we would have the last laugh though by beating them in the playoff semi-finals at the end of season and to eventually earn promotion to the Premier League – I had to fit that in there somewhere). For hat late September fixture back in 2010, I had obviously found myself in the away end tucked down the bottom of the Bridgford End and it is fair to say that you can’t really appreciate the ground as well from down there. However, from my seat up in the upper tier, the place looked great.
The Brian Clough Stand was built in 1980 with the two-tiered stand once being known as the Executive Stand, before it was renamed in honour of the club’s legendary manager. Opposite that stand is the Main Stand, which was built in the 60s; the name seems quite ironic now, as it appears a long way from being ‘Main’ with it looking small and drab next to the three others surrounding it. Particularly shiny looking is the Trent End, which, as mentioned earlier, is located, unsurprisingly, right next to the Trent. This is the newest stand in the ground and arguably the most eye-catching purely for its location. The stand was built so that the City Ground could host games for Euro 96 with its completion bolstering the ground’s capacity to just over 30,000.
With the sun lurking in the background on a fairly cold City Ground, the teams emerged on to the pitch with Forest in their famous red kits and Yeovil in their green and white stripes. Forest started the game the better team as they went all out attack. Even from the early stages, I was very impressed with their young striker Jamie Paterson, who had made headlines recently by scoring a hatrick v West Ham in the FA Cup. I was not surprised to see him play a part in the first goal as he knocked the ball past the Yeovil goalie before his low shot was turned in by Yeovil’s Byron Webster into his own net. 1-0 to Forest.
As I chatted to Radek throughout the first half, I was also engaged in conversation by a young Forest fan who had been coached by Radek. James, along with his Dad after playing football for one of Forest’s junior teams in Birmingham that day, became curious as to why a Welshman who supports Swansea had ended up in the stands at Forest and having explained the blog to him, I said I’d give him a shout out in case he becomes Forest’s next big thing: so remember the name James Sturridge folks.
After a great start, Forest had lowered the pace a bit and soon enough Yeovil were clawing themselves back into the game. The away team grabbed a goal 9 minutes after Forest had taken the lead through a Keiffer Moore header, as the striker got ahead of the onrushing Forest keeper Karl Darlow to convert Jamie McAllister’s cross.
The game died down after the equaliser, but it was still enjoyable to watch excellent showings from young Paterson and Henri Lansbury, who still looked like he could do a job in the Premier League. However, despite struggling to create much, Forest retook the lead as Simon Cox finished from close range after a low cross from Jamie Mackie.
Half time: Nottingham Forest 1-1 Yeovil.
“I’m off mate,” came the voice by the side of me. Amazingly, after getting me into the ground for free, Radek had seen enough and decided to head home. Or maybe he had just had enough of me talking to him about the game and football in general in the first half. What a legend that guy is though! A true Lost Boyos hero. Everybody should lavish praise on him on Twitter (@ArniSilesia).
The second half started the same as the first with Forest driving constantly at the Yeovil goal. Lansbury and Paterson continued to impress with the former coming close with a powerful shot which was saved by Marek Stech, before Paterson hit the woodwork with a shot of his own.
As the game flowed on and the sun began to charmingly set over the Main Stand, I began to notice a strange chant emanating mainly from the top corner of the stand behind me. The chant sounded like, “Bring on the Terrorist!” Eh? I listened closer to try work out what the strange chant was, but I was certain that they were saying ‘terrorist’. Then the placed erupted as Forest’s new signing Rafik Djebbour entered the action from the bench to make his debut having just signed from Olympiakos. It turns out Djebbour is nicknamed ‘The Terrorist’ because of how he ‘terrorises’ defences and for his trademark machine gun celebration.
Djebbour was at his terrorising best and looked dangerous from the moment he came on and he predictably grabbed himself a goal in the closing stages of the game. After a series of Andy Reid crosses, the ball eventually fell to Cox who’s powerful shot across goal was bundled in by Djebbour much to the delight of the home crowd.
Full time: Nottingham Forest 3 -1 Yeovil.
A very much deserved win for the home team and in all honesty despite a ten minute spell during the first half, Forest had dominated from start to finish. It had been an enjoyable game and I was very impressed with Paterson and Lansbury, as well as a rejuvenated (and slightly slimmer-looking) Andy Reid.
I made my way out of the Brian Clough Stand and into the West Bridgford area once again search of the Stratford Haven pub. My Google Maps was informing me that it was further away than I thought, so as I approached Trent Bridge Cricket Ground and spotted a tidy little pub in its shadow, I thought that would do for me. The Larwood and Voce was a fairly plush and snug little pub, which was heaving with Forest fans celebrating today’s win. As I pleasant as it all was, I decided that it was a bit too crammed for me and instead I headed back to Hooters to meet up with my Caerphilly pals before heading back to Manchester.
I regaled my new friends in Hooters about the game and the legend that is Radek Mozyrko whilst I having once last drink for the road. Despite their party looking like it was going to be a good one that was going to go late into the night, I thought I better get out of there before it got out of hand and I ended up stranded in Nottingham for another night. Quality company though. Onwards to the train station and home.
Despite being one of my most unplanned and most spontaneous trips of my season, my second visit to the city of Nottingham and the City Ground has to be one of my favourite trips this season. Nottingham is a great city and Nottingham Forest are a good club with a wonderful home ground. And don’t forget Hooters of course. Most importantly of all, I actually got off the train in Manchester this time. However, if you do ever fall asleep on the train, there are far worse places you can wake up than Nottingham.
Highlights: a nice city, Hooters, a superb, scenic ground, getting a free ticket off Radek (legend), good game with a few goals.
Low Points: I never did find the recommended Stratford Haven pub, but I didn’t really lose any sleep over it.