A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today
Twice winners of the European Cup, Nottingham Forest reached untold heights of success under Brian Clough.
In three successive seasons in the late 1970s, Clough’s Forest won the promotion from the Second Division, became champions of England and then Europe, an achievement surely never to be repeated. Just for good measure, Forest successfully defended their European crown in 1980, a feat only later repeated by Milan and Real Madrid.
Clough bowed out with relegation from the Premier League in 1993. Forest (never ‘Notts Forest’) then remained outside the top flight from 1999 to 2022, and unexpected promotion to the Premier League.
Formed by local shinty players in 1865, Nottingham Forest were a multi-sports club that practised football, baseball and bandy, a winter sport once popular in England. Soccer soon took precedence. The club made the Football League in 1892, sending sets of their red shirts to Arsenal and Liverpool for these later famous teams to follow Forest’s example.
Forest stepped out of the shadow of older local rivals Notts County by winning the FA Cup in 1898, a win over Derby setting the pattern for an even bigger rivalry to be played out in the Clough years.
The next final appearance came in 1959 against Luton Town. Forest had just gained promotion to the First Division after 32 years and were about to embark on a 15-year stint in the top flight. At Wembley, two early Forest goals were followed by Roy Dwight, cousin of pop star Elton John and scorer of the first, being carried off on a stretcher.
Forest held out for victory and, with forwards Joe Baker and Ian Storey-Moore, made the semi-final in 1967, the same year that the club finished runners-up to George Best’s Manchester United in the First Division.
Weeks later, Brian Clough joined Derby County, winning the Second then First Division titles within five years of becoming manager. The same year that Clough and long-term assistant Peter Taylor won the league, 1972, Forest were relegated.
Three years later, controversial and outspoken, Clough joined Forest and, again partnered with Taylor, built a side that dwarfed their achievements at Derby. Rising from the Second Division in 1977, Clough and Taylor added goalkeeper Peter Shilton and his midfield general at Derby, Archie Gemmill, to the Forest squad and won the league at the first attempt. Also bringing from Derby over bullish Scottish striker John O’Hare and his compatriot midfielder John McGovern, Clough made a world-class player out of John Robertson, another Scot, whose considerable skills had been wasting away at the City Ground.
Other players who blossomed under Clough included striker Tony Woodcock, full-back Viv Anderson and Kenny Burns, converted to centre-back. After defeat at grudge team Leeds in November 1977, this Forest side remained unbeaten until the end of the title-winning campaign, taking the League Cup on the way.
With the European Cup in mind, Clough then paid a British record £1 million for England international striker Trevor Francis, who repaid him by scoring the only goal in the final. Inevitably, it was a tricky run and cross from John Robertson that set up the decisive dipping header, Francis falling into the shot-putt circle in Munich’s Olympiastadion.
A year later, Robertson was again outstanding as Forest again won the trophy, scoring the only goal against Hamburg in Madrid. In the league, Forest slipped from runners-up spot in 1979 to fifth.
Despite controversial defeat to Anderlecht in the UEFA Cup semi-final of 1984, the Belgians later found to have bribed Spanish referee Emilio Guruceta Muro, Clough’s Forest continued to challenge at home with younger players such as Steve Hodge and, later, Stuart Pearce and Des Walker.
All three would star in World Cup finals for England, though the post-Heysel ban barred Forest from Europe after two League Cups and two third-placed finishes in the league. With Clough’s son Nigel and the arrival of a young Roy Keane from Cobh Ramblers, Forest reached the dramatic FA Cup final of 1991. With Paul Gascoigne stretchered off and Forest 1-0 up early on, Spurs eventually levelled then won the trophy on a Des Walker own goal. Clough would never be in the limelight again, bowing out with relegation from the Premier League in 1993.
Managed by old boys Frank Clark then Stuart Pearce, Forest picked up briefly in the 1990s, making the UEFA Cup in 1995 – but following relegation from the Premier League in 1999, the club has not returned to England’s elite.
Off the pitch, heavy debts overshadowed Forest’s descent to the third flight. In 2012, ownership passed to the Kuwaiti Al-Hasawi family though managerial changes keep coming thick and fast. In 2017, Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis took over, just as Forest had narrowly avoided relegation to the third tier.
Goals from Anglo-Jamaican striker Lewis Grabban then pushed the club to within narrow goal difference from a play-off place for the Premier in 2020 before the arrival of Steve Cooper in September 2021 skyrocketed Forest from the bottom to the business end of The Championship. A play-off win over Huddersfield before 80,000 at Wembley then earned Cooper’s team a return to the elite after 23 years.
The field of dreams – and the stands around it
Lapped by the River Trent and a midwicket throw from Trent Bridge, the City Ground has been the home of Nottingham Forest since 1898.
Before then, the club was based on the facing riverbank at the purpose-built Town Ground, best known for staging the first football match to use crossbars and goalnets, in 1891.
Mainly funded by club members, the City Ground was opened a year after Nottingham received its city charter, hence the name. A then record attendance of 47,800 was set in October 1957 when the East Stand was opened with the visit of Manchester United – the same opposition a decade later when 49,950 gathered.
Spurred by the unprecedented silverware won from 1978 onwards, and the hosting of three group matches at Euro 96, the City Ground saw the development of the Executive (now Brian Clough) Stand then Bridgford Stand at one end. Away fans are usually allocated this lower tier (blocks W1, W2, X1 and X2), and adjoining Block T in the Brian Clough Stand if needed.
The home Trent End was rebuilt for Euro 96, and three games involving Portugal, Croatia, Denmark and Turkey.
Current capacity is 30,455. The club has long been working on an expansion of the main Peter Taylor Stand, having already spent £2 million on the project by the spring of 2021, though all relevant planning permissions are yet to be in place. Given this outlay, it is unlikely that Forest will move from their riverside location, as has also been mooted.
Going to the ground – tips and timings
The stadium is a 15-20min walk from Nottingham train station – head for London Road, which forms the bridge over the railtracks then follows the river south away from the city centre. To your left you’ll see the floodlights of Meadow Lane. Keeping Notts County’s stadium to your left, London Road runs into Trent Bridge – the City Ground is tucked away to the left on the opposite bank.
The city centre is a longer walk to and from the ground.
Several Trentbarton Green Line buses run from the Victoria shopping centre in town to Trent Bridge cricket ground, via Nottingham bus station at Broad Marsh and train station. Buses 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 set off regularly from stop W4 by Lloyds Bank, via stop S7 near the train station then onto the Cricket Ground. Bus 11 (every 12-15mins, every 30mins Sun), sets off from stop W3 by Poundland, via stop S1 near the station, alighting at Fox Road, slightly closer to the City Ground. Bus 10 also sets off from stop W3, alighting at County Hall a short walk from the Forest ground.
The sat nav code for the City Ground is NG2 5FJ. There is little parking around the ground – the nearest option are the 55 spaces available (£5) at The Embankment (NG2 2GR), 282-284 Arkwright Street, just over the bridge from the ground. Alternatively, the car park on Queen’s Road at the train station is multi-storey, with 500+ spaces at £5 for the day.
Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much
With average attendances of 28,000+ in 2018-19, the City Ground is often close to capacity.
Distribution is from the ticket office (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Fri in season until 6pm, Sat 9am-1pm, matchdays from 9am-half-time, 15min after final whistle) alongside the club shop at the main entrance, by phone (0115 982 4388) or online.
Prices are an across-the-board £18 or £26, depending on the opposition. For over-65s, it’s £12-£18, under-18s £10-£14, under-12s £4-£6. On match days, depending on availability, of course, there will be a £1-£2 surcharge for adults and over-65s.
what to buy
Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts
The Forest Megastore (Tue-non-match Sat 9am-5pm, matchdays from 9am-kick-off then 1hr after final whistle) is a large, imaginatively decorated outlet just inside the main gates. Among the many retro T-shirts, ‘Forest Make History’ features a montage of scenes from that night in ’79. Home shirts for 2021-22 have a V-necked collar with a white trim to it.
You’ll also find rare Forest programmes at the MSR newsagents at nearby 1A Radcliffe Road.
Where to Drink
Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors
Given the proximity of Trent Bridge and Meadow Lane, there are plenty of drinking options on either bank of the river – but on match days those nearest the City Ground are strictly Forest-only.
These include “The Supporters” Sportsmen’s Club set in an old townhouse on Pavilion Road by the main gates and the Trent Bridge Inn by the cricket ground. Much to many regulars’ dismay, the excellent Southbank Bar, a superb sports pub done out with rare photos from the Clough era, closed on New Year’s Eve 2019/20.
Now, the somewhat trendier Waterside Bar & Kitchen puts the focus on brunch and contemporary cocktails but also serves Peroni and Erdinger to sensible visitors. On the other side of the bridge, the Brewhouse & Kitchen is a handy chain in a storm if you’re looking to keep the kids happily fed of a match day.
Right opposite the City Ground, the recent arrival of The Boot Room ticks the boxes that the Southbank Bar used to, an excellent bar/eatery welcoming of all-comers, with nine big HD screens and also buzzing on non-match days.
The riverside Pitch Sports Diner behind the City Ground home end is VIP-only on match days.
Away fans are generally advised to use bars by Meadow Lane although the Nottingham & Union Rowing Club right by the City Ground often allows in visiting supporters for a nominal admission fee.