Sunday, 9 December 2012

What a difference four years make

Growing up in Kettering back in the 70's everyone at school seemed to be a Poppies fan.  Not everyone went to all the games, but everyone went to enough to know what was going on.  However, an interest in your local team only got you so far.  There's a big footballing world out there, and, through the power of the Figurine Panini Football Albums and Match of the Day, we felt part of it.  So much so that it was expected that each of us have our "big team" to sit alongside the Poppies in our affections.

Back then I'd like to think that we weren't as obvious as kids nowadays who simply choose whoever has just won the league, or, heaven forbid, a foreign team!  Not for most of us the choice of either whichever Manchester team had just bought the title or Barcelona.  I recall teams such as Coventry, Wolves, Bristol City, Leicester (obviously), and Sunderland having pockets of supporters at our school.  Obviously there were the usual Liverpool/Man Utd suck-ups, but there's always a few who can't do their own thinking!

My own choice was Brian Clough and Peter Taylor's Tricky Trees of Nottingham. They were never a particularly fashionable team, but the fact they'd just won the league certainly didn't hurt!

In keeping with supporting your "big club" the only investment was looking for results and, in my case, the occasional trip up to the City Ground.  These trips have carried on to the present day, but have become more intermittent.  In fact, before watching Forest slithering to a painfully tedious defeat to Hull City last Saturday the last time I'd taken my place amongst the permanently grizzling Nottingham public was four years ago.  As a friend kept me updated with the goals flying in against our teenage mutant hero poppies down at Chippenham I was afforded time to consider the last trip to the City Ground.

A week after Cooper's all-conquering, DRC-funded collection of slumming superstars had bullied our way to the title against the part timers of Conference North, the missus and I took our seats in the Bridgford Stand for the last game of the League One season.  Somehow, under the uninspired and stodgy management of Colin Calderwood Forest took the field that day against our old rivals Yeovil Town knowing a win and a couple of other helpful results could actually see Forest sneak into the second automatic promotion spot.  The season before Forest were within an ace of getting to the Play-Off final when they won away at Yeovil in the first leg.  The return game in Nottingham should have been a formality, but no-one told the cider-drinkers this and they ran out easy winners, scoring 5 times!

As it happened, history didn't repeat itself, and 90 minutes later all the necessary results had gone Forest's way and I found myself celebrating two promotions in a week.  Wow, wouldn't football be enjoyable if it was like this all the time!  The team were cheered back onto the pitch one by one.  Even Calderwood got a cheer, albeit more muted. Ten games into the next season he was history, and one could sense that even as he took the reluctant plaudits, he knew he didn't quite have "IT" and was no doubt mentally getting his CV up to date.

Fast forward to the present day and things are a little different.  OK, Forest are still in the Championship, but less than 18,000 Reds had turned up to watch a painfully boring defeat, whilst down in Chippenham my number one team were three divisions, and a thousand fans lower than they were the last time I'd filed out of the City Ground.  I felt like mentioning this to the Nottingham folk all around me who were acting as though their world had just ended, just because they were now about 6 points off the play-offs!  I believe someone once coined the phrase about football being a funny old game.....

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