More commonly known for its association with the legend of Robin Hood, Nottingham is home to a club that won the European Cup twice in 1979 and 1980. Those victories over Hamburger SV and Malmö FF came thanks to manager Brian Clough, a maverick manager and English footballing icon whose idiosyncratic style helped bring the prestigious trophy to the East Midlands.
Today, Nottingham Forest are in the second tier of English football following a number of years outside the top flight Premier League. The absence of Forest from the top flight has seen the club suffer financially with the home City Ground now outdated when compared to other English football stadia. Despite inner city charm near the River Trent, the stadium has changed little since the early Premiership years and the city infrastructure is now more known for its shopping and transport.
Forest have now been overtaken as the top club in the East Midlands by Leicester City; winners of the English Premier League for season 2015-2016. While it is unlikely the Foxes will replicate the success of Forest in the Champions League, performances by the Foxes have been good with the club able to match FC Porto, Club Brugge and FC Copenhagen.
The centre of Nottingham lies on the River Leen and its southern boundary follows the course of the more familiar River Trent, near where the City Ground and Meadow Lane stand. According to a recent census, Nottingham is a sizeable city and has an estimated population of 275,100. Outside the city things are denser as the Nottingham Urban Area conurbation (which includes surrounding suburbs outside the city boundary, and neighbouring towns) has a population of 666,358.
Located 30 miles south of Sheffield and 30 miles north of Leicester the heart of the city is the Old Market Square. A bohemian quarter of Nottingham known as Hockley has arisen in recent years and this is situated close to the Lace Market area.
Nottingham does receive a lot of tourism, mostly because of the legend of Robin Hood with visits to Sherwood Forest and Nottingham Castle both popular. But many people from both the UK and abroad still visit because of the main famous football team – Nottingham Forest.
Forest are one of the oldest clubs in the world with roots that go back to 1865 when a group of Nottingham based bandy players met at the Clinton Arms on Shakespeare Street in Nottingham. It was here that a proposition was made to begin playing football, and Nottingham Forest Football Club was born.
At the same meeting, it was agreed the team would purchase a dozen tasselled caps in the colour of ‘Garibaldi Red’ – named after the leader of the Italian ‘Redshirts’ freedom fighters. The club’s official colours of red and white were therefore established.
The greatest era of the club was, of course, the Clough era which began on 6 January 1975. Clough has been successful at rivals Derby County but had been through a difficult period with Leeds United, a story recently explored in The Damned United. Soon he began team building with a serious of shrewd buys including John O’Hare, John McGovern, John Robertson and Martin O’Neill.
Things moved to another level when assistant manager Peter Taylor arrived at the club. It was from here that things began to truly take shape for the club on a road that would lead to success in Europe in 1979 and 1980.
Despite a fall-out between Clough and Taylor, Forest continued to be a successful club throughout the 1980’s. The club regularly participated in the UEFA Cup and reached a number of domestic finals at Wembley culminating in a 1-2 FA Cup loss to Spurs in 1991.
But by 1993 discontent at the club was rife with manager Clough revealed to have serious alcohol problems. The club directors were concerned at the decline in standards behind the scenes and on the pitch. When Clough announced his impending retirement on 26 April 1993 it was the end of an era that had reached great heights with the European Cup win over SV Hamburg.
In truth, Forest has never been the same team since the day Clough departed. But it was his dogged determination to remain at the club, despite huge personal problems, that set the club on a course from which it has never really recovered. Yet the identity and brand of Forest remain strong with the red ‘garibaldi’ shirts remaining and they are said to be one of the first ever football teams in the world to wear red colours.
Such is the influence of Forest that the home colours of Forest are the reason Arsenal wear red shirts. The club’s current crest meanwhile remains simply distinctive thanks to its introduction in the 1970’s. It is neatly finished off these days with two stars which commemorate the European Cup victories of 1979 and 1980.
Nottingham has another club, and Notts County is the oldest professional league club in the world having been formed in 1862 predating Forest.
Such are the date of foundations Notts County pre-dated the English FA and initially played a ‘gentleman only’ game of its own rather than association football. Notts County is therefore considered to be one of the pioneers of the modern ruled game and is the oldest of the world’s professional association football clubs.
In 1888, Notts County, along with 11 other football clubs, became a founding member of the Football League system. The club also won the FA Cup in 1894.
Like Forest, a great recent era for the club came during the period of the 197o’s through to the early 1990’s. Like at Forest, changes at County came with the arrival of an iconic manager in Jimmy Sirrel a charismatic Glaswegian who played for Celtic. In the 1970–71 season the Magpies clinched the 4th division title in record-breaking style remaining unbeaten at Meadow Lane.
With Forest known as one of European football’s best clubs, County completed an equally remarkable transformation when in May 1981 they became a top division side again. Since then the club has had several spells in the top division of English football most recently in 1991–92 when the club played in the old English First Division.
Never having played in European football, Notts County can, however, point to having had an influential role in Italian club Juventus adopting black and white kits. In 1890 County had adopted black and white striped shirts, and have played in these colours since.
Originally the club from Turin had played in pink home shirts; light coloured shirts which often faded due to weather, industrial hand washing or muddy pitches. Juventus asked one of their English club members if he had any contacts in England who could supply new shirts in a colour that would better withstand the elements. This led to a man from Nottingham, who was a Notts County supporter, shipping out black and white striped shirts to Turin.
Juventus have played in black and white striped shirts, with white shorts, sometimes black shorts since 1903. Notts County played at the opening of the new Juventus Stadium in 2011 with Juventus always acknowledging the symbolic role of County in its club history.
See some images from Nottingham here