Welcome to our third instalment of “Four sleeping giants of English football”. After last week's article on Wolverhampton Wanderers, we make a short trip to Nottingham, to perhaps the most successful side outside of the top tier.
First of all, let's recap....
The top four average away attendances in the Football League are as follows;
1) Leeds United
2) Nottingham Forest
3) Wolverhampton Wanderers
4) Sheffield Wednesday
The definition of the phrase 'sleeping giant' is something or someone who holds great power but is still waiting for their big moment.
The phrase in football has been around for decades and many a club has been labelled as such. This isn't a discussion of who is the best footballing side outside of the Premier League, as none of these clubs can claim that.
It is much more than that, its having the fanbase, structure, history and heritage in place. It isn't just about having the most dedicated away fans, although these four clubs do have that all in common. Its about silverware, icons who have turned out for these clubs, days out at Wembley and wonderful European nights.
When such a great manager, such as, Brian Clough, is associated with a football club, you then realise how great this club once was. Forest are, by some way, the most successful club outside of the Premier League.
With back to back European Cups to their name, two FA Cups and a sole first division title. Whilst never ruling domestically over an extended period the Forest side in the late 1970's was one of the best sides to ever have graced the English game.
The late and great, Brian Clough, built an amazing side with included the likes of England number one Peter Shilton and the first ever £1 Million pound man, Trevor Francis. Alongside the two stand out Englishmen, the side also consisted of many greats including Captain John McGovern and ,now Republic of Ireland boss, Martin O'Neill.
Domestically, Forest are currently the joint 9th most successful club in England but are incredibly joint 11th in the all time winners list for the European Cup. Forest have lifted the famous trophy on two occasions, the same amount of times the likes Juventus, Benfica and Porto have won it. These clubs are giants of their respective nations, and the name Nottingham Forest rightfully sits among them.
I consider a club's true measure their achievements in the game, after all football is about winning, not 4th placed finishes for financial security and this is why Nottingham Forest are a true sleeping giant. The size, tradition and history of the club should see the famous Red shirts be competing in the top flight, and possibly even contending the English top tier.
Life after Clough in 1993, where Forest were relegated back to the football league after its glory years in the 70's, was increasingly tough for Forest fans to take. When supporters have the appetite for victory, for trophies and memories, they will not settle for anything less. Unfortunately, for Forest fans, they have had to just that, as they have endured the football league since the turn of the millennium.
Their fall from grace was epitomised by the fact that they are the only ever European Champions to have dropped to the third tier of their domestic division. Incredible.
This was despite failed attempts from the likes of David Platt, Stuart Pearce, Dave Bassett, Ron Atkinson, Gary Megson and Joe Kinnear (not the best choices, in retrospect) to revive the club's fortunes. Megson left the club at its lowest point, 13th placed in England's third tier, only four points from the relegation zone in February 2006.
Under joint caretaker managers, Frank Barlow and Ian McParland, Forest managed to finish their first season outside the top two tiers of English football in 54 years in 7th place. It was former player Colin Calderwood, who rebuilt the squad and guided the club back to the Championship in his second season. In their first season back in the Championship, Calderwood's side failed to produce much quality and he was sacked following 4-2 defeat at home to Doncaster Rovers.
Billy Davies, the man who is now known as King Billy in Nottinghamshire, succeeded Calderwood and kept the famous club away from relegation guiding them to a 19th placed finish. Under Davies, Forest flirted with Premier League football after two play off failures and the popular manager was sacked following several reports that Davies was unhappy with the lack of support from the board.
The following appointments of Steve McClaren, Steve Cotterill, Sean O'Driscoll and Alex McLeish, all failed to inspire Forest and set them back a few seasons following Billy Davies's progressive two years at the club. In particular, McClaren and McLeish's appointments did not work out well for the Nottinghamshire club, as the unpopular pair only managed 20 games between them.
Following the sad and sudden death of owner, Nigel Doughty, in February 2012 the club was sold to the Al-Hasawi family, from Kuwait. The Al-Hasawi who appointed both O'Driscoll and McLeish at the club, were unhappy with progress and reappointed former manager Billy Davies in 2013.
King Billy managed to go unbeaten for ten games in his second spell at the club and just missed out on a play off place, finishing 8th. This season, despite a recent wobble, Forest have been in the play off hunt for much of the season. Davies will hope to make it third time lucky in the play off's this season and finally being to establish this great club, as a top flight club.
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