What’s your earliest Forest memory?
Beyond my first game, the joy of getting a half season-ticket in my stocking at Christmas when I was a kid.
What was your first Forest game?
Forest 1 Coventry 1, May 2 1981 — stood in the Bridgford End with my Dad and not knowing what you were meant to do when we scored (a John Robertson penalty).
Favourite Forest player — past or present?
Seriously difficult question. Stan Collymore was the most talented and the most exciting. It annoys me that a lot of people don’t actually realise just how good he was. In that two-year period, he was just astonishing; the closest I’ve ever seen to the Brazilian Ronaldo.
That said, I’m from the era of the ‘second’ Clough team so I grew up with slightly obsessive man-crushes on a lot of players and, at a push, it’s got to be Stuart Pearce. I’ve never seen a player anywhere symbolise a club more than he did with Forest. Plus Nigel has turned out to be a big disappointment with some of his behaviour at Derby. Of the present team, I’ve got to be honest and say I’m struggling to pick out anyone I’ve had more than the slightest affinity with for the past 10 years.
This question has actually been keeping me awake at night… it’s just too difficult to pick out one. So indulge me. Tommy Gaynor at Huddersfield, in the League Cup third round 1989, was certainly the most remarkable, seeing as he started in his own penalty area, and made it worthwhile bunking off school to be there.
This from Johnny Metgod needs no introduction and was the first time I heard my dad swear (and quite possibly vice versa).
Brian Rice deserves a mention, this was my second away game and, in the innocence of youth, I thought it was always going to be this much fun. I got that one wrong.
Stuart Pearce’s free-kick at Old Trafford, with the Stretford End singing ‘Who missed in Italy? Stuart Pearce, Stuart Pearce …’, was the hardest I’ve ever found it not to celebrate while watching in the home end. It’s number 8 here.
Honorary mentions, too, to Garry Parker in the rain at Bristol City and Roy Keane’s header at Spurs in the bomb-scare semi-final. But the winner would probably be Collymore’s last-minute winner at Peterborough, from 2-0 down to 3-2 up with the ground taken over. My mate Paul was bitten by a police dog in the pitch invasion.
Seems a bit weird going back to Peterborough when there’s been so many great victories but if you were there you’d understand.
Yeovil, fucking Yeovil.
Your favourite Cloughie anecdote?
There’s a great story from Larry Lloyd in Deep in the Forest about the time he broke his foot and Cloughie went straight out and bought David Needham from QPR.
Lloydie being Lloydie, he was none too happy, but Clough told him to bugger off until he was fit again. And Needham didn’t put a foot wrong for the next six weeks. Or as Larry put it: “I was watching him thinking: ‘That bastard’s doing far too well for my liking.’”
Lloyd got fit again, played a reserves match and the had a meeting before the next first-team match. Lloyd remembers Clough turning to Needham. “David, you’re probably wondering why I’ve left you out, and you’re entitled to. David, you’ve done ever so well since I bought you. You know you’ve done brilliantly and I can’t fault you. David, you’re a lovely boy. If my daughter were looking to bring home a man to marry, you’d be that man, you’re that nice I’d have you as a son-in-law.”
Then he pointed at Lloyd. “I hate that fucking bastard over there. And that’s why you’re not in the team. You’re not a bastard like Larry Lloyd. And son, I want a bastard in my defence.”
A personal memory was going past the team coach near Stoke after we had come back from 2-0 down at Anfield to get a draw. It felt like a win — we never used to get much there, did we? — and him striding to the front of the bus, clasping his hands above his head and giving us the thumbs-up. Just a little thing, but always stayed with me.
Your most prized Forest possession?
I’ve got the 1979 shirt framed in my home office. Bought off the internet for far too much.
Did you always want to be a football journalist?
When I started thinking about working, yes.
How has reporting the game changed since you started?
How long have you got? The biggest changes are a) the broadsheets did not care a great deal for news back then, whereas now they have many of the best story-getters out there; and b) the explosion of websites and social media making it far more of a 24-7 rolling-news operation. The Guardian is now digital-first, meaning we put everything online as quickly as we can, embargoes-permitting. Others are following and will continue to do so.
What’s your relationship with the club been like since you became a journalist?
Fine. I’ve never had to cover them on a regular basis because before moving to Manchester, I was freelancing at Leicester, Derby and Chesterfield. So I’ve always dipped in and out really. There’s been a few times when I have had to pan them but that’s just the job. Fraser in the press office is another Newark lad and the one constant really over the difficult years.
Do they cater well for the press?
They have good people working in their press department so this answer does not reflect on them, but it’s a small department. If you go to Leicester or Derby, you would notice the different immediately. The pressroom at Forest is a pretty dingy room, mostly used for storing junk, and the last time I was in the pressbox it was filthy. But that’s the way the City Ground has gone, isn’t it? The whole place needs a lick of paint and some TLC. The last time I was there it was depressing to see the state of the place and all the empty advertising boards.
Many fans are critical of the news (or lack of) that has come from the club in the past — do you think Forest are bad at releasing information or fairly typical of most clubs?
It’s the way most clubs have gone and they’re certainly not the worst. It’s difficult too when the club is run by people (for example, when Nigel Doughty was alive) who don’t particularly want to communicate with the public. Maybe that will change now, but it’s difficult to say. I certainly think the website and social media side need a lot of catching up.
In the light of the recent takeover, how should the club progress?
I just hope they look at it like Manchester City’s owners have, put long-term plans in place and do it with dignity. They need to take advice because this is all new to them and the Paladini/Peterborough thing wasn’t a great start (even though it looks like they have now seen sense). It was obvious Steve Cotterill was going but they have to take good advice and put in place a strong structure rather than doing it on the hoof.
Do you know much of the Al-Hasawis? Or their plans?
Not a great deal. It all happened while I was away at the Euros and I was unable to go to their introductory press conference, which is disappointing.
What (realistic) hopes do you have for the future?
The past 10-15 years have made me fairly cynical/negative but when you see some of the clubs in the Premier League and compare the size and fan-base it’s not asking too much to hope we could be established again in the top flight. I think there’s a lot of support for it, too, elsewhere. I look at a lot of club forums and messageboards and there’s always a certain amount of respect paid to Forest out of the East Midlands clubs.
Should Forest stay at the City Ground?
I change my mind on this frequently but, as it stands, I want us to stay there, for a variety of reasons. For starters, I hate all these soulless Ikea-style grounds that keep popping up (you know who they are). Most of all though, it’s selfish. I don’t get to Forest as much as I’d like these days and when I do I like the nostalgic parts of being back at the City Ground. A new ground would feel too much like a new club for an out-of-towner like me. And, besides, there are good pubs in West Bridgford.
Dream scenario: where do you see the club in five years?
Kings of Europe, of course. For a third time.
Daniel is also the author of the excellent Deep into the Forest, the story of 14 of Forest’s finest players.
For a chance to win a copy click here.