Continuing the Q&A series, Seat Pitch caught up with John Percy, recently appointed Midlands football reporter for the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, and long-suffering Nottingham Forest fan…

What’s your earliest Forest memory?

Listening to the radio when Forest beat Man Utd 2-0 on the final day of the 1983/84 season.

What was your first Forest game?

Two words – Johnny Metgod! Anyone around my age will know instantly what I’m talking about. It was the West Ham game in 1986 when we beat them 2-1, the first goal being THAT Metgod free kick. I would have been 10 and can still remember the sight of Phil Parkes taking evasive action to avoid losing his head. The ball would have still been travelling if the net hadn’t been there. YouTube doesn’t do it justice as to actually how fast that ball went. To make it an even better evening, another legend, Brian Rice, scored the winner. Not a bad start. Had a season ticket for the next 10 seasons after that, had a go at university and didn’t like it, then had a few more seasons towards the late 90s.

Favourite Forest player — past or present?

Got to be Pearcey, although like Danny Taylor there has to be a special mention for Stan. Pearce epitomised everything about that Forest team of the time and just shows how much the characters have gone out the game now. So many memories watching him, one of my favourites being when he cleaned out Pat Van Den Hauwe in front of the Spurs fans in the lower Exec and after getting up stood glaring at them for about five seconds.

As for Stan, well… has there ever been a player who got people on the edge of their seats when he got the ball on the half-way line? If he’d stayed at Forest for another year who knows how good he could have been? As for present, I’m afraid I’m struggling.

Favourite goal?

Not got a specific one, but honourable mentions for Pearce in front of the Stretford End, his winner against Coventry in the pouring rain in the League Cup, Gaynor at Huddersfield, Stan at Sunderland… a personal fave of mine bizarrely enough was Roy Keane at Villa, the year Forest went down. There was a pass from Nigel to find Keano which is honestly one of the best I’ve ever seen. Anyone remember it?

And Lars Bohinen’s chip over Ian Walker at Spurs – when I worked at Leicester I used to routinely tease Walks for that. He wouldn’t let me recreate it though, unfortunately, despite repeated promptings…

Best game?

I won’t forget Peterborough the year Forest clinched promotion. The day started badly when a thirsty Forest fan urinated over about 10 of us in the stand behind the goal before kick-off but it’s fair to say the day got better. Also remember beating Man Utd 4-0 when (I think) Webby came back after leaving and beating Liverpool 2-1 with a Rice winner.

Worst game?

Yeovil was like a nightmare. But the FA Cup Final was a nasty one, if only because Dessie never deserved to be remembered for that own goal.

Your favourite Cloughie anecdote?

When he destroys Motty. What really strikes me is his view on TV coverage. Scarily accurate at that time but probably even more relevant now. He was so switched on, despite all the obvious crap that gets written about him.

I never really met him but one thing I remember is when Paul Hart got the sack. Cloughie was there as guest of honour and walked into the press room where I was waiting to see a soon-to-be-sacked Harty. Trying to be keen I said ‘any chance of a word on Paul, Brian?”. He just smiled and said “erm, no… I don’t think so son” and walked off. He knew Harty was going to be on his way later, it was so obvious.

Your most prized Forest possession?

 

Not really got one, got a few programmes but nothing special. I collect vinyl!

Did you always want to be a football journalist?

I won’t lie and say it was always the plan, but I was always keen on writing and it was the only thing I was ever any good at.

How has reporting the game changed since you started?

The internet has changed everything, the online edition is sometimes just as important as the paper. It probably helps us because instead of having to wait hours and hours for the paper to come out in the morning, you can get stuff up pretty quickly that won’t ‘hold’ ie transfers or sackings, etc. I wouldn’t say the Premier League is all the nationals are concerned with but, let’s just say, the Forest takeover didn’t register on the richter scale outside of Nottingham. With all the various TV channels, websites and blogs it’s challenging to find something interesting and different to write about for a Monday paper when the game was 3pm on a Saturday, but that’s our job. Contacts now are probably more important than ever, simply because clubs are so reluctant to give info out.

What’s your relationship with the club been like since you became a journalist?

Pretty good. I got banned twice when Joe Kinnear was there but I took that as a badge of honour. I wasn’t having him from day one and by that stage the ‘fan’ part of me hadn’t been completely eradicated so I found it difficult to be neutral every time he opened his mouth and showed such a lack of respect and acknowledgement of the history of the club and BC. I’ve had my ups and downs with people there, just like with other Midlands clubs, but I think I’ve played fair.

Do they cater well for the press?

It’s certainly better than it was. They’ve got wireless in both the press room and press box, which is obviously a massive help, and I’ve even spotted Paul Taylor troughing cornish pasties before the game.

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?

Forest haven’t helped themselves in the last two years what with the Billy saga and the takeover but I don’t think you can level any of that at the press office. They get as frustrated as us. Having said that, both those episodes were very difficult subjects for the club to release info on. With the takeover, you’re talking millions of pounds and of course the Doughty estate’s involvement, so I can understand the silence, even though it was annoying at the time.

In the light of the recent takeover, how should the club progress?

I would be happier if the club built slowly and took a sensible approach. Forest needs some stability this season and probably needs ripping up to start again. Sean O’Driscoll will need time too, especially with the way he wants to play the game. Actually think he is the perfect appointment in many ways because he won’t get carried away by it all. Some papers are referring to Forest as ‘super rich’ but at his press conference O’Driscoll couldn’t have made it more clear it was about value for money and getting the right players. The more I hear, the more I like him.

Do you know much of the Al-Hasawis? Or their plans?

I don’t know much about them but they seem to be advocating that sensible approach and aren’t expecting miracles. Time will tell what their plans are. I will be interested to see how the next six months pan out. There were a few nasty rumours flying round a few weeks ago (I was hearing plenty and must admit I was getting twitchy) but then they signed three players very quickly. They’ve actually shown how easy it can be to sign players. Which I’m sure won’t have escaped William Davies’ attention.

What (realistic) hopes do you have for the future?

I would hope that Forest are in a position to challenge for promotion next season with a few of the Academy lads being given a chance. We can’t keep letting the Patrick Bamfords of this world leave.

Should Forest stay at the City Ground?

YES. The idea of moving, for me, has always been abhorrent. I just can’t imagine them playing anywhere else. There’s so many memories attached to the place and even though the ground needs a lick of paint, its still retained its character right down to the cobwebs in the press box. There aren’t many better places than the City Ground under lights.

Dream scenario: where do you see the club in five years?

Next to the Trent and near West Bridgford.