What’s your earliest Forest memory?
Sitting in my bedroom at home listening to Andrew James and Martin Fisher on Radio Nottingham on a little red transistor. I drove everyone mad with that radio because every time Forest were playing, no matter where we were, it was on. I have hazy recollections of Peter Davenport scoring and James going mental, but no idea what year/match/result.
What was your first Forest game?
Bit of a sore point, this, because no one in my family can remember. All I know is that I was too young to remember, and no one bothered for me. The first one I really remember experiencing was a 2-0 defeat at home against Newcastle on New Year’s Day, 1988 when I was seven. I was beyond excited to be watching an actual Brazilian in Mirandinha, though it soon became apparent he was rubbish.
Favourite Forest player — past or present?
Stuart Pearce, always. Guess he showed up at the right time for an impressionable kid, and from the age of five to 17 he was my number one hero in the world. I’ll never ever forget the feeling — when I had a season ticket in the Upper Trent End — of waiting for Psycho to come towards us pre-kick-off, stretch out his arms and roar. I can’t imagine any player at any club being more in tune with the supporters and being so adored by them. He kicked every ball for us.
Garry Parker’s run from inside our half in the 1989 Simod Cup final against Everton. Special because it was my first visit to Wembley, and to London, and it was a cracking game between two very good teams. Gary Crosby’s cheeky header against Andy Dibble runs it a close second, if only because so few people sitting around us actually even saw what happened. Honourable mentions for Stuart Pearce’s free-kick in the Littlewoods Cup semi against Coventry that crashed in off the bar, Pearce’s free-kick at Old Trafford to beat Man Utd, Lars Bohinen’s chip at Spurs, Stan Collymore’s winner at Man Utd and in recent times Radi’s left-foot volley at West Brom a couple of years back.
Probably a 3-2 win over Bolton when we got promoted in the 93-94 season. One of those afternoons I don’t think you can ever forget. Collymore had been out for a couple of months with a hamstring problem and we’d struggled, so promotion wasn’t looking a sure-fire thing anymore. He came off the bench in the second half to an incredible ovation, and within five minutes had scored a brilliant goal and then got sent off for elbowing Phil Brown. Bolton pulled one back but we hung on and never looked back. And that summed up Collymore – from the sublime to the ridiculous. The atmosphere that day was something else.
Yeovil. Still feel sick just thinking about it.
Your favourite Cloughie anecdote?
I’ve always loved the one about him punching Roy Keane. Just seems so surreal and he’s probably the only person who ever lived who could get away with it. That footage of Muhammad Ali talking about him talking too much is priceless too, especially when they cut back to the studio and ask Clough is he is going to stop and he says: “No, I want to fight him!” Oh, and I know I’m only supposed to have one, but I love it when he called Pearce into his office after his captain’s first England call-up in 1987. “I see you’ve been picked for England. Well I don’t think you’re good enough. Get out.”
Your most prized Forest possession?
A framed picture of Clough and Taylor with the European Cup in 1979, signed by BC not long before he died. Got it hanging up in my bedroom. How could it get boring waking up to that every day?
Did you always want to be a football journalist?
Yeah, as soon as I realised I wasn’t good enough to play, definitely. From eight or nine years old I reckon. Still can’t imagine doing anything else.
How has reporting the game changed since you started?
I like to think I haven’t been a journo for very long still, but it’s 11 years since I got my first job at ITV… I’ve never worked in papers, only online, so the main change has been a shift from the traditional way of reporting – match reports, previews, etc. – to more of a focus on what you can do from a live perspective. The way live blogs/commentaries took off while I was at the BBC showed a real appetite for quick, informative, engaging, interactive coverage of football and that puts very different demands on journalists. We’ve already started to see more specialists in live blogging because of its growing importance in digital media.
What’s your relationship with the club been like since you became a journalist?
Good, but then it’s always been from a distance. I’ve never covered Forest directly, so I’ve only ever been in the press box a few times and only done interviews with managers and players a few times too. On those occasions the club were very helpful.
Do they cater well for the press?
I think the other journos will be able to answer that question better than I can.
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?
I think the Doughty/Arthur era was pretty bad, yeah, but it didn’t ever help that the club weren’t doing very well on the pitch, so maybe that increased fans’ frustrations. They also seemed to have bursts of doing things publicly, like the ‘We’re serious about promotion’ campaign, before going quiet again, so it never seemed like there was a proper plan in place. That said, if we’d been in the Premier League, would anyone have cared?
In the light of the recent takeover, how should the club progress?
Bit by bit. The appointment of Sean O’Driscoll and the new signings are a superb start – no one ‘stellar’ has come in and the new owners haven’t thrown cash around like it’s going out of fashion, so Forest are still under the radar in terms of who might get promotion. I want the Al-Hasawis to take a look around, see what the bigger picture is, and tick things off one by one. There’s no immediate rush, it’s not like we’re in League One again.
Do you know much of the Al-Hasawis? Or their plans?
No more than anyone else I guess. I was very impressed by their press conference, I have to say. It was humble, respectful and fantastically measured, and for those of us who were a bit concerned about them potentially making outlandish promises and throwing crazy cash around, it was a huge relief. They’ve not put a foot wrong so far.
What (realistic) hopes do you have for the future?
I’ve heard a lot of people talk about a three-year plan for promotion, but I don’t buy that. It’s important the owners get the club in good working order – stop losing money every week and get us back on a sound footing. But at the same time, if you’ve got a good manager and decent players who gel quickly, there’s no reason why they can’t mount a play-off challenge this time around. The Championship is a weak division, we all saw how weak last season, and the teams coming down from the Premier League don’t look especially strong this time.
Should Forest stay at the City Ground?
I think so, yeah. It’s not like we’re always sold out is it? I can understand the principle of having a 40-50,000 capacity home if we’re doing well in the Premier League and full to the brim week-in, week-out, but that’s not the case. Give the ground a lick of paint, maybe think about rebuilding the Main Stand, and then have another think about a new stadium in five years depending on what changes.
Dream scenario: where do you see the club in five years?
In the Premier League, challenging for a Europa League place and having decent Cup runs. Sounds fairytale after where we’ve been for the past 15 years, but Fulham and Stoke have proved it can be done, and now we’ve got decent backing behind us I don’t see why we shouldn’t be aiming for the same thing ourselves.