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Forest, a potted history of the play-offs, and me

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Jonathan Stevenson | 12:09 UK time, Wednesday, 11 May 2011

May 2011: Along with many other Nottingham Forest fans, once again I'm confronted by something that, by rights, should terrify me to my core: the play-offs.

It might sound inoffensive to you, but the gut-churning, wretched picture of desolation it conjures up in my mind serves as a timely reminder of the worst three moments I've endured as a football fan.

No, my team have never gone bust or dropped out of the Football League; but by the age of 30 I had suffered four relegations (one, unthinkably, to League One), defeat in the FA Cup final and the premature death of Brian Clough, the greatest manager that ever lived.

Sad, desperate times all of them - but not as judderingly, sickeningly hard to stomach as three occasions when it felt like I and thousands of people around me had been lifted on to cloud nine, only to immediately find ourselves falling off the end of the world.

Yes, Forest are back in the play-offs, the Championship's four-team end-of-season extravaganza that will climax at Wembley on Monday, 30 May with one lucky participant glorying in promotion to the promised land of the Premier League.

These are the games that consistently produce television gold. The prize is so great and the tension so all-encompassing that reasonable human beings do incomprehensible things - just ask Yann Kermorgant. They are thrilling, wonderful spectacles and if your team are not playing in them they are a prestigious part of the football calendar.

The triumph and the glory... Charlton beat Sunderland in 1998 in one of the great play-off games

The triumph and the glory... Charlton beat Sunderland in 1998 in one of the great play-off games

And don't get me wrong, it's not that the prospect of watching top-flight football again at the City Ground doesn't give me goosebumps. It's just that, having witnessed at first hand Forest's extraordinary hat-trick of play-off capitulations, I'm not ready to plan trips to Anfield and Old Trafford quite yet.

Having been given the green light to write what I hoped would be a partially cathartic piece about Forest and the play-offs, I'm already racked with doubts. But cold comfort ahead of the two-legged semi-final tie against Swansea lies in being almost certain that football cannot possibly be as brutal again - for us Reds, anyway - as it was in 2003, 2007 or 2010.

Talking of which, let's deal with the past.

When play-offs were introduced to English football in the 1986-87 season, Forest were an established club in the old Division One, usually challenging in the top half of the table. Even after surprise relegations in 1993 and 1997, they managed to win automatic promotion the very next season both times. And that's where the bouncebackability ends.

It all started to unravel when Forest dropped out of the Premier League for the third time in 1999, a drop to the void from which they have never returned. After two years of expensive failure under David Platt and one of much-needed stability with Paul Hart as boss, former Reds defender Hart led his young team to sixth in the league in the 2002-03 season and the club's first encounter with the end-of-term lottery.

I went to the home leg excited about this voyage into the unknown and optimistic about our chances of getting past Sheffield United and making it to the final at the Millennium Stadium. I got into the spirit of it all so much I even donned a giant polystyrene hand for the first - and only - time.

That game was a relatively serene 1-1 draw, with little sign of the carnage to come at Bramall Lane five days later. Unable to get my hands on a golden ticket, I travelled back to the City Ground on Thursday,15 May 2003 to watch the second leg on TV from a bar inside the club's Trent End stand. It was heaving, and expectation soon began to permeate throughout the room.

Forest, shorn of key centre-back Michael Dawson, were second favourites, but they weren't playing like it. David Johnson fired in for 1-0 and, just before the hour mark, Andy Reid's volley sent us into delirium.

I got a text from a mate asking when and where we should meet the following day to start queuing for tickets to Cardiff, and that's when the drama really started to unfold.

Michael Brown's heavily-deflected free-kick at once hauled the Blades back into it, Steve Kabba's stunning volley levelled matters and with a bar full of people on the brink of hysteria, we headed into extra time.

It wasn't to be. Paul Peschisolido's jinking run and finish in the 112th minute meant Forest were behind in the tie for the first time and when Des Walker - who had headed into his own net 12 years previously when we lost the FA Cup final to Spurs, also in extra time - nodded past his own keeper it was all over, despite a last-gasp consolation making it 4-3 (5-4 on aggregate).

Des Walker (right) heads into his own net and Forest's Premier League dream ends in 2003 Photo: Getty

Des Walker (right) heads into his own net and Forest's Premier League dream ends in 2003

I'll never forget surveying the wreckage of that room after the final whistle. Someone threw a glass at one of the screens, shards flying off in all directions, and that was my cue to leave. I sat on the banks of the River Trent, wondering how I could have reached the age of 22 without realising that following Forest could be even crueller than supporting England (Italia '90, Euro '96, France '98).

I was ill for five days in the aftermath of that defeat. The doctor might have diagnosed it as gastro-enteritis, but I knew differently. Our first encounter had seen the play-offs hit me for six, but I knew there would be more.

Four years on and Forest had sunk even lower. The club failed to recover from 2003 and two years later were ignominiously relegated to League One, in the process becoming the first European Cup winners to be demoted to the third tier of their domestic game.

Under unconvincing manager Colin Calderwood they had a chance to bounce back at the second attempt when finishing fourth in 2006-07, setting up a two-tie showdown with Yeovil, an outfit well-versed in giant-killings throughout their history.

It was immediately - yet forgivably - billed as David v Goliath; the two-time champions of a continent versus a club that had spent its history in the non-league until 2003. When Forest won the first leg 2-0 at Huish Park in front of fewer than 9,000 spectators, a first trip to the new Wembley seemed assured.

The second leg on Friday, 18 May 2007 remains the most inexplicable football match I have ever seen with my own eyes.

We lost 5-2. At home. To Yeovil. After extra time.

I still can't believe it. With 81 minutes gone, Forest led 3-1 on aggregate - but an Alan Wright own goal and Marcus Stewart header forced the extra half hour, with Forest reduced to 10 men after second-half substitute David Prutton's kamikaze cameo had ended in a stoppage-time dismissal.

Reds midfielder Gary Holt immediately cancelled out Lee Morris's 92nd-minute strike, but with all our subs used up and the stricken Wright unable to walk, defeat for the nine men was inevitable, Aaron Davies applying the coup de grace to leave both sets of supporters in a state of bewilderment.

Promotion followed the year after (automatic, naturally) and soon the Championship play-offs came calling again. Except this time it felt different. The good times were back; the expectation of yore replaced by a pride in Billy Davies and his refreshing young team's easy-on-the-eye style and impressive third-place finish.

After a 2-1 defeat at Blackpool in the first leg not many fans rocked up to the City Ground on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 already planning their trip to north London, but if it is the hope that kills you, I'd have been on life support for much of that night in Nottingham.

Rob Earnshaw struck either side of a DJ Campbell goal to twice level on aggregate going into the last 20 minutes, at which point memories of Sheffield United and Yeovil came flooding back as Forest surrendered in a manner which may have even surprised some veterans of '03 and '07.

Stephen Dobbie's effort was deflected in, Campbell curled agonisingly past Lee Camp and then the striker completed his hat-trick by firing in a rebound - the three goals coming in the space of seven soul-shattering minutes to leave Forest, who again grabbed a late consolation to make it 6-4 overall, on their knees.

At this point, I have to say I am aware that there are a million fans of other clubs who have their own nightmare play-off stories. I watched the epic 1998 final between Charlton and Sunderland on TV like everyone else and I was at the Millennium Stadium as a neutral in May 2001 to see Walsall break Reading's hearts in extra time.

If I've learned anything from my own team's history, it's that these games don't do rhyme or reason, they don't take into account form or history and they don't give a damn how crushing the manner of the defeat.

On Thursday, I'll arrive at the City Ground for my fourth date with the play-offs, chastened by what has happened in the past and intrigued as to whether our elimination can get any more surreal this time around.

Or maybe - after that bout of pessimism - it'll surprise me even more and we won't be knocked out.

Forest... At Wembley... Winning promotion... After eight years of nightmares, that is the dream.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Thanks Stevo, you've just ruined my week. Those three play-off campaigns had all been pretty much compartmentalised until reading this. Such calamity after promising starts. As they say, it's the hope that kills ya..

    Surely it's got to happen this time?

  • Comment number 2.

    I feel your pain. As a Birmingham fan we suffered the trauma of 3 semi final defeats in a row before finally securing promotion.

    Two penalty shootout defeats against Watford and Preston and a 0-4 home defeat to Barnsley, in which we were favourites going in to all 3 semi finals was devastating.

    Never again.

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm a Forest fan too, and 30 to boot as well. This is my story. I feel your anguish.

  • Comment number 4.

    Ah, the playoffs. Yes I was there against the Blunts, Yeovile and Blackpool.

    Horrible times.

    I haven't slept all week, and am nervous as hell about Thursday, but I'll be there at the City Ground on the night, cheering on whichever XI run out of the tunnel in the Garibaldi Red Shirts.

    COME ON YOUR REDSSSSSSS!!!!

  • Comment number 5.

    At least you had an FA Cup final and trip to Europe in UEFA Cup to enjoy, for those of us slightly younger it's only been disappointment after disappointment!

  • Comment number 6.

    I live with a Forest fan and I've been hearing about how this has got to be the year at least once an hour since about half past two last Saturday. So, naturally, I'll be supporting Swansea.

  • Comment number 7.

    I love that you had to get in the Kermo-dig at the Leicester fans there! If Cardiff & Forest make the final that'll be the all time ultimate battle of the bottlers, won't it? !

    What with the phrase "doing a Cardiff" making it into the Oxford English Dictionary (a matter of time, people) it's not the most confident mood with which I'll be jumping on the train to Reading on Friday night.

    Does anyone actually like the playoffs?

  • Comment number 8.

    I was a teenager during the Clough 'glory years' so at least I can balance some of the disappointment. However, all three play-off capitulations are worse memories than two FA cup semi defeats, an FA cup final defeat, and two League cup final defeats.

    That empty, hollow feeling doesn't leave you for ages. Come you Reds - you can't do that to me again....

  • Comment number 9.

    The 5-2 home defeat to footballing superpower Yeovil goes down as the single lowest point of my Forest-supporting life (since 1979, BTW). I was ill in bed, and honestly thought that I was hallucinating !

    I attended the other 2 PO games, and will be there tomorrow, where I have a feeling we will beat Swansea - though I am expecting them to win at the Liberty. Who can outscore whom ??!!

    I think that we will get to wembley - though I thought the same in 03,07 and 10.
    I am clearly dillusional !

  • Comment number 10.

    Clough the greatest Manager that ever lived?

  • Comment number 11.

    I love the playoffs - as long as we aren't in them, only leads to heartbreak.

    I remember against Bristol City in '04 and Sheff Wed in '05. So near to the promised land (the Championship), yet so far... one day, one day, for now I'm happy to be back in lower mid table obscurity.

    That doesn't even mention Cheltenham in '02, our hammering by Blackpool in '01 or worst of all the horror of being beaten by Darlington in '00 to try and make the then Division 2!

  • Comment number 12.

    Yes "M"ik! Clough was the greatest manager that ever lived. took two championship (equivelant) clubs up into the highest levels of football. And won europe twice with one of them.

    Anyway enough about people who know nothing of football..

    I'm sooo damn nervous for tomorrow. today has dragged on so bad! Come on Forest, restore this great club to its rightful state.

    YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOU REEEEEEEEEEEEEDS!!!!

  • Comment number 13.

    Without doubt the tie against the blades at Bramhall Lane is the worst ever feeling I have had in football.

    I was so sure we had it in the bag and then...

    The other two defeats pale in comaprison to that one

  • Comment number 14.

    Know nothing about football? Mature comeback on a pertinant question.
    The records of other managers says different . I do think Clough was a brilliant manager. But i do not think he was the best that ever lived.

  • Comment number 15.

    Great article and sums up my experiences as a Forest fan perfectly. Trying not to build my hopes up like I have in the past but can't help dreaming! We're not ready for the Prem but wouldn't it be great to see us up there again!!

  • Comment number 16.

    The records of other managers say different?! If you are going to attempt a comeback at least have it make sense. You are making yourself look a laughing stock to suggest Clough wasn't the greatest of the great.

    Tell me.. how many other managers have taken two championship clubs straight to europe and the top of the premiership?! None.

    Perhaps you should do your research before coming out with such rediculous and childish comments. And to slate Clough on an article which is aimed at Forest fans is just pathetic

  • Comment number 17.

    As entertaining as Forest tend to be in the playoffs, we all look forward to seeing Forest bottle it again.

    Much love the Black and White side of Nottigham.

  • Comment number 18.

    Never have I related to an article more. Having the misfortune to miss the majority of the Clough years and the associated glories, my 'Big Game' Forest experiences have consisted solely of Play-off Semi Finals.

    Hence, despite my relatively youthful 22 years my apathy towards the play offs is firmly entrenched as they too constitute my single worse experiences in football, notably the Yeovil capitulation in 2007.

    I'm praying the next few weeks can make me a believer. 4th time lucky?

  • Comment number 19.

    Scrap the playoffs...5 up and 5 down in every division. That would be more exciting! :)

  • Comment number 20.

    See you next season.
    The Rams

  • Comment number 21.

    managed to brighten my day!!

  • Comment number 22.

    I went to every game the season we lost to Yeovil in the semi-final. That season i saw us lose to some awful teams. But was pleased we managed to get to the play offs as i was very confident that it would be ours.

    The second leg was by far the worst game i have ever experienced, the highs and lows were soul destroying.

    And to top it off i had too watch Colin Calderwood standing on the touch line with his hands on his head WHILST WE STILL HAD A CHANCE.

    Surely this has to be out time. This play offs is different this time. We are not the favorites. We are the in form team & we are playing a very strong Swansea side.

    The previous play offs were the opposite and resulted in us losing. So this time it has to be ours!

  • Comment number 23.

    I will follow my usual path of deep seated believe that we will make it, I always do this, normally followed by 2 weeks of sulking after it goes wrong, then I normally just repress the memories and hurt, until some journo writes a piece like this and they all come flooding back,lol

    so come on my fellow reddogs, all together now, I BELIEVE.

  • Comment number 24.

    Last year was heartbreaking. After Cohen's sweet outside-of-the-boot half volley in the first leg, i really thought that Forest were gonna produce something special. Then DJ 'i was useless and no-one had ever heard of me before my playoff hat-trick' Campbell ruined my entire year. I couldn't get tickets to the home 2nd leg, so ended up watching it in my uni dorm common room, with a less than pleasant blackpool fan behind me. If i hadn't have left the room at the end of the match, i wouldn't be attending tomorrow, i would be at her majesty's!!! However, i will be there tomorrow, as far away from any Swansea fans as possible. I have a million % faith in billy's boys, but i'm not taking any chances.......

  • Comment number 25.

    Goosebumps?
    Just as the American grey squirrel is killing off the indigenous red, American goosebumps seem to have usurped British goosepimples.
    Even your damned spellchecker tells that bumps are correct and pimples are wrong.

  • Comment number 26.

    Your club is in a position that around 70 league clubs - and thousands of non-league and amateur outfits - would kill to be in.

    Stop complaining and realise how good you have it - bankrolled by a multi-millionaire and by loans from Nottingham City Council which you then defaulted on, with no concept of what real struggles in football involve.

  • Comment number 27.

    Villa fan here, and I'd love to see Forest up. Always had a soft spot, my 3rd team I reckon and would love to go to the City Ground.

    GOOD LUCK FOREST!

  • Comment number 28.

    Re play offs 2007.

    Giant-killing is non-league Yeovil beating 1st division Sunderland.

    The team finishing 5th beating the 4th team is not. In fact it has happened every season for the last 5 years in league one.
    It may not have been giant-killing, well it was Nottingham Forest, but it was a very good day for us.

    Look to the future, not the past - and good luck.

  • Comment number 29.

    arrgh, don't mention Yeovil. in my infinite wisdom I decided to watch the second leg on tv in the presence of 2 Derby fans (what could go possibly wrong at 2-0 up?). worst result in 32 years of supporting Forest. last year felt just as bad, mind, and I'm very glad the second leg's away against Swansea.

  • Comment number 30.

    You've had it easy, try being a North End fan mate! Wiki: "Preston have made the play-offs in a record eight seasons and in all 3 divisions, but have not yet been promoted via this route."
    I've seen 4 attempts myself, Bolton and West Ham both at Cardiff, then knocked out twice in the Semis. Soul destroying stuff, 2005 against West Ham should have been our year, but we just inexplicably capitulated in the final.

  • Comment number 31.

    A great article, thanks for the memories?

    The play-offs have been a nightmare to be honest, just when you think it won't happen again it does. Why is it always capitulation in the 2nd Leg?

    Anyway here is to the hope we can brush a-side Swansea and a joyus Wembley appearance will be our reward.

    Oh and to #26 write something positive please!

  • Comment number 32.

    We've had it pretty bad too at Wolves. Five defeats in all, including the fourth division, after finishing 3rd and blowing a ten point lead from 2nd spot, and to Albion (or just Kevin Phillips). That's pretty bad, though we did finally win beating Sheff Utd in 03.

    But I love the play offs, when in them and not. Of course, it's crushing when you lose.

  • Comment number 33.

    COME ON SWANSEA!!!!! Lots of love, Derby County x

  • Comment number 34.

    Whilst reading this blog Stevo it brought back all my memories of those moments we were left to ruin and my mates laughing at the fact we had capitulated once again with the Yeovil game probaly being the worst day of my life, so this time ive just tried to think of ourselves as underdogs and maybe it might just happen. Cmon You Reds!!

  • Comment number 35.

    Living with a Blades season ticket holder who made the journey up the M1 from Nottingham for every game at the time, I was rehearsing a few gloats in my head after Reidy doubled our lead. That game really hurt, and I had to go into exile for a good few days afterwards.

    Swansea are a very good team, but you've got to keep the faith. Come on you Reds!

  • Comment number 36.

    Must admit that i have a soft spot for Forest. I was a kid when Des Walker scored that own goal in the cup final, i remember feeling really sorry for him. I also remember the greatest miss I have ever seen Steve Stone anyone?

    Hopefully Forest can produce the goods and reach the PL. It would be great to see them back in the big time

  • Comment number 37.

    Brian Clough ,the greatest managet that ever lived?2 titles ,2 today's champions leagues.SIR Alex Ferguson 11 titles and 1 point away from the 12th and 2 champions leagues.Yeah i agree, Brian Clough the greatest manager that ever lived.

  • Comment number 38.

    leicester fan here. a very good article apart from the dig at us at the start of the blog! its fair to say i have good and bad memories of the play offs and im so glad they exist despite the low points.
    1992 was i believe our 1st venture into the so called lottery. in division 1 (aka championship) we played a cambridge side in the semis containing dion dublin and managed by john beck. we beat them to reach the final. its sad to look back because that was the start of the slope for cambridge as any of their fans will tell you. they lost a lot of good players and now they reside in the bottom half of the BSP. who knows what would of happened if they had got promoted that season? as it happens we lost in the final to blackburn who within 3 years were premier league champions with a team containing flowers, le saux, david may, batty, sutton and of course alan shearer.
    1993 we got to wembley again and this time faced swindon town in what was the best play off final until the charlton vs sunderland game. we fought back from 3-1 down to get level only to give away a penalty and lose 4-3. as a 9 year old i was miserable for weeks.
    during the 93-94 campaign we stuck steve walsh up front but he got injured and ruled out for the rest of the season. we reached wembley again and the big news ahead of the game against derby was somehow steve walsh had got fit in time and would play. this turned out to be his final, scoring the opener and then the winner with about 4 minutes left. it was the happiest day of my life, the event from 12 months ago was long forgotten.
    2 years later after out relegation we were back at wembley again. this was even closer than our last visit. with 2 minutes to go in extra time we brought on spider kalac who was the worst keeper i have ever seen play for leicester. a minute later the ball hit the shin of steve claridge and went into the net. if i was a palace fan i would of been gutted, to lose in the 120th minute is 1 thing, to lose to a fluke is another!
    we then had a break from the play offs until last year when we got cardiff in the semis. to be fair we were awful at home but in the 2nd leg we were superb and unlucky not to win outright. overall though across the 2 games the level score seemed fair and we went out in the shootout thanks to that spot kick.
    the play offs can make you want to hide in a dark room or can be some of the best times as a football fan. looking back plenty of highs and plenty of lows but i wo

  • Comment number 39.

    cont.... but i would go through it all again. good luck to the 12 football league sides that are playing over the next few weeks and that includes forest

  • Comment number 40.

    The drive home from Sheffield is probably the lowest I've felt after a football match. Maybe it's because it was the first play off failure.

    I was sat in the stand with Michael Dawson and Kenny Burns along the row to my left and the collective joy which later dissolved into sheer anguish is still indelibly fixed in my memory. I flew to Dublin for a short holiday the following morning but not even a Liffeyful of the black stuff could drown my sorrows.

    I'll be there tomorrow night, hopeful as ever, but also ever so slightly relieved that I don't have a ticket for the away leg. I'm not sure the nerves could stand it again.

    Come on you Reds!

  • Comment number 41.

    As a 16 year old fanatical Liverpool fan, I'd love to see Forest back in the big time. A former rival of ours back in the Prem would spice things up even more. Also, for those saying Brian Clough wasn't the best manager that has lived (and I apologize if people have made this point already), he took Derby, a club in debt from the bottom of tier 2, to the champions in a matter of two years. His achievements at Forest don't even need explaining, back to back European cup winners during Liverpool's prime says it all for me.

  • Comment number 42.

    Stevo, would just like to point out the 2 goals that we had (wrongly) ruled out and Baptiste's constant handballs that went unpunished. The 2nd dis allowed goal Sky cut to the lino and he looked very guilty. Let's face it the PL/FA want the headline stories, and us losing is one of them. Anyone who watch the Football league show over the weekend can see the type of commentary we get, Moxey's red card was far from controversial!!! Still I believe!!!!!

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 44.

    Tricky fan here and proud of it. I'm nervously optimistic, but at the same time I'm dreading it.

    Come on you Reds.

  • Comment number 45.

    Stavros, don't be a tool. Everyone knows Sir Alex is a great manager. In my opinion he was not as good as Cloughie - even with all the money and talent at his disposal he's never retained the European Cup (as it will always be to me), and he's won the premier league with one club only. There is one thing you need to be thankful for though - if it weren't for Cloughie you'd not have caught up with Liverpool yet in title terms so a little respect for the greatest please.

  • Comment number 46.

    Stavros I'm a United fan and even I wouldn't clam Fergie is better than Brian Clough.

  • Comment number 47.

    I was there
    bramall lane
    City ground vs Yeovil

    Last year after away leg I booked seats in bobby Moore lounge at Wembley for final

    Surely please not again :)

  • Comment number 48.

    As I Derby fan, naturally I wish Forest all the luck in the world going in to the play-offs...oh wait.

    Seriously though, definitely supporting Swansea or Cardiff going into the next few weeks. It would be great to see a Welsh team in the Prem!

  • Comment number 49.

    As good a side as I think Swansea are, I reckon we might have got the balance right this year. For what its worth I was crushed after the Yeovil game when Davies and Cohen (then Yeovil) ripped us to pieces. For me, it just happened to be my drunken sorrow was nulled with the birth of my daughter just hours later! Pleasure for pain! COYR!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 50.

    As a lifelong Forest fan I remember those three nights vividly but I also follow my local teams. Just two years ago I saw MK Dons lose to Scunthorpe after the longest penalty shoot out. Whilst at University in Swansea I saw their heartache too so spare a thought for Swansea fans who endured play off final agony against Barnsley in Cardiff, after arguably the most exciting game I've ever seen before losing on penalties. After following teams in seven play off campaigns, only once (Swansea) have I been to a final. I just hope Forest, and MK Dons can provide me with a Cardiff/Wembley trip this year.

  • Comment number 51.

    Good old Cloughie,
    remember that time he gave that lad who invaded the pitch a clip round the ear?
    Telly magic!

  • Comment number 52.

    Great article, it bought back a lot of painful memories! I'm as confident as the rest of the semi-optimistic reds out there!

    Personally the Yeovil game was the worst for me! Singing that we were going to Wembley and then minutes later DP was sent off (again!) and AW was limping and big Wes lost his head.... of the pain is coming back!

    Bring on the Swans tomorrow and thanks to the fans of other clubs for the well wishes. I think we're going to do it! YOUUUUUREDSSSS....

  • Comment number 53.

    Surely we deserve it this time!!!!!!!!!! We must be the best supported club not to have played in the premiership in 12 years, surely? If the likes of Burnley, Portsmouth, Hull, Stoke and about 12/14 others can be/have their time in the prem, why not us?

    All this is completely irrelevent of course, im glinging to the theory that a team should win the play offs 25% of the time and weve lost the ast three. Also, we beat Swansea 3-1 at home and lost 3-2 away, giving us a 5-4 aggregate win! Although Swansea away could have been 9-2 we were that bad.

    On the football side, we really hope Davies plays Moussi and Mcugan over Mcgoldrick and Mckenna, who are both a waste of space. I think Billy will play Mckenna because of his experiece, I can take this, just not Mcgoldrick. Anyone but Mcgoldrick.

    Anyway, we dont a Welsh team in the prem do we? Swansea vs Blackpool in the premiership? No thankyou!

    Cmon uuuureds!

  • Comment number 54.

    I've got butterflies in my stomach already for tomorrow's game. Even though we've been on a good run scoring loads of goals I still believe our defence has looked very shaky (and we have the best goalie in the Championship too). I can see us winning 4-3 tomorrow night and that probably won't be enough. On the other hand..............we live in hope.

  • Comment number 55.

    @Breadman - The 5-2 home defeat to footballing superpower Yeovil goes down as the single lowest point of my Forest-supporting life (since 1979, BTW). I was ill in bed, and honestly thought that I was hallucinating !

    brilliant!!! tickled me this! - good luck this year, hope to watch match of the day with forest in it!

  • Comment number 56.

    I am an Everton fan so have never had my team involved in the play-offs, although we've had our fair share of cup knockouts that have really hurt!

    I seriously wish Forest all the luck in the world for the play-offs this year. I remember that Yeovil game and even though I don't support Forest I was upset at the result.

    I won't jinx it, but fingers crossed and all the best!

    oh and P.S. What Brian Clough achieved with Forest and Derby will never be matched, ever. If Fergie went on to win 35 Premier League titles it wouldn't match Cloughie's two European Cups with Forest or the league title with Derby.
    Imagine someone taking over at Doncaster now and winning back to back Champions Leagues in a few years time....

  • Comment number 57.

    At least you got to see Forest in the success year Jonathan! My first season as a Forest fan about 11 years old was the season of our fateful 03' play offs. Images of Des Walker, a legend even in my then younger eyes, hitting that OG are burnt into a core part of my mind now that simply reads ''Forest'' ''Play Offs' and ''No''.

    I cannot remember the League One capitulation as well, those two years were like some sort of painful blur that my memory has decided to shield myself from for the greater good. However, I do remember the sheer failure of our home game against Yeovil, counteracted by that one day of brilliance that saw us promoted (not brilliant perhaps in how we played, there were problems sure, but everything just went our way that day it seemed!).

    Last Year? Oh my, I cannot bear to remember. I thought we had done it. To fall apart like that so close to the end wasn't just painful, it was embarrassing. I know Forest are not a perfect team. If they were, what the heck are they doing in 6th place in the second division? However, I love my team, and to see them give up like they did was like a kick in the ribs. Blackpool Play Off Home leg remains as being the only ever home game in 8 years or so that I have left early. I didn't even see the consolation goal from Adebola, I felt betrayed, and disgusted.

    Therefore, it is not unfair to say that I wait for these play offs to arrive with anxiety, thanks to our past, but also with hope, thanks to our present. I just get a feeling that the squad is a little more mature and well oiled this year to, if not win it, at least give us a dignified crack at it. I'll be there tomorrow for sure, my only regret being that we have to play Swansea, who I don't actually mind as a team (and have no idea why. Maybe because they aren't quite as underhanded as some.. )

  • Comment number 58.

    Sorry guys, but Fergie is better than Clough was.
    Clough built two great teams, Fergie's moving into his fourth or fifth at United alone.
    But his biggest achievement was breaking the Old Firm.
    And not only winning the Scottish League, but the Cup Winner's Cup as well.
    Under Alex Ferguson's guidance, Aberdeen won three league championships, one Dryborough Cup, four Scottish Cups, the European Cup Winner's Cup, the European Super Cup and a League Cup—all in the space of seven years.
    Up against the absolute stranglehold of Old Firm, THAT is impressive.

  • Comment number 59.

    Have faith fella, I'm a Man City fan and my memory of the City Gills league two play off final still has me shaking my head. Its why we love football, where else do you see men so emotional. Good luck and you never know what's around the corner.... maybe another sheik with a few quid to spare to lavish on an historic club.
    As for the Clough vs Fergie debate .... much as it pains me the Scotsman pretty much has all trailing in his wake these days. Respect must be paid even if its just for his Scottish club record. See 58. At his other club he has had significant resources every year since he got there, breaking the leagues transfer record several times buying the title year after year... Clough in fairness was brilliant with limited resources. Different times......

  • Comment number 60.

    Not a Forest fan by any means, but Clough was the greatest British manager of all time.

    To take a very small provincial side (Derby) and to turn them from Division Two strugglers to Division One title winners in a short space of time was very impressive.

    Then he did it all again with another modestly-sized provincial club (Forest) and then led them to the European Cup the following season. And retained it the year after.

    That’s the real test of a manager – taking a small club to big success. Clough did it twice.

  • Comment number 61.

    25. At 18:13pm 11th May 2011, trevor4491 wrote:

    Goosebumps?
    Just as the American grey squirrel is killing off the indigenous red, American goosebumps seem to have usurped British goosepimples.
    Even your damned spellchecker tells that bumps are correct and pimples are wrong.

    --------------

    I thought the grey Squirrels came from Asia. And I thought Goose Pimples was two words.

  • Comment number 62.

    Good piece, scarily dead-on, Johnathan. And yeah, I used to go to the same newsagent, it was my local one for years.....

    Come on you Reds!!!!!!!!!!

    I will be up at 5am here in Melbourne, tuning in to whatever feed I can get down here......probably BBC Radio Nottingham and a netlink for the pictures.

  • Comment number 63.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/article2437525.ece for the greatest managers of all time.

    Personally ol' big head was top of my list (Hammers fan - and boy we could use him ...).

    "If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he'd have put goalposts up there ... but he didn't, and we play our football on the ground"

  • Comment number 64.

    On the question of who is greater Cloughie or Fergie.
    In sport greatness cannot be measured solely by the titles you've won. A perfect example of this is the tragic death of Seve Ballesteros and the sentiments it has provoked. Many golfers won more majors but did any have the personality, influence or spark of genius that he possessed.
    Same with Cloughie; What he acheived with the resources available at Derby and especially at Forest, and how he achieved it will never be matched.

  • Comment number 65.

    As a derby fan you have just described three very happy memories for me, thank you.

  • Comment number 66.

    My all time favourite was Man City v Gillingham at Wembley. Gillingham took the lead in the 81st minute and doubled it in the 87th. Man City pulled one back in the 90th, then equalised five minutes into injury time before going on to win on penalties.

  • Comment number 67.

    The play-offs are soul destroying no doubt, but the single worst moment for me was watching Brians last game as we lost 0-2 to Sheff U and were relegated. Brian was a shadow of his former great self. It was a triple whammy that day; Brians retirement, his obvious failing health and of course relegation. I remember the blunts fans cheering and singing Cloughs name, it still brings a lump to my throat as I write this. http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2007/jan/07/features.sport10

    On the greatest manager debate, it is all relative. Man U have massive resources and Fergie has never taken a smaller club with tiny resources and beaten the best teams in the country and Europe - Clough did that twice (I believe the Rams were cheated in the Euro-cup Semi and would have gone on to win it - as were we against Anderlecht)

  • Comment number 68.

    Goosepimples should be one word. Greysquirrels too.
    Peter

  • Comment number 69.

    As a Yeovil fan, the Forest game remains my BEST day as a football fan! As I couldnt get to Notts at the time, I had to watch it in the pub with mates, got told to keep the noise down after Davies' first, then got kicked out at half time because my mate didnt have his ID and started mouthing off at the manager! Managed to find a new pub to watch it, had the nerves of going behing on agg again, taking it to extra time and the ecstacy of the winner! Truly one of the best games of football this Millenium!
    I went to the final where we lost to B'pool in one of the worst game I've ever seen, but can't help looking where they are now and wondering what could have been..........

  • Comment number 70.

    Moyseside (great name BTW) - yes you're spot on - what Brian Clhough did with Forest IS just like taking over, say, Crystal Palace now, getting them promoted in 2013, Champions of Engalnd in 2014 and Champions of Europe in 2015. IMPOSSIBLE!!....but that' what Brian did 30 odd years ago.

    And although Clough's record of 2 league titles, 2 European Cups and 4 League Cups is very impressive, it's easy to forget that he reached another European Cup semi-final with Derby, and UEFA cUP Semi-final with Forest....both games results were 'arranged' by the referee of the day. With honest refereeing, a bit of luck and more financial backing when at Derby and Forest, BC may well have added a couple more league titles and cups along the way.

    But for the record, even as a Forest fan, I happen to think that Alex Ferguson is the greatest manager of the past 20 years, and BC the greatest manager of the 20 years before him.

  • Comment number 71.

    blade in peace.. after three play off final defeats i feel your pain.. good luck mate

  • Comment number 72.

    As a Cardiff fan, I have many tales of heartache to tell. However, I will simply wish Forest the best of luck. I fear Cardiff blew their chance when they failed to secure second place but we can't abandon all hope. I'll go in to hiding now until it's all over.

  • Comment number 73.

    Norwich fan here...was the the Millenium Stadium in 2002 when we lost on penalties to Birmingham. Went 1-0 up 1 minute into extra time through Iwan Roberts, Geoff Horsfield equalised within 10 minutes. Birmingham hit the post in the 118th minute and then I thought it would be our day.

    Good luck to all 4 teams in the playoffs, I hope Forest do it so that they will be one of the shortest trips next season, however think Swansea are very impressive. The winner of the Forest/Swansea tie to go all the way IMO.

  • Comment number 74.

    As a Blackpool fan, play off defeat is not something I know very much about. But I can tell you, there is absolutely no better way to win. That night at the City Ground was utterly incredible, and I will always be able to say I was there.

    It is not skill, or prowess that makes football great - it is pure human emotion. The ability to experience agony & ecstasy are what make you a football fan - it's what keeps you coming back.

    The play offs are the ultimate extreme of both.

  • Comment number 75.

    That’s the real test of a manager – taking a small club to big success. Clough did it twice.
    ----------------

    What a stupid assertion. You do understand why Ferguson has never taken any other club to success in England don't you? Because he has never missed out to the point of being sacked/having to resign. He would probably have taken most decent clubs to the same heights that Clough managed in England but never had to because he continues to do a fantastic job at United.

    Clough was a great manager, but anyone who considers him to be better than Ferguson is simply deluded. Remember that Forest under Clough spent the whole of the 1980-1992 period as a decent top 10 team who occasionally challenged for a top 3 spot, good performances for a club like Forest but surely not that exceptional?

  • Comment number 76.

    Cheers Jonathan for evoking all the horrible memories again. In a wierd kind of way, I was actually looking forward to tonight until I read your article.

    Now the twitiching has started again :-)

  • Comment number 77.

    As a Yeovil fan, I must say its quite funny reading back some of the Forest fan comments. It was the greatest game of football I've ever witnessed. AND one of the most fantastic evenings of my life. I was in the Armoury in Yeovil, it was heaving, and the sheer waves of terror and excitement bellowed through the town centre. "Little" Yeovil just turned over Forest to go to wembley.

    I remember reading forums about how forest fans had booked hotels and made travel arrangements prematurely. "Its not over til the fat lady sings" has never rung truer!

    The euphoria only lasted a week though as I watched a woeful attempt to beat blackpool. This disappointment has only been repeated once - And that was last month when I tried to watch the 2nd leg DVD only for it to freeze in the 85th minute. Nooooooooo!

    Up the Glovers :-)

    But to Forest, good luck I guess. :-p

  • Comment number 78.

    60. At 08:12am 12th May 2011, fletch_in_Dubai wrote:
    That’s the real test of a manager – taking a small club to big success. Clough did it twice.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    That's a fair point, but those critics who argue Fergie has had the resources at Man Utd forget his achievements at Aberdeen beforehand.

    If you're going to ignore the significant achievements of Ferguson's first decade in management before he went to Man Utd in 1986, of course you will find a way to put Clough ahead of him. Ferguson is the greatest British manager of all time, his longevity, drive and ability to rebuild great teams is unique.

    However, this is a blog about Forest and Forest's history and I think a 'best managers of all time discussion' is a bit disrespectful to it. I hope Forest can be the team that profit from the play offs this year, I'd like to see them back in the Premiership.


  • Comment number 79.

    My highlight of the play-offs was Bobby Zamora's goal against Preston in 2005 which put West Ham back in the Premier League after a two year absence (and a shocking defeat in the previous year's final at the hands of Crystal Palace) but the other game that stands out is the epic final between Charlton and Sunderland back in 1998.

    Anyway, back to the present and this year's play-off lineup is potentially the best yet - three teams in good form going into the end of the season plus a Cardiff side who have come very close in recent years but always seem to disappoint in the games that matter. Would love to see fallen giants Forest back in the top tier of English football but my gut says Reading are the side who will escape the Championship this year.

  • Comment number 80.

    Another 30 year-old Forest fan here - I agree about the gut-wrenching nature of our 3 previous play-off ties, but there's still something about the '91 cup final that rankles with me more. The injustice of Gazza not being sent off for his De-Jong style challenge (before he injured himself) which, had it happened, would undoubtedly have seen us win. I can remember some League Cup wins from before then, but the FA Cup final was the first truly big game I remember seeing Forest involved in. The level of excitement I had for that match was huge, but my depression in the manner of the defeat was even bigger. I can remember similar anguish at witnessing our 5-1 defeat by Munich, and our previous 3 play-off ties, but none were quite as bad as that first major disappointment. History does not entitle us to anything, though I'd like to think that most neutrals would prefer to see a Premier League with Forest in it. Let's hope we get better luck this time round.

    p.s. Stavros - I am undoubtedly biased, but Clough and Ferguson can't be compared. Who can imagine what Clough would have achieved if he was given the resources and backing that Fergie has had? They managed in very different eras.

  • Comment number 81.

    I'm a Sheffield Wednesday fan. 3 play-off games, 3 wins, what's all the fuss about?

    Just wish we were good enough to actually get into them these days!

  • Comment number 82.

    I nearly didn't go, i was promising myself i wouldn't put myself through this again, that i simply wouldn't be able to take another play off disaster, but as the deadline loomed for purchasing my own seat, i couldn't bare the thought of not being there. So, come 19:45 this evening, I'll be sat there in the middle of the Trent End, my usual seat, & do you know what else, I'll be stupidly optimistic too.

  • Comment number 83.

    I have supported Forest since 1955 so I've been through the great times and the bad and I firmly believe that today, our time has come. Up the Reds.

  • Comment number 84.

    I'm a Wednesday fan living in Nottingham, always had a soft spot for Forest (probably the mutual hatred of the blunts!). Really hope you make it this time!

  • Comment number 85.

    thinking about it fairly, forest fans and man u fans can argue about whether clough or ferguson was/is the best ever, and I am honestly happy to say that this debate remains fairly good natured as I admire the way ferguson has gone about his job and my many united supporting friends admire what cloughie did for both us and derby. It's a debate that is joyfully free of animosity, for which I am grateful. We do overlook a couple of contenders though - Shanks for one, Paisley for another, and the one which we all overlook which, when you look at his record, ought ot make us hang our heads for not even mentioning him - and that's Herbert Chapman. He'd have every right to argue the other two are behind him! That's a page filler right there! Let's get hung up about it somewhere else shall we?

  • Comment number 86.

    As a Yeovil fan, the away leg at Forest has got to be the best game of my life. Just remember sitting on the coach after the game thinking ' what the hell has just happened?'

    In the build up to the game, all we heard was how Forest fans saw it as a formality, the game was done and dusted.... That in my opinion is why Forest did not make it to Wembley that year.... Little old Yeovil had a point to prove and boy did we prove it.

    Always good to relive these moments, and good luck this year. I have a lot of respect for Forest after many of your fans made a point to stay behind and applaud both the players and fans of Yeovil.

  • Comment number 87.

    Being a Blackpool fan of 38 years the play offs have been unbelievable for us. we have won our last nine play off matches and of course are the only team to go up from the bottom to top divisions via the play offs. The Forest away match last year was incredible and still give me shivers, the final whistle last year at wembley will live with me for ever.

  • Comment number 88.

    This is the season- "King" Billy is leading us to glory.
    Win the first game-Draw the second game- Win at Wembley.
    Job done.!

  • Comment number 89.

    I will be glad when today is over. At least then I''ll know if we're Wembley bound or not. I'm confident we'll score goals - our recent record suggests we will score a few tonight. I just hope the game doesn't turn on a poor refereeing decision. We've been the victim of some shockers this season. U reds.

  • Comment number 90.

    As a blade have great memories of the 2003 epic aginst Forest. However can totally relate to the hurt and anxiety that are the play offs. We have been to three finals, a game away from the premiership, lost them all without scoring a goal. Two other attempts have ended earlier. If you look at where Sheff Utd are now you can't say these games aren't anything other than make or break. Genuine best wishes and good luck. Got a feeling you might need it.

  • Comment number 91.

    Hi Jonathan, Hibernian supporter here. How did you rate Colin Calderwood's talent spotting ability? What did his attitude seem to be re grafters V creative players? He's just about to buy us virtually a brand new team (with no money, natch). How do you reckon he'll get on? Good luck tomorrow!

  • Comment number 92.

    As a group my mates and I are pretty much split 50:50 between Forest and D***y and the Rams are certainly more excited about Forest in the play-offs than the Reds but I'll be there tonight hoping we can get some sort of lead going into the second leg.

    Sheff Utd is my own personal worst play-off experience as that was in my opinion the best team we've had in any of the play-offs we've been in (including this one) and also because it was them!

  • Comment number 93.

    How much control Colin Calderwood had over transfers at Forest is highly debatable. While it's fair to say the majority of players brought in under his reign have been relatively successful, we did seem to struggle at bringing players in at all, several transfer windows passed when strengthening was needed & no new arrivals materialised. He was blamed for most of that at the time, but more recent revelations about how our 'transfer acquisitions panel' actually works & further failures to bring players in under different management would seem to suggest people in the back ground have more influence than the manager, & maybe more influence than is good for us.

    In truth, looking at Calderwoods time at Forest shouldn't be used as a barometer for his success (or failures) in the transfer market at all. His purchase of Matt Thornhill doesn't bode well for you though.

  • Comment number 94.

    UUUUU RRREEEEEEEDDDDDDDDDSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 95.

    Love the fact you’re getting bites on the Clough manager comment. You knew when you wrote that line it would kick up a fuss and get the usual come running for attention.

    Great article by the way, sums the last 10 years or so of supporting Forest up perfectly. I remember watching Peschisolido score against us whilst I was in Canada in bar full of Hockey fans. Not sure they really understood the pain.

    Here's hoping.......

  • Comment number 96.

    See you next year at the Ricoh Arena! As Fraser used to say in Dad's Army, "Doomed! Doomed!".

    (It's OK though, I'm not an organised football follower - I support Coventry City. You could never accuse the Sky Blues of being organised.)

  • Comment number 97.

    As a Hammer living in Nottinghamshire, I'd love Forest to fail again. Obviously, we're on the way to the Championship and I always like going to the City Ground. Usually a good game between us and Forest.

    Good luck to you guys though.

    Oh, and I'm also disappointed that the Blunts have been relegated.....that would have been an interesting fixture next year.

  • Comment number 98.

    Thanks Galaxy-Forty-Two. Colin inherited a total shambles and saved us from possible relegation. Given our budgets, I don't think it's going to get any easier for him next season but he seems a determined kind of guy so we live in hope (definition of a fan!) Hope things go well for you.

  • Comment number 99.

    @87

    Great game as you say, and overall a wonderful achievement. However if Blackppol go down the fear is that it will be another 50 years before you get back up

  • Comment number 100.

    @90

    The Blades have suffered their fair share of disasters, five years of playoffs and nowt! We didn't even expect to beat Burnley in the last episode; well we lasted 15 mins that match before Burnley scored as it was even earlier against Wolves in 2003 at Cardiff.

    @97 Yes that would have been a very interesting couple of matches, Blades v Hammers, perhaps it is best for everyone we are not in the same division!!

 

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