The rise from the second division

Beyond own dreams: Nottingham Forest '79 & '80





The most appropriate method of describing the magical journey of Nottingham Forest winning the European cup twice accommodates the oscillating finger of a Yorkshireman, the frequent kissing of television reporters and a nasal accent.

While the echoes of one of the previous managers Dave Mackay who states that “you’ll never achieve anything here” were still reminiscent of what one of their own described as the “least progressive club in the country”, Nottingham Forest was in the 13th position at the old division Two when Brian Clough entered the canvas on a chilly morning of 1975.

The Football League cup and the first division title was picked up after the induction of Brian Clough’s arrival as manager shortly after he started building a team of Britain’s finest men. The victories of the Midlands side were hence apparent.

The fact that Clough was working with meagre resources and had shortly been promoted from the second division and was competing with the big boys in the top tier did not stop him from taking Forest to new heights, as was seen by their rise to commanding European football.

In the first full season of 1975-76, Forest finished at the 8th rank due to the efforts of Clough and then secured a significant promotion to the first division by coming home third when Taylor was brought on board for the following campaign.

While they had initially decided to merely contend hard, they ended up winning the First League Cup by scoring seven more points than the unbelievable Liverpool team, in the 1977-78 season.  The achievement was in-disputable considering that Bob Paisley’s Reds had not only retained their European Cup but had also won 8 out of the next 12 division titles.

Here, it is important to mention that 22-year-old Woodcock had played an important role in the achievement that ensued, considering that the PFA young player of the year scored 19 goals, even more than Robertson.




While the story of Nottingham Forest appears to be a magical fantasy considering their years of heartbreak and self-harm, the concept was not new for the late 1970s. This is evidenced by the fact that in 1978 only three teams had ever won the European Cup.
The first was Celtic’s Lisbon Lions in 1967, followed by Manchester United’s victory the next year, while finally leading to the victory of Liverpool’s own European Kings, who became the first English team to win the competition in successive years.
While ‘Ol’ Big Head’ is highlighted as one of the best managers to exist in the realm of English football, the fact that the team was at an all-time low in January 1975 when he arrived is mostly forgotten.
For Forest, there couldn’t have been a better start. With initial draws against the two time reigning champions Liverpool in the initial round of the 1978/79 European cup, the expectations perhaps were dim. However, the subsequent 2-0 home ground win not only allowed them to proceed to the next round but also take on the likes of AEK Athens, Koln and eventually Malmo in the finals.
Right on time in 1979, Clough and Taylor felt Forest required more capability, so they made Birmingham forward Trevor Francis Britain’s initial million-pound player ($1.25m).
In the semi-final first leg in England, Forest, who had effectively held their League Cup crown, were held to a 3-3 draw by Koln, yet Bowyer’s single strike in Germany saw them progress to the last round, where they would confront Malmo.
With Malmö opting to sit back in defence for the duration of the match, the game was simply about whether Forest could make a breakthrough for his team. In spite of consistent pressing factors, the English side had still neglected to score as first-half injury time began. 




At that point, John Robertson, a man who was presently perhaps the most dreaded wingers in European football, beat two Swedish protectors on the left-hand side prior to whipping in a cross. Goalkeeper Jan Möller, who had been strong as yet, didn’t come out to clear the ball, and at the far post was in all honesty Trevor Francis to head the ball into the top of the net. That was successfully the end of the match. Both Garry Birtles and Robertson botched great opportunities in the subsequent half, however, it didn’t make any difference, as Malmö never looked prone to score.
It may have been an unremarkable final, however the outcome unquestionably made for an amazing story. Under their dissident administrator Brian Clough, Nottingham Forest-a not well known English commonplace club-had won European club football’s greatest prize, taking out double cross reigning champs Liverpool en route. Only two years sooner, Forest had been in English football’s subsequent level, but then they currently wound up at the pinnacle of European club football.
Having taken the European cup of 1979 from Liverpool, the underdogs were now on the way to preparing for next year. Brian and Taylor had this thing in their mind that they could do wonders for the club. In any case, what they could not have anticipated was that 1980 would end up being a significantly more testing year.
Hamburg had cruised past Icelandic group Valur prior to overcoming Liverpool’s conquerors Dinamo Tbilisi in the second round. An away goal win over Hajduk Split in the last eight set up a semi-last conflict with Real Madrid. Toppling a 2-0 first leg deficiency with a 5-1 success at the Volksparkstadion, Hamburg’s attacking streak that he had was clear, so anyone might see for themselves.
The British media zeroed in on Kevin Keegan and his role in the final, as he hoped to say a comparative goodbye to Hamburg as he had finished with Liverpool three years prior. However, Hamburg received a few significant blows only three days before the final.




A loss to Bayer Leverkusen finished their expectations of holding the Bundesliga and, to exacerbate the situation, striker Horst Hrubesch – their top scorer in the association and European Cup that season – endured a lower leg tendon injury.
Forests had their own problems that had to be handled. Trevor Francis ruptured an Achilles ligament in an association game against Crystal Palace half a month prior to the final. Francis’ recent form had been a revelation, his objectives against Dynamo Berlin and Ajax were vital in assisting Forest with reaching the final. By and by, Clough left Francis devastated when he advised him not to go to the last.
After all this, Forest went with a 15-man squad to Madrid without being able to complete the 5-slot substitute bench. The former Sunderland goalie Jim Montgomery sat alongside John O’Hare, David Needham and Bryan Gunn. As if they were almost stripped naked.
18-year-old Gary Mills was given the duty to walk in Francis’s shoes for whom it was “Beyond his wildest dreams” who started the game upfront with Gary Brittles before going back to midfield, leaving Brittles to run himself into the ground. Forest had to improvise quickly, so he did by spreading five across the midfield. With their main player out, the assistant manager accepted they had to turn the tables on their game plan.
For Shilton, the match in Madrid would be a magnificent victory, but there were talks off the field of his probable absence from the match. The goalie who was hell-bent on going on to the field took painkillers and injected them into his shoulders. Although Montgomery had performed fantastically before for Sunderland in the FA cup final of 1973, but it would be stretching it too far even for a Hollywood movie for Forest to believe that he would win them the European Cup at 36 years of age.
Early on the game, a save from a Felix Maggath free-kick really set the mood for Peter Shilton Day on the field. His confidence boosted and morale and concentration soaring through the sky as Hamburg continued the offence all night. 



The block against Jürgen Milewski was awe-inspiring given the conditions he was given to train for such set pieces.

In the 20th minute of the game, Robertson reached the ball on the left side before breaking through the defence of Kaltz. After going back and forth with Bristles, who helped while down on the ground, Robertson tackled Keegan and shot it from the edge of the box.

The goal was an absolute much-needed confidence booster for Forest and Co. The centre back Larry Lloyd and Kenny Burns were amazing. Larry had warned his partner in defence Keegan that Burns was after him, Lloyd, who had barely passed his fitness on his ankle. Burns' attempt at slide tackling Keegan pretty much cleared up his intentions to everyone, including the referee, which made him give a yellow card to Burns.

Peter Shilton continued to deliver a smashing to Hamburg, a commendable save in the second held Peter Nogly something for the Highlights. After countless attempts, Kaltz got one through him, but it came back off the post. The Hamburg player Ivan Bulijan was almost successful in his attempt to score from a few yards out, but his shot spun away the Nottingham manager was just able to outplay Hamburg’s.

As any physical exercise would it slowly started to creep up on the player’s exhaustion started kicking in a tired Frank Gray was substituted by Gunn, Mills was replaced by O’Hare, and brittles was so exhausted that he failed to get a shot on when he was put on the goal. As the clock ticked its final strokes, the nightmares were about to come true for the Germans. It was a surging night for everyone even in the commentary box, Brian Moore announced to 13 million live viewers that Hamburg were European Champions. Despite the slip of tongue by Moore, the trophy was coming home to England for the fourth consecutive year.




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