Freed from Desire

Last year, on September 12th, I did something I’d never done as a season ticket holder.

I gave up.

We’d just lost 2-1 to Cardiff City. Not that there’s nothing unusual about that — I’ve witnessed 243 Forest defeats in person, and roughly half of them have been to Cardiff.

But the thing was, they were dreadful. This wasn’t the normal Cardiff, not the towering, lab-built super soldiers of yore. No. This was just Kieffer Moore, some hired goons, and a handful of kids.

They were appalling. But somehow, Forest were even worse. The team that day was Samba, Spence, Worrall, McKenna, Lowe, Zinckernagel, Yates, Garner, Johnson, Grabban and Taylor, and I remember the exact words of the guy sitting next to me: this just isn’t a Championship-standard team.

Forgetting what we now know about (ten of) those names, I completely agreed with him.

It’s a horrible thing when you realise in the first games of a season that your team’s dogshit. That’s when the months that are still to come coalesce into a prison sentence; when you find yourself staring into the writhing joy of the lower Bridgford and thinking it’s shit now, it’ll be shit through the autumn, it’ll be shit over Christmas, and it’ll still be shit when the sun comes back.

Tell me I’m exaggerating. Tell me you thought any differently, back then.

Chris Hughton was doing what he’d done for fifty-one games before that: chewing, folding and unfolding his arms, and subbing full-backs for full-backs. I couldn’t understand what that team was built for, or what it was meant to be good at. I couldn’t see what the plan was. Give it to a winger and cross your fingers seemed to be basic the gist of it.

I don’t know what it was about that game, that particular day, but something inside me snapped.

Afterwards, on the way home, I said I was done. There was no ranting and raving. I was calm, but I was emphatic. I’m out. My dad and my wife and everyone else rolled their eyes a bit, because they’d heard this sort of thing from me before, but I meant it this time. I really did.

I meant it on the Sunday, and the Monday, and then the Tuesday, which was the day of the Middlesbrough game. I gave my ticket to my dad: he said he knew someone who’d go, an American who wanted to sample the atmosphere of an English football game. He did, and then he never went back again.

I stayed at home that night and tried to read a book. Whatever point I was making, I made it to precisely no one. The world kept turning, Forest still lost, and I spent most of the evening checking the score instead of reading. At least I got to bed at a reasonable time.

That was the first match I’d ever missed (by choice) as a season ticket holder. It felt like a big deal. I live close enough to the City Ground to hear and see it. There’s this watery floodlit arc that hangs above the trees at the end of my garden on night games; the crowd noise carries cleanly and clearly on the air. So I shut the curtains, and I turned up the telly.

It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing, and it wasn’t about the defeats. It was only down to the staggering lack of joy in our football, the listlessness of it. It was getting worse and worse, cagier and more anaemic with each passing game. This was football hewn from a pathologically conservative fear of the opposition — Fulham, Reading, Hull, whoever. And if you dared to complain about it, you’d just be slapped down by every pundit in the world, who all agreed that Chris Hughton was a Good Man, and probably Too Good for a Club Like Forest. It was gaslighting on an industrial scale. Every time I went online, there’d be a Brighton fan popping up to remind me just how lucky we were to have him.

A club like Forest. How many times have you heard that, over the years? The big red joke. The playground of chaos, with its mad owners, and its entitled fans who all still think it’s 1979. You know what people think of us.

“No one can succeed there,” they said, when Hughton was sacked the day after the Boro game. “This just proves it.” Over on Quest, Ian Holloway was apoplectic.

I shed precisely no tears for Hughton. He was a nice man — they were right on that — but he’d left us a richer one for his failures. In the end, he wasn’t any different to a Davies or a Megson or a Kinnear, the ones who’d never concerned themselves with being nice. He was just another one for the pile.

But the critics, with all their sneers and their dismissive waves, their contention that Forest truly were an irredeemable mess — I’d come to think that they were probably right. It was hard to put a finger on why, but it felt true enough. Maybe we were just cursed? Maybe this was some karmic retribution for the glory days? We’d tried every sort of manager by then: shitkickers and ball-busters, disciplinarians and kindly uncles, the enshrined heroes, the big names and left-fielders, the somebodies and the nobodies, the continentals and the British bulldogs, even a cheese freak. None of them worked. And all the time, I’d be watching these little miracles blooming everywhere else, at clubs like Brentford, Swansea and Hull, and thinking ‘how did they do that, then?’

All of that was boiling up in September of 2021. At that point, the Premier League was an abstract, impossible thing to me; even getting there was a mystery. Promotion required a unity, an alignment of talent, skill, personality, guts, decisiveness, and raw bloody luck, and that all seemed a million miles beyond Nottingham Forest, where management felt like sewing on a speedboat.

What did it mean to be a Forest fan? What did I want out of it?

That’s what I’d found myself wondering more and more in recent years. I’m in my forties now. I’ve reached a point where it no longer feels enough to do things just because they’re there, because it’s what you do and what you’ve always done. It was never predicated on success, but shit me, there had to be something, right? Something to aim for and get excited about? You can’t just bob along playing Preston until the end of time. Supporting Forest is an obligation for all of us, yes, but is that really enough of a reason? You’re obliged to go to work and pay your council tax and not eat too much bacon. Where was the actual and joy and reward in it?

I’d been distracting myself from just how much of a sagging, expensive chore Forest had become, and I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

I’d stopped writing about football three years earlier — that was a sign. I’d got all my stories and memories down, and then realised there was nothing left to write about. Or at least nothing I wanted to write about: just more weariness, more frustration. And that might be cathartic to put on the page, but it’s boring to read. As boring as the crap football in its own way; a few thousand more words chucked into the general chorus of despair.

There’d been a glimmer of promise once, a hint at something more wholesome and coherent. That was back in 2015 and 2016, when I Believe in Miracles came out, and Bandy & Shinty was created, and Forza Garibaldi got together. A brief flutter of pride and vitality. But obdurately, the football club — the thing we were all actually there for — seemed to refuse that positive energy. It denied joy in any kind of useful or sustained way. You could chuck all the love and texture and romance you wanted at Forest, all the artwork and tifo displays, but they’d just slap you in the face with a winding-up order, or the Stoke game, or another decrepit holding midfielder, or some other act of self-immolation. Slapping down the fans, feeding up the critics.

It was the pandemic that shone the hardest light on these feelings. I paid for my iFollow access, and I kept my season ticket money in the club. I watched every game in that meandering shitshow of 2020/21; I watched the UK’s #1 Antony Knockaert tribute act and the ghost of Luke Freeman; I watched the loans flow in and out like swamp water; I watched Forest fumble their way through dead, empty games up and down the country; and I watched the pointlessness of it all laid truly bare. There was nothing — nothing — to enjoy.

(I tell a lie, we beat Wycombe on my birthday. Woot.)

What was the point of all this? When we all finally came back together, that feeling was still fresh in my mind, and I couldn’t seem to shift it. It was like a make-or-break holiday in a doomed marriage. I’d had a good old look behind the curtain, and I’d asked myself some difficult questions. It wasn’t just me, either — a lot of other people felt that way. And obligingly, just to add an extra level of credence to all these troublesome feelings, Forest shat the bed against ten-man Bournemouth. Welcome home, lover.

On September 21st, I was walking along the Embankment with my wife when my phone pinged, and I saw a message saying we’d appointed Steve Cooper.

“Is he any good?” she asked.

“Does it matter?” I replied.

I put my phone away. I didn’t want to spoil the walk.

But all of that was then.

Stop, breathe, and think.

Then imagine doing what he’s done.

Imagine all of that apathy and lethargy, writ large across tens of thousands of people, and facing it down on your own. Imagine setting the example of how things could be.

Imagine grabbing your nuts, brushing your shoulders, and taking a defibrillator to a football club. To an entire city.

When I first started writing this, my plan was to pick out individual goals, moments, games. But that would be doing the difference Steve Cooper’s made a disservice. That’d be looking at it in too small and clinical a way. His change was bigger than that, more significant and soulful.

Much has been made of ‘the journey’ this year — bottom after eight games, worst start since time began etc etc. — but a lot of people who are talking about it don’t quite get it. All they’re looking at is the numbers, which are impressive enough, but it’s still miles off the full story.

They don’t know what it was like before, how tedious and stagnant it’d become. The ill-will, the bickering, the factionalism, and not just under Chris Hughton, but for the years and years before him. They don’t understand the extent of the damage, or the scale of the healing we needed. When Joe Worrall made his “whipped dog” comparison, they don’t know just how far that dog had retreated into its kennel.

My stayaway protest lasted all of one game. I was back for Millwall, where we were still basically shite. Max Lowe shanked in a cross for Forest’s equaliser. That was something, at least; a silly, funny accident of a goal. But what I’d noticed was something bigger than that, and it happened before a ball had been kicked. As ‘Mull of Kintyre’ struck up, Steve Cooper was standing still, taking it all in. And when we were done, he applauded. Just a little clap, followed by an affirming nod.

“That’s nice,” I said to my dad. “He looks happy to be here.”

After the game, it was all Cooper could talk about. The atmosphere. The vibe. “It’s whetted my appetite,” he smiled.

What came next — at Barnsley, Birmingham, and Bristol — defied explanation. Forest were suddenly thrilling, sinewy, bold. There was Colback’s equaliser at QPR, and then Philip Zinckernagel going full Ronaldo at Reading. Set against what’d come before, it all defied logic. And naturally, I began to wonder if giving up after Cardiff had kickstarted all of this. We all take these things very personally after all, from the socks we wear to the turnstiles we use. Maybe there was some kind of Buddhist principle in effect, something about surrendering control? I’d met my wife under similar circumstances, when I’d grumpily written off all women. Admit your powerlessness to the universe, and it’ll reward you.

But whatever was happening, and however it was happening, it continued.

The day I first dared to wonder if we were actually decent, if this was anything more substantial than a bit of a bounce, I was in the Peak District. We were visiting friends who were a few weeks away from the arrival of their first child, and we met them at Chatsworth. Forest were away at Swansea, and my mate James — a season ticket holder at United who’s really taken Forest to heart across the years — was full of questions about Cooper. Even then, even in the face of all that mounting evidence, that invitation to start getting excited, I told him to leave the footy alone. We were there for a day out.

When we were walking back to the car, I saw him buried in his phone. I could tell what he was checking for, and I didn’t want to know. He looked at me, smirking, with his eyebrows raised. “Go on,” I said. “Get it over with.”

“You’re winning. Three-nil.”

Three-nil?

At Swansea?

By the time we got back to their house, it was 4-1. Ribeiro Dias. I didn’t even know that was Cafu’s proper name.

I return to the whipped dog analogy. Time and time again, I kept waiting for it to go wrong. I thought the wheels would come off with Lewis Grabban’s injury (JUST FUCK OFF, CARDIFF), and then I thought we’d shot it be replacing him with someone who’d managed five goals in 73 games. I couldn’t see the point in signing Sam Surridge, either. When Worrall got injured, and then McKenna, I figured that was that. Jack Colback wouldn’t hack it as a wing-back. I thought Derby would come back after their penalty. We never win at Blackburn. Against QPR, getting nowhere on a borderline unplayable pitch, I knew in my heart we were cooked. West Brom had been threatening to come good all season, and I assumed April 18th would be the night they’d do it. Fulham would steamroller us, of course.

As recently as the second half of the second leg of the Sheffield United tie, when we were on the ropes and taking all those overhand rights, I thought this is it, this is where we turn back into Forest, the real Forest, the ones shrinking into their kennel.

And they’re just ten of the times I’ve been wrong this season.

I soon came to love the sound of Steve Cooper’s voice, the impact of his words, the way he’d hop-scotch between Prozac buoyancy and basic, unflustered common sense. Game by game, week by week, he’d turn that tap a little further, running more and more colour back into the club. For the first time in living memory, Forest became something to believe in, and not just something to guard yourself against — a new light to cut through all the sticky pessimism that’d coagulated through the years. That’s what Steve Cooper was really up against: me and thousands of others like me, losers by proxy, miserabilists forged from seasons and seasons of Forest doing Forest things.

When we played Liverpool, I found myself standing in the Nav before the game, saying with a little smile: “You never know.”

As the turnaround gathered pace, it became more than just a sporting achievement — it turned into an existential one. People began gathering, singing, hugging. Conversations started at games between strangers who’d sat together in silence for years. I opened my mind to the possibility of good things coming along out of nowhere. I began looking more positively at life itself.

I just couldn’t get enough.

Twenty-three years, and it’s over. Whatever comes next, it’s over. The clock’s reset. We are no longer defined by that clawing hunger, that frustration, that need.

I don’t know who thought to play ‘Freed from Desire’ at Wembley, but it was a metaphorical masterstroke. Call it what you want — an exorcism, an expunging — but we’ve been freed from always wanting, wanting, wanting; freed from that maniacal fetish for promotion, that thirst for ‘getting back there’ that’s contaminated everything for years and years. The longest wait for a return to the Premier League in English football is at an end. And now, as Evangelos Marinakis said on the balcony of the Council House, the chance is there to draw a line underneath the past — under all its bizarre successes and weird failures — and create something new, for us. Right here, right now, in the 21st Century.

I actually felt a bit sorry for Huddersfield on Sunday, because they’ve had a good season. But in the end, they were just a bit-part character in a story that demanded Forest go up. With my new-found faith and confidence, I knew we’d do it, and walking around Wembley beforehand I think a lot of them knew it too. They were only there because we needed someone to beat.

The day passed as a dream. It’s hazy, looking back, and I can only see it in snatches now: the drive down, bits and pieces of conversations, emerging from the train into a soaring world of glass and steel, and then a game that was begging to be put out of its misery from the first whistle. A vital game that I couldn’t seem to engage with, however hard I tried.

But I remember the final whistle, and I’m glad of that. I remember a Huddersfield cross going out for a goal-kick, and knowing then that we’d done it. I remember standing perfectly still and tearing up when the whistle went, rooted in place, stunned. I remember the ground pulsing under my feet. I remember thinking that this was the best that football could ever be: the realisation of a long, painful, frequently humiliating mission that’s swallowed up two decades of my adult life. I was 18 years old in the summer of 1999; I was heading off to university, and I was still just a boy. I’m 41 now, older and greyer, and in all those intervening years I’d learned to expect nothing from Forest but failure. Then Sunday happened, and it lanced the whole rotten thing. I felt it pop. All that bile flew up into the London sky — Warnock and Woking and Chester and Megson, Billy’s unfinished business, all of Yeovil’s goals, Darren Pratley looking up from the halfway line, being serious about promotion, Blackpool, coffee cups, the court summons, Alex McLeish, Hildeberto Pereira’s parade of red cards, the embargo, Chris O’Grady up front on his own. Those moments and many, many more, they were all just something to laugh about. Suddenly, they didn’t matter. Suddenly, I felt lighter.

I don’t know what comes next. We’ll be favourites for the drop next season: people are looking at the second leg and the final and assuming that’s what we are, this clumsy thing fuelled by adrenaline and love and luck. We know better, of course. We’re so much more than that.

If you’d asked me in September whether Forest could hack it in the Premier League, I’d have laughed at you. But who am I to say that this Forest can’t stomach the challenge? That they’ll just roll over and die? It’s not who we are anymore.

Maybe we’ll be straight back down; maybe we’ll scrape survival; maybe we’ll surprise everyone and get ourselves bedded properly in there. I don’t know, but I’m fascinated to see what comes next. Maybe, in a few years’ time, Forest will be an established Premier League club, and the anthology of shite that spanned 1999–2021 will be remembered with a wry smile, as a collection of stories that newer, younger Forest fans can scarcely believe.

What I do know is that something altogether more important happened on Sunday: Forest proved they’re normal. Normal in the sense than they’re not cursed, not doomed. For too long, we’ve characterised ourselves with this monopoly on pain, like it was the only thing we had left as an identity. But that’s a bullshit way to live. If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s how deceptively simple success is. It’s not some obscure secret kept under lock and key.

We’re normal in that sense. But we’re abnormal, too, and we always will be — beautifully, weirdly so. What Sunday and Monday proved is that Forest are special. And not just because of some dusty old stories, but because of what we’ve shown we still are, today.

When Steve Cooper’s moved on, when these players have all gone — and they will, one way or another; that’s how football works — they should leave knowing that they were the ones who finally turned the tide. For that, they deserve more than medals. They gave tens of thousands of Forest fans like me — people reared on inaccessible memories of another era — a day of their own. A season of their own. And even if the club kicks on now, if it moves to even bigger and better things, that moment when the engines fired finally back into life must be cherished and honoured forever.

A week before the end of the season, my wife and I were watching an interview with Steve Cooper on TV, and she asked that question again.

“So, is he any good?”

Even after all these words, he’s answered that better than I ever could.

68 thoughts on “Freed from Desire

  1. Bless you, Phil. This is marvelous. Thank God you gave up after the Cardiff game! Here’s to a glorious (and probably tortuous) future for the Forest! I can’t wait to watch them from here in Decorah, Iowa. I won’t be able to see the glow of the lights from the City Ground but I’ll know where you and your Dad will be sitting–and I’ll be there right with you. Come on you Reds!

    Liked by 1 person

    • An awesome piece, encapsulating the last 23 years perfectly. Enjoy riding the crest of a wave for once, instead of feeling like you’ve been beaten with a cricket bat!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A brilliant post.

    I’d forgotten I’d subscribed but you had given up and I don’t blame you at all. But this article reminded me why I subscribed, great writing. Hope it isn’t another 3-4 years until your next post.

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  3. Sums up perfectly the way I felt about us. I’m 51. I watched the European Cup finals on telly. I went to semis at Hillsborough, finals at Wembley year on year. And then relegation. And mediocrity and playoff semi final collapses. I still went. But they hurt. They really hurt. But now, it feels like we’re reborn, a phoenix rising from the ashes. That atmosphere on Sunday was the best I’ve ever experienced. I’m energised again. And it feels brilliant. Forest are back!!

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  4. What an impeccably written emotive piece. Enjoyed reading that nearly as much as the final whistle on Sunday. Summed up to an absolute tee how I’ve felt for the past 23 years. Brilliant work mate

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  5. Such a well articulated description of the lows and highs we’ve just been through. Next season will be a roller coaster too. Let’s just get strapped in and enjoy the ride because that’s what we’re here for and that why we’re tricky trees. I’m lucky enough to have been through the “ Glory Days” and now we can now look forward to the new Glory days. C’mon You Reds.

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  6. On my god, have you been in my head since the 90s? Kept going with my Grandad through the bad days in league 1 and back. He died in late October, one of the last things we told him was we’d won again and we’re up to about 14th. That’s halfway he said with a smile. He’d be so very chuffed now.

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  7. This is one of the greatest Forest related things I’ve ever read – I felt every bit of pain – and totally agreed with every word – and now we feel free – we feel alive again – we have a smile and our family’s feel our excitement, our relief, our happiness – somehow my family know I’m not so grumpy, not so sad and I walk with my head held high – I’m not just a miserable 51 year old with 2 stars on my shirt from the good old days
    YOU REDS – great article

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  8. Hi Phil,
    What can I say. I’m just so proud. Proud of everyone and everything related to Forest.
    I love what you’ve written here and it expresses beautifully what countless Forest fans have lived through over the last couple of decades.
    The time since September has awoken something truly joyous in me (and countless Forest fans I’m sure). It’s reminded me why I love Forest, and why I fell in love with football in the first place.
    I’m the same age as you and I want to put up posters of Steve and the team on my bedroom wall. They’re heroes! Sadly I don’t think my wife will let me.
    The day at Wembley will be one I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.
    I sat with my brother but the camaraderie with everyone near us was really special. I’m so glad I was there.
    My wife makes efforts to make it clear she ‘doesn’t get it’ when I get excited or upset about football. But this year has been different. She could see something had changed. She started taking in interest. When I was down at Wembley, she had the rest of my inlaws over to watch the match in support of me since she knew how much it meant to me! She’s a Geordie and they’re all Newcastle supporters. Nevertheless, Forest have become their second team by proxy and they were delighted.
    Like all Forest fans, I’m still in a wonderful afterglow. I want to bottle this feeling and keep it forever.
    Phil – watching Forest with you (and listening to them smash Wednesday 7-1 on the radio while playing Toejam & Earl) are some of my fondest memories of the 90’s.
    I’ll be reading.
    Tom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s a lot to love here, but what really got me was your throwback to April 1st, 1995. That was the nostalgia motherload, one of the best days ever. I remember swapping a Mega Drive controller back and forth, I remember the sunshine, I remember us both listening to your radio in a state of total disbelief. What a day… and I still remember it like it was yesterday x

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  9. This piece of writing sums up how l and many thousand of others feel, l had tears in my eyes reading it. That Middlesbrough game, l normally go to the games with my son Rhys, but he was working away that day, by the way he normally goes to both home and away games. I sat at home thinking why do l bother, the football is awful, anyway at the last minute l decided to go. We all know what happened that night. I was underwelmed when Steve Cooper was appointed,
    just another manager, how wrong was l. At Wembley at the final whistle l looked at my son Rhys who travels up and down the country to follow Forest, to see the joy on his face, brought tears to my eyes, thank you Steve Cooper, and thank you sir for this writing from all of us who know how you feel.

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  10. I am one of the really lucky ones who watched promotion, titles and European cup nights. I stood with my dad watching the 1979 open bus parade and he told me to try & take it in because this will never happen again. As a 12 year old I had no idea what he meant, as this was my normal. My personal nadir was 0-3 Preston, Karanka’s first game, the most miserable night I can ever remember. I managed to get a ticket for the final but my 21 year old son didn’t. He lives in York and had lived his entire life following Forest exactly as you described. I gave up my ticket for him and I think it will be forever one of the best decisions I will ever make. The unbridled joy he experienced has removed the ‘guilt’ of inflicting all those years of misery from me taking him to his first matches in League 1. Can’t thank Steve Cooper (and Dane Murphy for appointing him) enough for that.

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      • I was however at the game last time we won 1-0 with an own goal in the last game of the season to win promotion and that didn’t turn out badly. Jon Moore should always be remembered fondly by Forest supporters.

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  11. What a fantastic read Phil, summed up and articulated in such a way thousands of Forest supporters young and old can relate to this, the rollercoaster ride that Forest have been on since 1999.
    I liked the piece where you said you struggled to engage with such a vital game, no matter how much you tried, I felt the same, no pre-match nerves just excitement and a quiet confidence that it was ‘our time’. The realisation at the final whistle that we had done it will long stay in the memory of all of us who witnessed it, and after 23 years of pain how good does it feel to say WE ARE PREMIER LEAGUE.

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  12. Same age as you, similar feelings and memories. A great summary of the dark years! Hopefully brighter ones ahead. But I don’t even mind that much if we come down again. We did it. The curse is broken!

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  13. A superb piece. We’re about the same age so my memories and experiences mirror yours, but the additional factor for me has been my six year old son getting into football this season. We don’t live in Nottingham, and I seriously wrestled with whether I could impose Forest on him. Seeing him bounce up and down on his seat after the final whistle on Sunday made me so glad that Steve Cooper and the players kept hold of us.

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  14. This is a brilliant read and one that we all can associate with because it’s what we all was thinking at the time. My turning point was when Hughton was sacked and Steven Reid took charge for the game at Huddersfield and changed the back four to a back five and we were absolutely brilliant that day and i can remember turning to my mates and saying how could we go from being so shite to playing like this. To me that day and Steven Reid was the catalyst for Steve Cooper to carry it on and improve it.

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    • This is a really important point. It would’ve been so easy for the new man to clean house for all his own people, but keeping SR was so important. His bravery in trying something different was a really big part of everything that followed.

      Like

  15. “ I felt it pop” sums it up perfectly. Years of what ifs and what could have been have been lifted from my shoulders. Next season will bring a completely new set feelings and worries. The thrill of the chase of reaching the premier league is far more exciting than the actual reality of competing with some of the best teams in Europe. This roller coaster of emotions will continue for many seasons to come, but this season will live in the memories for ever and was one I was able to share with my Son who has sat beside me in Upper Bridgeford for the last five seasons. Hopefully this will inspire the next generation of fans, but it will certainly test their emotions and there will be good and bad days , but whatever
    Happens we will still be supporting the
    Club we love.

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  16. Fantastic article, and sums up how people of our age feel. Say hi to your dad for me (I used to play 5-a-side Wednesday and Friday in Clifton with him) its Sam from Korea. I hope I can catch a game when I visit in the summer (both with Forest, and Dave). Take care

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  17. I want to congratulate you on the best article I have ever read about Nottm Forest. Ever. I’m 38 and was 15 when we were relegated, and everything you have said is everything I have lived for those 23 years.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Lovely piece Phil, being QPR I don’t get all the references but the emotion is front, back and centre.

    You did actually have a false(ish) dawn 4 seasons or so ago soon after the new owners came to the city, I remember you saying about seeing Forest shirts around town on youngsters more than Man U ones and a renewed buzz around the area. Forest have largely had a torrid time since and there were so many players on the books that I was genuinely worried ye would do a Derby.

    This season has been dreamland for ye and such a fantastic story. I hope ye flirt with Europe at the very least next season.

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  19. Congratulations on such a brilliantly written journey of 23 rollercoaster years. I felt every sentence. I’m from West Bridgford sadly didn’t realise the miracle years I grew up with were the exception rather than the rule until too late. I’ve spent the last 30 years living overseas and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up at 3am in Shanghai or Sydney to hear us embarrass our name and reputation. I had almost given up countless times but kept coming back with delusional hope only to be erased by the most painful of reality. I remember telling myself in the first few weeks of what looked like a relegation battle, to let it go. That life would carry on and it was pointless associating myself with a team that persisted in pain. And then Cooper came. I live in Auckland now and despite being on the other side of the planet, you could feel the change. You sum it up so well. It was a change that compelled me to fly back for the final and watch it sat next to my best friend of 50 years. It is a day that will live forever and can never be taken away. I’m so grateful to the manager, CEO, owner, players and fans for that. And for you, for summing it up so brilliantly.

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  20. Great article, Phil; eloquent, heartfelt, spells out the mountain that Cooper, the team and the club have climbed, all the way from the club’s joke status to a point where we can feel positive and proud once more.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. A fantastic read summing up the past 23 years perfectly, I had always wondered if bringing up my two children to support the mighty Forest was my best idea, but to be with them both there, at Wembley, on Sunday confirmed everything. For the first time in their 27 and 29 years respectively, they understood my love for this club and had a day of their own in garibaldi red to talk about forever COYR

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Just a great piece. I relived the Yeovil 2nd leg as Sheffield United equalised, and thought we were done. Just incredible to see that Forest now have the fortitude to prove me wrong. You reminded me about Chester away in the pissing rain, and that’s the nadir for me….but now I’m remembering seeing them play the likes of Bayern, and adding what’s happened to my few good Forest memories.

    Long time since I’ve lived in Nottingham and haven’t been to the City Ground since Covid, but every time I see it on the TV, I just look at how full it is and think that the difference is already made, regardless of what happens next year.

    Thanks for writing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. How many times have we watched other teams go on a cup run, or get to the playoff final and thought, when will that be us? Well now IT IS us. Wonderful stuff Phil, my complete collection of Bandys must be worth a fortune after this!

    COYR!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Fabulous article and articulates so many of the emotions I’ve been through in the past few months. This season has the been the first for so many where I’ve actually wanted to go and watch Forest, rather than just for the match day experience and having a good day out with my mates. I’ve no idea what the future holds, I’m certain there will be further rollercoasters ahead, but like you say, the most important thing is we, like so many others have got the feeling back and it’s strange, but very welcome!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Great article Phil. I live in London and for many years had given up regularly going to Forest. My father is a season ticket holder of over 35 years…. he used to go iwth his mates sadly as time passed is friends became ill / passed away and he went on his own. Four years ago I decided life is too short so I bought a season ticket so we could go together. On the drive home after Middllesbrough we were both resigned to another poor season… how wrong could we have been? Have loved every moment of Steve Coopers reign capped off with taking my Dad to Wembley…. YOU REDS!!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Fantastic article, agree with pretty much every word. Helpful to show non-Forest fans to explain my general lack of enthusiasm/dislike of all things football until recently!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Beautiful piece of writing Phil, capturing so much of what this season has meant, especially this line, “Game by game, week by week, he’d turn that tap a little further, running more and more colour back into the club.” I don’t think there’s a more perfect way of summing up what Cooper has done than that.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Wonderful Article Phil. You’ve summed up perfectly how many Forest fans felt/feel.

    Wherever the journey goes from here, this season has given fans, and especially the younger one’s who’ve never known success with our club, hope, pride, belief and joy.

    That outpouring of emotion at the final whistle on Sunday, which will stay with me forever, is a culmination of a quarter of a century of pain and suffering.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Summed up perfectly… 55 and enjoyed the BC years and the glory… then the abject misery, my son’s tears as a 7 year old at that Yeovil game and all that followed…. A great article!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Thank you for your moving thoughts and feelings, they chime deeply with mine.
    My oldest son’s first ever game typified Forest’s lowest moment – Rotherham away (0-0). We were relegated with the Millers later that season. The two half year old said the best bit was seeing the police horses. He wasn’t wrong!
    17 years later those dark days and many false dawns were put to rest at Wembley and we hugged and hugged and hugged along with his younger brother and our best Forest pals! I looked skywards and felt my dad smiling down. He began my Forest journey in 1978 as an excited 10 yr old. My oldest will watch our next chapter from the other side of the world with the Sydney Forest Fan Club. Whatever the results, wherever we are, we will always have THAT MOMENT! U Reddds!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Well put Phil, very well put.

    One of the things I really like about Mr Cooper is that he gets how we feel. He knows some of what we’ve been through these last 20 odd years. Joe talked after the game about how he’d been there with Swansea last year. But it feels like Steve Cooper understands all of the hurt we’ve been through. Yeovil and Chester and all of those other grim times.

    He also gets the history and the tradition. He’s building on it. All of it. Not just Clough but Carey and Walker and even back to Sam Widdowson. Like you say, we are special. A special club with special fans. Cooper has known this for a while. The world knows it now. Not just after Sunday and Monday. We also showed the world how special we are when we got the players through the last part of the second leg against Sheffield United before Samba took over. We showed it against Liverpool. Forza Garibaldi show it. Bandy & Shinty showed it. All of those folk singing at Wembley and on the way to Wembley and on the way back from Wembley. Huddersfield knew it. They knew they were just a bit-part character in our story.

    You are right that Cooper has given us new memories. Lads jumping in the Trent because Yatesy (almost) scored. The Mighty Brogan and her Dad. Football, like life, has its ups and downs. Whatever happens next, we’ll always have Fiery Jack’s goal against West Brom. We’ll always have Keenan Davies steamrolling defences. We’ll always have the Foxes blown away in the Cup. We’ll always have Lyle Taylor at Bristol. We’ll always have Samba’s penalty shoot out water bottle. We’ll always have the sound of 40,000 Trickies celebrating at Wembley.

    For September 12th 2021 read March 11th 1972. One of the worst days of my life. Forest v Ipswich. Gate 9,800. Less than half that of the previous home game. 2 points from the last 9 games. I’m freezing in the Trent End and my hero, Ian Storey Moore, is being paraded as Derby’s latest signing. We lost again that day. And yet, just a few years later we were champions, beating Ipswich 5-0 in the Charity Shield. Bad times come and bad times go, but as all football fans know the bad times make the good times sweeter. And the past eight months have been very sweet. Even old gits like me who have seen miracles will cherish and honour this season forever

    And you know what: going up this year with the way we play and with the way Cooper manages, and everything else that’s going on, it feels like 1977 again.

    And you know what happened next.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. A fantastic article, written by an erudite and educated Forest fan. Is anyone out there aware of the journalist Daniel Storey who writes for the I newspaper? I’m sure he’s a fan and from Nottingham, but he’s not encapsulated, so far, these fallow years as well as in your article. I am one of the lucky ones and I was nineteen when Brian Clough signed for us. I was there at Spurs in his first game. We won 1-0. Eventually, 2 seasons later we were promoted in third place!! I went to all home games and so many finals, including Munich. What a fantastic time to be young age and appreciate the great times. Relegation to the third tier was horrendous. Your article has brought all the memories back. By the way, there wasn’t a should of anywhere to be seen!

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Pingback: Right when I needed them… | Passing Time

  34. Fantastic writing. Thank you!

    I’m 61. I started in 69. Relegation in 72. Back in 77 and the next few years. Glorious. High point – coming back from 1-2 down at home to Leeds in League Cup Semi-Final 1978. Low point. Yeovil. As you say – all five goals… I sat in ABlock with my nephew and great nephew. I just wanted a trip to the new Wembley. I’d have been happy with that. “Not another year of this shit…”..

    I can leave that behind now…. I’m so happy for my daughters, nieces and nephews – and now granddaughter – that they get to celebrate success and joy too. Roll-on August!

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Brilliant read.
    I’d imagine echoing the thoughts and feelings of the majority of us.
    I remember at the Leicester game when the third goal went in, I sat in the Trent with tears in my eyes watching the crowd celebrate the goal whilst I was in state of ecstatic disbelief at what was happening to my team.

    Liked by 1 person

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