Forest/Arsenal – The History Continues

Whilst many in Nottingham will be chomping at the bit for a high-octane Premier League cup draw this weekend which will be played in front of a packed City Ground house and televised late Sunday afternoon on ITV sport, some fans will instead be less optimistic, saying begrudgingly ‘not them again’, as for the fourth time since 2016, it’s same old Arsenal as Nottingham Forest’s tricky looking FA Cup round three opponents, the two teams often drawn together of late in KO comps despite not sharing divisional league football since 1999.

The last of which a League Cup tie which went the way of the Gunners, a thumping 5-0 thrashing at the Emirates for poor Sabri Lamouchi’s young experimental eleven in round three of the 2019/20 campaign, but more memorably, that match at the City Ground the season previous, 7th January 2018, the same stage as this, then holders of the FA Cup, Arsene Wenger’s star studded side were disposed of with help from a couple of penalties and an Eric Lichaj masterclass.

That goal, his second in a 4-2 win, to put the Reds 2-1 up on the day, will be etched in the memory of all those at the City Ground and watching live on the box in disbelief as the ‘original’ reds lead by interim boss Gary Brazil ran riot to win through, but that’s not the only memory these two great teams share, as friends, rivals, with great games of years gone past, great players wearing and sharing the red shirts synonymous with Forest and Arsenal. There’s plenty of history between the two teams in red and white.

It all started back in 1886, Fred Beardsley, Bill Parr, Charlie Bates, leaving Nottingham Forest to join Dial Square FC as well as to go work in the Woolwich Artillery factory in south east London, with them they took red shirts, black caps and white pants to be worn by their new club, thereafter, Dial Square would change their name to Royal Arsenal, Woolwich Arsenal and eventually the Arsenal that we know today.

The first meeting between the two sides came in October 1904 with Forest winning 3-0 at the Manor Ground Plumstead in the First Division. Arsenal had been promoted the year before and were in the topflight of English football for the first time. The Gunners won in Nottingham by the same score line two months later, eventually finishing tenth in the division, as Forest despite the goals of Grenville Morris and Billy Shearman, ended the campaign in sixteenth, their seventh successive year playing in the countries top tier.

In all, Arsenal have a huge edge on the field, winning 51 of the two teams 100 competitive games against each other, with Forest winning 27 and the two sides drawing 22.

A stand out score in 1915 when in division two, Arsenal thumped Forest 7-0 at Highbury. One to forget for the garibaldi faithful.

Other classics (in favour of Forest) include a convincing 4-0 win in 1957 and a double of home and away 3-0 wins in the 1964/65 season all in the old First Division.

Arsenal got their own back on plenty of occasions themselves, their best under Bulwell born Bertie Mee in the year they did the double, 1970/71 the Gunners spanked the Reds 4-0 at Highbury before a 3-0 victory at the City Ground.

Arsenal also beat Forest 3-0 at Highbury in the year Brian Clough’s side won the league championship, but Forest got them back at the City Ground with a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Dave Needham and a memorable Archie Gemmill finish where he ran the length of the field to slide home which also scalped him 1978 BBC goal of the season.

The two sides first met in the FA Cup in 1979, when a Frank Stapleton goal gave the away side victory in the fifth round at a packed City Ground of over 35,000. Arsenal going on to win the cup that year, beating Manchester United in a classic final at Wembley, Stapleton again amongst the goals, but steeling the show was Alan Sunderland, and that mullet with an 89th minute winner.

Famously, Forest would get revenge in 1988, in the Quarter Finals at Highbury, when Paul Wilkinson and Brian Rice netted, Rice chipping John Lukic in front of 50,000 North Bankers to help Brian Clough’s men to a 2-1 win, the Reds eventually losing to Liverpool in the semi-finals by the same scoreline.

Personal memories for me included Forest losing 1-4 at home to George Graham’s 1988/89 championship winning side on a Sunday afternoon whilst watching ITV sport. Forest did later beat the Gunners 3-1 at Highbury that season and Brian Clough’s side did get their own back in front of the TV cameras two years later at the City Ground, when in 1991 goals from Woan, Sheringham, and Gemmill put the Reds 3-0 up, before a late comeback and two goals for Arsenal had the Reds on the ropes, thankfully they held out.

Many people might forget a 2-0 win for Arsenal in the FA Cup fifth round of 1993. Ian Wright doing the damage with both the goals that day, but Forest in the 90’s had their moments against the Gunners in the Premier League, a 2-1 win in December 1996 marked Stuart Pearce’s first ever game in charge. Alf Inge Haaland scoring both goals on a day when Ian Wright was sent off for lashing out at Nikola Jerkan.

That was the last time Forest beat Arsenal, in the top flight, but not the last time the Reds gained victory over the Gunners, as that was four years ago almost to this day. A memorable occasion, remembered by many in the modern era, as one of the best performances from a Nottingham Forest team.

That day, Ben Brereton Diaz was known as simply, Ben Brereton, on loan Kieran Dowell pulling strings in midfield we thought, had a bright future at Everton, Zach Clough a persistent menace, got rave reviews for his performance, whilst Eric Lichaj, well he got a dog.

Famous names have played for both clubs, Joe Baker was sold to Forest from Arsenal in 1965 for £65,000… Money well spent as Baker would go on to help Forest to becoming a top two club in England.

Viv Anderson and Tony Woodcock would win Europe’s biggest prize with Nottingham Forest before moving on to Arsenal. Charlie George and Willie Young would come the other way, to less effect. Players like Kevin Campbell and Ian Wright, Aaron Ramsey, Henri Lansbury, and of course, lord Nicklas Bendtner, would all play for both, some did well, some not so well, some stayed around, some quickly in and out… Some loved by one, hated by the other, David Platt springing to mind perhaps??

The two clubs certainly have many shared memories, a hundred games and even more players to represent the Reds of London and those that we know from NG2… On Sunday afternoon at 5:15pm another memory will begin, let’s hope it’s another one Forest fans will remember positively and fondly, just as they did when Eric Lichaj and co went to work four years ago.

*Article provided by Daniel Peacock (Editor).

*Main image @NFFC four years ago at the City Ground history was very much with Forest.

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