2020 winners Arsenal have experienced it, 2021 winners and holders Leicester City have now experienced it too, next up Huddersfield Town who last won it 100 years ago, those Yorkshire Terriers of our very own Championship will also get to experience it for themselves… A rocking City Ground at it’s very best.
Banked on the southside of the River Trent sandwiched across from Meadow Lane and the world famous Trent Bridge Cricket Ground, this own iconic venue, home of Forest since 1898 (the year indeed they first won the cup), has seen some great nights, some glorious history, and this team of 2022 is now starting to make its own.
Arsenal in round three was good, and Derby in the league was decent, but Leicester was different sauce from the garibaldi red at their best as they dismantled the current owners of FA borrowed silverware who relinquished their prized asset of the oldest cup in world football without a fight.
They sent their troops in to our city to destroy our pubs, they sent onto the pitch the worst of their so called ‘supporters’ to punch our own players in celebration, the only bit of fight on the day from anyone donning blue… What they got in return, was a proper lesson in football, from a proper football club, a spanking so one-sided by the time the whistle had gone and Steve Cooper was fist pumping towards the East Stand, nobody in the 4,000 strong lower tier of the Bridgford End was there to see it.
In contrast, every man, woman, boy, girl and modern day anonymity in red, stayed, sang, scarves high and cheered in the stadium until every last player of Nottingham Forest walked off the pitch, and that took a while, as they one for one milked the applause from all four sides of the City Ground, deserving though, a gallant and heroic effort from all involved… One twitter user after the match posting a team rating of tens with the exceptions including Joe Worrall given a twelve, and Djed Spence and Brennan Johnson both scoring fifteen.
With ITV cameras witnessing Forest’s dominant 1-0 victory over Arsenal in January, the BBC cameras were back in anticipation, prime time Sunday afternoon, to hopefully show the nation what Nottingham Forest Football Club are all about, and yet again, they didn’t disappoint.
The Reds right side is becoming one of the most notable exciting threats in football, people from far and wide already calling out Djed Spence as the best right back in the whole of England right now, already calling Brennan Johnson a Premier League player pending… And how can you not? Nottingham Forest at the minute, are one of the best teams in the country, solid defensively, industrious in midfield, creative in attack, at electric speed with strength in all departments, this team Steve Cooper has assembled has a bit of everything and supporters of those not just red & white, just love to see it in action…
In defence against Leicester, Joe Worrall headed everything above and below sea level, the quietly brilliant Scott McKenna sent back everything that came at him, Steve Cook in between did what he had to do when asked, the latter looks like a player who’s been at Forest four years, not four weeks.
In midfield a combined duo of youth, physicality, work-rate, technique and above all, heart, has Forest solid and competitive, Youri Tielemans and Wilfried Ndidi with near hundred international caps between them, are certainly no mugs, but they were out ran, out worked, out battled, out classed, out thought by the impressive young double act of James Garner and Ryan Yates, so much has Yates come on under Cooper that the Guardian wrote yesterday ‘he’ could be next on the Premier League clubs target list and with Sean Dyche in attendance it wouldn’t be inconceivable? Manchester United fans are already asking ‘get Garner back’ in their team. The Red Devils loanee has been brilliant since Cooper has came in, after a start to the season less than impressive under previous Manager Chris Hughton.
Following Hughton’s exit, it’s the wing backs at Forest that have dynamically changed the way the club play, contrast Jack Colback (brilliant in his own right) who ‘did a job’ defending on the left against Arsenal to Max Lowe who gets up and down with energy, pace and discipline. Everyone rightly is pointing the finger at Djed Spence right now, which we’ll come onto, but Max Lowe against Leicester City did not put a foot wrong, impressive and efficient, those that go week in week out will not under-estimate how important he is.
So what about Djed?
You could scroll through a bible of praise on Sunday night through Twitter on the Middlesbrough loanee… Football League Zone quoting ‘Can’t be a better signing this season… What a player’ with the Athletic suggesting he ‘has been simply extraordinary for NFFC’.
Arsenal fans have been asking for his signature en-masse, a player who grew up playing football in the same junior team as Emile Smith-Rowe, he’s likened by seemingly everyone in London (and beyond) with interest from West Ham and Crystal Palace to the Gunners own arch-rivals Spurs, with a CV of notable admirers (including Gary Lineker & Alan Shearer) growing from within the game on every occasion he plays for Forest. Enjoying his time and embracing his temporary home in a passionate heart on sleeve way not seen previously by another loanee on his level, Spence has been an overwhelming success story that has the world questioning ‘how can he not get into the Middlesbrough team’. Boro let’s not forget on Friday night beat Manchester United at Old Trafford with their own decent right sided defender Isaiah Jones, I doubt Spence will kick a ball again for Boro, but I don’t doubt they’ll be very well imbursed for what Spence has done this season at Nottingham Forest.
In attack on Sunday, Philip Zinckernagel had one of his best games in red and caused Leicester threat with his pace and direction, the opening goal, timely, his pass for Spence to make it four eloquently perfect, reminiscent of Nigel Clough back in his pomp playing in another full back we used to love watching score goals.
Zinckernagel let’s not forget is on loan too, more realistically than keeping Spence who’ll be hard (and expensive) to nail down, Forest could get the Danes signature on a permanent deal from Watford, which I doubt any Reds fan would be unhappy with, if a deal in the summer gets permanently made.
On the other side, Brennan Johnson is simply getting better and better and better. Just 20-years-old, his pace is terrifying, not just as fast as fellow wingers Xande Silva or Adama Diakhaby (remember him), but unlike those, with ‘end product’ too… A level headed young football man that will be guided by his dad who we all know well, to become a proper decent player (like his dad) who has a big and long future in the game. His only mistake perhaps, choosing Wales instead of England, but even with the Welsh national team I wouldn’t rule him out of playing World Cup football. Johnson is certainly destined for the top and is a throw back winger who’s primary target is to beat his man, poor Luke Thomas probably would have preferred from Brendan Rogers the treatment Nuno Tavares got from his boss Mikkel Arteta, rather than endure 90 minutes of Spence and Johnno terrorising the life of him.
Final word, other than for the praise of Cooper and the marvelous vocal and passionate City Ground fans who provided a proper atmosphere, goes to striker Keinan Davis, another loannee who was absolutely superb against Leicester, bullying and battering not one but two international standard central defenders in Soyuncu and Amartey, taking one on the chin from an idiot pitch invader, hammering the crossbar to almost score his third Reds goal in as many matches, nodding down the opening assist for Zinckernagel, with hold up play and one touch passing not seen by a Reds number nine since the days of Lee Chapman.
You get the impression Davis wants to have a future and why not, at his parent club Aston Villa who can offer at least big money and Premier League football, but if they don’t want him at Villa Park, he certainly has a home by the banks of the Trent, welcome in red, because everybody at Nottingham Forest Football Club would like him to stay.
Those everybody’s, including the staff at Forest and Steve Cooper himself, the mastermind of the project, that is to ‘make’ Nottingham Forest ‘something’ again.. Including those fans, who’s voices are heard through constant singing, who’s passion and love for the football club is touching a new audience of terrestrial television watchers that have long missed the days when Forest were kings of Europe.
Thanks largely to these two stunning performances against higher ranked opposition, in front of the cameras at a packed full City Ground, one of the oldest and most enjoyed homes in English football, in the FA Cup, the greatest knock-out competition there is in the game, because of this passion and play unrivalled by anything I have seen in the cup this year, well ‘I just can’t get enough’ of seeing this fantastic team and it’s supporters in action, and I’m sure if you’re a Forest fan, or even just a fan of ‘football’ in general, then you can’t either!
*Article provided by Daniel Peacock (Editor).
*Main image @NFFC the Forest players celebrate against Leicester in the cup.