Nottingham Provides Reason To Be Proud

Reasons to be proud of a place are many and varied. A successful football club – on current form think Liverpool, Manchester City and United – brings kudos to a city. Long-established industries (now known as ‘heritage’!) who once exported their produce around the world would pride themselves on reputation and renown. We still associate Newcastle and the North East with shipbuilding, Sheffield with steel and Stoke with pottery.

Nottingham has plenty of its own markers of what puts a city on the map. Raleigh once dominated cycle production across the globe and Forest (it always sounds sweet on the lips no matter how many repeats!) were once champions of Europe. They are fixed in history. And then there was this mid-March past weekend. Fleeting fame, perhaps, but the coming together of two seemingly disparate events in the city created – for me and for many I’ve spoken to – a genuine sense of civic pride.

It begins with a cycle ride at the end of last week when spring sun lit the blue sky. Daffodils bloomed their yellow heads by roadsides and on village greens as I pedalled a familiar route. Here I was, out in the English countryside, being reminded of a not-so-far-away country caught in the grip of Russian military might. Why? Because the blue and yellow I cycled through was that of the Ukrainian flag.

Come Saturday and the flag of Ukraine became a ubiquitous feature of Nottingham, draped from buildings, adorned by marchers, worn by Brian Clough no less! An anti-Putin demonstration was bound to bring out sentiment and support and solidarity for a nation so brutally and illegally invaded, where citizens have been deemed legitimate targets. A close friend attended the event, starting at the bronze figure of Robin Hood and ending at the statue of Clough, and sent me photos of the march routed between those two icons of hope. Young and old are caught in the moment of coming together to speak with one voice. Blue and yellow, of course, dominate every image.

Then you pick out a Sherwood Forest tree and waves of the river Trent: the Nottingham Forest badge. Football supporters are there, too, waving new team-colours for the day. Clough (how appropriate to end the march there) was never one to shy away from mixing sport and politics. Whether people agreed with his views or not, he made his feelings about supporting miners in the 1980s strikes quite clear. He championed the oppressed and the less fortunate, whatever their circumstances. Now, peaceful protest against Putin, humanity against the horrors of war. Pride that public support for Ukraine extended to the flying of its flag from the council house. A futile gesture? No, a heartfelt response to an ongoing tragedy. Those images will give hope to far more than it took to create them.

Next day, more flags and banners but, this time, it’s the red and white of Forest. The city, galvanised by the form of the team in recent months, welcomes probably the best club team – Liverpool – in the world at the moment. Crowds of anticipation and excitement…and hope! They don’t pull-off a surprise victory but it’s a Forest performance to warm the hearts of any fan at the City Ground and beyond. Young and joyful faces beamed across the country on TV. Team spirit on show in buckets led by Captain Fantastic, Joe Worrall. It’s a feast of an FA Cup match.

Forest v Liverpool was the last top divisions’ team fixture in England before clubs take a break to make way for a flurry of international games. Nation versus nation on the football pitch as Russia continues its attempts to bomb its near neighbour Ukraine into surrender. There are no parallels to be drawn between the two. Football might use the language of war – attack, defence, offence, counter-attack, and such like – but it remains a sport. War is war, with all that it entails. Yet, what took place over the weekend in Nottingham, at two entirely separate events, was an outpouring of goodwill, giving voice to a cause, uniting people from all walks of life in support and solidarity. A time to be proud of the city.

*Article provided by Stephen Parker (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).

*Main image @NFFC Nottingham Forest and their fans did the city proud in defeat against Liverpool.

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