Nottingham Forest go into their ‘next’ biggest game of the season this weekend with the small matter of a Championship playoff semi-final and one big chance to go to the promised land of the Premier League via Wembley Stadium of course.
Facing them is a Sheffield United team that have been there and done it, once upon a time, back in 2003, the Blades beat the Reds over two legs to knock Paul Hart’s young side out of the playoffs at the same stage. More recently, under Chris Wilder back in 2018, United gained promotion to the Premier League by finishing second in the second tier table.
After two seasons at the top level, the side is now managed by Paul Heckingbottom and trying to get back to where they feel they belong, the Blades have been a ‘steady ship’ in the division this season since Heckingbottom took over in November after a poor start to their campaign.
Forest, like United got off to the worst possible start to the season, but since the arrival of Steve Cooper only Liverpool and Manchester City have fared better in the country, on a points per game basis.
Cooper himself winning the Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Month for April, with young home-grown starlet Brennan Johnson scooping the award for player of the month.
Johnson saying ahead of the game during training this week “The mood has been really positive. Everyone’s just really excited and focused to play well on Saturday.
“We all know it’s a big game and bigger than just a normal league game, but we’ve got to approach it the same way we approach a league game.
“We never come away from what we do, we always want to play in the style we play, so there’s no point coming away from that as we are best at playing that way.
“Against any team, we’ve wanted to play our football and attack them. That’s the attitude we’ve had all season, so everyone’s ready and raring to go.”
With two 1-1 draws shared during the regular season, both salvaged by Reds late goals, Grabban at the City Ground in November and Yates, at Bramall Lane in March, this two leg affair kicking off in Sheffield on Saturday afternoon and ending, late Tuesday night Trentside, is certainly scheduled to go the distance.
By kick off on Tuesday, both teams will know who awaits them at Wembley, Huddersfield or Luton Town for the finale?
Focus however is solely on getting through this game and getting a step nearer towards the biggest, richest and best known football league on the planet.
23 years the Reds have been waiting to get back in the Premier League. Now just three games away from a long and lengthy return.
Kick off at Bramall Lane tomorrow is 3pm with tickets for both matches sold out (Tuesday is a 7:45pm kick off at the City Ground), however both games will be live on Sky Sports.
*Main image @NFFC Brennan Johnson won April’s Championship Player of the Month award.