Nottingham Forest take on Huddersfield Town this weekend in the most lucrative game of football on the planet, the difference in winning and losing, said to be more than £170m over the next three seasons after future revenues are considered, for breaking into the Premier League.
For Nottingham Forest fans, it is about more than the money, for 23 years their absence from English football’s top flight has hurt and tormented, fathers, grandfathers, the elder generation, harping on about the past, but they can finally say ‘this is now your time to shine.’
A win at Wembley, a stadium they last appeared at in 1992, when they were beaten in the Rumbelows League Cup Final against Manchester United 1-0, will mark significant progress, under a Head Coach in Steve Cooper that has dramatically turned the club around, from one suffering their worst start in history, in the relegation zone of second tier with concern dropping into League One, to one that has been touted by many in the know, as one of the best teams in the country.
In beating Arsenal, in thumping Leicester, in holding their own against Liverpool, in rising up the table thanks to an incredible run of form, to the brink of the automatic places, and now to a playoff final, people have stood up and noticed Nottingham Forest, from all over the world, and people have been impressed with what they have seen, it’s been a long time since folk have talked about the club in this way.
Standing between them and a place in the Premier League, the only team in the Championship since Christmas that actually have better form than Forest. Huddersfield Town have been equally as remarkable on the pitch this season and themselves went on an incredible run of eighteen games without defeat, which ended at the City Ground in March during the fifth round of the FA Cup.
That day, Huddersfield started well, dropping balls onto Reds stand in goalkeeper Ethan Horvath, they took a lead after thirteen minutes when centre back Tom Lees, who has a good record against Forest, up for a corner, headed home.
A lot of Town’s play that day came through the talented Sorba Thomas and the industrious Duane Holmes, but set plays where a focus of Carlos Corberon’s approach. Something the Reds will need to be wary of at Wembley.
It was Ryan Yates, breaking between the lines, that was main scourge of Huddersfield though, his willingness to get in the box was undefendable and with two teams set up in similar styles, both preferring to play 3-4-3, it may be the individuals who win their own battles who have the biggest say on the day.
Sam Surridge netted a beauty to open his Forest account against the Terriers in the cup before Yates headed home from a James Garner free kick ahead of half time, thereafter Forest held out to claim a lucrative home Quarter Final tie against Liverpool, impressively too, despite the away side having a lot of the possession in Nottingham.
Sunday’s match will no doubt be defined by goals, both teams will intend to attack until they score, both teams will be happy to concede possession and hit on the break if they score, whoever scores first will certainly have advantage, but depending on the time of the first goal will depend how much defending they’ll then need to do.
In Steve Cooper’s first Forest game, unofficially, he had involvement in the 2-0 win at the John Smith’s Stadium, following a run of seven games without a win (losing six and drawing to Derby) which lead to the sacking of Chris Hughton, it was Steven Reid that took charge that day, with Cooper in the stands, it was evident that his adoption from a 4-4-2 to a three man defence had a desired effect, and Forest defended well, broke well, and grabbed their first clean sheet of the season, nicking victory, playing McKenna, Worrall and Figueiredo together in the back line.
Since that day, only subtle changes have been made to the way Forest line up. Spence, Yates, Garner and Lowe would be the same but for injury to the Sheffield United loanee, Jack Colback has filled in down the left hand side and has arguably since, been one of the Reds players of the season.
In attack Lolley, Johnson & Grabban, has became Zinckernagel, Johnson & Davis or Surridge, but not to say that Joe Lolley hasn’t especially in recent weeks, played his part, whilst Lewis Grabban for long periods of the season, led the line by doing what he does best, scoring goals and breaking Forest records, the first striker since David Johnson to score fifty for Forest, how ironic that Brennan might be the next?
In the return Championship game at the City Ground in December, a tired and laboured Reds team were deservedly beaten 1-0 thanks to a Duane Holmes first half goal.
That day, Huddersfield crashed the bar in the opening 18 seconds and might have won by more, despite the Reds having a lot more of the possession, that defeat however, only the second at the City Ground since Fulham, under Cooper, led to the Reds going out and building in January, in came Steve Cook, Keinan Davis and Sam Surridge who have all hit the ground running, Forest are no doubt a better team since defeat that day.
But Huddersfield will be no push over, they last appeared in the Premier League in 2019 and their fans know what it’s like to win a playoff final at Wembley, having done so in 2017 when David Wagner’s side won on penalties against Reading.
Should the match again go the distance, Forest will be prepared. Brice Samba, his waterbottle and all, here’s hoping it’s a little more straight forward than that, and history can be made with a comprehensive performance and win, but in any which way, should Forest manage to get over the line, they’ll be one hell of a party in Nottingham.
Fingers crossed for the big day, wishing all the luck in the world to Nottingham Forest Football Club, the city, the country, the red love from across the globe, is rooting for you, it’s been a long time coming and the Premier League needs to have its piece of Garibaldi back!
Nottingham Forest: (3-4-2-1) Samba, Cook, Worrall, McKenna, Spence, Yates, Garner, Colback, Zinckernagel, Johnson, Davis.
Huddersfield Town: (3-4-2-1) Nicholls, Lees, Hogg, Colwill, Pipa, Russell, O’Brien, Toffolo, Holmes, Thomas, Sinani.
Venue & time: Wembley Stadium, 4:30pm Sunday 27th May 2022.
*Article provided by Daniel Peacock (Editor).
*Main image @wembleystadium after a long time in waiting the famous arch is ready for the cavalry of the Garibaldi army.