Nottingham Forest will face a trip north, up to St James’ Park and the famous old home of Newcastle United over the opening weekend of the 2022/23 Premier League season, as the Reds return to the promised land for the first time this side of the Millennium.
It’ll be a tough ask for a winning return at the Saudi backed Geordies on Saturday 6th August but Forest ‘have’ had some decent first day top flight wins in the past. We take a look how the club have fared on opening days over previous Premier League seasons, ahead of their start to a new top flight campaign, their first in 23 years.
The first Premier League season in 1992/93, would, for Forest, be a disappointing relegation campaign, but not after defeating those other reds of Liverpool over the opening weekend, Teddy Sheringham with the only goal of the game in front of a packed City Ground which was limited in capacity due to undergoing redevelopment to the Bridgford Stand, the first televised Super Sunday of many on SKY to come.
Then managed by the legendary Brian Clough, the real reds lined up for that win on Sunday 16th August 1992, as follows…
Nottingham Forest 1-0 Liverpool (16.08.92)
Mark Crossley, Brian Laws, Terry Wilson, Steve Chettle, Stuart Pearce, Gary Crosby, Roy Keane, Scot Gemmill, Ian Woan, Nigel Clough, Teddy Sheringham.
Although scoring the winner, Sheringham was soon sold to Tottenham Hotspur and a demise of form soon left the Reds in a struggle towards the foot of the table.
Ten wins and ten draws were registered throughout that inaugural Premier League season, but Forest would find themselves relegated after a home loss to Sheffield United with Brian Clough retiring after near 18 years at the helm.
After finishing second to Crystal Palace in the second tier a year later, upon their first return to the Premier League, now under the guidance of Frank Clark, the 1994/95 season began with an opening day 1-0 victory at Ipswich Town thanks to a goal from new signing Bryan Roy; Forest would go undefeated in their first eleven league games this season with a potent attack that was lead by both Roy and Stan Collymore.
Collymore was injured for the first game but that winning line-up at Portman Road, on Saturday 20 August 1994, would be…
Ipswich Town 0-1 Nottingham Forest (20.08.94)
Mark Crossley, Steve Chettle, Colin Cooper, Stuart Pearce, Des Lyttle, Scot Gemmill, David Phillips, Steve Stone, Ian Woan, Bryan Roy, Jason Lee.
Eight wins and three draws, including 4-1 wins against Sheffield Wednesday and Tottenham Hotspur, gave fans an insight as to what was to come – the season would see the Reds eventually finish in third, and claim a pot in the old, UEFA Cup.
Having already gone without defeat in their previous 13 games, the opening match of the 1995/96 campaign, kickstarted a twelve match unbeaten start to the season which ended with a 7-0 thumping by Blackburn to stop a 25 match unbeaten league run. Beginning with a thrilling opening day 4-3 win at the Dell, Bryan Roy with two, Colin Cooper and Ian Woan also netting away to Southampton. With Saints replying with a Matt Le Tissier hat-trick.
Southampton 3-4 Nottingham Forest (19.08.95)
Mark Crossley, Des Lyttle, Steve Chettle, Colin Cooper, Stuart Pearce, Steve Stone, Lars Bohinen, David Phillips, Ian Woan, Bryan Roy, Kevin Campbell.
The first half of the season would see Forest only lose twice until the turn of the year, too many draws though saw Frank Clark’s men slip to a final finish of ninth, but there was a famous run to the Quarter-Finals of the UEFA Cup to enjoy as well.
Although the next, the 1996-97 season, would see Forest relegated, it did begin with victory which left the Reds top of the league, Kevin Campbell bagging a hat-trick in a 3-0 win away to Coventry City, unfortunately that would be their only taste of league success until 21st December, when after Frank Clark had been replaced by Stuart Pearce as interim Manager, Alfie Haaland scored a brace in a 2-1 win at home to Arsenal.
For the trip to Coventry which started the season so well, Forest lined up as follows…
Coventry City 0-3 Nottingham Forest (17.08.96)
Mark Crossley, Alf-Inge Haaland, Steve Chettle, Nikola Jerkan, Colin Cooper, Stuart Pearce, Steve Stone, Chris Bart-Williams, Ian Woan, Kevin Campbell, Dean Saunders.
The following season under the guidance of Dave Bassett, Forest romped home to win the second tier and regain their place in the Premier League, but little would they know back then, in 1998, that the Reds would embark upon what would be their last campaign in the Premier League for an astonishing 23 years, as Forest, by then in turmoil having sold Kevin Campbell which lead to the striking of his attacking partner Pierre van Hooijdonk, kicked off the season with a 2-1 defeat away to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, a goal from midfielder Geoff Thomas being sandwiched between efforts from Gunners legends, Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars.
Forest’s line-up, for the Monday Night Football (17 August 1998) at Highbury, would be as follows…
Arsenal 2-1 Nottingham Forest (17.08.98)
Dave Beasant, Thierry Bonalair, Steve Chettle, Jon Olav Hjelde, Craig Armstrong, Alan Rogers, Steve Stone, Geoff Thomas, Andy Johnson, Glyn Hodges, Jean-Claude Darcheville.
Four of that starting eleven were over thirty, whilst on the bench, a youthful Marlon Harewood, coming on for Andy Johnson in the closing stages, was eighteen-years-old at the time.
Forest would actually win their next two matches, a 1-0 success at home to Coventry City, Steve Stone netting, followed by a 2-1 victory on the South Coast, away at Southampton, goals coming from Jean-Claude Darcheville, and a second of the season for Stone.
It would be a victory that would see the Reds hit the heady heights of third in the league, but it would be all downhill from there; Bassett would be gone by the end of the year as the Reds failed to win another game, big Ron Atkinson taking the helm in early 1999 via the away team dugout, winning two and drawing one of his first eight.
Only three more wins were claimed that dreadful turbulent season, all in the last three games, against Sheffield Wednesday, Blackburn Rovers, and Leicester City, with that considered, Nottingham Forest can perhaps claim the longest unbeaten run in the Premier League, should they not lose to Newcastle United, they could stretch it four matches without defeat, in 23 whopping years.
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @NFFC Teddy Sheringham celebrates netting the first ever Super Sunday goal in the Premier League.