Paul Merton – New Theatre, Oxford

Tuesday 11th May 2010

I’d been looking forward to a trip to Oxford to see Paul Merton, one of my comedy heroes. I’d even had contact with his PR team and booked train tickets in advance. Surely, nothing was going to stop me from going.

Unfortunately, Nottingham Forest were playing the 2nd leg of the Championship Play-Off Semi-Final at home to Blackpool. I considered recording it and switching off every possible type of communication, but I knew deep down I wouldn’t be able to focus. So I had no alternative but to give the tickets away to a friend.

By the end of the evening, the pain was threefold. Firstly, the words ‘David Cameron is the new Prime Minister’ flashed across the screen and covered most of the pitch. Secondly, Forest lost at home to Blackpool, amazingly the fourth time we’d lost to them in one season. And thirdly, Paul Merton’s Impro Chums was excellent and my friend still talks about how amazing the evening was.

Oh the pain of improvising…

Watford 0-0 Forest – Vicarage Road

Saturday 26th December 2009

With a superb run of 14 games unbeaten, Forest have climbed from 19th up to 3rd in the table. A Boxing Day clash away to Watford will provide Forest with another tough test.

In a match of few chances, the home side were slightly on top without really threatening. Watford did have a shout for a penalty in the second half, but the referee waved the appeals away. Forest had a good chance to steal the win through a Blackstock chance late in the game, but the keeper made a great save to deny the striker.

The match ended in a 0-0 stalemate keeping both Forest’s chances of automatic promotion alive and Watford’s hopes of pushing for a play-off place. The large Forest faithful amongst the 17,086 were probably happy with the point. Now it’s 15 games unbeaten and no Forest fan would have thought that possible after bad start to the season.

Palace 1-1 Forest – Selhurst Park

Saturday 24th October 2009

Forest’s season is going from strength to strength and have won their last 5 games in the Championship. A tough away game at Crystal Palace was the next task as Forest aim to keep climbing up the table.

It wasn’t that long ago since Forest were hovering around the relegation zone, but thankfully my Forest shirt arrived in the morning of the match at home to Derby and we’ve not looked back since. In fact, I didn’t wear it at home to Blackpool and that is the only time we have been beaten in the last 9 league games.

Sadly, our seats had a large column in front of us and some dangerous scaffolding above our heads, so it wasn’t the most comfortable of viewing areas. Luckily though it was a bright sunny day and both sides looked like they were up for an attacking game. However, after 40 minutes, Darren Ambrose scored a delightful free-kick to give Palace a 1 nil lead.

Just before the stroke of half-time, Paul Anderson was elbowed in the face by Palace defender Clint Hill, which sparked a brawl involving players and staff from both sides. The incident was right in front of the dugouts and you could tell from the reaction of the Forest bench that it was pretty serious. Nevertheless, I never expected the tannoy to come on, with what sounded like a commentator on Radio Palace telling Billy Davies to sit down and stop getting involved. I’ve never heard anything like it, and by the bemused reaction of the large Forest following, nor did they.

Forest came out fighting, well not literally, in the second half and were rewarded by a goal from David McGoldrick 3 mins after the break. The game could have been won by either side but in the end a share of the spoils was probably a fair result.

Whilst finding the ground from the station was pretty simple, the opposite can be said on the way back. No idea how, but for some reason, one wrong turn and lack of football shirts meant it took an extra hour to find the station. In any case, a crowd of 15692 had a nice day out in the autumn sunshine. Even the cheerleaders as half-time entertainment managed to bring some nostalgia back to football or is that a recent idea?

Ipswich 1-1 Forest – Portman Road

Tuesday 15th September 2009

Forest and Ipswich have yet to set the Championship alight. Both teams were expected to perform well this season, but poor results have left them near the foot of the table.

It didn’t take much to convince me that a trip to Ipswich on a Tuesday night would be a good idea. Especially, when your mate tells you, he’s been given a route confirmed by at least 2 people guaranteeing us to get there in just over an hour.

I left around 5pm for a 30 minute drive near my mate’s place, as it was a good starting point for the journey ahead. On the motorway for about an hour and without yet seeing any signs to Ipswich, I began to ask some questions. The questions continued around 7pm as kick off was nearing. In the end I had to call up another mate up who re-directed us. The madness didn’t stop there, when almost 2 hours after setting out, I was 10 minutes away from my place.

Anyway the game had kicked off and I was following the it via a GPRS connection. It turns out Ipswich scored in minute 0. Not even sure that is possible. So whilst stuck on the motorway, I had no idea if Forest allowed Ipswich to have a goal start, but the fact remained Forest were losing 1 nil.

Eventually, we made it to the ground and the second half was already underway. Finding the way into the ground was still proving tough though. Finally we got to our seats in the 53rd minute. The scoreboard confirmed it was Ipswich 1, Forest 0. Robert Earnshaw was coming on as sub, just as we were getting comfy. Amazingly, 5 minutes after taking our seats, super sub for the night, Earnshaw equalised with probably his first touch of the ball.

Difficult to give a report on a game when you miss the first 53 minutes, but Forest did well in the last half an hour or so. Forest nearly came close to snatching a victory, but Ipswich prefered to go down to 10 men, than allow Dele Adebola to break free with just the keeper to beat.

All in all, it was definitely an experience and a memorable one at that. It probably would have been less memorable had we caught the whole game. I’d like to thank the two truck drivers for the directions to Cambridge city centre.

QPR 1-1 Forest – Loftus Road

Saturday 22nd August 2009

A strange start to the season, has seen Forest dominating games, but with minimal points to show for their effort. A lack of goals has left Forest with just 1 point from the opening 3 games.

The sun was out on a glorious day and amongst a crowd of 13,058, the Forest faithful were hoping that a strong performance against QPR would kick-start their season into action. QPR on the other hand were expecting to be promotion play-off contenders, especially with the Formula 1 moneymakers at the helm.

Unlike last season, Forest came out firing and were unlucky not to take the lead. But the usual story of missed chances lead to Forest being punished once again when QPR took the lead in the 25th minute, from a long-range shot by Mikele Leigertwood. Forest hit back in the 57th minute, with David McGoldrick putting away a close range effort after a great knock down from Dele Adebola.

In an open game with many chances, neither side were able to find a winner. Surpringsly, Forest and QPR have yet to register a victory this season, but the feeling is that both will improve and furthermore, play a major part in the Championship race.

Watford 2-1 Forest – Vicarage Road

Tuesday 10th March 2009

The honeymoon period tasted by Billy Davies since taking over from Colin Calderwood had already come to an abrupt halt. Lying just outside the relegation zone, Forest needed something out of the game against Watford, in their pursuit of Championship survival.

On a run of 3 games unbeaten, Forest seemed to be turning the corner once again. However, Forest have a tendency to allow teams to dictate the style of football, especially away from home. True to form, this was not going to be any different, with Watford’s long ball approach, becoming the style both adopted.

The pitch may take part of the blame, but there is no point trying to play a style of football for 90 minutes, especially if the opposition is far more experienced at it. This was emphasised whenever Forest had a goal kick. Not since watching under 11s play football had I seen 20 players move across to same side of the pitch waiting for the tallest person to either head it on or head it away. With so much space on the other side of the pitch, it baffles the mind why the footballing side never tried to exploit it.

Watford started the game positively and a Grzegorz Rasiak header in the 5th minute gave them an early lead. Probably against the run of the play, Forest managed to equalise from a Matt Thornhill shot in the 17th minute. Then a neat one-two set Tamas Priskin free who managed to slot the ball home 2 minutes before the break.

At 2-1 down at half-time, Forest were still hopeful of getting back into the game. However, at no point in the second half did it actually seem likely. Hit and hope is not the Forest way, and once again, I feel sorry for the Forest fans amongst the crowd of 14,730. More quality is required if Forest are to avoid a return back to unthinkable depths of League 1 football.

QPR 2-1 Forest – Loftus Road

Saturday 18th October 2008

Finally, after 3 seasons in League 1, Nottingham Forest – the only European Cup Winners to play in the 3rd tier of their national league were back in the Championship again.

However, a horrific start to the campaign meant Forest were rooted to the bottom of the table, with only 1 win in 10 games. A match against high-flying QPR was going to prove a difficult test. On a personal front, finding our seats was by far the toughest challenge. Eventually, we narrowed it down to the two below. Of course, one of them was definitely ours, but not so sure about the other.

Why is seat 210 next to 157?

Sadly, that ended up being just one of the two highlights we were to experience on the day.

QPR were quick off the blocks and apart from a couple of tame opportunities from Andrew Cole and Nathan Tyson, the home side were firmly in control. At half-time the scores were level at 0-0. However, after just 3 minutes into the second half, Angelo Balanta gave QPR the lead. With just under an hour gone, a stunning strike by Akos Buzsaky, gave QPR a 2-0 lead.

Forest then tried to get back into the game, but by then it was too late and only luck would have got us anything out of the game. In fact, Lewis McGugan did come on and managed to pull one back. An excellent free-kick with 7 minutes to go, was the only other notable highlight, but by then the damage had already been done.

Colin Calderwood’s Nottingham Forest are now propping up the table and only drastic measures can save them from going back to League 1. I feel sorry for the thousands of loyal Forest fans who made up a large percentage of the 15,122 attendance. It just simply isn’t good enough.

Forest is the most successful team in European Cup history

Nottingham Forest is the most successful team in European Cup history.  This is based on on the number of times a club has qualified for the European Cup and the number of times that club has won the competition as a result of qualification.

Upto and including the 2009/10 season, there have been 21 different clubs that have won the European Cup/Champions League.  Of those, Real Madrid, Milan and Liverpool have managed to win Europe’s premier competition on 5 or more occasions.  But only 2 clubs on the list have achieved a Win Ratio of 50% and over: Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa, with Forest managing a 67% success rate.

English teams make up 3 of the top 5 positions, with Milan and Real Madrid joining Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa and Liverpool.   It also appears very difficult for any club to overtake the top 2 sides.  One scenario for this to happen would, probably, involve a new winner of the trophy, who having qualified for the first time, then goes on to win it 3 times in a row, failing at the 4th attempt, giving them a Win Ratio of 75%.  Of course if a  new winner emerged, after qualifying for the first time, then that club would of course have a 100% record for a short period.

In addition, Nottingham Forest is the only club to have won more European Cups than domestic league titles (2 to 1) and the only previous winner to have played in the 3rd tier of their national league. Forest, along with Porto, are the only clubs who have appeared at least twice in a European Cup final and, as such, have a 100% success rate.  The success of Liverpool, Manchester United, Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa also means that England is the only country to have 4 clubs from different cities win the competition.

European Cup/Champions League Win Ratio Table

	Club			Wins	Qual	Win Ratio
1	Nottingham Forest	2	3	67%
2	Aston Villa		1	2	50%
3	Milan			7	24	29%
4	Liverpool		5	20	25%
5	Real Madrid		9	40	23%
6	Internazionale		3	17	18%
7	Hamburg			1	6	17%
8	Ajax			4	26	15%
9	Bayern Munich		4	26	15%
10	Barcelona		3	20	15%
11	Manchester United	3	21	14%
12	Borussia Dortmund	1	10	10%
13	Marseille		1	11	9%
14	Porto			2	25	8%
15	Feyenoord		1	13	8%
16	Juventus		2	26	8%
17	Benfica			2	29	7%
18	Steaua Bucharest	1	19	5%
19	Red Star Belgrade	1	21	5%
20	PSV Eindhoven		1	23	4%
21	Celtic			1	25	4%

The table above includes winners and qualifications up to 2009/10.