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History of Nottingham Forest

In 1865, a group of Nottingham-based shinney - a sport similar to hockey - players met at the Clinton Arms on Shakespeare Street. It was here that JS Scrimshaw's proposition to begin playing football instead was passed, and Nottingham Forest Football Club was born.

The founder members were, A Barks, W Brown, W P Brown, C F Daft, T Gamble, R P Hawkesley, T G Howitt, W I Hussey, W R Lymberry, J Milford, J H Rastall, W H Revis, J G Richardson, J S Scrimshaw, J Tomlinson

The first official football match took place on 22 March 1866 against Notts County, who were formed in 1862.

At the same meeting, it was agreed the team would purchase a dozen tasselled caps in the colour of 'Garibaldi Red' - named after the leader of the Italian 'Redshirts' freedom fighters, who were popular in England at the time. The club's official colours were established.

The Football League was formed in 1888 but Forest's application was rejected. Instead, they played in the Football Alliance, winning the competition in 1892 to eventually secure a place in the League.

They had experienced a colourful existence playing in the Alliance, perhaps never more so than in the 1878-79 season. The demise of Notts Castle Club brought an influx of additional talent to Forest. With new impetus, they entered the FA Challenge Cup for the first time. Notts County, who had made their first challenge the previous year, were The Reds' first round opponents. Forest came out 3 - 1 winners at Beeston Cricket Ground, before going on to reach the semi-final, which they lost 2-1 to Old Etonians.

The 1897-98 season was perhaps the most significant in Forest's infancy. Having lost in four previous semi-finals, victories over Grimsby Town, Gainsborough Trinity, West Bromwich Albion and Southampton set up an FA Cup final date with Derby County at Crystal Palace. The Reds had lost 5-0 to their rivals just five days before and went into the game as underdogs. However, with a well-rested side - six of the cup final line-up had not played in the league game - they ran out 3-1 winners in front of 62,000 fans.

Forest were quite the pioneers, too. In 1874, they were the first English side to wear shin-guards, albeit outside of their socks, and in 1878 their game against Sheffield Norfolk was credited as the first occasion in England where the referee had used a whistle. It was in the same decade that Sam Widdowson came up with the 'classical' formation which consisted of a goalkeeper, two full-backs, a three-man halfback line and five forwards. The tactic stood the test of time and was widely-used until the 1960s.

Forest played out their earliest years at a number of different grounds. They started out at the Forest Racecourse before relocating in 1879 to the Castle Ground and the Meadows. Between 1873-1885, they had spells at Trent Bridge, the Parkside Ground and the Gregory Ground, before occupying the Town Ground with some continuity between 1890-1895.

In 1898, Forest moved to The City Ground after a concerted fundraising effort secured the £3,000 required. With an FA Cup in the cabinet and ambition in abundance, the future promised much for The Reds.

The turn of the century was kind to Forest, who finished fourth in the First Division in 1900/01. The years that followed, however, were not so successful. As World War One approached, they were struggling in the Second Division and in dire financial straits.

It was the outbreak of the war, combined with the generosity of their committee members that, in effect, saved the club. For its duration, the Football league was suspended and replaced by a regional league structure. The League resumed in 1919, by which time Forest had established their Colts team, along with a local player recruitment policy.

The Second World War seemed to take the footballing world by surprise. Forest were on their way to Swansea for their fourth game of the 1939-40 season when the announcement was made. Regional leagues were formed once again.

Post-war attendances were indicative of the optimism and togetherness people were feeling at the time, with almost 33,000 turning up for the first home game of the 1946-47 season against Newcastle. Two years later, however, Forest were relegated to the Third Division, where they would spend two seasons before winning promotion and re-establishing themselves in the second tier. At the end of the 1956-57 season, The Reds made a welcome return to Division One after an 18-year absence.

Now back in the First Division, Forest's focus switched to picking up their first silverware of the 20th century, a feat which they achieved within two seasons. The team could be forgiven for what was an erratic 1958-59 league campaign after lifting the FA Cup for the second time in their history. Similar to the events of 1898, The Reds had lost heavily to their opponents, in this case Luton Town, only weeks earlier, but had no problem in the final, winning 2-1 despite playing most of the game with ten men.

Although Forest will have hoped to have built immediately on this success, the wait for 1966-67 was worth it. It drew the largest crowds the club had ever seen as fans, buoyed by England's World Cup win, clamoured to see a side challenging for a league and cup double. The team that manager Johnny Carey had assembled went largely unchanged until, sadly, injuries began to take their toll just as they had the FA Cup and First Division title in their sights. The Reds had to settle for a semi-final exit and League runners-up medal but, even so, it was still the club's greatest season to date and expectations had been well and truly raised.

That season could easily have been built upon - crowds of 40,000 were virtually guaranteed at the time - but it was not to be. Poor football management, its unique committee structure and proud amateurism almost inevitably led to the club's inability to sustain the success of that year.

After Matt Gillies left in October 1972, there were two short managerial reigns by Dave Mackay and Allan Brown. For a time, they were to languish in the Second Division. It seemed to be a typical tale of post-war Nottingham Forest, but just around the corner lurked a force that was to change everything forever.

The Clough era began on 6 January 1975. He appointed Jimmy Gordon, who had been with him at Derby and Leeds, as first-team coach. In February he bought John O'Hare and John McGovern from Leeds, before bringing John Robertson and Martin O'Neill back into the fold after they had requested transfers under Allan Brown. Frank Clark arrived at the end of the season on a free transfer from Newcastle. At the end of his first full season in charge, Clough had led Forest to 8th place in Division Two.

Perhaps the biggest catalyst for success came in July 1976 with the arrival of assistant manager Peter Taylor. It was from here that things began to take shape as Forest won promotion back into Division One. They also picked up their first trophy since 1959 in the shape of the Anglo-Scottish Cup - not the most prestigious of awards but, as Clough contended, an appetiser for future success.

One year later, the duo had their original four-year contracts extended, in which time they won the First Division by seven points and had moulded a squad that was to embark on a domestic and European adventure of epic proportions.

Forest began the 1978-79 season with four major trophies in their sights - the Championship, European Cup, FA Cup and League Cup. 

The much-heralded partnership of Clough and Taylor came to an end in 1980. The 1981-82 season was to witness perhaps a new era, one to further legitimise Brian Clough's legendary place in the history of Nottingham Forest Football Club.

By 1993, it seemed inevitable that the era in the sun was coming to an end. Discontent had been mounting during the season, and on 1 March 1993 the club was forced to hold its first extraordinary meeting for 23 years. A group of shareholders had raised questions about the running of the club by Clough. Clough had in fact easily survived this foray, but nevertheless with relegation seeming inevitable, he announced his impending retirement on 26 April.

The end was pure tragedy. With a packed home ground, weeping supporters and near hysteria, it became apparent that a great and joyous adventure was over: the unpredictable Pied Piper of a manager had gone. The final game of that season was away at Ipswich. Clough took dignified bows. Forest lost 2-1, and ironically his son, Nigel, scored the final goal of Clough's era.

There were just two real options to replace Brian Clough. Favourite was Martin O'Neill, then with Wycombe. The other was Frank Clark, who had managed Leyton Orient from 1982-1991. In the event, Frank Clark became the new Forest manager.

Frank Clark had soon engineered a big turn-around in players. The exodus included Nigel Clough, Gary Charles and Roy Keane. Newcomers included Stan Collymore, Colin Cooper, Des Lyttle, David Phillips, Gary Bull, Lars Bohinen, and Gary Bull. By the end of the season, after £10 million-plus worth of transfer dealings, The Reds were back in the Premiership at the first time of asking.

For the next season, the squad was strengthened with the purchase of Brian Roy from Foggia. But the new season witnessed the premature departure of Stan Collymore who insisted on moving to Liverpool for Forest's highest ever transfer sale of £8.5 million. Following this, Kevin Campbell came in from Arsenal and Chris Bart-Williams from Sheffield Wednesday, with Andrea Silenzi from Torino.

The 1995-96 season saw Forest involved in their UEFA Cup campaign up to the quarter-final playing against Malmo, Auxerre and Bayern Munich. By the summer of 1996, it had become apparent that the club was facing a major crisis. The club was sliding into uncontrollable debt - the total deficit reached £11.3 million. The club soon found itself in the hands of its auditors, Price Waterhouse. This move was to ultimately lead to the club being taken over by a consortium later to be known as the Bridgford Group, following a meeting on 24 February 1997 with the shareholders voting by 189 votes in favour with 7 against.

On the field, the club was having perhaps its least memorable season ever. After the initial 3-0 win against Coventry on the opening match of the season, Forest didn't win again for 16 games. In the end, Forest finished bottom of the league with just six wins, 34 points and 13 league goals. Frank Clark had departed after the Christmas period and Stuart Pearce operated as caretaker manager. At 6pm on 11 May 1997 Dave Bassett, who had arrived at the club during February as the general manager, assumed control.

Stuart Pearce, Brian Roy, Jason Lee and Alf Inge Haaland left during the close season. In the opposite direction, the club welcomed Andy Johnson from Norwich, Alan Rogers from Tranmere, Geoff Thomas from Wolves, Thierry Bonalair from Neuchatel, Marco Pascolo from Cagliari and Dave Beasant from Southampton. Bobby Houghton joined Dave Bassett as his assistant manager.

The 1997-98 season was to be an outstanding one, kicking off with six consecutive competitive wins, which was the first time Forest had ever managed that feat during its 120 years in competitive football. With a rekindled Steve Stone and Pierre van Hooijdonk now playing up front with Kevin Campbell, Forest set the First Division alight. Forest came out winners of Division One, and returned to the Premier League.

Looking back, 135 years is certainly a long time. The 15 young men that met in the Clinton Arms in 1865 would never have dreamt that their offspring would have played for such great prizes in Munich, Madrid or Tokyo. When they played their first semi-final of the FA Cup in 1879 they didn't even own a ground. When they won the European Cup, they had won their own league only once. When they went to Bolton on 25 November 1978, they had not lost a game for a whole year. They won the European Cup undefeated. Nottingham Forest Football Club - surely the greatest football team in the world.

Taken from The Official History of Nottingham Forest by Phil Soar & abridged by Roger Litawski.