The winter of 1979/80 had left the pitch at City Ground in a dire state. And it had left Nottingham Forest chasing the leading pack of the First Division. As March 1980 rolled around Forest sat in eighth, twelve points off the pace Liverpool had set. But they still had the European Cup to defend.
Under the guidance of Brian Clough Forest won the coveted trophy in ‘78/79 beating Malmö FF in the final. Their ‘79/80 campaign had started promisingly enough. Picking up three wins in their first three matches Forest were leading the league in September. Come November Forest started bleeding goals. Trips to The Dell, The Baseball Ground, Selhurst Park and Old Trafford all proved fatal. Southampton and Derby each put four past Peter Shilton. Manchester United helped themselves to three goals while Crystal Palace needed just the one to keep the points in South London.
Nottingham Forest look towards Europe
By boxing day Nottingham Forest were out of the title chase. Sitting in tenth even the drop loomed ominously. Well, at least it was closer than the top of the table. Alas Forest were able to turn their attention towards Europe. As holders of the European Cup they met Barcelona who had picked up the Cup Winners Cup the season prior. At stake: the 1979 European Super Cup. A glitch in the scheduling matrix saw the sides vie for the trophy in January and February of 1980 with Forest running out victors in a 2:1 aggregate win. Continue reading
In the 1970s Nixon went to China, Han shot first, and Clough signed Francis. Securing the services of the 24 year-old forward cost him a king’s ransom: the total ran £1.18 million. It may well have taken a character like Brian Clough to break the seven digit barrier. No player in English football history had ever been transferred for much more than £500,000, let alone more than a million. In February 1979 plucky Nottingham Forest had gone and done just that.
Clough did not see what the fuss was about. To the press conference where Trevor Francis was to be unveiled to the gawping media Clough showed up in a red track suit, squash racket at the ready. The manager had appointments to keep. And anyway, he had run the numbers, Francis’ fee fell short of the magical million. Clough insisted he had haggled Birmingham City down to £999,999.
That Nottingham Forest were the club to splurge the cash around was in large part down to Clough’s exploits. A decade before Clough had gained promotion with Derby County from the Second Division. It took all of three seasons for the Rams to win the league title. After falling out with the Derby board Clough found himself at Brighton & Hove Albion in the Third Division. Lasting less than a year in East Sussex Clough moved on to Leeds. Within 44 days he had alienated every key player at his disposal and was shown the door.
Clough lifts Forest, Houghton Malmö
Taking the reins at City Ground in January 1975 Nottingham Forest sat 13th in the Second Division. Promotion was won in Clough’s second full season, the league title in his third. At best opinionated and outspoken, at worst abrasive and insulting, Clough was not afraid to step on anybody’s toes. Time permitting success backed him up. As it did in ‘78/79 when Nottingham Forest reached the European Cup final on their first try, leaving holders Liverpool, AEK Athens, Grasshoppers Zürich, and Köln in their wake. And they did it all without Francis. Having signed on only in February registration rules prevented Francis from participating in international matches. Until the final. Continue reading