It’s not often City face a former European Champion, even less so one that has won it twice, but this Wednesday Norwich welcomes a club that has two of those iconic cups in the trophy cabinet. Yet another ‘sleeping giant’ its Nottingham Forest.
Forest won those European Cups with back-to-back victories in 1979 and 1980. The pinnacle of an incredible journey from the depths of Division 2 under the late great Brian Clough. Cloughie was the biggest name in English football, loud, controversial and very successful. Norwich had a similar flamboyant character in charge, John Bond who had established us in the top division.
Bond’s head-to-head record against Clough is very impressive, in seven meetings Bond’s Norwich lost just twice. A run that included two draws in the 1977/78 season, the year Forest won the title by seven points.
There was another draw on 5 May 1979. The 1-1 was Norwich’s 23rd of the season, still today a top-flight record. A commendable result as less than a month later Forest beat Malmo in their first European Cup final.
Our first match against Nottingham Forest came way back in the 1914/15 FA Cup and a fine 4-1 away win for non-league Norwich over their Football League opponents. It was one of only nine games in that pre-First World War disrupted season, of which five were in the FA Cup.
Talking of the FA Cup the conclusion of the famous cup run of the ’59s should have, could have, been at Wembley against Nottingham Forest. Indeed, if the stars had aligned a Norwich v Nottingham Forest fixture would have been the greatest in our club’s history. Sadly, Luton Town had other ideas in the semi-final and it was the Hatters that faced and lost to Forest in that season’s FA Cup final.
The first League fixtures were a Christmas Day / Boxing Day special in the old Second Division. Both teams served up a holiday treat with Forest winning the home game 5-2 before a 3-3 draw at Carrow Road the next day.
The goals continued to flow with a total of 19 in the next four games, before a disappointing 1938/39 season which saw Norwich relegated in 21st place while Nottingham Forest in 20th survived by the skin of their teeth. Forest’s survival all came down to a final-day visit to Carrow Road. A relegation decider on 6 May 1939 which Norwich won 1-0 but alas it was not enough having needed a 4-0 victory to swing the goal average. It was the first time the Norwich faithful had suffered a relegation.
By the end of the Second World War Forest had joined Norwich in Division 3 South. We played just four games at this level Forest winning the title and promotion in 1950/51, Norwich missed out despite finishing runners-up – fine margins yet again.
There was FA Cup heartache in 1991 when, on 9th March, Forest came to Carrow Road in the quarter-finals. The cup was huge in those days and this was City’s biggest game of the season by far. It was Forest that went through thanks to a goal from their young midfielder… Roy Keane.
They would eventually face Tottenham in the final famous for Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne’s early injury.
The cup game was sandwiched between two heavy defeats in the league, 6-2 and 5-0 but it was a different story in the opening Premier League season (1992/93). The 3-1 home win on 31 August 1992 was significant for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was the first time Norwich had played in front of the Sky Sports cameras (remember the half-time sumo) and our first experience of Monday night football. More importantly, the win took us top of the Premier League.
Norwich also scored three in the game at the City Ground to keep the title dream alive while at the same time pushing Forest deeper into relegation trouble (they were eventually relegated in Clough’s final season).
One of the Norwich goals in the home win was from David Philips, who would join Forest at the end of the season despite their relegation, while City centre-back Ian Butterworth was signed from Nottingham in the mid-80s. Both players were key contributors to Norwich’s successes in a golden period for the club.
Another Hall of Famer and by far the most high-profile transfer between the two clubs was star striker in the late 1970s, Justin Fashanu. Classy and elegant, a true goal-scorer rising from the City academy to plunder 40 goals, all in the top flight, including the much-viewed goal of the season versus Liverpool in 1980. With City’s relegation in 1981, it was inevitable that Fashanu would move on. It was Nottingham Forest that signed the million-pound cheque. Sadly, a move that never worked out for player and club.
As Fashanu was joining Forest one player soon to be coming in the other direction was one of their European Cup winners, Martin O’Neill. O’Neill enjoyed an excellent spell at Norwich in the twilight of his career before briefly managing the club in a case of what could have been, leaving the post after just six months. His last managerial role was at the City Ground, Nottingham.
The last time these two faced each other in the Premier League was in the fateful 1994/95 relegation season. The away game on 27 December 1995, for many, was a pivotal point in Norwich’s season, with Bryan Gunn incurring a serious injury after just 10 minutes. Before the Forest game, Norwich had lost five in 20 after there was a run of 12 defeats in 21, including a critical 1-0 home defeat in the return game.
Since relegation in 1995, we have played Forest numerous times in the Championship with generally a mixed record. Jonny Howson’s wonderful volley in a 5-1 thrashing aside, the pick of the bunch is the last outing and a comeback to beat all comebacks. Hysteria at Carrow Road as Onel Hernandez snatched a draw after City had been 3-0 down with 80 minutes on the clock.
So far this season we have maintained that ability to score late, so you wouldn’t be surprised if there is a repeat of the late drama tonight.