Growing Up A Forest Fan, Part 1: The Doldrums 

Photo of seats inside Nottingham Forest Stadium
Dom Allin

A million articles have been written about Forest’s magical rise, from the bottom of the Championship in September 2021 to their high-water mark of tenth in the Premier League in 2022. It’s all well and good knowing the facts about Forest’s 2022 but it is only half the story. In this article, loyal fan Dom Allin will explain the context behind why the last year has been so magical for Forest fans of this generation.

I am a Bristolian Forest fan because my father was a Forest fan, his father was a Forest fan and so on and so forth. Since 1999, the Reds had been absent from the Premier League, thus, I had never seen my Forest in the topflight outside of archive footage. For a long time, it has been miserable being a Forest fan. Financial difficulties, relegation battles, astonishing collapses, and local rivalry failures littered my experience. 

Questions of ‘who are they?’, ‘why do you support them?’, ‘why don’t you support a good team?’ were the bane of my existence

Growing up in Bristol, I of course grew up around Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal fans and maybe the odd Bristol Rovers fan. Mufti Days or any football training session I silently stood out with no Premier League badge on my sleeve. Regular questions of ‘who are they?’, ‘why do you support them?’, ‘why don’t you support a good team?’ were the bane of my existence. At the age of seven, I had such low self-esteem in my team, I painted Fernando Torres as my favourite celebrity because I didn’t think my hero Robert Earnshaw counted as famous!  
Not having a team in England’s topflight meant the following things for me growing up: 

  • I would always lose on FIFA; it was hard to keep Drogba out with Chris Gunter in your backline. 
  • Not having your own ground on FIFA, instead playing at the mundane Forest Park Stadium. 
  • I never could collect my idols in cards or stickers. Match Attax were reserved for the Premier League – how dare I dream of collecting Lee Camp! 
  • I rarely saw my team covered in the national press and never on Match of the Day. 
  • No one knew who my hero was. 
  • Forest on the telly was rare to say the least! 

Going into my teenage years my favourite moments were isolated by my glory-supporting mates… why would they care about our draw with QPR? The sparse occasion of general interest would come from sales of our talented players, huge embarrassments like the 2020 playoff disaster, or the occasional FA Cup miracle.

Walking into school the next day after beating the FA Cup champions, I felt giddy!

Beating Arsenal 4-2 was very special, not only an end-to-end game but for the first time in my life could I brag about something my generation had witnessed. The Championship was often disregarded and patronised by the fans of Champions League clubs, so FA Cup wins were rare but so, so important. Walking into school the next day after beating the FA Cup champions, I felt giddy! Arsenal fans who had disregarded us were now faced with my smug grin and my condescending comments. Finally, some bragging rights in the 21st century!

Being a Forest Fan was almost my recognisable trait for many, so unique in Bristol that  teachers or parents would ask me what I thought about any major news. But most conversations concerning football for me growing up were about other clubs or a history I knew and loved but was not there for.  

My love for sporting documentaries blossomed from being a Forest fan. That was our only route to national attention. Neither Match of the Day nor any of the BBC were going to talk about our dilemmas and issues on TV or radio, no matter how excited I was with every sports bulletin that came and went. Every morning in the car to school, it was a reminder that Forest were not as good as my mates’ teams.  

How do you have 22 managers through the club and not even one succeeds? HOW?

Jonny Owen’s sensational I Believe in Miracles (2015), whilst an incredible watch, summarised Forest’s mentality since 1999. Stuck in the past, waiting on a miracle. 22 managers have come and gone, all failing to succeed at the club. How do you have 22 managers through the club and not even one succeeds? HOW? Had we used all our luck and joy in the late seventies and early eighties? Was my generation paying the karmic bills of the Wembley runs in the late eighties and early nineties? It certainly felt like it!  

Eternal hope was mustered and ruined in four playoff semi-finals, all in more baffling fashions; leads blown, demolitions, and straight-up mistakes, all feeling increasingly cursed to us fans. We do not even have time to start discussing the Fawaz era where staff and players were not getting paid! Evangelos Marinakis had taken over the club in 2017, but with all the money in Greece, he still couldn’t take Nottingham Forest back to the Premier League, adding to the cursed ambience on Trent side. 

The 2021/22 season was just miserable. Heartless and soulless

Nottingham Forest before 2022 was exhausted, frustrated, and run down. The pandemic season saw us fall from fourth to seventh on the final day in a humiliating fashion. The 2020/21 season was just miserable. Heartless and soulless with no ‘Mull of Kintyre’s’ to ring around the City Ground and away ends. September 2021 saw us bottom of the Championship, a whole one point from seven games.  

We were a rudderless failure, living off past glories. Waiting on a Bonnie Tyler level hero.  

And then, Steve Cooper began turning the titanic sized problems around. Losses became draws, sprinkled in with some very good wins. And by 2022, Forest were looking mildly promising, not promotion material and certainly not going to make national headlines. However, they were no longer rudderless mass, as we will delve into in part two which you can find in the sport section of the Impact page!

Dom Allin

Featured image courtesy of Dom Allin. Permission given to Impact to use. No changes were made to this image.

In article image 1 courtesy of @officialnffc via Instagram. No changes were made to this image.

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