Blues 81/82: 18 goals in sunshine and snow
A version of this article was first published in "Forest Review" on Saturday, 17th August, 2019 versus Birmingham City
In last season’s Birmingham programme we covered the memorable day that we collected the Football League Championship at the City Ground in April 1978.
By the first week of September 1981, the cord with the double European Cup winning team had been cut with just five of the 1979 Miracle Men starting at St Andrews on a blistering hot day.
As a further nod to our "transitional phase", we also sported the first major change to our Adidas kit since promotion back to Division One.
We had enjoyed four seasons of the same kit with just a few minor amendments to the trim plus, of course, the frequent change of text under the badge to signify our various achievements.
For 1981/82, Adidas introduced contemporary pin-stripes and numbers for the likes of ourselves and Ipswich and Norwich, albeit curiously Birmingham remained in the previous Adidas template (with those fantastic three-striped numbers) and moved to Patrick the next season.
We had won our first match of the season against Southampton, shown on BBC’s Match of the Day the previous Saturday, with two quality goals from ex-Blue nose Trevor Francis.
But he was sold to Manchester City after we drew 0-0 at Manchester United on August Bank Holiday and was scoring two on debut for City at Stoke as we took on Birmingham in front of ATV’s cameras.
Replacing Trevor was Ian Wallace, desperate to make an impression after a slow start to his Forest career, and we also paraded high-profile new signings Justin Fashanu and Mark Proctor.
At the back we had another ex-Bluenose, Kenny Burns, who was never flattered by the slimmer fit of the 81/82 kit, and Einar Aas (for the avoidance of doubt, pronounced “Orse”), our talented Norwegian centre half purchased from Bayern Munich and whose career was tragically cut short at Sunderland just two months later.
Blues’ side also included some notable names: Archie Gemmill whose failure to make that 1979 European Cup final side precipitated his premature departure from the City Ground (although Cloughie tried to sign him back soon after) and Colin Todd who would play for us the following season.
Hugh Johns was commentating for Star Soccer and the Rockwell font score graphic was soon in use as an ecstatic Wallace lashed home the bouncy Adidas tango ball after just 53 seconds, following up on Gary Mills’ mishit shot. Mills’ tight perm was another sign of the changing fashions.
Just after the half hour, Kevin Broadhurst equalised with a fine far post header after Viv Anderson was adjudged to have fouled Mark Dennis when they both appeared to karate kick each other.
Tony Evans then put Blues ahead five minutes later after another Dennis cross “with as good a goal as you’re likely to see this season” (a trademark Johns refrain), before Wallace levelled in first half injury time, squeezing home Mills cross at the near post.
Early in the second half, Burns conceded a penalty when blocking Dave Langan outside the box, with the referee’s judgement seemingly compromised by an unholy hack from Kenneth at his former-team mate Gemmill moments previously.
As fans of England and Peter Shilton’s many clubs will testify, he was one of the greatest keepers of all time but penalties were not his speciality.
So, it was a surprise when he saved Gemmill’s resultant spot kick. Archie followed up to smash home the rebound but the referee ordered a retake and, remarkably, Shilton saved it again – this time cleanly.
Blues did finally retake the lead when Neil Whatmore emphatically headed home his first Birmingham goal but our frustration at the referee was deepened when he missed a clear foul on Stuart Gray by Kevin Dillon in the build-up.
We felt justice was therefore served when Wallace completed his hat trick on 73 minutes, turning expertly in the box to make it 3-3.
But Birmingham had the final say, with the decisive seventh goal – “Here is Watmore, with the winner!” exclaims Johns after Gray misjudged a far post header.
The match was reprised in the final episode of “Cloughie’s Golden Oldies”, a six-part series in the spring of 1987 featuring Star Soccer matches from each of the Midlands main teams, with the accompanying barnstorming theme tune by Richard Hill.
Cloughie described it as one of the “daftest” matches he’d been involved in and vividly recalled the post-match inquest in the changing room.
Football footage on TV was scarce by that time and the re-run of this match provided a rare Sunday afternoon treat, even if we did finish on the losing side.
As a footnote, we went on to beat Birmingham three times that 1981/82 season.
Just a month later we were back at St Andrews in the League Cup, sharing five more goals.
Wallace was at it again, this time scoring two as we won 3-2.
In the second leg, we then won 2-1 – Wallace this time sent off with Kevin Broadhurst - and repeated that scoreline in the league in January 1982, in front of the now-rebranded Central TV’s cameras and with Nottingham snow replacing Birmingham sunshine.
Wallace inevitably scored again - his sixth goal of the season against Blues in a season where he scored 13 in total.
We were then sixth, just three points from the top, but didn’t win again at home for four months and finished 12th with Blues in 16th.
We only managed 42 goals in that 42 match league season: those league and cup games against Birmingham featured 18 goals; probably the highlight of a rare forgettable season under Clough and Taylor.