• Matt Appleby

Forest on TV: Birmingham City, From ATV to Central

First published in "Forest Review" on Saturday, 25th August, 2018 versus Birmingham City

Birmingham at home brings back fond memories of iconic scenes at the City Ground in April 1978 as we collected the League Championship trophy before our goalless draw.

Yet no footage of the actual match exists.

That is unless somebody in the ground today miraculously still has an old home video of "Star Soccer"?

Raiding the ITV vaults for the "I Believe In Miracles" film, all that was still intact was 12 minutes of pre-match footage.

Disastrously, much of ATV’s "Star Soccer" programming was destroyed to save money so the master tape of full highlights is probably gone forever.

Much of our archive has been retrieved from London Weekend Television’s (LWT) regional "The Big Match", where Brian Moore would introduce thrilling five-minute highlight segments of “Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest, with pictures from ATV and your commentator Hugh Johns”.

But in that era there was no entertainment merit in goalless draws, so LWT’s coverage of that day was restricted to the pre-match trophy presentation.

So what’s in the 12 minutes?

Gary Newbon rehearsing his intro.

Terraces full of long hair, double (and sometimes triple) denim with red hats and scarves, punctuated only by a slab of blue away support near the middle of the East Stand.

The Trent End seeming enlarged due to the number of fans packed in.

Banners such as “Clough’s Bionic Bubble Will Never Burst”.

The old white scoreboard in its last match.

Cars inexplicably circling the pitch.

Corner flags with the club badge and accompanying extended river (a logo lockup sadly discontinued).

And Heatwave’s “Groove Line” fighting unsuccessfully to drown out the pre-match terrace songs.

Then they appear.

“And with a roar, the Nottingham Forest fans rise to greet their Championship team” proclaims Hugh Johns in those distinctive, dulcet tones that would instantly transport anybody over 40 in today’s crowd back to their childhood Sunday afternoons sat on their brown foam filled settees with orange trim.

Clough & Taylor look relaxed in classic Blue & Grey Slack Forest Blazer badge combination (cf Alan Partridge).

The team in their new green tracksuits, curiously absent of any club branding.

John McGovern looking modest and almost embarrassed at all the fuss.

The trophy handover – ironically by Birmingham’s Vice Chairman Jack Wiseman - is understated, with no sponsor paraphernalia and barely even a pause for a staged photo of the trophy lift.

The players collect their medals individually but by the time it’s Larry Lloyd turn they seem to have run out …

Graciously and instinctively, the players then wait patiently with no ostentation until Clough and Taylor – not the captain - are ready to pick up the trophy for a photo with the team behind. An implicit show of respect and gratitude.

“Forest fans, some of the best behaved in the country after years of a bad reputation. But in response to Brian Clough’s plea have turned themselves into little gentlemen” is Hugh Johns rather generous description of a cutaway shot of the Trent End.

On the pitch, newspaper reports suggest Blues could have ended our eventual 42-match unbeaten run at just 24 matches, with future red Trevor Francis catching the eye of Clough and Taylor.

Francis duly arrived in February 1979 and returned to St Andrews two months later – a game for which rare BBC News footage we did manage to unearth (but didn’t use) for I Believe In Miracles.

Playing unnecessarily in our yellow change kit, it was Trevor’s reverse pass on the break that put Garry Birtles in for the first goal after excellent work in his own half by Tony Woodcock turned over possession.

John Robertson’s second half shot then sealed a 2-0 win that edged our hosts nearer to the drop.

Blues were relegated for a season but in 1981/82 highlights of both fixtures were memorably shown on Star Soccer.

First, in the blazing September Birmingham sunshine, Blues won the first 4-3, despite a rare Ian Wallace hat trick and even rarer Peter Shilton penalty save - twice taken by Archie Gemmill, of all people.

By January 1982, ATV had become Central TV and Nottingham was deep in snow. We won 2-1 and the half time entertainment of a large scale snowball fight on the Pavilion Road terrace still exists online with Hugh Johns droll accompaniment.


#nffc #nottinghamforest #atv #centraltv #starsoccer #hughjohns #itv #itvfootball #blues #birminghamcity #kro #brianclough #petershilton #trevorfrancis #johnrobertson


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