Forest on TV: Brentford, Minder & 80s films
A version of this article was first published in "Forest Review" on Saturday, 9th February, 2019 versus Brentford
Aside from our 2-0 Milk Cup victory in December 1982, we didn’t play Brentford for 51 years so there is little footage of our matches, apart from recently when The Bees have firmly held the upper hand with four straight victories on Trentside.
Brentford included a couple of interesting names in 1982: Stan Bowles returning to the City Ground just a couple of years after declining the flight to the European Cup Final and Paddy Roche who'd conceded four against us at Old Trafford in 1977 - and would do so again for Halifax in 1988.
Also a place for journeyman ... Chris Kamara.
However, sadly no coverage on BBC's Sportsnight or ITV's Midweek Sports Special of Ian Wallace's opener and Robbo's penalty.
In the league, our paths didn't cross from 1954 until September 2005.
We were recently relegated into the third tier and such was our fall from grace that we were suffering the indignation of playing on an international weekend. A lunchtime kick-off allowed fans to see Joe Cole’s goal give England a 1-0 victory over Wales later that day.
The atmosphere may have been electric at the Millennium Stadium but it was distinctively low-key at a sun-drenched City Ground where just 17,234 saw Brentford win 2-1, despite our team including the likes of Wes Morgan, Kris Commons and David Johnson (with the rather less celebrated Eugene Dadi on the bench).
Darren Pratley, who we were repeatedly linked with a few years later and at that time on loan from Fulham, scored Brentford’s winner with 12 minutes left.
A rare John Thompson goal had earlier bought us level – heading in at the far post from a Nicky Southall cross - after Andy Frampton’s opener for the visitors.
The defeat left us wallowing in 17th whereas Brentford went top and eventually finished third, losing to Swansea in the play-offs. We fell short by two points in seventh, after a thrilling late run under Frank Barlow and Charlie McParland.
With us and Brentford competing in different divisions for so long, glimpses of Griffin Park were rare.
In fact, arguably, as rare as Bryn Gunn goals.
On 10th October 1984, those of us who made it to the City Ground for a lively Milk Cup match with Portsmouth saw half of the erstwhile full back's two Forest goals (in a spell of over ten years), and even then via a hefty deflection off the hefty Noel Blake.
Those who stayed at home missed our 3-0 win after extra time but had the privilege of seeing Griffin Park feature in an episode of ITV’s Minder entitled “The Long Ride Back to Scratchwood”.
Minder was (and still is) popular amongst football fans and was never short of a footballing reference, albeit usually about Terry and his beloved Fulham.
It was filmed around West London and, on this occasion, one of Arthur and Terry’s associates, Justin James, meets footballer Steve “Benno” Benson to negotiate a deal for 2,000 dodgy tickets for England v Scotland, on what later became the away terrace at Griffin Park.
In 1984, the whole stand – The Royal Oak - was a bank of terracing. These days, of course, it’s a shallow terrace with a tier of tightly fitting seats above which has spoiled the aesthetics somewhat.
However, Griffin Park has maintained its charm and, despite our woeful recent record, it’s a popular away fixture for Forest fans and it will certainly be a shame when Brentford move to their new stadium.
Our own piece of film obscurity was secured two years previously when we unexpectedly featured in Chuck Norris’s film, Forced Vengeance.
Released in the summer of 1982 and grossing over $6m at the box office, the rather lame film centres on the Lucky Dragon casino in Hong Kong and Norris’s character, Chief Randall (not a forerunner of our current Chairman).
The extremely tenuous Forest links don’t end there with another character Stan Ramandi reminding me of neither Collymore nor - forgive the even greater artistic licence - Ponte.
Our 2-1 win against Brighton at the City Ground in late September 1981 had been shown on ATV’s Star Soccer and syndicated worldwide, long before the days of multi-billion pound global TV deals.
It was utterly bizarre to then see some match footage suddenly appear midway through an American film production of this type.
Chief Randall utters “Uh-oh, Brighton’s gonna score again!” as Gordon Smith scores at the Bridgford End.
"Again" was clearly erroneous as that was Brighton’s only goal of the match and, to our eternal frustration, Kenny Burns equaliser and Ian Wallace’s late winner didn't make the big screen.
Hence, Chuck Norris fans worldwide were never availed of the true outcome, nor the opportunity to see Kenneth celebrating his goal in his tight-fitting shiny Adidas pin-stripe shirt (that early batch of 81/82 shirts always looked slightly different to later issues to my eyes).
Just as regrettable, Hugh Johns commentary – in his last season covering Forest - was over-dubbed with a rather posh-sounding faux-English commentator.
In fact, in describing Burns error for the Brighton opener, Kenneth incongruously takes on the name of “Kingsley”.
Shortly afterwards, there is a clip of John Robertson losing the ball in the box followed by a cry of “They lost the ball again!”.
Certainly not the manner in which any of us wished our greatest ever player would be recorded on celluloid.
By the mid 80s, football coverage was becoming more sporadic and by the start of the 1985/86 season, the only way you could actually watch English football was from abroad due to a TV strike in the UK.
In late 1986, the film Lamb was released to significantly more acclaim than Forced Vengeance.
Starring Liam Neeson and Francis Tomelty (recently divorced from Sting), it unexpectedly includes a couple of minutes of extremely rare footage of our visit to Arsenal in April 1985.
We were wearing our yellow pin-striped away kit that eventually saw an unprecedented five seasons of sterling service - for reasons unknown, that season it did not get updated to replicate the snazzy new home kit with Forest crest central and Adidas logos on the arms.
There are some interesting shots of the Clock End terrace that capture that distinctly mid-80s feel and, more importantly for us, early footage of Nigel Clough.
It was only the Number Nine's third start and his Dad, forever mischievous, had tricked the press by listing Chris Fairclough at #9 in the team sheet distributed to the media before the match.
Also captured for posterity was Ian Bowyer halting an Arsenal attack in trademark fashion, followed by Johnny Metgod moving forward with grace and then trying to work our usual one-two's on the edge of the box.
There was no happy ending though.
Gary Mills' second minute opener does not make the cut but Ian Allison's late equaliser does. Recording for evermore another familiar 80s scene: the Forest defence failing to deal with a high ball into the box.