Forest on TV: Derby County through the decades
First published in "Forest Review" on Monday, 25th February, 2019 versus Derby County
It’s fair to say that our dearest rivals have enjoyed the better of the entertainment in recent years when our fixture has been regularly broadcast live on Sky.
We treasured the breath-taking moment when our Derby-(Os)born favourite rifled home in injury time at Pride Park in January 2015 but our A5-2 rout in December 2010 wasn’t televised and, regrettably, there have been some unmentionable defeats too.
Looking further back in the archives, there is plenty of televised action to reflect on and some matches where a lot more than local pride was at stake.
On Easter Saturday 1979, ATV’s Star Soccer covered our 2-1 win which took us third in the First Division, just three days after our epic 3-3 draw against Cologne in the European Cup Semi-Final.
This was an archetypical Baseball Ground scene, with no confirmed sighting of grass and the pitch reminiscent of Blackpool beach in the April sunshine.
Derby were 18th in the league and undone by our exhilarating forward play, with the pace and verve of Tony Woodcock, Garry Birtles, Trevor Francis and co prompting Hugh Johns to observe: “This Forest forward line is rampant”.
After 27 minutes, Woodcock expertly evaded three desperate lunges before delivering a vicious cross diverted home by Birtles’ twisting, near post header – the 24th goal of his remarkable breakthrough season.
Just seven minutes later it was Forest legend, and future manager, Martin O'Neill benefitting from Woodcock’s irrepressible play down the left, with Martin heading home at the far post.
The Rams struck back through Dave Webb before half time and were unfortunate in striking the woodwork three times.
However, the pitch was conspiring against as Hugh Johns used a phrase rarely heard in modern football to describe Francis’ second half shot: “The sand took the pace off the shot”.
One year later, we were preparing to travel to Amsterdam for our European Cup Final Semi-Final second leg but summoned the energy to all but relegate our rivals from the First Division.
Again, Star Soccer’s cameras were present with Hugh Johns, as Frank Gray scored the only goal, rifling home a free kick at the Bridgford End in a similar fashion to his goal against Leicester a few months later. “What a whacker!” exclaimed Hugh.
We then lost touch with our woolly friends in the league for much of the 80s but the Baseball Ground could still be seen if you watched ITV’s children’s programmes.
Dunmore United - of “Murphy’s Mob” fame - unceremoniously relocated from Watford’s Vicarage Road to the BBG, with controversial accompanying change of kit. Franchise football anyone?
Back in the real world, we immediately retained the upper hand when league battle recommenced in the late 80s and early 90s.
In April 1991, we were preparing for an FA Cup Semi-Final with West Ham and Derby were, again, unsuccessfully trying to stave off relegation from the top flight.
Unusually, Central’s midweek highlights of the match were broadcast at the same time the BBC were showing an extended – and rather entertaining - interview with Brian Clough on Sportsnight to preview the Cup Semi-Final that coming weekend.
Not often that we’ve been primetime on both major terrestrial channels simultaneously and it provided a dilemma as video recorders could only handle one recording at a time.
On Central, the other half of O'Neill's future management team was in his first season and causing quite a stir with his rampaging runs.
“What an exciting young player” commented Alan Parry on the little-known Irishman named Roy Keane.
Young Roy inevitably scored the winner, heading the only goal of the game midway through the second half past our old favourite Peter Shilton – 22 years his senior.
“It just had to be the young player whose skills have shone throughout the game” said Parry.
Central mischievously cut to a banner in the crowd bidding farewell to our rivals. Derby eventually finished bottom, thirteen points from safety in an unusual season when only two teams were relegated from the top flight.
It was a forgettable season for The Rams, albeit not as bad as the nadir of 2007/08 (which we’re prone to reminding them of occasionally).
That game was the pre-cursor for an amazing purple patch for our fresh-faced team, with their neat passing - and haircuts - woven around the “Number 9”.
In the space of just ten days, we smashed 16 goals without reply - hammering West Ham 4-0 to reach Wembley, dispatching Chelsea 7-0 with the minimum of fuss or media fanfare, before a seemingly routine 5-0 against Norwich.
When we resumed hostilities with Derby we enjoyed the dark farce of the Gary Charles match at the Baseball Ground in our 1994 promotion season.
But in the 33 matches since that memorable evening, we’ve only mustered seven wins.
Sky’s “EFL Greatest” series of 15-minute highlights packages currently includes one memorable win for us each.
Tonight would be an ideal moment to take a 2-1 lead on Sky boxes across the land.