New Year's Day, Blackburn Rovers and The Clash
A version of this article was first published in "Forest Review" on 1st January 2020 versus Blackburn Rovers
Happy new decade to you all!
After two full decades outside the top flight now served, it will be fascinating to see what the next ten year stretch following our team will bring us.
This is the first time we’ve played on New Decade Day since we ushered in the 1990s with a 2-2 draw at home to Liverpool.
After falling two behind in the first half to our old nemesis Ian Rush, goals from Steve Hodge and a Nigel Clough penalty won us a point in an exciting match shown live on ITV.
In the days of much fewer live matches, this was particularly convenient for those of us unable to navigate from the settee to the City Ground in the torrential rain accompanied by a crushing hangover.
It did appear that the studio guest, George Best, might also be suffering from a hangover but his half time analysis that "Forest have no chance of getting back into this" was a reasonable prediction based on Liverpool's first half superiority.
Also somewhat against the odds, we then repeated that “2-0 down, 2-2 comeback” in April 1990, when we scored our first goals in seven matches at Anfield (and only the second time we’d scored in 13 league visits) as Liverpool closed in what became their last top flight championship... [postscript: until July 2020!]
One of the frustrating oddities of this most recent decade has been the inexplicable trend for a number of teams to jockey for the title of our “bogey team”.
It is one thing Anfield being a fruitless venue but, with the greatest respect, we would expect to get the odd result against contemporaries such as Cardiff City, Sheffield Wednesday, and today’s visitors, Blackburn Rovers.
Even avoiding Walsall in the league for the last decade didn’t stop them extending their unbeaten run to 12 against us (eight of which we lost) – our last victory being just six weeks into this century when future manager Dougie Freedman sealed a 2-0 win at the Bescot.
Today’s visitors might think they have the wood over us being undefeated in nine matches (we’ve actually managed five draws) but that’s nothing on the Bluebirds and Owls who have both won a remarkable nine of out the last ten matches against us.
Cardiff’s rather distinctive style of recent years might possibly help partly explain why we’ve only got a single draw in those ten matches but Wednesday join Walsall in The Twilight Zone of the inexplicable.
Curiously, we’ve played Blackburn on New Year’s Day on five occasions, with a New Year’s Eve fixture too and a number of others around the Christmas and New Year period.
Seven years ago to the day Alex McLeish took us to Ewood Park as we meekly surrendered to a 3-0 defeat. For those who, like me, have tried to erase that trip from the memory, there is little surprise that one of the scorers was Wednesday’s recent hat-trick hero, Jordan Rhodes.
However, New Year’s Day 1977 was celebrated in style as we won 3-1 at Ewood with goals by Peter Withe, Tony Woodcock and Ian Bowyer: a pretty decent trio in any era.
This was a raucous period in the UK in both the music and terrace scene. Punk was frightening the establishment across the country as encapsulated by Julian Temple’s documentary “The Clash New Year’s Day 1977”, loosely based on their concert that evening at Covent Garden’s Roxy club, interspersed with BBC TV footage from that Christmas.
A slightly more unexpected historical document of that day can also be found in Gary Bell QC’s excellent autobiography “Animal QC”.
Our former hooligan-turned-QC - an unlikely career path if there ever was one – colourfully tells the story of the day, and other similar trips, when wearing a coat in the snow was frowned upon by many.
The season before, at Christmas 1975, we won even more convincingly at Ewood, 4-1.
Decades before the glossy production of the Premier League's "central feed", with global distribution to every nook and cranny of planet earth, the live coverage of top flight matches to foreign audiences was much more rudimental.
Birmingham versus Stoke was the live match broadcast in Scandinavia that day and this latest score flash is a beautifully eccentric example of mid-70s TV graphics.
The unlikely hero for us was Bert Bowery who scored a brace on his debut – which turned out to be his only goals for us.
Bowery, whose son now plays for MK Dons and previously played for Aston Villa, has the privilege of being the answer to the question that defeats many: Who was Brian Clough’s first signing for Nottingham Forest?
Bert also has the privilege of being photographed for prosperity in a Speedo tracksuit with Frank Clark.
That win was the start of eight match unbeaten run versus Rovers. I’m sure we all agree the new decade would be a good time to start such another run.