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Nottingham Forest Sean Graham

 

This story almost feels like I am about to tell a fairy-tale but I can assure you it was true.

Today, May 30th 1979, is the day that no Nottingham Forest fan will ever forget.

That was the day that captain John McGovern lifted a lot the European Cup as Forest were crown kings of Europe for the first time.

No one could believe that this side, who could have almost been relegated four years previous to this fantastic achievement, could now claim to be the kings of Europe.

After winning promotion from Division Two, they won the League Championship in their first season back in Division One and had also tasted success after winning two League Cup Finals.

Perhaps the appointment of a man who was to become a legend at the club, Mr Brian Clough,

Had more than a little to do with it!

Clough also created the centre back pairing which would prove to be the rock of his defence as he brought in Larry Lloyd and Kenny Burns from Liverpool and Birmingham both reserve players at their clubs.

Clough also spent big £270,000 on Peter Shilton which proved a masterstroke as Forest conceded just 24 goals in 42 games on their way to the 1977/8 Divison One title in their first season back at the top.

Before the 1978/9 campaign, Clough bought Gary Birtles and Trevor Francis, the first ever million pound player at £1.15m, he certainly could see the side that he wanted for the future, his vision was ahead of its time.

Going into Europe was never going to be easy, and as a club you look for the glamorous but winnable ties…you certainly don’t want Liverpool, the holders of the European Cup and Forest’s great rivals at the time in England, a team who were a stick-on to go through to the next round in most people’s eyes but not in the eyes of Nottingham Forest’s hard Scottish defender, Kenny Burns.

“We all wanted Real Madrid, Benfica, AC Milan, Inter Milan Juventus, we wanted one of them, I went out and bought myself a passport and everything and who did we get? Liverpool! You don’t need a passport to go to Liverpool!”

We didn’t mind drawing Liverpool, Liverpool didn’t want us cause we could beat Liverpool and they knew that, we knew that we could score goals, we had goals all over the team.

“Players like Garry Birtles,Tony Woodcock, John Robertson, Ian Bowyer ,Martin O’Neill, myself ,Larry Lloyd, all players who could score goals and one thing we could do was to keep a clean sheet, that’s what we were good at.”

“We all just played our part as a team, we never spoke about it, once you have a job you just do it, every player knew just what he had to do!”

Even going into the second leg with a 2-0 lead, most pundits had still written Forest off.

“We went there after beating them 2-0 at the City Ground with Garry Birtles and Colin Barrett scoring the goals and we knew that they couldn’t score two goals against us.”

“We had Shilton in goals and we never had any worries about them, I think they were more worried about us!”

“Cloughie always said, “If you can keep a clean sheet then you will always have a chance of winning.”

I suppose the £3000 offer of the bonus to finish the job off at Anfield had nothing to do with it?

Forest held out at Anfield drawing 0-0 with Peter Shilton in fantastic form in that match but with that hurdle overcome, other difficult games would now follow.

The next two matches saw comfortable wins over AEK Athens ( 7-2 on agg) which set them up for a last eight tie with Grasshoppers Zurich another comfortable win (5-2 on agg).

This set them up with a more difficult task, a semi-final clash with German champions Cologne.

, I had done my cartilage at Goodison Park and I missed the Cologne game, it came probably a week or ten days too early for me, so I was on the bench, we got it back to 3-3 and knowing we could always score goals, that was the beauty of that Nottingham Forest side, we could always score goals.”

“At 3-3 many folk thought we had blown it but Peter Taylor was adamant that we were going to win!”

“Pete had always gone to Germany to see his Daughter over there and he had seen Cologne play several times and he was adamant that we would win the game.”

“We all knew that we could keep a clean sheet, we all knew that we had players who could score and that’s exactly what we did, we kept a clean sheet and Ian Bowyer scored and we won 1-0.”

“We read in the programme how the Cologne fans could get tickets etc, they were really cocksure about themselves, thinking that’s it we have cracked it now we are through….but we just made sure they didn’t get there.”

“Sometimes teams have to surpass themselves in big matches and they (Cologne) probably done just that the night they played us at the City Ground.”

“We were like a Rolls Royce of a team! It was very, very easy for us as we did the right things.”

“Cloughie always used to say,” football is an easy game, its players who make it difficult!”

“When you think about it, its players who make it easy, you pass the ball ten yards to your own player and that’s it!”

So for Brian Clough, Peter Taylor and their merry men from Nottingham, all roads lead to Munich and the European Cup final v Malmo.

For any manager there are always tough decisions to make and Brian Clough was no different.

He knew that Martin O’Neill and Archie Gemmill had been carrying knocks ahead of the game but he stunned everyone by bringing in new one million pound signing Trevor Francis to the line-up for his first European appearance for the club.

Kenny Burns recalls the mood of the players on hearing the news.

“He brought Trevor Francis in and he couldn’t play in the European Cup at the start but the first time he could play was the final.”

“Brian Clough said at the time it was probably one of his hardest and toughest decisions that he had ever made, dropping Martin O’Neill.”

“Martin had played in every game leading up to the final but then Cloughie dropped him for the final”

“I know Trevor scored the goal and Cloughie being a proud and loyal man to his players, I would say that this was the first time that he wasn’t loyal to his players.”

He asked both Martin and Archie how they were feeling before the final as both of them had been carrying knocks in the lead up to the game”.

“Both of them told the boss that they had been receiving treatment but now they had both recovered”

“I am delighted for you both…you are on the bench!”

“Both players where furious with that reply and I think that was the first time that the gaffer was not loyal to his players, after all these had been the guys that had got the club to the final in the first place!”

“Trevor played and scored the winner, that’s a fact but for these two guys that, was the biggest game of their lives and they had to settle for a place on the bench!”

“Ok Martin played in one the following year against Hamburg and we won it, but Archie never got the chance again as he had moved on by then”.

“But that was Cloughie, he stood by his decision on that night and it paid off, he may not have been popular with Martin and Archie at the time but he won the European Cup for the club for the first time in their history and that was all that mattered!”

But in the end, the manager was right!

In a match that won’t be remembered for chances and goals a plenty, the one moment of skill that mattered came from John Robertson, as the tricky Scottish winger beat the Malmo defence to find the head of Trevor Francis who had dived in to score what was to be the winning goal and crown Forest as the kings of Europe.

For Brian Clough, Peter Taylor and all, this was a magnificent achievement and the players rightly celebrated their achievement.

Kenny remembers it well…

“We came into the dressing -room and Cloughie said," Right, put all your medals on the table!"...I put mine away and thought nobody is getting that!”

“I don't think Colin Barrett got a medal and he scored one of the goals that knocked Liverpool out and put us on our way to eventually winning the trophy!”

“Every medal that I have, even five a side ones, all mean something to me, from cups that people call Mickey Mouse cups to the biggest cup in the world, I still have my medals because I won them and they all mean something to me.”

But Cloughie summed it up in typical fashion after the match

"It wasn't a great game but they were a boring team, Malmo. In fact the Swedes are quite a boring nation. But we still won, so who cares?"

Forest went on to win the Super Cup and another European Cup the following year against Kevin Keegan’s Hamburg, moments which Kenny recalls with a great deal of satisfaction.

“We played Barcelona at the City Ground and we won 1-0 with Charlie George scoring the goal, so we had to go there with 80,000 fans against us and they had a chapel in the stadium, everything”

“I remember the roar as we came out, it was unbelievable.”

“Frank Gray gave away a penalty and they scored but then late on we got a corner which big Larry Lloyd flicked on and as the ball came to me I scored, it is always nice to score and put us 2-1 up on the away goals rule.

“It was a bonus that was the goal to give us the Super Cup!”

“We never spoke about the opposition!” (Hamburg) On both European runs we feared nobody…nobody!

“We all knew that Keegan played for them and that was it really.”

“Robbo (John Robertson) gave us a bit of chat saying “I have this Manny Kaltz and he is a German full back that I am up against" but I had never heard of him until that night!”

“We all knew that Felix Magath was also in the team and he was a great mid-fielder but we just kept our heads and done our jobs and we kept a clean sheet and won the game 1-0.”

“To win the European Cup once was like a dream come true but to do it twice, you couldn't imagine it would be possible!”

“Here was a boy who used to play his football in the street on the Peat Road in Glasgow and as a kid you always used to pretend that you were Di Stefano, Puskas and these kind of guys and to actually have won these finals and lift the trophies that those guys did was unbelievable.”

But what about the management team of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor, legends at the club after what they both did not only for Forest but for the city of Nottingham….

Their management skills were unbelievable!”

“When things went against them and they went their separate ways, they were never the same; they were never as good apart as they were together.

It was a case of good cop, bad cop and they were really funny.”

“When you could play the game with a smile on your face, that was a good thing and you could always do that in a Brian Clough team.”

1979 European Cup Final (Munich)
Nottingham Forest 1 Malmo 0


Nottingham Forest:
Shilton, Anderson, Lloyd, Burns, Clark, McGovern (capt), Francis, Bowyer, Birtles, Woodcock, Robertson
Scorer: Francis

Malmo: R.Andersson, M.Andersson, Jonsson, Erlandsson, Prytz, Tapper (capt) (Malmberg), Ljungberg, Kinnvall, Hansson (T.Andersson), Cervin

 

Sean Graham

Follow on Twitter @FeaturesSean


"I am just a guy who has over 40 years of memories of watching various clubs and matches since my Dad took me round the grounds in Glasgow each week before we went to meet my Mum after work and we always went to the Berni Inn where I had scampi and chips !

From watching Aberdeen, Celtic, Rangers, Partick Thistle, Maryhill juniors and Scotland as well as watching Everton and Manchester United, I have plenty of memories to share for fans to hopefully enjoy and remember."

 

 

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